It's difficult to believe there was a time with parallel worlds of GIS and imagery. Now they're tightly tied and getting more tightly integrated.
To highlight such coupling, attendees of the recent Esri International User Conference received a complimentary copy of The ArcGIS Imagery Book, which outlines the evolution of the two tools, how they're coming together in 2D and 3D, and how the future is an intelligent image.
It's interesting to think of the legacy of Landsat, an amazing dataset that started in 1972 but only recently was truly unleashed with an easy (and free) means to digitally download from the archive. It was the first planetary view that sparked the imagination and inspired the concept of an explorable Digital Earth.
Today, we can view and simulate planetary phenomena such as ocean currents, winds and seasonal climate patterns. We can filter light to determine vegetation health, and see through the dark and clouds. We can look back in time to compare the past to the present. We can capture detailed 3D models with oblique imagery. And we can do so much more.
There's an idea of a reactive GIS that's capable of cataloging and understanding the world and comparing new inputs to understand change. Imagery is a tremendous input to such instant understanding, and regular imagery updates are the primary source to decode what has changed. With more satellites expected, rapid understanding on a planetary scale is possible, and it's happening.
Parallel to the satellite-provided global view, we're getting much more capable with drones that are becoming far less restricted. An eye-opening example is the recent release of Drone2Map, which automates the processing of drone imagery to create orthomosaics and 3D meshes that then are readily integrated within ArcGIS. This capability comes from an alliance between Esri and 3D Robotics and brings a whole new level of automation as well as a very-high-resolution data source to deploy on demand.
Esri shares a vision of the intelligent image, where things such as on-board analytics will return processed imagery quickly, assisted by the infinite computing of the cloud. Imagery sources and volumes are exploding at every scale, and it's exciting to think how dynamic maps can become.
Imagery could be thought of as the more-exciting cousin that goes out on adventures, while GIS sticks to the books. In the future, however, both may be bachelors or spinsters, because we could start calling this dynamic duo something entirely new: perhaps intelligent image, dynamic map, smart map or maybe just map.
Matt Ball, founder and editorial director, V1 Media