Tracing out the contours of the geospatial industry and arriving upon an understanding of its present standing, is undoubtedly an arduous assignment to undertake. This paper puts forth in brief, few of the key happenings, crests, troughs and pitfalls for the year 2004 in the geospatial arena and eventually brings out a few pointers that might shape the way this industry grows
It is difficult to conclude upon or find a direct reference to the gains, prospects or status of the GIS industry in most official manuscripts that attempts to comprehend or analyse the various industries existent in a region. Primarily there are two reasons behind this. One reason is, in the recent past, the use of the term ‘geospatial’ to describe the broad industry that provides spatially related technology, products, and services has gained prominence over the orthodox term of ‘GIS’. This suggests a shift of the overall scope and offerings of the industry. Secondly, there is a rising antithesis against anything termed as ‘GIS industry’ coupled with a fresh emphasis on ‘GIS for every industry’. These have changed the thin lines that draw the boundaries of this industry and have made users and providers rethink on the immense potential that this industry can offer.
The point is simple. The potential and prospects of this discipline has been established. The year 2004 reinstated this fact with numerous cases of innovative use. Geospatial tools and technologies have started to move beyond standalone systems or project solutions, towards concepts of integrated enterprise workflows and mainframe use.
It is now time for us to try to comprehend and monitor how the ‘spread and delivery mechanisms’ are taking shape for optimum utilization of this knowledge pool of service, products and expertise.
Assessing the size
Forecasting “market size” is considered by many to be more “art” than “science”. It is often a complicated and inexact process. Trying to put numbers to a market, which is poorly defined or which has different definitions, is tricky. In the case of geographic information the possibilities for confusion are endemic. The moderate size of the industry can be estimated from some studies, which we put forth below.
A recent forecast pegged the total worldwide GIS core-business revenue at USD 2.02 billion in the year 2004, an increase of 9.7% over 2003. In 2003, the core GIS revenue was USD 1.84 billion (then increasing at 5.1%) as per estimates of the same forecast. Core-business revenue takes into account software, hardware, services and data products. Software accounted for two-thirds (64%) of the core business revenue pie. Revenues from GIS software vendors reached US$1.175 billion. Services accounted for US$447 million while hardware stood at 4% of total core-business revenues. Data products accounted for 8%.
An article published in early 2004 in ‘Nature’ did put a figure on the quantity factor of the market and stated that about 140,000 organizations globally use GIS in some form of the other. It is estimated that around 40% of this are providers of the tools and the rest pure users or a particular level of application developers. North America and Europe still hold over 75% of the global market in this field. However, a majority of these 140 thousand organizations are government agencies – local, national and international.