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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Top Geospatial Predictions for 2012

January 12th, 2012 by Susan Smith

When compiling this group of predictions, I looked back on what I had tagged for 2011 as predictions going forward. Some of those are still on the list, others are new.

Some from last year include the Cloud, security, and web mapping services.

Lidar Data and 3D Laser Scanning

In geospatial, Lidar data is used for terrain and flood mapping, corridor mapping and vertical information. New life is breathed into it as it is used in 3D laser scanning efforts, with point cloud processing becoming part of many important CAD programs such as those from Autodesk and Bentley.

This signals an acknowledgement of the importance of lidar data for various applications, not only for retrofit projects but also for planning and presentation value. The technology now is capable of efficiently getting  the large amounts of 3D data processed accurately. With great advancements in point cloud processing, it is now being integrated into mainstream products.


The cloud was definitely on the list for 2011, but like other technology that may be considered “disruptive,” it is still on the list. Users can now buy cloud usage using a “pay-as-you-go” model, so they can get software that way rather than buying an annual license. All your basic upgrades would come on a regular basis. The ever increasing mobility of our society is another factor that is disruptive – a lot of business can now be transacted via mobile devices and tablets using apps that can be downloaded as easily as downloading iTunes.

Those who offer cloud applications do so to extend the desktop to accomplish things with the Cloud that have not been possible using desktop applications.

James Staten of Forrester Research spoke about the cloud recently, making a case for the cloud by saying that “clouds are more secure than you are.”

His recommendations:

1. Focus – clouds can concentrate their whole security team on securing the one app.

2. Exposure – when cloud outages happens every  customer gets upset and they end up in New York Times. When your email system goes down it doesn’t show up in the papers. Because of that risk those creating the cloud invest heavily in the best security minds out there. Every one of those was given a job offer by Amazon, Microsoft, etc. at very high salaries. “If anyone breaks into my account I want to know about it. The cloud is concerned with extreme audits, a security
expert, who they hire, who gets into the data center, whether they are making sure malware is up to date,” said Staten.


4. Multitenancy – there is far more encryption in the cloud model and it is far more difficult to see that another customer is there to alleviate concerns of privacy such as Pepsi and Coke using the same cloud service, for example.


In spite of Staten’s claims, many companies are not ready to fully embrace the cloud or may want to use it only for certain things.  Some customers expressed concern at the time about making available designs on the cloud. Thus, security is a big issue. At Autodesk University, IMAGINiT’s Joe Hedrick, infrastructure solutions team manager, said that although they of course support the cloud, many customers are concerned about having data on a public or external place. There is therefore an interest in having a “cloud” as an internal resource.

Enter such companies as Advance2000 which offers on-site support, systemup-time, security required, data retention and compliance required by business.  “We provide all the benefits of Cloud computing without forfeiting critical business functions,” according to their brochure.

Advance2000 BIM Cloud Computing Cloud 2.0 from Advance2000 provides high performance solution for your graphical work stations. The increased speed, as compared to traditional cloud computing, allows users to increase
productivity and better utilize valuable resources. You still get the collaborative
nature of the cloud but without the worry of the cloud crashing or your data being lost or shared incorrectly.

Those companies offering geospatial solutions will need to provide a cloud specifically for their customers, that embodies an in-house, enterprise system.
Esri, Bentley, Autodesk and Pitney Bowes Insight have their cloud offerings now but will most likely invest in the private cloud in the coming year.

Privacy is the main thrust behind the desire for in-house clouds, as opposed to the public cloud. Worldwide, it will be important to manage some aspects of business inside the enterprise and to take advantage of the fluidity and bandwidth available on the cloud.

Social Media

Which leads us into the topic of social media, without which crowdsourcing wouldn’t be possible.

Interacting in RealTime with live streaming can be about letting people be part of an instantaneous conversation. Live video and events can help businesses get
messages across.

Social media combined with location offered by the geospatial industry may be the next big thing, perhaps a sign of the times being Facebook’s acquisition of Gowalla, which allows users to share meaningful places with their friends and contacts.

3D Cities

Never is there a place where simulation and analysis can have a larger role than in 3D cities. 3D cities represent the convergence of GIS and AEC as both technologies are necessary in order to visualize the 3D city. Each major CAD technology company has a different term for their version of the vision of 3D cities – Bentley Systems has recently coined the phrase “Semantic city,” IBM
calls it a “smart city,” other companies refer to 3D cities as “intelligent cities.”

CEO of Bentley Systems Greg Bentley said noted that, “The real world is a 3D
physical world.” He brought up the equation of “GIS mapping + geospatial modeling + semantic simulation”. Semantic is the study of meaning. “The semantic city could be semantically connected together and would emphasize components and models and understand people’s behaviors,” said Bentley.

Montreal is an example of a semantic city model which is maintained in Oracle Spatial 3D.

GeoDesign is Esri’s term for the convergence of GIS and design. An Esri GeoDesign conference was just held in Redlands this past week, bringing together those in both industries to seek a better solution for combining the two technologies. It would seem from the tone of the event and from the state of the world today, that it is important for engineering and facilities management data to be accessible in GIS databases. The prevalence of building information modeling (BIM) makes it possible to have detailed structural models of buildings, bridges and roads, which enhance the GIS database that may be used in 3D city planning.

Whatever moniker the 3D city model takes on, it is able to include a lot of information pertinent to the city including site conditions, weather, terrain, and other data. This great assemblance of data can be the blueprint for the new city or the complete map of the old city – a vital tool in the asset management, maintenance and operations of the city that may be accessed by everyone who has a stake in its future.

Open Source

Some years ago, a few European countries had attempted to enforce Open Source for their geospatial technology offerings, trying to cut costs and the reliance on traditional software providers on a national level. Since the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency has expressed interest in moving to Open Source, the OpenGeo may be ramping up its presence to engage more players.

Web Mapping Services

Last year I listed OpenStreetMap  and how earthmine had provided plugins for
Esri’s ArcGIS Online to integrate with OpenStreetMap, which provides street
level panoramic content. OpenStreetMap is an open map program not aimed
specifically at the GIS community, but at the world community at large.

At the time I noted that earthmine has the same model as ArcGIS Online: a central data repository with ecosystems of client applications that allow you to pull data and use them in menus and different ways such as from ArcPad and iPhones.

An Esri partner, earthmine is a 3D mapping company with a 3D mapping system
that employs stereophotogrammetric cameras, and some core technology which was licensed from the NASA jet propulsion labs and was used in the Mars exploration vehicle, Rover.

The ability to edit web maps such as those offered by OpenStreetMap is offered in ArcGIS Editor for Open Street Map which had been in beta until recently. Using this with existing enterprise scale tools could change the way business is done in large government institutions and corporations. ArcGIS Online map services have been available for free and can be used to make web maps with ArcGIS Online.

Web maps can also utilize ArcGIS 9.3 Service Pack 1, ArcGIS 9.3.1, ArcGIS 10, and ArcGIS Web Mapping APIs. There is now an earthmine coverage map for data available via the earthmine Cloud web service. Earthmine also announced an integration with Autodesk Map 3D last summer, allowing for mapping of large scale infrastructure with just a click.

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2 Responses to “Top Geospatial Predictions for 2012”

  1. John says:

    What is the OpenGeo?

  2. Susan Smith says:

    OpenGeo brings best practices of open source software to organizations around the world.

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