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October 1st, 2010
Have Social Media and Mapping Linked with GIS – CAD and other Geospatial Technologies?

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Greater use of social media and wider adoption of mapping across platforms and applications is leading towards a focus on the use of a map as the interface to rich, often complex and detailed location and geospatial applications. Simple applications on mobile devices, for example, can now access data and information about business systems, health demographics, utility networks, environmental modeling and marine ecosystems to name a few. As these tools merge, social media and mapping become integrated as part of GIS and CAD related work flows.

 

Greater use of social media and wider adoption of mapping across platforms and applications is leading towards a focus on the use of a map as the interface to rich, often complex and detailed location and geospatial applications. Simple applications on mobile devices, for example, can now access data and information about business systems, health demographics, utility networks, environmental modeling and marine ecosystems to name a few. As these tools merge, social media and mapping become integrated as part of GIS and CAD related work flows.

Geoinformation and geospatial applications benefit through the development of smart phone applications and other social media that generates web mapping. Acting as interfaces, these devices trigger remote servers to begin geodata processing at distant locations, returning maps coupled to various types of information. Bus stops and underground maps, new events, trail locations, biodiversity areas, marine and coastal places, utility corridors, water and many more pieces of information are delivered quickly.

The linkage between high-end Cloud operating geographic information systems (GIS) and social media devices and technologies is often hidden – the stuff just works. Most GIS – CAD people see smart phone technology as an integral part of the complete system – extendeding the applications. These devices can collect information in the field, manage it, trigger processing (back on the server) and then display new results in the field or desired location,.

Delivery of geoinformation in the field has always been the goal. It is the purpose of a map or any other product generated from location data. Competition is high in this field, and that is positive because it drives innovation and reduces costs. There are many brands available for hardware (smartphone devices) and software (Android, RIM, Apple, Symbian, Windows and Linux). Hundreds of thousands of people are developing applications for these devices and using these platforms.

Some developers rely upon well known and established government agencies, like Ordnance Survey UK, whose users are now exploring and using their OS OpenData.  Others have written about  ‘Open Data: The Role of Government in Fostering Smartphone Applications‘ but the UK government, for example, froze iPhone application development earlier this year as it learned about some of the applications being developed. Having said that, enormous possibilities and potential remains for linking social media and mapping to GIS – CAD applications.

Applications like EirGrid in Ireland have put energy at the heart of the population. GRID25 ties people directly into the infrastructure and provides information about energy, environment and infrastructure. BBC Look East uses a map (MapTube) to look at anti-social behavior in the east of London. On a more dynamic level, SurveyMapper allows users to ask and get thousands of of geolocated answers on a specific question.

On the architecture side, there are many applications that include such things as mathematical and engineering calculations, material selection and visualisation tools for on site development and communication. On the GIS side Esri has moved toward the iPhone, iPod and iPad platform.  There are EarthScape for iPhone applications, GeographCloudmadeBing Maps and Geology CA. Organisations like WeoGeo provide a way to store and manage all of these applications.

While at the Association for Geographic Information (AGI UK) conference in the UK this past week, I was struck by the fact that both neogeography and professional communities were essentially commenting on a common theme – the ‘need to do more with less.’ It seemed obvious that moving high-end applications that embed and integrate higher levels of intelligence and usability to wider numbers of users is the goal – period. In a time of tightening budgets, few people seem interested in driving technical points home, while most are trying to figure out how to partner, add value to others efforts and how to generate new opportunities that solve problems. 

I think we are opening a new window to opportunities now, one where less debating ‘us versus them’ is over, and more ‘how can we do this’ is rapidly filling the spaces. Indeed, there is now a backlash against the former.

At this time we are witnessing the German government asking geospatial companies to step up to the plate to develop policies for the use of geospatial data. In my view this poses a unique challenge to the German Open Source community, because they have traditionally held a distant view to more traditional suppliers and users of geospatial products and services.  This is a stance that developing trends across Europe at the moment, are at odds with, as I explained above. Governments and business are under pressure economically, they want solutions and more for less.

The geoinformation community in Europe is being asked to solve their problem, and they should. In the UK case you see these communities developing integrated tools and services for government and e-government use. We are at the erly stages of forming new models for such partnerships. These combine the best in high quality geodata with social media and mapping tools.

INSPIRE has not articulated an integrated position to aid this effort, and is more oriented to implementing strategies and waiting. The German government is asking at the present time for a solution, which although forced by privacy interests, will mean that architecture, CAD, GIS and most other applications will be impacted – particularly if legislated.

Geospatial tools and technologies are uniquely capable to deliver on issues related to the current economic situation in the areas of monitoring environments, developing infrastructure, pursuing transportation and urban planning goals and delivering on connections that tie ESA funding, common agricultural policy funding, GALILEO funding, Biodiversity Goals and several European Directives surrounding urban and transport issues into frameworks involving solutions.

These are enormous opportunities for the geocommunity. There is a heightened need for demonstrating social media and mapping within the context of high quality mapping, infrastructure and measurement applications involving CAD and GIS at the moment.

Think clean water, clean air, efficient transport, high quality health and low energy.

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