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I am always fascinated by scientific topics and new ventures that are built off of cool concepts.  Recently, I was speaking with a good friend and colleague who founded a start-up venture that is built around geospatial mapping capabilities.  It is a known fact that the use of geospatial information is rapidly increasing, however there are many areas where data is being collected and many folks do not even realize it.  We talked for a bit about the theory and application and one of the more interesting topics was the future of geospatial intelligence and how it may continue to revolutionize certain areas like:
Vehicle accidents: Right now, locked away in a room somewhere, there are some engineers that are trying to tie in geospatial information and technical interpretation to come up with a way to track vehicle movements to understand point of impact when an incident occurs involving another vehicle (or even a stationary object). This could tie into camera systems and global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) which are current options for many vehicles.  This would indeed revolutionize the insurance industry as auto manufacturers could include this as a safety feature, but also will likely be disliked by certain consumers who do not want anyone to really know the cause of the accident.  I know of at least one company researching this, the question is, will they be first to market with a proven concept.
Geomorphology: By using geospatial technology, you could actually enhance surveying techniques that are used today. Doing this could create topographical maps that are extremely accurate and this coupled with geomorphologic techniques could identify any changes (both significant and insignificant) in a topographical area to indicate where changes in lithology, faults, etc. are located. This could be applied to mineral exploration or even used to understand core earth movements a bit more clearly.
Tracking Wildlife: We’ve all been to a zoo, right? We see quite a few animals (depending on which location you are at) however there are quite a few that you can’t really “see” outside of pictures and explanations. What if they could augment these pictures with virtual reality stories, interactive maps, etc., which show where the animals are located across another continent at a given time, or even real-time? That could change the way that folks are educated and also bring additional accuracy and knowledge to where these animals exist.
 In the Cloud: The cloud will bring quite a bit of versatility to collecting geospatial information.  With vast amounts of data, it is not cost-effective in many cases to host significant amounts of data and incur the infrastructure and management costs.  Enter cloud – this provides a mechanism to host this information and also allows for this data to be delivered to devices of choice, at a desired time (e.g., real-time)… Think anyone, anytime, anywhere.
With the available technologies and intellectual property that exist today, looking at adjacent markets for application to existing research is on the radar of many companies, however looking at how to radically disrupt these markets is a core focus of some start-up ventures, but a hope for most larger firms. I can envision that smaller firms will build products and may scale to a larger business, or use that as a strategy to exit via buyout by a larger company… for larger firms a trade-off must be analyzed between investing R&D dollars towards these new innovations versus tracking the progress of smaller, newer ventures and paying some goodwill when acquiring their intellectual property and / or assets.
I will leave you with a couple of additional trends, including, delivering dynamic graphics, 3D or 4D (time being the 4th dimension) geospatial information AND using unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a.k.a. a drone, penetrative technologies, as these would support increasing breadth across even more areas than the ones discussed above… of course, there are several legal and ethical hurdles to overcome as these trends are better defined, but we’ll leave that topic for a future discussion.