Reports of the Death of GIS are Greatly Exagerated

From where I sit, the future for GIS professionals has never been brighter. As geospatial data becomes more available and the systems that can leverage that data become more pervasive, there will be a growing demand for trained professionals who understand the power of geospatial analysis and can bring that power to bear to help solve some of the world's most critical problems.

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3D Building Models for Energy Management

We are at a point where technology no longer is a barrier to developing intuitive and powerful systems that both monitor our buildings energy consumption patterns across campus and allow us to proactively manage those systems to drive down our energy consumption over time. Will we wait until oil prices rise again before we start to take advantage of these capabilities?

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Partner Profile - Mark Sorensen

Mark Sorensen Mark Sorensen

Every once in a while you meet an individual that is larger than life.  They bring a level of energy, intensity, and intelligence to life that sets them apart.  They seem to change the world in ways that are beyond the ability of most of us mortals.  My friend Mark Sorensen is just such a man.

Mark is one of the world's foremost experts in Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI).  He has helped many countries in struggling regions of the world to establish the foundations of national mapping systems in their particular part of the world.  He was in Kosovo shortly after NATO stopped the fighting there to help them rebuild their land records system.  He is doing similar work today in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His work has taken to all parts of the globe including Eastern Europe, many parts of Africa, the Middle East, and some part of the Far East as well.  I don't know of any other individual who has done more to advance the practical implementation of GIS across the globe.

Mark is trained as a landscape planner (Harvard School of Design) and his career in GIS began at ESRI.  He was one of the first employees at ESRI back when ESRI did as much project work as it did software development.  He held a number of different positions at ESRI before leaving to start the Geographic Planning Cooperative, Inc. about 15 years ago.  His work with GPC has taken him all over the world and exposed him to an amazing variety of different projects.  His professional resume runs on for pages and is a fascinating read.

Professional life is not the only place where Mark is larger than life.  (How many people do you know that have been on the television series "I Should Not Be Alive"?)  He has hiked the John Muir trail a number of times, kayaked rivers in Alaska, and trekked across mountains in Oman.  Having grown up in Southern California, he is an accomplished surfer and an incredibly competent seaman as well.  His adventures in the natural world are every bit as amazing as his adventures in the professional world.

I had the opportunity to spend about a week with Mark in Abu Dhabi in early February.  Mark and his team are helping the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to create a Spatial Data Infrastructure for the Emirate.  Mark is interested in taking the SDI concept inside the building and we were there to work with Mark to educate his customers about the advantages of bringing GIS to the built environment.  It was an amazing week and I learned a huge amount as I always do whenever I am lucky enough to spend time with him.  One of my most lasting memories of that week is of three of us sprinting through the streets of Abu Dhabi trying to keep up with Mark as we moved from one meeting to the next.  Classic Sorensen.

There are some people that always raise the level of your game when you work together.  Mark is one of those.  I always learn a huge amount each time I have the chance to work with him.  I am grateful to count him among my friends.

Your Web Map's Secret Weapon - How pre-rendered content and content delivery networks can better your program.

This is a guest post from my friend Dave Williams at AECOM. Dave is one of the smartest GIS Systems Architects that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. He has deployed some very fast on secure web mapping applications on the very challenging network environments of DoD. Dave can be reached at

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The Need for Comprehensive 3D City Models (Part 2)

In my last post, I talked about some of the more important communities of interest that have needs for comprehensive 3D city models. In this post, I will try to think through what the most common use cases are that would be helpful to users of 3D city models regardless of their specific interests. In the final post of this series, I will describe some of the tool sets that we need to author, publish, and consume these models effectively.

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The Need for Comprehensive 3D City Models (Part 1)

At PenBay, we have spent a significant amount of time over the past several years working on ways to model the insides of buildings in GIS. I have written repeatedly about the subject and it is an area that continues to fascinate me. On my recent trip to Vancouver to speak at the GeoWeb 2009 conference, however, I was inspired by Thomas Kolbe’s work on CityGML to think more about collections of buildings and how they work together in an urban environment

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Review of the GeoWeb 2009 Conference

I learned a LOT at GeoWeb and really broadened and deepened my global perspective on a number of issues. I had the opportunity to meet and have fascinating discussions with guys like Tim Case and Carsten Roensdorf, the coordinators of the OGC CityGML effort, and Dr. Thomas Kolbe the father of CityGML himself.

