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2018 GIS Industry Outlook: 7 Experts Weigh In

An exponential increase in global demand for geospatial data and geo-enabled devices has caused the GIS technology landscape to rapidly evolve and expand over the past few years. According to the latest research, the global GIS market is forecasted to grow from nearly $9B in 2016 to over $17B by 2023. GIS has become all-pervasive, driving major disruptions across sectors including government, transportation, energy, and many others. It seems the opportunities are endless! In honor of GIS Day and Geography Awareness Week, we asked seven GIS experts – editors, practitioners, and other influential voices – where they see the industry headed in the year to come. Here’s what they had to say:

Chris Tucker, Chairman of the American Geographical Society and Founder of MapStory | @PLANETucker “2018 will be the year where every cliche tech trend collides within the world of geo. Cloud, Big Data, AI, ML, IoT, open source, SaaS, drones, commercial space, and SexBots will all converge into something new and powerful. Okay, maybe not SexBots – but the rest of these technologies will swirl together in new and amazing ways, along with a vast ocean of crowdsourced and commercially licensed geospatial data sources. Those organizations poised with know-how and budgets to harness the available data sources and this arsenal of tools will quickly dominate. Those who think that old school GIS with traditional sources will keep them competitive will begin dying.”

Glenn Letham, Co-founder of GISUser | @gletham “The GIS industry is constantly changing and evolving, however, there’s always been a heavy focus on data and data being ‘King,’ and I don’t see that changing – GIS is all about the data. It’s exciting to see new technologies that further enable data access and then factor in a movement towards more openness, transparency, and open government. This is a real driver of the technology and the GIS industry. I’m hoping to see an industry with more access to real-time data, cloud-hosted sensor data, and SAS solutions that enable more collaboration and sharing. Speaking of sensors, the explosion in use of data capture technologies like UAVs (drones), more high-resolution satellites, and GPS-enabled smartphones will continue to serve to drive even more growth and more innovation. I also see government taking up more of a role as the platform for innovation, rather than trying to be the innovator.”

Thierry Gregorius, Principal Strategic Consultant at Exprodat | @Thierry_G “As GIS has become mainstream it has also become increasingly invisible. This is a good thing – the value of location-based data lies in its integration with other information. Whether you’re ordering a parcel online or navigating by voice to your nearest toy shop, as a user you don’t need to know that there’s a whole geospatial stack sitting underneath. The same is now even true for kids playing with drones to build 3D models from video: it just takes a few clicks. So for 2018 I see more applications with spatial magic hidden inside a black box. This is supported by the trend of increasing automation in data handling, including machine learning for applications like image feature extraction and natural language processing.”

Barbaree Duke, Managing Editor of Directions Magazine | @barbareeduke “GIS technology, like many other facets of technology, is moving even more to the cloud and hybrid environments. The lines between desktop software and virtual access are more blurry. Social media and crowdsourced data continue to rise and create interesting conversations around how we manage and analyze ‘big data.’ Put up your tray tables and fasten your seat belt for my views from the clouds.”

Susan Smith, Editor of GISCafe | @editorgisaeccaf “The GIS industry is heading toward ubiquity, if it hasn’t already reached it. With the growing interest in smart cities, we are seeing the evolvement of GIS embedded in solutions for road and rail, construction, utilities, planning, government, and many other areas. Indoor location technologies, sensors, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT), UAVs and small sats round out the offerings and will put GIS into the hands of so many more people.”

Perry A. Trunick, Editor of Point of Beginning Magazine | @POBMag “Among land surveyors and geospatial professionals, the use of GIS is steadily increasing both in application to workflow and on the client-facing side. Desktop and cloud-based applications still dominate, but POB’s GIS Surveying Trends study showed a marked increase in the use of mobile GIS applications – up from 22 percent in 2016 to 36 percent in 2017. Respondents to the study overwhelmingly forecast continued growth for GIS – 70 percent cited strong growth or some growth, while only four percent suggesting GIS use would decline.”

Anthony Calamito, Chief Geospatial Officer of Boundless | @GeoCalamito “There is no question that geography and location science are increasingly becoming an ordinary part of our everyday lives. We use it to find the closest Starbucks, to hail an Uber, and to check the weather. We don’t think about all the complex analytical functions behind those apps, but we expect that the app produces an answer we can trust, quickly and easily. I see this trend continuing in 2018. As wearable technology and the Internet of Things continues to become a part of our everyday lives, so too will the need for location information. In particular, smart homes will use location more, to set geofences and know when we are close to home, to monitor how far our pets can roam, and to lock the doors when we drive away and forget. The same logic is being extended into smart cities where sensors monitor the electric, water and transportation grids in real time, and adjust as necessary.”

What do you think? What are your thoughts on where GIS will take us in 2018? Which technology trends and advancements will come to the forefront? Tell us your thoughts, experiences, and predictions on Twitter with the hashtag #GISoutlook2018!

John Opdycke

VP of Marketing

John is the VP of Marketing for Boundless and has more than 25 years of experience marketing B2B software and services to companies large and small across multiple industries. He received his B.S. in Public Relations from The Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. When John’s not working to support the Boundless team to make meaningful connections with community members, prospects, partners and customers, he spends time with his wife Monica trying to keep track of their four children.