Wed and Thur of this week, I attended the Texas GIS Forum, organized by TNRIS in Austin, Texas. It turned out to be a good introduction to what’s going on in GIS in Texas although, overall, I was expecting more of a focus on the GIS software side. Many of the presentations and most of the vendors were about remote sensing technology and services. LIDAR was the buzz word. Granted, it’s an amazing technology, with unbelievable resolution and versatile applications that will put many surveyors out of work. But I don’t think only of LIDAR when I think of GIS.
Highlight for me was an hour-long presentation by Dylan Lorimer, Product Manager @ Google Enterprise Geospatial. While there are many other GIS software and service providers with decades of experience, Google hasn’t been in it for that long. But while the others are busy coming up with new bells and whistles, add-ons, and knick-knacks, Google seems to be the one player with the vision, (however hazy or much of a stretch it may appear to be sometimes) – which I interpret to be: Make all human knowledge and information publically accessible for anyone on the planet (with internet access). Wow !
What did I learn ? Mostly that I have lots of things to learn. That there are so many different GIS technology tracks out there that I need to spend some time thinking about which ones I want to explore. For example, while I have heard people talk about Python and VB, and more recently .NET for ArcGIS, this week all I heard was Flex and Silverlight. Needless to say I know nothing about either one.
I also attended a Microsoft presentation on SQL Server Spatial. But I couldn’t figure out for the life of it why anyone would want to go with that product for their geospatial data needs. So I’m inclined to stay away from Microsoft products including Silverlight. I might take a look at Flex and revisit my earlier Web experiments.
Most of all, I like the idea of sticking with Python, learning Django as my web framework and Geodjango (I keep repeating myself) – someone will make this work for ArcGIS – and stay in the Open Source Realm. I still think that eventually, the future will be open source, and while open source evolves, other proprietary software goes in and out of style. It makes little sense to spend too much time “learning” one company’s software. Having said that I will look at getting an ESRI EDN license to “learn” their stuff. 😉