s little as five years ago it would have been hard to imagine that GIS, maps and location would have pulled so far into the public consciousness as to have almost reached a state of ubiquity. What are the implications for what would traditionally be described as professional GIS?
The major change has been a general increase in visibility for the GIS profession, after all how many of us have said “it’s kind of like Google Earth” when describing what we do to someone outside the industry. This increase in visibility has also created a feedback loop that is driving demand for even more location based services.
The other big change has been the explosion in data availability, when I first started in the industry about 10 years ago the first consideration to doing almost anything was “can I get data for this?”. This problem has been totally flipped on its head as companies such as Google (Earth/Maps) and Microsoft (Bing) race to make spatial data freely available.
There is also an even bigger data source beginning to appear on the horizon as the social media networks add geolocation. Twitter users alone generate over 50 million tweets per day and although there are only a small number being geolocated this number is likely to rapidly increase as more mobile device become GPS enabled.
Another potential data source is the growing citizen science movement that uses citizen volunteers to assist with scientific projects. An example of this is the Climatewatch project that Gaia Resources began working on last year. This ongoing project went live in September 2009 and uses biological observations by citizens to try and understand the effects of climate change on Australia biodiversity.
I think that the key to harnessing the enormous data pipe from non-professional users will be robust data mining and aggregation tools to sift the data from the noise.