For the last 5 years the GIS industry has been moving along nicely. Expanding its reach and evolving into many new and exciting areas. New innovative releases from both the proprietary and open source worlds have opened the door to so many potential applications of the technology.
But something has changed. The expansion has slowed.
Traditional users (public sector, those focused on infrastructure) appear entrenched. While adoption among new potential users (commercial sector etc) has been slow as they struggle to fully grasp the value GIS brings to their organizations.
Talking across the industry I’m seeing 2 trends:
GIS companies who work with traditional long term users of GIS, and are often well connected to providers, its business as usual.
New GIS companies looking to sell solutions on top of the recent advances in GIS tech are finding expansion more challenging.
For now that flood of interest has slowed.
And I have a suspicion I know the cause.
How do we open the flood gates: widen the adoption of Web GIS among the traditional, and have the value of GIS better understood by non-users?
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Below is the classic 5 Customer Segments of Technology Adoption graph … but with a twist.
In my view the curve has flattened. We have a flow of users coming in and out of the technology. The early majority phase remains illusive, Web GIS sits squarely on the ‘wrong’ side of the chasm. The adoption of Web GIS by traditional users has been spotty. Lack of time and inertia dominate. And apart from the largest organizations, new users have been indifferent.
That sounds like a gloomy outlook
Not at all. Its an industry kick in the pants!
Web GIS has so much to offer. Yet this flow of users coming in and falling away from the technology is a huge problem. Why is this happening?
We’ve spent time talking to pragmatists (a person who is guided more by practical considerations than by ideals). There are some very obvious reasons why we have still to bridge the chasm. And action not time is what will fix the problem.
How to create a detailed 3D topographic model of the entire Earth? As you could suspect the only feasible way to do it is using satellites. But a regular satellite scan will not be detailed enough to give you a meter-level accuracy. Researches from The German Aerospace Center figured out a way to do it. Instead of using a single satellite they’ve launched to an orbit two satellites orbiting next to each other capturing stereoscopic scans of the surface of the Earth.
The mission called TanDEM-X (TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement) consists of a pair of twin TerraSAR-X satellites equipped with interferometric radar instruments that scan the same areas from slightly different angles. Over the course of the past six years the satellites transmitted over 500 terabytes of data that covering 150 million square kilometres of land surface. Now this data has been processed into a seamless 3-dimensional world map of unprecedented accuracy of 1 meter.
“TanDEM-X has opened up a whole new chapter in the field of remote sensing. The use of radar technology based on two satellites orbiting in close formation is still unique and was key to the high-precision remapping of Earth. In this way, DLR has demonstrated its pioneering role and satisfied the prerequisites for the next major development step in satellite-based Earth observation – the Tandem-L radar mission”we can read in the press release.
What’s even cooler about the project is that The German Aerospace Center shares its data for free with any scientists. The details are available here.