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January 1st, 2010
Ten Predictions for 2010

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Tenfor2010Much time is spent this time of year looking forward. Vector1 Media editors Jeff Thurston and Matt Ball spent some time reflecting on emerging stories and growing trends to come up with the following predictions for 2010. On the list are technology advancements, policy initiatives and the continued evolution of model-based design. Read the full list and please add your own observations in the comments.

Matt’s Predictions

Genetic Algorithms – The concept of algorithms that mimic natural selection to give the computer the ability to determine the best design was something that we learned about from Autodesk Labs. The concept involves the entry of design parameters and software that automatically generates design iterations to meet those parameters. The algorithms allow the program to come up with the design that has the most efficient use of materials and the greatest performance. The computer-generated design concept can then be tweaked aesthetically for integration into the whole design. Such advanced “computer-aided” designs hold strong promise within and outside the design community.

Purposeful Social Networks – Over the past year the social networking mechanisms of Twitter and Facebook have grown considerably. There’s growing interest in harnessing these tools for collaborative work, rather than simply networking. A growing number of efforts will evolve online that are aligned with data creation and problem solving. Many of these efforts will revolve around compulsive game-playing scenarios such as Foursquare, where the competition aspect of the experience spurs data gathering and sharing.

The Resurgence of AEC – The entire architecture/engineering/construction industry has been extremely hard hit by the economic downturn. In the coming year, more available credit and government-led infrastructure projects that focus on long-term gains, will spur a needed rebound for this sector. Government mandates on model-based designed will serve to validate this more managed approach, saving time and money and leading to more innovation in this staid industry.

Carbon Accounting – Outcomes from the negotiations in Copenhagen will spur organization and governments into a flurry of carbon accounting activity. The legislated scrutiny of greenhouse gas emissions will provide a boon for new earth observation sensors and systems as well as service companies that can help large organizations understand and drive down their carbon footprints.

Cloud Computing as Software Platform – There’s growing interest in serving data via the networked computers that are “in the cloud”, but this only scratches the surface of the potential for this resource. Increased capacity and speed of these computing resources is leading to interesting opportunities to perform compute-intensive functions such as visualization and analysis that take place remotely from your desktop and return results quickly. With the time savings from this extended platform, more models and what-if scenarios can lead to more informed decisions.


Jeff’s Predictions

Geo as Entertainment – A number of people have speculated on the changing nature of media consumption. The line between realism and entertainment is not distinct. Instead, it is blurry and examples of people learning through entertainment abound. The question is not simply to share data, but to engage minds. How can the need for cleaner water, better schooling and improved efficiency in infrastructure be communicated through entertainment? How do you take the ‘dryness’ out of raw data and scientific pursuit and re-package it into consumable forms to engage people and to develop decision making processes?

Software by Carrier – If you develop an iPhone or Android, Symbian app today then a need exists to distribute it and to provide a means to purchase it. Invariably one must purchase the app separately from the carrier. This needs to change. For mobility apps to excel requires a streamling of the point of purchase and higher level integration for transboundary and long distance use. Why can’t I buy geospatial online services coupled to a carrier – and the phone thrown in for free? As mobile phones play a greater role in geodata delivery then a higher level need exists for the carrier service and hardware devices to all interoperate and to be easier to purchase, travel with and move data from office-to-field.

A Recycled Free Geodata Debate – The UK government recently promised to release its mid-to-small scale geodata for free. Amazing? Not really, since Canada, Japan, U.S., South Africa and other countries have been doing this for a long time. Do you think the U.S or Canada have up-to-date national data of 1:1250 or 1:2500 scale? No, far from it. But the UK does and that is what makes that country a leader. The UK government is currently in a position that will see the OS become a 3rd rate national mapping agency as its budget is undermined, if it is not careful. Underfunding at mid-small scale will have repercussions for large-scale geodata and will impact quality. This will open the free versus quality debate that has been waiting in the wings a long while – while everyone talked about free data. Have you noticed the issues arising with Google’s crowdsourced and otherwise acquired geodata recently?

EGNOS Expansion in Europe – EGNOS is a satellite-based augmentation system that enables improved accuracy from 10-meter (est.) down to about 2-meter (est.). This service became freely available as an open service in late 2009. At that level of accuracy the number of applications improves dramatically at a reduced cost. Accordingly, GPS receivers that are equipped to handle improved EGNOS interfacing are highly desired within Europe and will grow. At the same time Russia has not improved much on getting more healthy GLONASS satellites into orbit in 2009. As the EU says, ‘EGNOS’ superior location accuracy and integrity provides Europe’s entrepreneurs with the opportunity to create a whole new range of commercial applications and services, explained Pedro Pedreira, Executive Director of the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA).

Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) – For a number of years the concept of SDI was fuzzy and unclear to many people, except insiders who understood it among themselves. There has been funding for SDI across Europe in recent times and that has improved the level of understanding, resulted in capacity building and led toward new technology developments. The recent debates about energy use have exposed awareness surrounding energy processes and regional efficiencies. As awareness has expanded a greater need to connect and share solutions, through governance and applications, has turned toward SDI. The economic crisis has brought renewed cries for greater transparency and to achieve that will require the development of connected geographic systems. I would look for more governance, technology and application development related to SDI in 2010.


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