Tuesday, 29 September 2009

AGI 2009 Geocommunity Conference - Mainstream? Not yet.

A good AGI GeoCommunity conference for sure with some thought provoking presentations.  There were lots of familar faces and it was good to catch up over a beer or two.  I was wondering who would be there this year and what the community would consider the burning questions of the age to be...

It wasn't as I had expected.  Steven Feldman, the conference chair, opened the first day with a solid introduction, explaining that the central theme would be 'What' people are doing with GIS, and hoping that over the next year we would be considering more 'Why' questions.  This year's conference would not really consider the 'How' as GIS has now merged with the mainstream, and so presumably then, implementation problems are a thing of the past.  At least that is how I heard it and I must admit that this sentiment does not ring true to me. Not yet.

In my own travels as a Geospatial Solution Architect I haven't noticed GIS implementation challenges lessen very much - sure some of the standards are beginning to take hold but the problem areas of real multi-user concurrent data editing, application interoperability, data integration, data licensing, and GIS within enterprise architecture are still very much significant challenges.  I would have loved to see an implementation stream cover progress in these areas.

The conference was not organised along the lines of the AGI Special Interest Groups which perhaps in itself indicates that we may need to review the topic areas and roles of the SIGs to ensure that they remain relevant to the community. As someone that feels that technical developments are of great interest I enjoyed the Geoweb stream which addressed some relevant (or potentially relevant) technical developments, principally in the area of mashups.  I would love to hear more about developments in data storage, server based services (and issues of scalability and availability), systems and data integration - technical issues relevant to enterprise deployment of GIS capabilities.

The AGI Northern Group has organised a follow up conference (Where2.0Now?) in Harrogate on 10th November on the subject of Web2.0 and disruptive technologies.  The AGI Technical SIG is also in the process of organising a conference for early next year on the subject of Mobile GIS.  I look forward to both of these events and to hear more of the technical developments effecting our industry.

GIS as a member of the mainstream?  Based upon the content and attendance of this conference we can't possibly argue that GIS is mainstream yet.  Sure, many more people use spatial data and technologies daily in the form of SatNav and online web maps but the IT mainstream was not at the conference.  There were no stands from the mainstream IT players such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, FileNet, Google, Informatica, Accenture, Logica, Dell, Sun, Embarcodero, Adobe, etc, etc. in the small exhibit hall.  When we start to see these vendors and integrators showing up in numbers then we will know that GIS has arrived.  I am not so sure what we will all do after that though!

Thanks to the conference organizers.

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