Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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January 17, 2012
What to Watch in 2012

We’re pleased to present our annual State of the Industry report. Once again, our Editorial Advisory Board members have done a great job of identifying the most significant forces impacting the remote sensing industry, as well as key challenges and potential solutions. In addition, the following topics are of interest as 2012 unfolds.

Prioritizing Disaster Planning and Response

Led by the tsunami-inflicted disaster in Japan, global disasters caused a record $350 billion in losses in 2011—and around 70 percent were uninsured. The Japan event also proved to be a showcase for the value of geospatial technology for disaster response. Nations worldwide have taken notice, such as the Philippines, which recently approved a hefty allocation for disaster planning and response technologies, including LiDAR and InSAR capabilities.

In the United States, disaster response clearly is an area that could benefit greatly from better interagency cooperation. But as Sanborn CEO John Copple aptly points out, despite significant efforts from groups such as the Federal Geographic Data Committee to encourage geospatial standards and general cooperation among agencies, most of them continue to operate autonomously.

China Turns on Its “Big Dipper”

Beidou, the Mandarin term for the Big Dipper constellation, also is the name of China’s new homegrown satellite navigation system, comprising 10 satellites with six more planned for 2012. It’s not believed to be as accurate as the Global Positioning System (GPS), but it does reinforce the adage that America is good at inventing things and the Chinese are very good at copying them.

While not a direct threat to U.S. naval forces, this gives China a significant military leg up on most other countries in the region. Along with its new aircraft carrier and reports of a new stealth fighter plane, Beidou clearly augments China’s methodical military buildup of the last decade.

Can U.S. Firms Compete Globally?

Compared with companies in many other developed countries, U.S. firms are highly taxed and subject to mounds of regulatory muck, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, which burdens those that run a tight, honest ship in a costly attempt to police the cheaters. The bottom line is it’s expensive to do business in the United States.

There are many foreign geospatial firms with outstanding products and services not subject to the cost issues facing U.S. counterparts. For instance, I believe Astrium will do well with its new Pleiades satellite system. Expect to see many global geospatial business opportunities land on foreign soil until legislators come through with sound U.S. tax and regulatory reforms.  But don’t hold your breath—in an election year this do-little Congress will linger awhile longer.

Making Maps (More) Mistake-Free

Modern geospatial technology provides consumers and professional users a host of ways to view maps and navigate. More than 750,000 sets of directions are downloaded every day from MapQuest, and Google users spend more than 1 million hours a day browsing maps online.

Yet, between 15 percent and 18 percent of road routes change each year due to a variety of factors. Since 2006, users of TomTom GPS devices alone have submitted more than 200,000 map corrections to the company. And if your mobile device loses its GPS signal, game over. The best advice for now is to carry an old-fashioned paper map for backup—just in case.

— Jeff Specht, publisher, Earth Imaging Journal

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