At GITA 2007 in San Antonio two weeks ago, a four hour pre-conference workshop entitled Mapping Applications on the Web: Evolution or Revolution? was organized by Charlie Savage of MapBuzz. The titles of the individual presentations give you a feel for the theme of the session
- Peter Batty The Disruption of Geospatial Technology
- Geoff Zeiss Geospatial Inflection Point: Web 2.0, Open Source, and CAD/GIS/BIM Convergence
- Charlie Savage Social Mapping
- Bill Gail Internet Geospatial: Today's Challenge, Tomorrow's Vision
You can see that a common theme was the impact of the Web 2.0 phenomenon ( and I would include open source as an example of Web 2.0 ) on geospatial technology.
Peter Batty started the session off with a "short history of GIS moving to the mainstream", which I found particularly fascinating for folks in the geospatial industry because it provided a historical perspective from someone who comes at this subject with a broader, I would say, non-traditional GIS perspective. To put this in context, the first time I met Peter was in the early 1990s when I was at TYDAC, one of the early innovators in desktop geospatial analysis applications, and Peter was at IBM. Peter had come to TYDAC to talk about GFIS. I have never forgotten Peter's presentation on the GFIS data model for storing spatial data in DB2. He has been involved in a lot of this and knows from first hand experience whereof he speaks. He has kindly allowed me to include his history of geospatial joining the mainstream here.
- Early 1980's - IBM GFIS stored data in its hierarchical database DL/1
- ~1986 - IBM partner IFM releases Infoter, which stores spatial data in SQL/DS and DB2
- ~1988 - IBM launched geoManager, which stores spatial data in SQL/DS and DB2
- Late 1980's - Canadian company GeoVision develops VISION*, based on Oracle
- 1991 - I [Peter Batty] wrote an article "Why use a standard RDBMS for GIS?"
- 1991 - Smallworld GIS is released, introducing some radical new ideas which jump it ahead. Its proprietary language and database offer significant advantages at the time.
- 1992 AM/FM conference: "1995: the year the GIS disappeared", by Doug Seaborn
- 1995 - "Oracle multi-dimension" announced at the GIS 95 conference in Vancouver
- 1996 - MapQuest is launched, the first online mapping site.
- Late 90's - geospatial technologies begin to transition to using mainstream software development languages
- 1999 - Microsoft MapPoint released
- Jan 2001 - Keyhole founded
- Feb 2003 - In-Q-Tel invested in Keyhole
- Oct 2004 - Google buys Keyhole, which becomes Google Earth
- 2005 - Google launches Google Maps; appearance of Ajax web technologies; Microsoft, Yahoo, others, get in on the act
- Nov 2006 - Microsoft launches new 3D building models in Virtual Earth
His point was that the disappearance of GIS has been predicted for a long time. Many people trace this concept back to the article in 1992 by Doug Seaborn, 1995: The Year GIS Disappeared (Proceedings of AM/FM Conference XV. San Antonio: AM/FM International, 1992) that Peter references. If we date the geospatial inflection point to June 2005, then Doug's prediction, also in San Antonio, was just 10 years early. As Peter remarked in a later session, we technical folks tend to expect things to happen faster than they do.
It is an interesting coincidence that on Monday, the day after this workshop, Telefonica S.A. won the GITA Award for Excellence in Telecommunications for its SAGRE Constellation system, which relies on VISION* technology, developed by GeoVision, which was founded by Doug Seaborn in the latter half of the 80s, to store and manage spatial data in an Oracle RDBMS. The vision that Doug had in the late 80s is today's reality.