Technological advancements take centrestage at MME planery

Technological advancements take centrestage at MME planery


Abu Dhabi, UAE: Technological advancements and trends in the geospatial arena dominated the plenary session on the first day of Map Middle East 2010.

Dr Scott Pact, Director, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University, Washington DC, discussed space-based PNT and the international policy issues involved. He said that GPS is a critical component of the global information infrastructure and informed that the benefits of GPS are so pervasive that the US considers it very important to provide it for free.  He then traced the GPS modernisation programme and how it is increasing capacities.

He highlighted that in order to increase the acceptability level of GPS, it is important to have an open and public signal structure for all civil services and to encourage open market driven competition. He said that the US is working with other GNSS service providers like GLONASS and Galileo to ensure compatibility and to enable these systems to co-exist with each other without interfering with individual service or signals.

The International Committee on GNSS (ICG) is open to providers and users of GNSS services. It has nine member nations and is working on the principles of transparency, policies of provision and minimum level of performance for its open services. According to Dr Pace, ICG established time and geodesy task forces to pursue traceability to international standards and to enhance interoperability. Today, Dr Pace said, GNSS is thought of more as a form of information technology than aerospace product. He added that market driven innovation in GNSS application cannot be mandated but can be encouraged. The fundamental challenge for current and emerging providers is the issue of trust and this trust can be maintained through stable government policies that do not distort international markets.

Prof David Maguire, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Birmingham University, UK, ignited a debate between GI systems and GI Science in his presentation. He talked about the science behind the technology and said that to think of one without the other doesn’t make sense.

According to Prof David, GI science describes, explains and predicts the patterns and processes on the surface of the Earth. It is unique, developing a body of knowledge and devising a dossier of methods to advance the science of understanding our world. He listed out some of the major GI science discoveries including the theories of representation, models of uncertainty, principles of spatial cognition, theories of geographic world like spatial dependence, spatial heterogeneity and cartographic communication.

Through examples, Prof. David provided greater insight on the integration of science with technology. According to him, GIS is an island and to make it successful, we need to integrate it with other technologies and external systems. He then listed out a few trends in GIS and modelling and said that it is moving from deterministic to probabilistic, from providing static models to dynamic ones, from small data sets to large data sets, from simple cartography to advanced visualisation and from 2D to 3D and 4D.

Discussing the 3D modelling of landscapes and cities, Prof Armin Gruen of the Institute of Conservation and Building, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland, said modern day technology is providing new sensors, new platforms, new data processing devices, spatial information technologies, new visualisation and imaging and simulation software and new possibilities for data dissemination to the world. The world is looking at building new applications and is going way beyond mapping. These new technologies are generating lot of business opportunities.

Prof Gruen then detailed on the trends in each of the technologies. According to him, reality-based sensing and modelling is fast catching up so as laser scanning is being used extensively. In data processing, the trend is to use multi-sensor recording and to ease automation. Great progress has been made in space-based imaging. The trend is that satellite imagery is being used for 3D city modelling as well. With great variety of new sensors and platforms and increased processor speeds, the world is moving towards developing new applications, he concluded.  

After visualising the significance and utility of GIS and incorporating the same to make spatial data a public utility, Dubai Municipality is moving towards making GIS more mobile.  Discussing the need for making GIS available on the move, Eng Mohammad Al Zaffin, Director, GIS Centre, Dubai Municipality, said 80% of the engineers are on the move and the limitations on data devices, software and cost of implementation were the hurdles. To make it less cumbersome for the engineers on the field, Dubai Municipality has gone on to build a GIS on the move. The choice was to go for mobile based GIS, which a user can take along with him to the field with ease, utilising the network. This also enables the field staff access to necessary information from the GIS repository online to make decisions. This has helped tremendously in the mission of Dubai Municipality to provide access to accurate and up-to-date spatial data, Al Zaffin concluded.

Information convergence is the key and is greater than the sum of the parts, according to John Sasser, President, Rolta Middle East and Africa. Information technology has pervaded several aspects and led to the evolution and development of Management Information Systems, business intelligence and has also seen several advances in GIS. But the objective today is to get one window access to the user by converging all this information.  

He then listed out several advances that reinforce the promise of decision support and detailed the framework of Rolta’s Geosptial Fusion that allows the users to simultaneously work on 100s of different types of databases. He concluded saying that GIS has become an essential tool for the success of financial systems, asset management and is now mainstream IT.

Source: By Our Correspondent