Tech Showcase – Gotta Have GIS

Layers of GIS data "Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges."
- Mexican bandit, Blazing Saddles

"GIS? We don’t need no stinking GIS."
– Companies without GIS

When I was a child, my father, Robert Giles, spoke of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with reverence.  In the 1960s, he was one of the pioneers of GIS, using a light board with his team of graduate students to painstakingly digitize a map by hand with an attribute, then another map of the same place by hand with another attribute, so that layers of data resulted about one particular area.  He and his students then wrote lines of code and used punch cards and the mainframe computer to analyze all those layers of attributes and prescribe optimum locations for power lines in Virginia.

Today, personal mobile devices with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are ubiquitous, using GIS to analyze only a few attributes – a location map, satellite date, and time – to tell a person where he or she is.

When my father was using GIS, computers were still tools, essentially large calculators, so their limited power limited the number of layers of attributes that could be analyzed to a couple dozen.  Computers are now so powerful they can take into account and analyze hundreds of layers of attributes almost instantaneously and in relation to each other. 

What if my mobile device had its own personal GIS, not just GPS?  What if my mobile device would answer not just, “Where am I?” but “What is best for me to I do?”

I don't think it's an original question or idea but it came to me from discussing GIS with David Bradshaw and Jeremy Rasor of InteractiveGIS, serving as project manager for my father’s new venture, a rural land management system, Rural System – a component of which uses GIS – and the site designed for Rural System by Automation Creations.

This post features a screenshot of the cool animation made by Automation Creations that can be clicked on to show how the attribute layers accumulate. 

What if the layers weren’t about roads, ponds, and trees, but all about me?! 

What if I were standing on a street corner with my own personal GIS on my mobile device and it “knew me" enough to analyze what I value in attribute layers - houses with cats asleep on the porch, tea shops serving scones if it’s 3:00 PM, restaurants serving grits if it’s 8:00 AM, jewelry stores with sales?  And what if, based on what it had "learned" about me from data I had entered and from queries it had tracked and weights I had assigned, or it had assigned, it recommended the next step, perhaps not just to physically put my right foot in, but philosophically?

As a person and a consumer, GIS might show me my own personal power line.

As a company owner, what we offer and what our potential clients value might show up in their personal power lines.

Where do we sign up?!  I gotta have GIS.


InteractiveGIS was featured in another edition of the Tech Showcase on Handshake 2.0Interactive GIS, Rural System, and Automation Creations are clients of Handshake Media, Incorporated, of which Handshake 2.0 is an enterprise.


Venture Counsel - a law firm for entrepreneurs This edition of the Tech Showcase on Handshake 2.0 is sponsored by Venture Counsel, a law firm for entrepreneurs located at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia. Ken Maready, head of Venture Counsel, reviewed Handshake 2.0's Social Media Authenticity Policy – Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials, helping to create a document about which Mark Schaefer – author of the blog {grow} and the post The World's First "Authenticity Policy"? - stated, "As far as I know, this is the first published, legally-validated 'authenticity policy.'"

Ken Maready's "Legal Concerns for the Web 2.0 Business" was accepted for inclusion in volume one of the new series, Enterprise 2.0: How Technology, E-Commerce, and Web 2.0 Are Transforming Business Virtually, by Tracy Tuten, Ph.D.  The Enterprise 2.0 series is scheduled for publication by Praeger Publishers, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Company.

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  1. Not long ago, the saying “content is king” was the popular mantra of web enthusiasts/users/developers. Today, I’m hearing “data is king” over and over. That and the integration of geo-tagging to produce location-specific data. A map allows us to see that data relative to other information in layers as demonstrated by the Rural Land Management System animation. The wealth of knowledge presented here is most impressive.

  2. During some dark days of the 70’s when I was a professor supporting many students and research associates and grants were cut, I thought seriously about going into the private geographic information system (GIS) business. The picture of start-ups and failures has not been pretty. There have been claims of excessive promises by vendors of software. The resulting maps and images did not carry the weight that the sales people suggested. There were data limitations and some flaws. The results from the systems were not timely enough… and now much of that has changed.

    There are things that have not changed and there are parallels with them in other businesses… suggesting aids for existing businesses or emerging ones…
    * land uses and developments change rapidly; maps have to be updated
    * software for GIS (several machines) changes rapidly
    * associated hardware and software emerges and changes and uses with GIS (e.g., the GPS) changes rapidly
    * staff change rapidly, often taking with them essential knowledge of a working un-documented system
    * using GIS images creatively produces ideas and insights, the newness of the first looks through a microscope, new relationships, new antagonisms, new opportunities, new impediments
    If a company can handle the costs, down-time and delays, GIS can be very good for them. If they have diverse clients with diverse needs that can be heard by a diverse GIS staff, then GIS investments are worthy. There are too many “ifs” in that statement. The solution can be in collaboratives, cooperative enterprises, business teams, or large diverse enterprises serving a region by skillful manipulation of their well-structured data bases.

    I saw agencies and companies buying GIS systems to solve a single problem. Once solved, the system was rarely used (a shortage of expert or creative staff. Regional entrepreneurial team work or dominant centers of excellence seem good for the people of a region … and GIS profits.

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