GIS 5.0 – Smart and connected

Recently I came across an interesting article by Dave Peters. He outlines the evolution of GIS in four development phases:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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?

The steps in GIS software evolution. What's next?

The steps in GIS software evolution. What’s 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 architecture of future smart, networked GIS applications

The architecture of future smart, connected GIS applications (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!


Ivo Leiss

Ivo Leiss

Ivo Leiss (Dr. sc. nat.) studierte Geografie mit Nebenfach Informatik an der Universität Zürich. In seiner Dissertation beschäftigte er sich mit der Analyse von Satellitenbilddaten und deren Auswertung in einem GIS.

Seit 1998 leitet er als Partner und Geschäftsleitungsmitglied den Geschäftsbereich Informatik bei EBP. Er besitzt langjährige Erfahrung bei komplexen Geoinformations- und IT-Projekten, insbesondere im Bereich der Projektabwicklung und der Qualitätssicherung. Zu seinen Spezialgebieten zählen die Erarbeitung von Studien und Analysen, die Konzipierung vernetzter Informations- und Entscheidungssysteme sowie die Entwicklung massgeschneiderter Applikationen.


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