Geospatial Trends 2011

In the UK there’s already the AGI Foresight Study which I looked at a while ago but haven’t looked at recently (honest!). For the key geospatial events in 2010 see an article by Directions Mag here. So here’s my take, in no particular order, on what might be big (or get bigger!) in the next year and beyond in GIS and geospatial technologies:

1. Augmented Reality (AR)
The Ordnance Survey in the UK have been banging on about AR for a number of years. 2011 will be the year it truly takes off. Some would argue it already has taken off but this year AR will take everything further. The iPhone and other smart phones have the capability to show a photo of the street you’re on and info about it. The next step is AR built into your glasses or sunglasses – there are some pretty frightening examples in this image search! From a Geospatial point of view the possibilities are endless but the downside so far has been the (lack of) quality of geospatial data used to underpin the AR applications.

2. Open-source GIS going further?
This year saw the launch of a number of Open-source GIS training courses by CDR Group and Dotted Eyes amongst others. Will there be a large take-up of these courses? In the current economic climate you wouldn’t think so. Although the counter argument to that is perhaps there will be due to the low or no-cost of open-source. Perhaps 2011 will truly be the year of open-source GIS in the UK as the costs of ownership of proprietary software become too expensive for many. The Ordnance Survey has released into the public domain a UKGemini Metadata Editor based on an entirely open-source platform (GeoNetwork). I’d like to see a major commercial UK company advocating use of open-source GIS – haven’t seen anything yet but perhaps I’ve not been looking far enough.

3. Continued rise of Python in GIS
With the advent of ArcPy in ArcGIS 10 we’ll all be using more and more of Python (escpecially as VBA has very nearly bitten the dust!). For those on more of an Open-Source GIS route and wanting to program in Python how about the GIS and Python Lab.

4. ‘Personal’ Remote Sensing?
A friend of mine bought some weather balloons and attached a camera and hey presto had an aerial imagery data capture device! Will this take off? Unlikely as there aren’t many willing (or needing) to take photos from the air – and we have google / bing / yahoo maps to let us see our house from the air. However as interest in imagery grows (see 9.) then so people want to see more-up-to-date data. There could be an upsurge in low-cost imagery capture from UAVs and the like – companies like Microdrones are leading the way in the UK for this. What do you think? Is there a market?

5. Location based advertising / marketing / selling
In the UK we’ve seen the launch of Geomium and Geosweep which are 2 very interesting concepts. I guess companies like these will make it big in 2011 as the power of where and ‘geo-advertising’ begins to pay off. Watch this space for budget or free (??) sat-navs with built in advertising?! Also there will be a huge increase in Google sponsored map links – will Google Maps become too cluttered?!

6. Smart-phone back-lash?
Having just moved jobs to a company in the City (area around Liverpool Street, London) the amount of people texting while walking is astounding. We’ll probably see a back-lash to the smart-phone sometime this year where people will have had enough of them. All it will take is a few head-on collisions in the street (2 people texting and not looking where they are going and then crash bang wallop!). there’s even a paper on the topic!!!! And here’s quite an old site on the original mobile phone backlash (dated 2004!)

7. IP addresses run out in the UK
This’ll happen and we’ll have to go back to writing on paper!!!

8. esri (ESRI or ess-ree or ezz-re or…..) technical certification leading to a general GIS certificate?
Will the recently announced ESRI technical certification bring about a general examination of GIS ability in the UK? This could be made part of the Chartered Geographer (GIS) certification. Currently applicants submit a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) log every year. Other Charterships (e.g. ICE in the UK) have a more stringent test of suitability for Chartership. Perhaps with GIS we’re all heading towards certification as being the determining factor for a job role, much like GISP has become (according to some) in the USA.

9. Aerial images on news programmes…..2011 will see the end!
In the UK at least a number (if not all) daily news programmes have started to use aerial imagery (either Google or Virtual Earth) to show the geographical area of a news story. Does this actually work? I would say it works about 20% of the time. Often the viewer cannot cleary see or orient themselves to the area as the truth is aerial iamgery doesn’t really look that good (shock horror!) at a smale scale. Just imagine trying to look at your street from plane 2km in the air – it wouldn’t be very clear would it. 2011 will be the year that nicely styled maps are brought back to the news screen. Something where the user can say “Ah so that’s where it happened” rather than “where’s that meant to be?!”.

10. 3D Buildings in Google Earth
Yes I know there are buildings in Google Earth already but what about all over the world? Google Earth 6 seems to have more 3D features than ever before with 3D trees making an appearance! Are 3D trees actually useful? I think wider coverage of 3D buildings would be far more useful. When will there be wider coverage of 3D buildings in Google Earth? Or at least coverage where has been high detail LiDAR or IfSAR/InSAR flown? Intermap (and others) have been steadily flying more and more areas. Could this not be incorporated into Google Earth? – perhaps with the opportunity to buy digital 3D building data (much in the same way as being able to buy satellite imagery).

What do you think?
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my look at geospatial trends in 2011. Please send your comments and let me know what you think. Am I really wide of the mark or are there points I’ve made which you agree with? Add your comment below!