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January 1st, 2012
Ten Predictions for 2012

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TenPredictions2012 copyMuch time is spent this time of year looking forward. V1 editors Jeff Thurston and Matt Ball spent some time reflecting on emerging stories and growing trends to come up with the following predictions for 2012. 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

Health, Safety and Environment – Industries across the globe are needing to place a larger focus on the health, safety and environmental impacts of their operations because of increasing accountability. Greater sensors and system integration provide the means to understand operations in a whole new light, and these same sensored systems are also responsible for closer scrutiny of the detrimental impacts of operations as usual. We can expect to see the proliferation of localized sensored systems for individual vertical market applications in the years to come. The need for ongoing calibration and tuning of these systems will make the delivery of systems as services a promising business opportunity with ongoing revenue streams for enterprising integrators.

Personalized Navigation Continues – the number of applications that combine location with social media and web preferences to deliver personalized navigation will continue. We saw this trend most clearly with Google’s purchase of Clever Sense, but interest in this area is increasing with such developments as Facebook’s purchase of site check-in site Gowalla. Discovering places you love, and that are the world’s most loved, is the aim of these applications. The increasing socialization of place portends a future of concentrated development and more highly considered place making.

Emphasis on Efficiency – Given the global economic struggles in much of the world, there will be an ongoing emphasis on technologies that improve efficiency and reduce costs. Geospatial technology is well poised to aid in efficiency efforts, and will continued to be relied upon. With that said, individual geospatial workers will be called upon to do increasingly more with less as hiring freezes mean that fewer workers will be supported to do this work. With this trend in place, a greater reliance on contractors and service companies can be expected.

Open Source Increase – With one of the largest geospatial technology investors in the world, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, indicating an interest in moving toward open source geospatial tools, we can expect a great deal of activity in open source software development for geospatial applications. The increased investment in this area may be at the detriment of traditional geospatial vendors and contractors, but will reward those that can adapt skills and toolsets toward a more open and interoperable platform. This concentrated R&D effort in this area will push along innovation that may be capitalized for platform enhancements as well as targeted industry solutions.

Landscape-Level Modeling – The ongoing convergence of BIM, GIS and CAD takes on many forms, from city-scale planning packages to all new large-scale and interactive visualization environments. While these trends have been ongoing for some time, new pressures on planning and development for more livable and efficient urban areas mean that greater emphasis will be placed on integrating technologies in the year to come. This trend is best illustrated with the awarding of the TED 2012 prize to the concept of Cities 2.0. The role of cities to drive down impacts, and the increasing understanding that technology plays a big role in our understanding of a complex cities interactions, provides an excellent opportunity for greater technology integration.

Jeff’s Predictions

Keep An Eye On Trimble – This company has acquired many other companies in recent years. It is the most integrated company in the entire spatial industry – offering high quality surveying instruments, remote sensing software (Definiens), building construction (Tekla), fleet and mobility technology etc. This company has the ability and agility to tackle global spatial data solutions from all angles. Ready for investment and ready for the future. 

European INSPIRE Debates – Mounting budget deficits in Member countries and discord between Members will push INSPIRE from the sunlight into the shade. How can a trans-boundary project operate effectively if the foundation of the union is not certain? This will similarly impact the GALILEO satellite system, which will require more funding as time passes, and resulting in more debates in 2012. 

3D – A continued shift to 3D is underway. Several companies are involved in 3D ranging from data creation to 3D visualization and simulation – including our new Vector1 Media publication ( We can expect 3D viewing technologies to drop in price and new options and business models for purchasing lidar, radar and other 3D data products for them.  The world’s first city requiring 3D data for utilities will emerge – followed by others. 3D GIS will be discussed and applied more widely in 2012.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Everywhere – The last INTERGEO conference saw no less than 10 models of these flying machines. Now the software for them is being enhanced and improved, thereby paving the way for specialized services based on these platforms. At the same time, discussions about safety and privacy for these devices will rise. 

Geospatial Health Care – GIS and location intelligence tools can already be found in the health care sector. A growing older population globally aligned with tight budgets will put pressure on health care – the largest cost item in most places. Increasingly, geospatial tools will be applied to reduce costs, increase effectiveness and to streamline health care processes. Many of these will be simple, but focused on interoperability and adding location to processes. The market here is potentially the largest of all geospatial sectors. 

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