Future trends in GIS

UN geospatial experts’ crystal ball shows geospatial evolving to new data types, formats and usage.

The United Nations committee of experts on geospatial information management has just deliberated on ‘Strategic consideration of future trends in geospatial information management.’ While recognizing that ‘the future is difficult to predict,’ the UN Experts have identified several trends that will be examined in depth in a future publication—slotted for release next year. Trends of note include a growing number of sensors in everyday devices collecting dynamic geospatial information and real time data creation by citizens. Unmanned aerial vehicle use will increase as will 3D and 4D data. Location based services will increase citizens’ familiarity with spatial information and use of cloud-based services will rise.

Future geospatial data will be ‘linked’ (notably to social media) and, over the next five years, linked data technologies will replace current exchange standards like GML. Technology ‘will move faster than legal and governance structures. Free and open source software will grow as viable alternatives for mapping, analysis and geoprocessing. Machine to machine interaction will enable ‘fully-automated’ decision systems. ‘Big data’ technologies will enable use of raw data feeds and this will lead to the establishment of a geospatial infrastructure—which society will rely on as it does today on electrical grids and highway networks. Spatial literacy will not be about learning GIS in schools but will be more centred on increasing spatial awareness. All of which will make for a ‘clear dividing line’ between winning and losing nations in the geospatial sweepstakes. More wild speculation and editorializing from the UN here.

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