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GIS2011_Logo1_WEBThe 24th annual GIS in the Rockies took place from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1 at the Cable Center in Denver, Colo. The event theme, “Emerging Technolgies; Are You Read?,” addressed both these new technologies as well as the need to stay abreast of these developments in order to make the most of the possibilities. This regional gathering of users in the intermountain west of the United States is aligned with GITA, ASPRS, URISA and the Professional Land Surveyors of Colorado, providing for a broad and diverse take on current tools and practice.

GIS2011_Logo1_WEBThe 24th annual GIS in the Rockies took place from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1 at the Cable Center in Denver, Colo. The event theme, “Emerging Technolgies; Are You Read?,” addressed both these new technologies as well as the need to stay abreast of these developments in order to make the most of the possibilities. This regional gathering of users in the intermountain west of the United States is aligned with GITA, ASPRS, URISA and the Professional Land Surveyors of Colorado, providing for a broad and diverse take on current tools and practice.

An opening keynote by Dr. Jan Van Sickle, set the tone for the meeting. Van Sickle began by discussing the rapid pace of business change in the geospatial industry with a quote from Alice in Wonderland, “it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.” The fast pace of change is related to Moore’s Law, with the number of transistors on a chip doubling every other year and cost half as much. If this same pace of change were applied to a trip from Paris to New York, it would take just a second and cost just a penny.

Not only is this pace of change incredible, it’s not going to slow down as we’re at the beginning of this change. Both the memory and microprocessing have expanded exponentially since 1970. Those two things together expand what we can do, but also mean that if we’re doing things the same way we did 10 years ago, we’re doing something wrong.

Mobile is at the center of this change. This ready access to information means we’ve created an insatiable appetite for current information that is also integrated with positioning, video, addresses, and everything. Information without context though isn’t valuable, and geospatial practitioners have a lot to contribute collectively.

Photogrammetry has grown at one the most incredible rates, with imagery sensors growing exponentially around the world from satellites to digital aerial cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles. Van Sickle showed the planned launches of satellites around the world. Each one of these sensors is pushing down imagery down on us, which has been enabled by our ability to store and analyze this digital data. That has given rise to our ability to specify the currency, radometric signature, etc. for imagery for exactly our area of interest, and we can orthorectify, mosaic, and process it on the fly.

The change is also at a high pace with surveyors and geomaticians, who have gone past using tapes, measures and paper drawings. We went to a digital workflows that collected one point at a time, and now we’re using lasers to collect a million data points per second. Making sense of that data and stitching scans together requires a very accurate position, requiring access to four satellites at a time. To meet that need, we have many more global navigation satellites available with 23 satellites from Russia’s GLONASS system, the European Union’s Galileo satellites, and more coming from China’s Compass constellation. With this accurate position, we are now adding a far greater degree of context.

Change is also happening with cartographers and GIS professionals. The move to digital overlays for geospatial analysis has been practiced for some time, but now we’re doing it in 3D with modeling. The tools to geocode an address and overlay it on a map has also changed dramatically, with increasing access of information regarding each individual place.

The things we used to rely on others to do for us, we can now do quickly ourselves. This speeds workflows, but the question is “do we know what we’re doing.” This imposes a need to know an awful lot more than we used to.

The stage is set for the Web to enable a worldwide distributed GIS. Dr. Robert Metcalfe, creator the Ethernet, said that a network’s value increases as the square of the number of users. To illustrate the point, Van Sickle illustrated the worldwide growth of broadband connections which have gone from 4 million to 400 million in a dozen years. What we do in the geospatial community, 400 million people can see, with about 1/3 of the searches having a geospatial function. With wireless, there are now 2 billion Internet users worldwide. In just two years the amount of information accessed will be double that of today.

With all that access and interest, the geospatial community is getting awfully important. The silos that separate practitioners from geomatics, remote sensing, surveying, GIS and imagery don’t make any sense anymore. The tools and methods that we use are becoming much more closely aligned.

Overall, the quality of content, the state-of-the art facility, the beautiful campus of the University of Denver, and a well-represented local community provided an engaging event. The networking sessions proved to be lively, and there were good discussions and questions in the break-out sessions.

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