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Geospatial Futures for a Globalised World


Is who we are, what we do? Many would say this is true, and indeed businesses often promote their credentials by mirroring values back to customers: “We are You” is a time tested but localized strategy. But what if your intentions are global? This message doesn’t always translate well since customer needs change with geography. This idea was summed up in an exchange with a colleague a few years ago. Upon questioning why residents of a particular town continued to purchase from a high street store when better retail options now existed, his response was straightforward “not everyone thinks like you”, he offered. Of course. But what he was really conveying was a simple but powerful message: in order to recognize value we need to look beyond ourselves and our own perceptions. This is not always comfortable or familiar since it means putting to one side lessons of experience, geography, culture, religion, etc in order to take a new perspective. This is challenging but of increasing importance when ambitions transcend boarders.

We know that global geospatial adoption is far from uniform and we see the effect of localized differences requiring specific approaches. Data availability, infrastructure, education, and market development all play a part along with differences such as language. As a result, a user in Lebanon is likely to have a different set of desires and constraints from a user in Eritrea. But how might these differences impact opportunities and challenges in 2013?

In recent years solution providers have tended to move away from feature led, one size fits all to solutions more tailored to end users. With geospatial now serving as an information hub underpinning critical information systems, decision makers want to leverage this by employing systems that more closely reflect their day to day workflows. This makes sense since solutions should always fit the task (rather than the reverse). This transition is surfacing in distinct ways in international markets, often with large organizations driving change. Having already invested in geospatial for a number years for these organizations 2013 is likely to be about decentralizing, collaborating, and sharing by transitioning to systems that accomplish this more easily. Mobile will also play a role as devices become more pervasive, users in the field will want to take these benefits with them. Here geospatial apps will deliver the change.

Outside of this group demand for solutions which offer bundled functionality will continue to grow. This is either because the task remains specialized or the infrastructure required to power a more connected workflow places limits on deploying a cloud solution. Interestingly, for many countries, the adoption chain for geospatial may look very different. In some African countries mobile data networks are more reliable and pervasive than cable, supporting the rapid expansion of mobile where personal computing stalled. A geospatial revolution here lends itself to cloud/app infrastructure rather than client/server. As a result these countries could bypass this initial adoption stage completely.

So what of the challenges?  Increasingly geospatial capability will be delivered in an environment where budgets are under increasing pressure and where infrequent capital expenditure is replaced by frequent operational budgeting. This aligns well with new cloud based offers but again the effect is not uniform. Countries hitting their stride in 2013 will want to invest and catch up quickly and so may continue to favour capital led investment.

Globalised geospatial data sharing will also drive the need for systems that are able to fuse multi-source data from many sensor types into multi-modality analyses. With increasing users turning to RADAR, LiDAR, and FMV, coupled with big data and the growth of satellite sensors in 2013, user expectations require that everything works together seamlessly. This relies on continued advancement of successful format standardization.

This year I hope to see the emergence of a more flexible data market. Within recent years the GIS data market has opened after being challenged by the emergence of competitive and innovative providers. This is more complex in the imagery market because the emergence of drone collection data could trigger low cost competition. And that competition could lead to increased accessibility of up to date remotely sensed data for all, no matter where they are in the world.


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