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Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan
Matt holds an MSc in Geography and GIS. He has been working with clients solving problems with GIS for over 17 years. Matt founded WebMapSolutions whose mission is to put innovative, intuitive GIS driven applications into the hands of new and existing users.

Should We Retire the Term GIS?

April 4th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

The future of mobile is location! ………. The future of computing is mobile!

Two bold statements. We don’t necessarily believe them yet. But one would be foolish to ignore them offhand. What do these have to do with our question: “Should we retire the term GIS”?

GIS deals with location. Why not simply use this universally understood term when we sell our geo-technology solutions .. and drop GIS altogether? As the need for location technology grows, lets begin to use the language all can understand. GIS is a niche term understood by geo-nerds, often in the public sector (nothing like a good generalization).

I had an interesting recent discussion with a geo-friend. A year ago her company only spoke the language of GIS. Today, senior execs have noted the increasing absence of the term GIS at geo-focused conferences. Like it or not, the term GIS is being edged out. New geo-sectors are emerging; see Location Based Services (LBS) for example. Is it GIS? No, well yes. It deals with location. The term is in the title. Okay, its consumer focused, a tool for marketeers. But who cares?

Mobile is changing our perception of terms like location. Let’s try that silly elevator game, where you are pitching new company ideas, in one sentence:

“My new company will provide GIS services.”

“Our company will employ geographers and provide information about the space around us.”

“The focus of our company will be to provide location(s) based information and services.”

I know in which of these three companies a layman would invest his money. And which one potential clients would gravitate towards.

As mobile becomes more popular, so too will the need for solutions which use location data. We are entering a boom period for companies in the geo-sector. Its time to drop the term GIS. Let’s all call ourselves what we are: providers of location based solutions.

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Categories: Mobile ArcGIS, Mobile GIS

3 Responses to “Should We Retire the Term GIS?”

  1. SMcF says:

    I’m surprised by the lack of comments on this topic. I agree with most of what you have to say except I disagree that the term GIS should be retired. What I’d like to see is the use of specific terms where appropriate (like LBS as you’ve suggested) instead of using GIS as a catch-all for all things spatial. Just my two cents.

  2. says:

    I also agree with most of what’s been said. GIS has been the catch-all for a long time. From a marketing stand point using the phrase ‘location based’ is a qucker way for the client/customer to understand the servcies a company provides. Being in business, it’s something to consider as well as making sure the two can be used and are clearly understood in the marketplace. AM/FM, GIS, LBS…terms from the past to the present, terms will change as technology changes.

  3. Eric Andelin says:

    Simple answer is yes retire the term. Geographic Information System(s)…what systems? In the 90’s GIS lived within the walls of a system ~ or software. This is no longer the case spatial information it’s ubiquitous and run’s free across the internet, or mobile devices, via Apps thanks to GPS embedded in everything we carry. We benefit from the open source community and smart programmers sharing code to further democratize the ability to use this information. Not sure what the new term should be, but I agree we need to retire the old one.

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