Friday, 21 June 2013

Geomapix Gateway June Newsletter


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Our Analyst, Phil Schnetzer, recently created a cool website that consumes mapping related content from across the globe. He has rightly named the website service and tagged a slogan of “All things mapping”. Since going live on June 12 it has received thousands of hits and great feedback. The backbone of GISbuzz is a feed aggregator which continuously pulls new content from over 100 sources. The latest jobs, news, blog articles, videos and images are all available and can be read/viewed in their unaltered original state directly from within GISbuzz. If you produce GIS related content on the web that you would like to contribute to GISbuzz please visit his contact page.


GANS Conference

We recently took in a Geomatics Association of Nova Scotia (GANS) event in Halifax, Nova Scotia. GANS is a Non Profit Association that works to promote the Geomatics or map technology industry in Nova Scotia. I have been involved with the association for many years. As a small firm I cannot make it to all events but this event had particular significance to me. In a nutshell it started with a discussion about the future of Geomatics through the new group called the “Canadian Geomatics Community Round Table”, and was then followed by a presentation from Michael Goodchild, Emeritus Professor of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, called the “Future of GIS ”. He is widely credited with coining the phrase "Volunteered Geographic Information" and is considered the world's foremost expert on the topic.


James Boxall - Canadian Geomatics Round Table


Starting off is James Boxall, Director of the Dalhousie GISciences Centre and a member of the Round Table committee. It was an introduction to most of us on what this round table group is and explains that in the early days of Geomatics in Canada we played a fundamental role in the development of what we call Geographic Information Systems. Roger Tomlinson, the Father of GIS, created the first ever GIS system called the Canada GIS. Sure he was not born in Canada, but his roots in building the Geomatics industry started at the University of McGill. The round table is trying to understand why the Geomatics industry in Canada has fallen behind the rest of the world for innovation and leadership. 

One interesting piece was the discussion of the term “Geomatics” and if the Father of GIS created the Canadian Geomatics industry why isn’t the term “Geomatics” as synonymous as the word “Google”. The word Google is now a verb in the English language, why not “Geomatics” for the Geospatial world we now live in? Everyone knows the word “Maps”, but the word “Geomatics” Is just the start of a foggy conversation about the technology our industry uses. Is Maps too simple of a word? Is that why none of us in the industry can say we just make “Maps”? I think it’s perceived the word “Maps” may mean that what we do is not important to society.

Heck, it was certainly important in the days of exploring new worlds and all the survey and mapping work that David Thompson was so acclaimed for and was paid a good sum from the British Empire. In our profession we are explorers, surveyors, and map makers just in the digital context and more rapidly than in the past. For any Geomatics professional the elevator pitch to explain what we do would require a shaft that would reach the moon. The term Geomatics or GIS can spark a frenzy of technical jargon that literally stops time for the listener. When I am talking to someone that is not in my industry I say that “we make maps that can be delivered through the Internet to any client around the world with pretty much any kind of information that they want on the maps.”

But it was more than just the term Geomatics, it was about engaging the users on a study that looks at where the industry is right now. What are some of the road blocks in restoring our credibility as a leader? What are the factors that all levels of government, private sector, and higher education need to consider in reshaping our industry to standout and innovative?

These factors were discussed;

  • How is our industry identified? When we talk to people do they know or understand Geomatics and GIS or do we have an identity crisis?

  • Market? What are other countries doing in this field and what does the global market look like?

  • Business model? Where do public and private sector fit in the new Canadian Geomatics world of 2020 and who shall shape the spatial data of tomorrow? Who funds it?

  • Governance? Who makes the rules and leads the pack?

  • Where does the data come from? Does public sector carry the burden of the costs? Where does the public play a part in data capture. Does private sector take over the role?

  • Privacy? How do we protect the public’s privacy in a world where people are trying to get noticed and mobile applications are accessing our information without us really knowing it?

As you can imagine this discussion could have spanned days. The point obviously is for you, the reader, if you’re interested, to join the discussion. Because whether you are aware of it or not Geomatics, GIS, and map information is everywhere and is used without you even knowing it.

Please visit the round table resources by clicking below and don’t forget to check out their usual social media links. Visit


Michael Goodchild Lecture - The Future of GIS


Ok, I always said that I would not create a newsletter more than a page but I cannot help myself. Next, Dr. Goodchild lectured on the Future of GIS. Professionally, I needed to see this presentation so I could gauge, as an owner of a GIS consulting firm, if we are moving in the right direction. We are developing GIS products and services which are cloud based systems. A lot of financial risk and sweat equity has gone into our Geomapix Gateway service.

I am only going to highlight the key points for this article because it spanned 67 minutes and covered an enormous number of concepts in the GIS world. You definitely need to check out the video recording at

Here are some of the highlights that I took from the lecture:

  • In Goodchild’s 45 year career GIS has been one of the most dynamic fields to work in.

  • New ideas for the use of GIS are endless and Goodchild had some great examples.

  • He says that we only have begun the exploration of GIS and that today is only a prologue to what is to come.

  • GIS technology is transitioning from the traditional 2d (Flat) mapping to visualizing data in 3D.

  • Advances in technology and the speed of the web have allowed us to better depict location information in real time and at a lower cost.

  • Real time tracking is a significant trend today because of our appetite for information and the rate at which we can consume it.

  • Tracking will also include not just location but collection data about the physical environment.

  • GIS web mapping technology has changed the way we collect data globally through open software and data concepts and that volunteers can contribute to a map.

  • One of the biggest advantages of open data concepts is the speed at which data is collected and consumed by users.

  • One of biggest challenges with open data concepts is the quality and reliability of the data.

  • The role of the GIS professional has changed because anyone can make a map now but that is countered by the fact it might not be a good map.

  • Mapping and geography is more user-centric than ever because of the reduction in cost to produce and distribute maps via the web and mobile.

  • The average person has been a consumer and a producer of Geographic Information by accessing things like mobile applications that consume and distribute your location to a community of people.

  • People want to map information of social significance such as their friends’ location, social dysfunction, and environmental issues.

  • Volunteers now can validate information in real time at the local level reducing the amount of ground varification required by the industry.

  • Computing has switched from desktop to remote or cloud based. Many things can be done more effectively within a cloud system.

  • The Cloud redefines a GIS from desktop software to a GIS platform.

  • The new GIS platform can access more information, from many locations around the world, all at the same time.

  •  Google has played a significant role in transforming the concept of GIS and bringing mapping to people anytime, anywhere.

  • Google’s service strategy is that there should be a little GIS in everything. So every service that Google offers could have a map view.

  • Cloud GIS is creating the mother of all databases, the Geo-Internet.

Finally, what we are seeing today is just the start of massive changes to geographic or place information becoming an integral part of our life.

Geomapix Gateway is on the right track and will continue to position and align itself to current needs while always looking ahead.


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