GITA 30 Kicks Up Its Heels in San Antonio

GITA 2007 Pictures

Welcome to GISWeekly! Sporting all new seminars, with the exception of the ROI seminar (outlined below), the GITA 30 Conference got off to a good start. Read about it in this week’s Industry News.

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Industry News
GITA 30 Kicks Up Its Heels in San Antonio

by Susan Smith

The theme of this year’s GITA 30 was “Mission Possible,” keeping a tight focus on what was important to most of its attendees this year: mobile computing, field force automation, the mobile web, data modeling and spatial databases. Sporting all new seminars, with the exception of the ROI seminar (outlined below), the conference got off to a good start. There were a number of first time GITA attendees present. Ten-year veteran Samuel Newman, manager geospatial resources systems for Cobb EMC, Marietta, Ga. said it’s important to come and see what’s new. “Geospatial is taking more of a mainstream role in IT enterprise now,” he declared. “I want to see how GITA keeps evolving as a geospatial education provider.”

At the Opening Session, President of GITA, Brent Jones of ESRI recapped some of the highlights of GITA including the Geospatial Technology Report, the $700,000 grant awarded by created for the U.S. Department of Labor to conduct a study of workforce readiness for jobs in the geospatial industry, the Industry Trends and Analysis Group (ITAG). Also GITA participated in the creation of the Boys Scouts of America authorization of a GIS merit badge.

Michael F. Goodchild, University of California, Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Michael F. Goodchild, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA. by David Maguire of ESRI. Goodchild noted that emerging technologies such as sensors, dynamic modeling, and virtual globes, were going to become necessary to everyone. “We’ve got to move from a world of geospatial education for the few to geospatial education for all.” Other GITA awards can be found online

Conference Chair Mary Ann Stewart, Mary Ann Stewart, LLC

Executive Director of GITA, Bob Samborski, spoke of GITA’s two primary accomplishments this year: 1) the U.S. Department of Labor project and 2) the Return on Investment (ROI) Research Project spearheaded by David DiSera, EMA, Inc., Susan Ancel of EPCOR Water Services, Conference Chair Mary Ann Stewart, Nancy Lerner of EMA, Inc., Anita Kannon, EPCOR, and others. ROI case studies are being offered within the conference program.

Conference Chair Mary Ann Stewart of Mary Ann Stewart LLC introduced keynote speaker, author and futurist Howard Rheingold, who gave examples of how teens today arrive at the same time to the same mall because they’ve been exchanging text messages. “The mobile phone is taking us places I had not envisioned,” declared Rheingold.

Keynote speaker, author, futurist Howard Rheingold

In the Philippines, President Joseph Estrada was accused of corruption, and during the proceedings, tens of thousands of people, all wearing black, teemed into the same central square. How they got there: they sent text messages to each other and managed to shut down the proceedings. “We are Generation Text,” with all the vowels removed, became a famous slogan in the Philippines.

Rheingold draws a parallel between this event and 9/11, which occurred after the Philippines demonstration. “These terrorist acts could not have been committed without mobile phones,” Rheingold charged. He wrote his book Smart Mobs to further explore this phenomena.

“Smart mobs” emerge when media amplify cooperation, according to Rheingold, and can have both beneficial and destructive impacts. What drove these revolutions is that people saw a capability that previous media didn’t afford them.

Distributed computation is a method of downloading a screensaver on an idle computer. During this time of idleness, it can be used for downloading information. A case in point is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) whose computational requirements are immense, however, two million volunteers are amassing teraflops looking for life in outer space using this method.

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
GITA Award Winners

Rheingold reminds his audience that 500 years ago, reading was only for the elite. Now, millions of people can read and knowledge can be aggregated so you can build on what others have discovered. The printing press was developed by the first capitalists. “You can’t have a population able to govern itself unless it can talk about the information it needs to know,” explained Rheingold. “None of these forms of collective action were possible until the printing press emerged.”

Technologies of cooperation and sharing economies include:
  • easy to use- email, blogs, wikis
  • enable connections – webs of links, markets are conversations, blogrolls create blogospheres,
  • open – no license needed to publish
  • Rheingold pointed out that Google had an algorithm before they had a business, illustrating that what he considers a “commons” can spawn collective action.

    With Google Earth, and mashups, Flickr with its ½ billion images combined with experiences, pushpins and maps, Rheingold predicts, “geospatial literacy will lead to new markets never thought of before.”

    Estimating ROI for Your GIS Investment

    Nancy Lerner, of EMA, Inc. and Mary Ann Stewart of Mary Ann Stewart Engineering, LLC led this year’s seminar on estimating ROI. Making an investment is Geospatial Information Technology is complicated, with initial high costs and tangible benefits that can take years to materialize. Decision makers can only glimpse the possible benefits of GIT, and need bottom line cumulative costs and cumulative benefits for determining payback period, break-even point, and return on their investment.

    GIT project managers are charged with not only calculating the costs of a system, but outlining the potential benefits, which are harder to calculate.

    This year, the popular interactive seminar attracted numerous attendees, approximately three-quarters of whom were first time GITA attendees.

    Questions and comments from attendees ranged from:

    “How you would go about formulating a process savings – upgrading your GIS system or getting another one?”

    “If you’ve invested a lot in your existing system, to replace it you must get a lot of benefits from the replacement system.”

    “Our system is at least 15 years old. It’s difficult to get it to do what we want it to do, and expensive to keep adding things on.”

    Lerner stated that “Investment analysis is a fiduciary responsibility and public duty.

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