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Measuring the Value of the ESRI User Conference

It provides me with the opportunity to learn about new software capabilities and best practice technique. It allows me to reconnect with my network of ESRI staff, partners, and customers. It provides me with a venue to introduce new potential customers to our software and services expertise. It is always a wild cacophony of learning and experience sharing and tremendously enjoyable.

But how much is this experience worth to me and to my company?

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Why it is Important to Have Better Information for Managing our Buildings

To paraphrase Peter Drucker, That which can be measured can be managed. That which can be managed can be improved. If this is true, then it is critically important that we start doing a better job in managing the performance of our buildings so that we can reduce their collective environmental impact. When you start to look at the statitistics, you may be startled by their implications.

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Interview with Brent Jones - ESRI Industry Manager, Survey/Cadastre/Engineering

Brent Jones Brent Jones

I had the opportunity recently to catch up with my friend Brent Jones.  Brent is one of those renaissance men that are always a pleasure to talk with.  He has a great sense of humor and wide ranging interests and understanding of history, land administration, surveying and engineering.  A portion of our discussion is documented here.  I hope to have more discussions with Brent in future posts.

Stu: Brent, one of your primary missions at ESRI these days is to expand the relationship between the GIS and Survey communities.  In my experience, surveyors can be pretty skeptical about GIS.  Are you making progress in opening a wider dialog with the Survey community?

Brent: The survey community is beginning to engage in the GIS market viewing it as an opportunity.  All of the geospatial technologies are rapidly advancing and surveyors are using their expertise to help ‘keep the data in sync’.  One example is when a community obtains new orthophotography.  This newly acquired data is often more accurate than the existing base data in GIS and its beneficial to adjust existing GIS data to the new orthos.  Surveyors have the equipment, technology and expertise to perform these ‘spatial updates’, and many are.

Stu: You have some pretty interesting ideas about how the availability of accurate but inexpensive GPS technology will bring fundamental changes to both GIS and Surveying.  (I read today that Epson and Infineon have just announced a new GPS chip that is smaller than the head of a match)  Why is this technology going to be so game changing?

Just imagine what the world was like before we could synchronize our activities with time.  When sundials were the best we could do, we obviously didn’t work together as efficiently as we could.  The same thought carries through to communication and the efficiencies that wired and wireless communications bring.  Its hard to imagine the efficiencies that we will experience when we know where everything that we care about is, to the sub-foot, or even sub-centimeter level.  We should always remember one of the laws of technology – cheaper, faster, smaller, better. . . .  Its going to happen and its exciting to be part of.

ESRI is involved in a pretty awesome project in Ghana.  What can you tell us about that project?

Brent: The Ghana ‘Loans to Land’ project is a very significant deployment of some of Hernando de Soto’s economic theories detailed in “The Mystery of Capital”.  One of his landmark observations is that the securing land rights helps unlock the capital in land and is a factor in successful economies.  There is so much to talk about on this, so I’ll reference a couple of articles in ArcNews.  There will be a third and capstone article coming out in the Summer Edition.

Stu: You were recently the president of GITA.  How has that organization changed in the past few years, and how to you see GITA evolving in the future?

Brent: GITA has been traditionally focused on utilities, but a close study by the board of directors revealed that the benefits of geospatial technology were being realized by all infrastructure owners and operators, not just utilities.  So consequently we refocused the organization on infrastructure.  This brought a couple of interesting synergies, particularly with the emergency response community.  GITA now holds the GIS for Infrastructure Solutions conference along with a co-conference the Emergency Response Symposium.  This unique forum allows the infrastructure operators interact with the emergency responders responsible for recovering infrastructure in the event of a disaster.

GITA will continue to be the leading organization for those interested in geospatial technology and infrastructure to get current, relevant education and to network with others with similar responsibilities.  With changing demands on infrastructure operators and emergency responders, GITA will respond in kind.  For those not active with GITA, it is a wonderful organization to find information and education that is difficult to get anywhere else.

Review of SPAR 2009 Conference

I guess my best sense is that this is still a very young industry. One attendee described the state of the industry as "where aerial photogrametry was in the 1950's". While the technology to collect more and better data in the form of 3D LiDAR point clouds is becoming dramatically better every year, our ability to derive more intelligently modeled information from point clouds is not keeping pace with the technology to collect ever larger and more accurate point clouds.

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Impressions from 2009 ESRI Business Partner Conference

The ESRI Business Partner Conference (BPC) is my favorite conference of the year. To begin with, the timing and location are great. Any excuse to leave Maine in March for Palm Springs is pretty easy to feel good about. Beyond that though, it is a great opportunity to reconnect with folks that are serious about ESRI GIS.

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