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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.

The GIS Industry is Splitting?

September 26th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

I’m just back from presenting at the GeCo in the Rockies Conference. My first time in Grand Junction. A sleepy town surrounded by amazing scenery, with the beautiful Colorado River on its doorstep. For me, this felt like a conference of contrast. Traditional meets new. Its fascinating to watch how the GIS industry is changing. This was the first time I fully realised that we are in the midst of a split. Hard core GIS professionals continue to ply their trade. Locked up in modelling, developing and using apps with the traditional GIS look, feel and workflows. New GIS is charting a new and different course.

The keynote was fascinating. Chris Sheldrick, CEO of what3words discussed his companies approach to solving the location addressing conundrum. The inefficiency of sharing location coordinates, challenges of address ambiguity (streets with the same names) and locations which lack an address. They have broken the world into 3 m squares and use a 3 word combination to address each square. My what3words address is fast.breeding.graduating. I rather like that. What I found particularly interesting here was that Chris and his team are not from the geo/GIS world. They have taken a fresh look at a problem. So no pre-conceived notions or bias. Very refreshing.

This was a conference of GIS professionals. It was a very enjoyable two days, with some super presentations. The conference emphasis was on traditional GIS. It was interesting to see where cloud and mobile – I should say platform based GIS – fit. Somewhat awkwardly was my initial thought!

We view the new world of GIS and GIS apps as being:

1) Flexible – this means more than just configurable apps.
2) Collaborative – centralised cloud hosted data accessible across the organization
3) Intuitive – no more tool filled unfocused apps. Access to GIS technology to all.
4) Easily extensible – every organization has unique workflows, any app need to be easily (cheaply) extended or altered. Providing the functionality your organization needs with your workflows.
5) Mobile apps need be both cross platform and cross device.
6) All mobile apps should have built in offline capabilities

GIS Industry is Splitting

The GIS world is splitting. People from outside the industry are increasingly becoming involved. Lacking any GIS baggage, they are providing a new perspective. Traditional GIS is moving slowly. Serving the GIS community directly will always be important. But increasingly it will be a smaller part of a much bigger whole.

Though I love presenting at traditional GIS conferences, as a company we are fully focused on the new world of GIS. We see GIS as a technology which should serve a much wider population. We’ve been building a mobile GIS framework which provides the flexility and core elements we have defined above.

Cloud and mobile, encompassed within a GIS platform, can and is providing answers to a wider set of problems, accessed by GIS and non-GIS trained staff alike.

What are your thoughts? Let me know at

See the responses to this post in our follow up: Is GIS splitting? – what the experts think

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Categories: ArcGIS Online, cloud GIS, Mobile ArcGIS, Mobile GIS, Web and mobile GIS

2 Responses to “The GIS Industry is Splitting?”

  1. Ralph Diment says:

    Perhaps, less that the GIS world is splitting than the GIS world beginning to realise spatial’s not the exclusive preserve of traditional Geographic Information Systems?

  2. Atonya says:

    Ideally, everyone including animals have a sense of location and how to leverage that in their day- to-day activities. Putting GIS ‘in to a computer’ has sort of marginalised all other “professionals” out there who feel like they have to learn or relearn some hitherto inherent skills about space. A paradigm shift is now redefining what GIS should really be about.

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