I have been absent from blogging for a while, working on various interesting new things behind the scenes! I am planning to make an effort to be posting here more regularly - yes I know everyone says that, we'll see if I can manage it!
To kick things off again, the post below is a document I was asked to write for the United Nations Programme on Global Geospatial Information Management (GGIM), which is an inter-governmental mechanism to consult on issues related to global geospatial information. Contributors were asked to write on how they saw future trends in their aspects of "geospatial information management"over the next 5 years, and also looking further out to 10 years. The summary document compiled from all the contributions is here.
It's quite interesting to try to think ten years out, and there's quite a bit of detail I had to cut out to get to 1000 words. I'll expand on some of these topics in future posts and in some of my upcoming talks (I'm doing keynotes at GeoAlberta in Calgary next week, and at GITA Australia in Melbourne in August).
Current trendsThe following are important current trends that will have a significant impact on the state of the geospatial industry in 5-10 years:
- Growth in use of “neogeography” and open source geospatial solutions
- Increasing use of “multi-media” geospatial data - such as Google Street View, Microsoft Photosynth, and georeferenced photos and videos
- Increasingly pervasive location tracking
- Use of smart phones
- Crowdsourcing for data creation and maintenance
- Augmented reality
- Heads up displays
The hardware landscape in 5-10 yearsMoore’s law says that computing price-performance will increase by a factor of 10 in five years and 100 in 10 years. Increases in network bandwidth follow a similar but slightly slower trajectory. In ten years all mobile devices will have GPS, accelerometers and a compass, as most do today, and potentially other sensors that may help with indoor positioning, a problem that is not yet solved at the mass market level (see more below). Devices will also include multiple very high definition cameras.
Video dataIn ten years time it is likely that all smart phones (or whatever replaces them) will be able to film 360 degree 3D video at incredibly high resolution by today’s standards, and wirelessly stream it in real time. In addition to this capability being available on mobile devices used by people, cameras like this will exist in a very small form factor at very low cost, so they could be deployed in very large numbers for various applications. It is likely they could easily be powered by small built in solar panels. There would likely be a mixture of public and private video streams from these devices. Individuals might choose to share their streams publicly or with friends, at least some of the time – this is a logical extension of current social network behavior (publishing photos online). Such devices would likely be carried or worn by workers in situations where it would be useful for their colleagues (back at the office or in the field) to be able to see what they are seeing – for example police officers, firefighters, utility workers, etc. They would also be mounted in many vehicles, at street intersections, etc. This network of devices will provide data that can be merged in real time to give an immersive video view of the world, like a Google Street View or Microsoft Photosynth. The nature of this imagery will enable accurate 3d models to be built, at the very least at the point cloud level, but most likely at a much more structured “intelligent object” level. Of course all these feeds would be recorded, allowing viewing of both historical and real time data. This data can be easily correlated with real world objects that have location tracking devices (or with static objects with a known location), and objects can also easily be identified through markings like QR codes.
Augmented reality applications will be pervasive, with the ability to view a whole range of data overlays on top of the real world. In addition to using hand held devices like current smart phones, other likely form factors for AR applications include glasses or goggles, contact lenses and even direct projection into the eye.
Pervasive location and other sensors will provide extremely granular information from vehicle and foot traffic to restaurant occupancy, performance of utility networks and so on. All of this information will be available in real time as well as generating masses of historical data.