Maps once passive
I had always adored maps as objects of art and science, but until quite recently they were essentially passive objects, albeit ones that people always respond to emotionally in a way that they never do to (say) spreadsheets.
This is partly because people are so good at pattern analysis and identifying what is wrong, or right, in a map, without even thinking about it. Further, we can identify relationships between objects and factor in data quality and consistency issues and make useful and accurate conclusions, almost instantaneously.
Much of the work in geospatial and location-based services for decades now has been trying to bring digital computing power to bear on similar problems.
Clearly this is common to numberless threads in the use of technology in our lives. Geospatial technology is so important though because the old rule of thumb was that nearly all data has a location component and its truer now than ever. The sheer quantity of data each of us generates from the way we live – our phones, cameras, cars – and now our fridges doorbells and light switches – multiplies by the second.
Geospatial tech long ago had to embrace standards – not just relatively simple standards such as what shapes can be used to describe a real-world object, but also the meaning of the data – the things that can be expressed by an item of data that represents something in the world. How we describe our world, using shared concepts based on descriptions and formats that have meaning when exchanged between people and systems. And these concepts include the 3D and 4D – the passage of time, and the empirical quality of information.
Many of these standards have been driven by the entry of major players into what used to be quite a specialist market, and there have been many entertaining industry body punch-ups spilling over from long running commercial disagreements.