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The Big Changes in Internet GIS


Ming-Hsiang (Ming) Tsou, Ph.D.
Department of Geography, San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182-4493
TEL: 619-5940205, FAX: 619-5944938
Email: [email protected]

Ming-Hsiang (Ming) Tsou is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at San Diego State University. He holds a Ph.D. from University of Colorado at Boulder (2001), M.A. from State University of New York at Buffalo (1996) and B.S. from National Taiwan University (1991). As a Cartographer and GIS specialist, his research and teaching interests include Internet mapping, wireless mobile GIS, distributed GIS applications, multimedia cartography, user interface design, and software agents. He co-authored a scholarly book, “Internet GIS” with Dr. Zhong-Ren Peng at University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee published in 2003.

The Year 2005 is a very important year for the development of Internet GIS. Many significant changes are happened in this year in terms of new technology, new services, new infrastructures, and new users. Even though it is only September now, and we still have three more months left. I am pretty sure that this year (2005) will be unforgettable in the history of Internet GIS. This paper will highlight three major changes happened in the development of Internet GIS in 2005 and discuss the future impacts of Internet GIS in the next decade.

The first big change comes from the GIS awareness in the general public. Two major events, the South Asia Tsunami and the Hurricane Katrina, started to wake up people how important the GIS is in order to protect our homes, our friends, and our own lives. GIS is a good teacher for us and it teaches us how to respect Nature and how to understand her actions. When viewing satellite imagery, categorizing land use data, or comparing the changes of land cover before/after the disasters, we are getting very important messages from Nature. These important messages can be received by hundreds of millions people almost immediately via Internet GIS. Many major satellite image companies (such as Digital Globe and Space Imaging) and GIS vendors (ESRI and Google) are generous offering free satellite images and GIS data/maps for the general public and the media. The general public can vividly see the changes of images caused by the Nature disasters and feel the devastating power of these nature events. Many media (TVs, newspapers) were copying these images from the Internet and then re-broadcasted to hundreds of million readers all over the world. Thank to the progress of Internet GIS technology and the World Wide Web, people can access many GIS data and maps in near real-time whenever they are available. The general public started to understand the power of geospatial technology because seeing is believing.


Figure 1. The Google Earth Pro showing the RedCross Shelter location and capacity for
Hurricane Katrina relief efforts (Software download: https://earth.google.com )