The Year 2001

The Year 2001


Maneesh Prashad
Director, GISDevelopment
E-mail : [email protected]

  The year 2001 started with a high note in the field of Location Based Services (LBS) and Internet (IGIS). LBS and IGIS were considered as the areas of promise. But the future had something different in store

The year 2001 carried the hopes of year 2000 in the field of Location Based Services (LBS) and Internet GIS. It appeared that survival can be more than assured by switching over to LBS and Internet GIS. But future had something interesting in store. The economy slowdown started taking its toll. The biggest sufferer was the DOT COM segment. I will prefer to put this as Dot Com came near to reality, as far as the users/third party perspective is concerned. Despite talks of DOM COM becoming DOT GONE our own web site grew over 300% in the year 2001. Internet is here to stay and it will only grow with time, but without the glorious hype which once halo-ed the Dot Com domain in 1999-2000. This can be extended to LBS and Internet GIS. Their importance cannot be belittled. We will continue to have more and better services in LBS and Internet GIS, but sans the hype.

In 2001, one could see a difference in market behaviour between the first quarter (Q1:JFM) and last quarter (Q4:OND). First quarter, Q1 had more to give on Internet GIS and LBS, the killer applications in the days to come. Q4 was more focussed on higher resolution imageries and the hand held along with their integration with GPS. The rising interest in the GPS by the user community other than those from mapping services gives a glimpse of the iceberg.

The service industry in the field of GIS more or less revolved around agriculture, natural resource monitoring, utility and land records.

Food security and crop production monitoring will continue to be the major areas of concern where GIS will be a critical tool. Precision farming will don more of the research projects and it will take some time before it comes down to use by the farmers in Asia at large.

Dark horse seems to be the Transportation and Navigation segment in GIS which hold immense potential including those from a developing country. The case study of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC, India) where a fleet of buses is being offline tracked for as low as Rs. 10,000 (~US$ 200) per bus has been an eyeopener for many state transport corporation in India. BMTC received rave reviews at the recently held State Transport Association meet in New Delhi. It is not only India but other Asian countries where this can come to rescue of the ailing public transport sector.

Use of geographic profiling algorithm for serial murder investigation in Spokane County, US (Coordinates of a Killer, GeoSpatial Solutions Nov, 2001) will do any GIS analyst proud. The depth to which GIS can be used is far beyond offline monitoring the movement of patrol vehicles. Use of geostatistical model based on the analysis of the animal movement in the above case is worth taking a note. It also highlights the importance to involve the experts from research institutes and academia to use their vertical knowledge build up. It makes a case for the administration to buy “Law Enforcement Geographic Information System” (By Donald Albert and Mark Leipnik).

Land records set the cash registers ringing for many GIS companies in India, but initial reports say that we are still some distance away from delivering satisfactory solution to the land record department. Anyway, we welcome the initiative, provided we are ready to learn from the mistakes and build upon it.

Bhuj earthquake left thousands of people homeless and many perished in the disaster. The authorities engaged in the disaster management process could have taken more informed decisions, but for the detailed maps of the locality with various demographic data. The GIS based Disaster Management Plan after the Latur and efforts in the same direction for Gujrat tells that at some point we need to put the horse in front of the cart. Overall a very eventful year from remote sensing point of view with the successful launch of QuickBird (61cm), TES (1m), EROS (1.8m) and IKONOS getting permission from the US Government in the beginning of the year to launch half metre imagery.

ImageSat, successfully launched its first EROS-A1 satellite in December 2000. EROS-A1 offers 1.8-metre resolution imagery. EROS-A2, which was scheduled for launch in the third quarter of 2001 (one-metre resolution) was put off due to certain reasons. Further six satellites in the EROS series are scheduled to be launched through 2005, starting from EROS B1 (half metre) which will be launched in 4th quarter of year 2003.

India launched Technology Experiment Satellite (TES) which too is providing 1m imagery. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with its eye set on capturing a part of the growing world market of raw data (approximately US$500 Million) plans to fly Cartosat-1 (with 2.5-metre resolution), and Cartosat-2 (1 m resolution) in 2002 and 2003. So far so good, but still there is room for improvement in quarters other than flying good remote sensing satellites.

Launch of QuickBird had its impact on the cost structure of IKONOS imagery. Good for the industry. We hope that in coming days we will have even higher resolution imagery available at lower cost. But for the Indian users of IKONOS imagery, the wait state can be imagined by “Some 20 users are in the queue for one-m data, including the Andhra Government, telecom majors Tatas and Reliance, besides agri-planners, water and sanitation agencies” DoS officials told Business Line, August 2001. ( Does it also mean that somebody sitting outside India, interested in Indian spatial feature will have to get the imageries routed through NRSA? Is IKONOS sensitive to Indian government wishes?

September 11 factor of the year 2001 has been etched with blunt tool in the history of humanity and will continue to reverberate for quite some time to come. We witnessed a terrible attack on the civil society. But post September 11 witnessed something unprecedented in the United States. Government agencies in United States pulling out spatial data from websites which were open for public reference, as a precautionary measure to avoid their misuse by unsocial elements. Was it sense of insecurity? Or fear of inability to prevent the misuse of spatial data!

Let us extrapolate the situation to a country which has far less means to counter terrorism or external intrusion, what does it do, it is more apprehensive of putting spatial data in public domain. What is more scaring is the thought that it may stall the efforts of putting up national mapping policies being persued by many countries, which in turn would have given access to largely inaccessible spatial data till now. Does this vindicate protective spatial data policy followed by developing countries?