The Economics of Using the Term Geomatics
For reasons I cannot quickly explain, my mind goes to the basics of business, of economics and of commercial and governmental pursuits in trying to measure the value of the term “GEOMATICS”.
My mind goes the basics of SUPPLY and DEMAND.
From what I have read so far in the chat I sense a strong leaning to the supply side of geospatial activities, or Geomatics, if you prefer. There seems to be a strong tendency of the writers to speak about what they learned, what they do, what they use, how they do it, how challenging it is and how important it has become, and so on.
Yes I am generalizing somewhat, but if we think about our take on the term, each of us tends to fear we need to justify our education, our effort, our stress and our need for positive reinforcement since granny asked what job we would get instead of the geography map making one. As we have all done over our GIS past, we have emphasised the ‘features’ of GIS, not so much the ‘benefits’. We tend to emphasize the supply of our skills, toil and outputs at the opportunity cost of emphasizing the usefulness, the returns, the values, the impacts, the insight and mostly the intelligence of what results for those demanding our counsel and services.
As far as I can remember from my own school days, economic peace and equilibrium occurs if supply equals demand. Are we there yet?
I think we can suggest that over the 1980’s and 1990’s (for those of us in GIS then) the life and death geo-issues were indeed of supply: data, hardware, software, standards, conversions, screens, plotters, bandwidth, storage, trained labour and all those necessities that had to get into place before any meaningful outputs could be realised. Supply kept growing because it was pushed by those with foresight and perseverance. There was precious little demand, mostly GI missionaries and evangelists pushing supply of digital mapping services and service bureaux.
Interestingly, the UK community tends to call this GI or Geographic Information whereby they drop the S of System and this avoid tangential issues of hardware and software. Trouble is, with GI, the Americans may not be ready for another version of GI to confuse certain land based map dependant military practitioners and applications.
In the last several years (and growing with more to come) we are shifting finally to demand. We are asked for our insight, intelligence, data, analyses, routes, strategies and much more location based information with which to run our personal lives and our enterprises, not just the engineering planning desk. Demand is now pulling the supply and, I suggest, pulling hard.
As stated by other authors, the term Geomatics is useful but has not caught on. It was good try. It really was. It was sincere and very well thought out. Turns out it may have been a little too academic, too scientific, too imposing. Mostly, I suggest it was too supply-side. Too much “I can do that. I can map that…” and not enough “we can use that. We need that…We really want that”. Not expressing demand.
Geomatics is a fine descriptor after the introduction but may not be the optimal introducer. Mapmakers is clearly the worst label today; totally wrong message. I like Geo-Business Intelligence, GBI, right after FBI in the book index, but I have no supporters yet. Anyone? Anyone?
I even think that GIS is an ok phrase; but only if we change the meaning from its historical supply side slant:
- GIS: Geographic Information Systems
- Identifiable known geographic areas of government, census, land, highways
- Information gathering processes and data storage
- Systems of technology boxes, displays and software media with internal proprietary access limited
- To view patterns, to save costs and thus enhance service and product supply
to one with demand sensibilities:
- GIS: Geospatial Intelligence Strategies
- Geospatial inter-relations between and among points and areas of interest in space and time causing action or other benefit
- Intelligence demanded to answer key questions of businesses, governments and people
- Strategies and tactics supported in and by geospatial analyses to meet or help in meeting key performance indicators demanded by governance of organizations in the economy for mission fulfillment or competitive advantage or regulatory compliance
- To determine patterns, to compare, to refute other patterns that enable action
- To secure and increase revenues, lower costs, mitigate risk, enable disaster recovery and identify weak versus strong inter-area and intra-area patterns of positive or negative implication …for the survival of the enterprise as demanded by publics, owners and regulators.
As others have said, the term Geomatics is as good or as bad as any other. What matters to me is what benefits we seek and what values we obtain through its use. We should demand no less!