Alex Miller, president and founder of ESRI Canada, gave the opening keynote today at the GeoWeb Conference, stating that in his 30 plus years of geospatial work, he’s never been more excited about the prospects for the industry and what we can accomplish. His take on the GeoWeb is that it needs to provide a synergistic merger of the web and geo, with the web helping to build geographic infrastructure, and geo unlocking web-based information from local to global.
Miller contends that the Web is the biggest change since the printing press, with huge impact in a short time. While geography is a millennium old science that hit a plateau before the Internet, it’s now reviving because it provides a framework for organizing our world, and has an impact on how we behave as a people.
Geography has provided us with an understanding of the implications of climate change, and will help us understand how to address the problems that we face. GIS provides a means to integrate and work together, for a holistic view of our holdings.
Miller went on to address trends and areas where it’s most critical for action.
- While urban spaces tend to happen organically, planning desperately needs a more holistic view of the world.
- Building modeling is becoming increasingly important, particularly for navigation inside buildings.
- Property value analysis is increasingly important, particularly in terms of mortgage collapse. Legislation is being considered for lenders to valuate land prices on a quarterly basis.
- Electric utilities are facing a tremendous change, with the International Energy Agency Report indicating the need for a $62 trillion investment in new energy and distribution, much of it in remewables.
- Public safety and emergency response has made great use of GIS, but struggle with how to keep data current.
- Insurance will drive a major change in where we’ll allow people to live, based on environmental risks.
- Forest fire management is becoming increasingly critical with rising heat adding to greater risks.
- Environmental management is of increasing importance.
- Climate change is a complex problem that requires collaborative insight.
- Agriculture, particular it’s impacts and demand for water, must be understood.
- Much of the geospatial capabilities will reach us where we work, with huge opportunities with the 529 million mobile workers in the world.
While GIS in now applied around the world as individual systems, the GeoWeb is going to connect these data sources together. Miller also sees the Web as a platform evolving to far more sophisticated Web mapping tools, with Web mapping easily equal to the desktop in the future.
Miller then spent a good amount of time regarding the methods and needs for geographic information sharing, outlining three options with some details regarding the benefits of each.
Distributed web server is the predominant standard effort where everyone has a service, registers their service in a catalog. Miller contends that this approach requires a great deal of organization, and standardized data models, and may not be possible in all areas. The problems revolve around the requirement for very reliable services – keeping data sharing up and running has multiple points of failure and there’s a requirement for multilateral agreements with protection of intellectual property. He stated that this approach works well for base maps, but isn’t as good for dynamic data.
Another viable approach is the through distributed replication services, where we replicate all or part of a database with updates only to changes. This eliminates the need for real-time access, and updates over the web can occur when needed by pushing data that is periodically synchronized. This approach works well for national data (Statistics Canada, National Post, Natural Resources), where data can beplicated on regional/provincial basis and propagated nationally with federated GIS servers.
The final approach of centrally integrated databases isn’t much of an option, because it’s anti-Web, so Miller didn’t spend any time exploring this option.
Miller praised the importance of the GeoWeb conference for its work on simplifying access to data, which will help to lower the data update cost.