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The Evolution of Spatial Applications in the Era of the Internet of Things

by Clarence Hempfield | March 12, 2014 | No Comments

The Evolution of Spatial Applications in the Era of the Internet of ThingsRecently, I found myself reading an infographic published by analyst firm, IDC in November, titled, “Welcome to the Connected Age with Internet of Things and M2M.” It provides an illustrative look at the proliferation of connected devices that are transmitting and receiving data, including location.  It addresses a number of related topics, but most centrally the millions, and soon billions, of connected devices that are exchanging information across the internet, further adding to petabytes of data that are being created on a daily basis. Often when I think about the challenges of Big Data, my mind goes to ways in which we can help our customer’s better process, manage and analyze data at this type of scale.  And clearly, our customers will need help particularly given that virtually all of this data has a location as a central component.  It will be critical to make sense of these streams of data and enable our customers to continue to make better business decisions.

However, this infographic also reminded me that what is also changing is the types of devices that individuals are using, and by extension how they will interact with these devices and their favorite applications.  This means that the applications that we build for consumer consumption will also need to adapt to remain relevant.  And as we have seen with the “consumerization of GIS,” devices and applications embraced by consumers will find their ways into business adoption.

Don’t believe me, look around.  If you are reading this in a fairly public setting you likely see people clicking away at a smart phone, tablet or laptop.  Keep in mind that laptops were introduced in the 80s and became widely used in the 90s.  It is safe to speculate that in the next 5 – 7 years, laptops and tablets will get eroded, but not completely replaced, by connected wearable devices, such as glasses, watches, bands, etc.

Think about it this way.  Most of us know one or more people who have replaced their laptop with a tablet.  Soon, likely those same individuals will replace their tablet with a wearable device – likely tethered to a mobile device for additional compute power or connectivity.  As adoption of these devices increases, it will be important that we are building the next generation of location-based applications that we take into account the evolving nature of how people will interact with applications as their use of wearable devices goes mainstream.

It is true that the number of connected devices will continue the already dramatic increase in the amount of data that is produced daily, and this absolutely means that we require robust and efficient technologies to help us make sense of these new mountains of data.  But we also can’t lose sight of the fact that the devices that people are using are changing just as quickly and this must influence the applications that we build for both consumer and business users of our technology.

I would be very interested in your thoughts on this.  How does your organization plan to cope with big data and the evolution of mobile, connected devices?

(Note: Consumerization of GIS is the idea that as consumers grew comfortable interacting with and using location-based applications/services and in turn began to demand these types of services from the business that they consume products and services from.  Similarly, employees of those organizations also began to ask for similar services and these two groups began to put pressure on the IT departments of these organizations to begin supporting GIS services, which previously only a select few understood and could use.)

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