The cliché that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts is applicable to the geospatial world. Taken in isolation, various geospatial technologies show limited versatility in their own domains, but when used in an integrated manner, this versatility improves by orders of magnitude. For example, a 3D cityscape rendered using CAD, located on the earth in a GIS, on a background of a remotely sensed imagery has a far greater impact than each of the elements considered separately.
As technology progresses, users have found value in using it in an integrated manner, such that the benefit of different technologies to serve a common purpose is enhanced. Thus, in their time, remote-sensing, GIS, GPS, EDM, Total Stations, LiDAR, Cloud Computing and Big Data Analytics have all become a part of the arsenal of spatial analysts. The recent earthquake in Nepal has already spawned several studies using geospatial techniques, which show the changes in the geography of the area. Another study uses the 3D models of the Durbar Square before and after the event, to estimate the damage. While these are preliminary studies, they will ultimately lead to a better understanding of the causes leading to the quake and the associated damage estimation. More importantly, it will also lead to the adoption of better building technologies.
What has building technologies got to do with geospatial systems? Consider the fact that in the Nepal quake, the major damage has been caused to heritage buildings made in the Newari style, while modern buildings show less damage. The Newari method of building employed empirical methods to make them quake tolerant by using sun-dried bricks, mud mortar and wooden supports. But, they required constant maintenance, in the absence of which, they degenerated to a point where they became unstable. Modern buildings, on the other hand, are designed to take into the quake factors in a more systematic manner through intensity zoning and appropriate building codes for each zone. We can say that geology and geo-tectonics have converged with building technologies to create safer buildings.
Convergence is happening in many other domains as well. More efficient power distribution and asset management is the result of the convergence of GIS and SCADA. Better services to communities are provided by municipalities through the use of geospatial technology to rationalise taxes and provide better maintenance of roads, street lights, transport facilities, water and sewerage. Municipalities are joining hands with the police to provide better illumination in crime prone areas. These areas are being defined by the police through spatial analysis of crimes.
Ultimately, such isolated examples of convergence will come together to create smart cities and towns, which in turn, will be stitched together with rural areas into a seamless fabric through the Internet of Things (IOT). This convergence of technologies is the key to Marshall McLuhan’s Global Village.