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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.

Emerging GIS may not be what you think!

January 19th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

In this post I am going to return some of the discussions we started last year with our “Is GIS Splitting” post. The general consensus from these conversations was that we are seeing a polarization of GIS. Traditional GIS remains solidly in place, but a new emerging GIS sector is developing. Let’s discuss this polarization.

Traditional GIS

I’ve described traditional GIS as ‘business as usual GIS’. That sounds a little belittling, which is not the intention. GIS has a long history. It has and continues to serve well the geospatial community. Traditional GIS is the bedrock of the discipline. Attend a GIS conference and you’ll be surrounded by peers who talk, think, discuss, and present on deep geospatial issues. Traditional GIS is our comfortable GIS niche.

Emerging GIS

The term ’emerging’ needs proper definition. I might suggest next phase or natural progression of GIS. Emerging GIS not only encompasses new applications and uses of the technology, but a new way of thinking and speaking. This is the wild west of GIS. Its appearance has been a result of the new demand for location technology, driven by cloud and mobile. Emerging GIS sits outside of the traditional GIS comfortable niche. It is the practical real world application of GIS technology serving a GIS and non-GIS population. In many ways emerging GIS is pushing location technology into IT’s core.

Potential Future GIS

Many GIS commentators confuse emerging GIS with the potential future of GIS. Listen or read prediction posts and you will see mention of drones, augmented reaility, VR, 3-D, sensors, wearables and more. These are still cool new shiny toys, but their GIS adoption and application remains limited. Exciting to talk about, but more potential than reality.

GIS Dividing Lines

The line separating traditional from emerging from future GIS is not clear. In simple terms the user base might be the most easily defined boundary. Traditional GIS is in large part the bastion of the geospatial community. Potential future GIS has limited reach, maybe unproven, and lives with early adopters. Emerging GIS is being used by geospatial and non geospatial folk alike. It is gently pushing the boundaries of location technology, and driving the growth of GIS and the location technology sector. .

To all intents and purposes we see GIS today as separated into traditional and emerging sectors.

Emerging GIS in 2015

Emerging GIS is helping to make GIS more available and accessible. Its a sector focused on:

1. Looking for new, non traditional ways to apply location technology.
2. Evolving a new language, to help make location technology understandable, and thus use-able in the mainstream.

There are many practical areas companies working in the emerging GIS area are focused. Three key areas in our company include:

1. Replacing still widely used pen and paper with easy to use mobile data collection apps
2. Easy to build and use offline location based solutions
3. Solving and simplifying the complex GIS to business system integration.

Tell us some of your areas of focus. Are you working on disrupting existing business models like Uber or reinventing the world addressing system like what3words?

Do you agree with this delineation: traditional and emerging?

Contact us we would love to know more about what you are doing and your thoughts.

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

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