Recently I came across an interesting article by Dave Peters. He outlines the evolution of GIS in four development phases:
- In the early 80ies GIS were based primarily on scripts. Using scripts, GI specialists cleaned, edited and visualized spatial data. Some readers might recall the ARC/INFO era and its scripting language Arc Macro Language – AML.
- About 20 years later, at the end of the 90ies, the first GUI-centric object-oriented GIS appeared on the stage (for example, ArcGIS Desktop in 1998). This second step with the more efficient programming technique was enabled by more performant hardware.
- New technologies to provide data and services emerged with the rapid advent and development of the Web. A building stone of these service-oriented architectures (SOAs) was, for example, the Web Map Services (WMS) specification that was adopted in 2000 (Version 1.0).
- Finally, virtualization of hardware and centralization of computing centers initiated the fourth phase leading to cloud-based GIS portals. Storage space and computing power have become scalable commodities. ArcGIS Online, launched in 2012, is a prominent example of this fourth phase.
Now the question is: what comes next?
Smart and connected systems
From the past we can learn: New technological abilities lead to new applications. They substiantially influence the further evolution of GIS. Among the contenders for the most relevant (to GIS) technologies and developments I see:
- indoor navigation,
- the Internet of Things (IoT) and
- real-time sytems
Future GIS applications will be more and more smart and networked. They will require a technical infrastructure which is composed of several layers: embedded components, network communications, a cloud-based platform or system, tools for providing authentification and authorization, and gateways to include external data sources as well as in-house data (see the figure below, adapted from Porter and Heppelmann).
The IT Division of Ernst Basler + Partner (EBP Informatics) has already amassed solid experience with the components in such a system (see our reference projects). Also in our blog posts we engage with these future developments, most recently with regards to the real-time quality assessment of data streams.
Do you have any questions or comments on these topics? We would like to hear from you!