The Evolving World of Canadian Geomatics – Business Opportunities
The world of geomatics has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Whereas GIS and other related geomatics technologies were largely the domain of professionals two decades ago, increasingly “non experts” are engaged in the process of collecting, integrating, interpreting and disseminating spatially related data and information.
Geographic thinkers have come to distinguish between spatial data infrastructure (traditionally derived spatial data – usually collected by government and their agencies) and volunteered data infrastructure – vast amount of user-generated data that is being generated on a daily basis (Daniel Sui of Ohio State University estimates on the order of an exabyte globally per day).
A large amount of these data are generated from social media and crowd sourced initiatives but the emergence of sensor technologies and other commercial data collection methods are equally significant.
At the same time the evolution of tools for both enterprise and consumer consumption of data have grown significantly. Web and cloud based technologies as well as the growth in mobile devices present new frameworks for the collection, storage and utilization of spatially relevant data.
The fundamentals remain the same: how to properly collect, validate, integrate and synthesize the data, and then interpret and present the results to meet specific needs. What has changed is the potential to access new data, address previously unanswerable questions and present the results in unique ways.
All this to say the world of geomatics is in the midst of a significant revolution that presents many opportunities for new business ventures (not to mention academic research). Some the areas where business can contribute include:
- Tools and systems for improved data management that address new data sources and sensors
- Technics for integration of traditional spatial data with user supplied data and application
- Big data geo-analysis
- Better, more intuitive enterprise and consumer applications that are targeted to non technical audiences
There are Canadian companies pursuing business at different points within this spectrum of opportunities. At the big data end of the spectrum SKE is focused on building geoportals for improving management and access to data. Their focus is government customers but similar challenges are being faced by commercial organizations. Shopcatch, developed by Torstar Digital is a location aware tool for shoppers helping them find product information and special promotions based on their current location.
Decisions about specific business opportunities are based on expertise, opportunity and circumstance but there is no question that the geomatics world presents many exciting opportunities for both established and entrepreneurial business leaders.