As observers of the geospatial industry for nearly 20 years, our team has seen many technological changes. We’ve witnessed the rise of the enterprise database, the evolution of mobile field mapping tools giving way to capable mobile consumer devices, central servers being augmented by cloud-distributed computing resources, and the evolution from Web mapping to a variety of online mapping platforms.
On the imagery side, we’ve witnessed the inevitable dominance of digital data collection, the increasing importance of a variety of sensors for specific applications as well as the fusion of disparate data sources for unique insights, growing constellations of commercial Earth-observing satellites big and small, and today’s land-rush mentality regarding a coming wave of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs).
Through it all, there has been a lot to learn as the aforementioned technologies have been integrated in a variety of application areas, from forestry and natural resources to defense and infrastructure. Indeed, geospatial technology is often a key business differentiator as competitors seek to level the playing field. The geospatial toolset has continued to evolve and gain importance in a variety of workflows, with few pioneering efforts needed now for an individual or organization to go from nonuser to an everyday reliance on geospatial tools.
As indicated in the figure below, the full breadth of geospatial technology is perhaps at the “Plateau of Productivity” within the Gartner Hype Cycle, which help users discern hype from what’s commercially viable. However, the toolset is so large there are components at various stages of the progression.
The cloud has matured rapidly and taken hold as a platform extension for geospatial software providers, joining the plateau in record time because it varied little from what went before. The rise of UAS technology is a totally different disruption, where all manner of players—from hardware providers to software providers to service providers and even individual surveyors— will be dramatically affected.
Although geospatial tools and technology have continued to accelerate, with many disruptive bumps along the continuum, there’s a shared vision that’s still over the horizon. We still want to view and understand our planet’s complex systems, and we’re only scratching the surface so far.
This issue’s yearly touchpoint with our advisors in our State of the Industry report, beginning on page 12, is something we look forward to and we’re sure you’ll enjoy. The collective perspective of our team and these change makers is that we’re undergoing a profound era of advancement that bodes well for realizing a shared vision of what the geospatial industry can become. Be sure to reach out to us with your own vision, advancements or even frustrations to help us continue to chronicle our industry’s progression.
— Matt Ball, founder and editorial director, V1 Media