There are an increasing number of demands from various market
sectors in response to plans for economic stimulus. Figures have been
floated by the incoming Obama administration for $800 billion to be
spent on infrastructure, health care, energy efficiency, and other
priorities. Companies everywhere are eager to get a piece of the
action, and the markets are responding to this potential windfall by
rewarding the companies that stand to benefit most with increased share
The United States isn’t the only country planning to invest
internally in order to improve unemployment figures and economic
growth. The influx of funds is global, and much of the spending will
take place in sectors that currently use, or could benefit from,
While there will likely be many opportunities for geospatial work,
the question is whether that work will lead to innovation in new tools
and approaches that benefit the geospatial market as a whole. My
feeling is that the level of spending has some definite possibility to
spark innovation, but the impetus for innovation will need to come in
the form of regulation, enhanced competition or both.
The level of infrastructure spending that is planned could provide some
much-needed incentive for more streamlined planning and building
processes. The federal government has been a leader in adopting
Building Information Modeling, a form of intelligent and collaborative
model-based design, because the bottom line benefits are so easily
documented with increased collaboration and tighter construction
Geospatial technology provides a necessary decision support tool for
infrastructure initiatives of larger geographies, such as roads,
bridges and railways. The toolset can also provide a means of assessing
infrastructure priorities, and making certain that spending is funneled
to the highest impact projects.
With infrastructure spending, comes a need for coordinated teams of
construction and engineering professionals as well as inspection and
government oversight. Any tools that help streamline and improve upon
this process stand to benefit, and there are a great many necessary
innovations to improve the old and inefficient methods. While there’s
some move afoot to streamline these processes, a huge spend by
government could create the necessary impetus for a broad cultural
shift if compliance to model-based design is mandated in order to win
Oversight and Transparency
Transparency of government decisions is going to be an overriding theme
under the Obama administration. This new administration embraced
Internet technology in the presidential campaign and pushed its limits
with social networking and real-time systems. This strong understanding
of the power and utility of the Internet will translate into more
place-based tools and maps as interfaces to government data.
The commitment to accountability, and a new standard of ethics,
point to greater use of Web tools throughout government. Geospatial
technology can act as an integrative force between disparate systems in
order to offer much needed insight. The move toward more equitable
funding efforts that eliminate earmarks will require other means of
evaluating and overseeing an equitable division of taxpayer dollars.
The strong move in the geospatial community to more open and
flexible web-based mapping platforms will fuel a number of new portals
and systems. The ongoing investment in web-based mapping platforms will
pay off in this environment of new government communications. There’s
strong opportunity for innovations to make these tools easier to
implement and deploy, and to scale these tools to address the needs of
Repeat of Recent History?
When the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq got underway, there was a strong
interest in the use of geospatial tools for war fighting and
intelligence gathering. The military investment dollars transformed the
geospatial industry with the new term geospatial intelligence to rally
around. A number of companies completely transformed their focus,
following the dollars to a good deal of success.
The influx of military dollars were funneled into a number of
geospatial technologies. Innovations were made in the way geospatial
data is fused to form intelligence, in how imagery is delivered, in
visualization tools that closely replicate reality, and in new mobile
technologies to assist soldiers, and many others. This influx of
military spending influx is a good model for what may soon occur.
I anticipate a similar transformation as the infrastructure and
government transparency initiatives get underway. The geospatial
community is well poised to contribute a great deal toward more
efficient government operations. We need to continue to trump the
cost-savings of applying geospatial tools to complex problems that
require great oversight. Dollars and subsequent innovation will follow.
Editor’s Note: The Perspectives column takes a new format this year.
Rather than a column from each editor every week, we’ll be taking turns
each week in order to expand our focus on emerging opportunities in the
energy sector. From time to time we’ll both weigh in on the same
subject when there are distinct North American vs. European
perspectives, and we’d like to open up opportunities for others to
write in this space as well.