GIS is quickly moving into the future with 3D
Esri’s Lawrie Jordan talks about GIS as ‘critical infrastructure’
By David Krapf, SPAR staff
April 17, 2012
HOUSTON - “In the world of 3D, it is truly the most exciting
times I can think of in the last 40 years,” said Lawrie Jordan, director of
imagery at Esri, and special assistant to Jack Dangermond, the company’s
president, as part of his keynote address at the SPAR International conference
Jordon touched on more than a few GIS trends he is seeing,
including the “convergence” of GIS and 3D imaging technology, an uptick in
cloud computing, and a “stunning” increase in the use of mobile technology. “An
exciting area we see is measuring and capturing volunteer geographic
information from social networks and social information, and, of course, the
technology and science behind GIS is evolving very quickly,” he said.
Another positive trend, Jordan told SPAR attendees, is that
the governance issues are “coming together with regard to open data policies.”
Taken together, the aforementioned developments are forming “a very strong and
very positive trend that we believe are setting the stage for a much better
understanding of the world in which we live.”
Jordan added that in GIS, there is now a trend toward what
he terms as “global persistent surveillance.”
“We’re trying to capture, measure, monitor, and map
literally everything that moves or changes on the planet,” he said. “We then
want to connect all of these different layers and look for patterns and trends
and form some meaningful analysis that helps us see and answer some complicated
What is needed is a framework to bring it all together — a
“special” type of infrastructure to handle the varied data. “I like to think
that GIS is a form of critical infrastructure,” Jordan said, much like a power
grid or the oil refinery and pipeline complex.
The cloud-computing trend is important and is not going
away. It is democratizing GIS software; instead of tens of thousands of dollars
for software licenses, he said, access can now be had for hundreds of dollars
and only when the need is there for the software to accomplish specific goals.
Further, the cloud offers the ability to store huge volumes of data and apply immense
CPU processing power without the user needing to invest in such capabilities on
Jordan also talked about VGI, volunteer geographic
information, which is becoming increasingly popular in the GIS community. “We
can almost think of this as citizens with sensors. Almost everyone has a cell
phone, have cameras that are GPS enabled and capture quite a bit of
information,” he said. How can this crowd-sourced data be harnessed by GIS
professionals looking to learn and document ever more about their environments?
He added that social media, Facebook, Twitter, “are a
dramatic new component of geographic information systems.” And increasingly,
the information remarkably is not that error prone.
For the defense industry, this is a “gold mine of
opportunity for them to look at patterns, social patterns around the world,
look for trends, collect intelligence, and other information through social
“I think social media is really adding a new dimension that
I am excited about,” he said.