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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

As an organization that recently refocused their efforts as a professional society on the advancement of geospatial technology to support infrastructure development, GITA could not have chosen a better time in which to do so. By a combination of good strategic forethought as well as the downturn in the global economy, which had a somewhat serendipitous effect for the organization, "infrastructure" is not just a geospatial buzz word; it’s a political buzz word too. The gold mine of new investments from the stimulus bill for aging roads, bridges, and buildings makes this focus "dead on." And it was particularly prescient to have Blaine Leonard, the president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers, as the keynote speaker who’s review of the ASCE "report card" on the U.S. infrastructure was not just informative but entertaining as well.

However, these same elements had a deleterious impact on the attendance of the annual conference just recently completed in Tampa. Traffic in the exhibit hall was modest at best and the keynote presentation was attended only by several hundred but not the 1000+ as in past years. The economy is what it is and GITA has not been the only geospatial conference impacted by the economy. So, putting these factors aside, the key topics at the conference this year were addressed in serious tones with an understanding that, with respect to the economy, "this too shall pass."

As mentioned, aging infrastructure and what the stimulus money will mean for geospatial technology was a key component of the conference theme. Emergency management and critical infrastructure protection continues to dominate many sessions and hallway discussions. And on the technical front, key issues like asset management, "smart grid," and even interoperability are hot topics. A visit from Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio put an exclamation point on the discussion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as each local government strives to find out how difficult it will be to get money from the stimulus bill. To that end, many local governments and utilities are crippled by the fact that some projects won’t receive money because a major project may already be "funded" and thus ineligible for stimulus money. In addition, because the economy has soured, many local governments are forced to layoff or not replace retiring workers because of budget shortfalls. Meanwhile, each knows they might have to ramp up hiring to fill project needs should stimulus money come their way. It is the proverbial rock and a hard place.

In summary, GITA has the right focus and programming for next year’s conference should already be boosted by a better understanding of how the stimulus money will be distributed and which projects that are ‘shovel ready’ will be underway. GITA 2010 (April 25-29) is in Phoenix in conjunction with the Amercian Congress on Survey and Mapping (ACSM).

by Joe Francica on 04/22 at 10:55 PM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
(From San Francisco Chronicle) Larry Ellison, CEO and founder of Oracle says this about the acquisition of Sun: "Java runs on hundreds of millions of computers, cell phones and even DVDs, and Oracle’s fusion middleware is based entirely on Sun Java," said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. "Java is the single most important software asset we have ever acquired."

In a conversation I had tonight with one Oracle source I was told that you need to put Ellison’s comments in perspective: Ellison is saying that this acquisition is bigger than Seibel, bigger than PeopleSoft, bigger than BEA Systems, bigger than Hyperion. And as the SF Chronicle pointed out, this wasn’t a hostile take over or a move to put a competitor out of business like some of the other acquistions. This appears to be both a strategic technology grab and in the case of MySQL, perhaps a move to drive a wedge between one lower end SQL database alternative coming out of Redmond, Washington.


by Joe Francica on 04/22 at 10:09 PM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

At GITA in Tampa this week, I moderated a session on "Education for the Geospatial Infrastructure Industry." Panel members included Phil Davis from the National Geospatial Training Center at Del Mar College; Kerry Wright, GIS Supervisor at the City of Tampa; Dan Shannon, Engineering Manager for TELUS Communications; Dr. Barnali Dixon, Asst. Profession, Univ. of South Florida; and David James, Deputy Director, Pinellas County, Florida.

Here’s the raging debate: Do we educate subject matter experts (SME) in geology, forestry, urban planning, etc. with BA’s in those disciplines and teach them GIS, OR, do we train specifically in "geospatial thinking" and GIS software to get them ready for the job market?

Kerry Wright of the City of Tampa said that she has so much demand for GIS project work that she needs well-rounded IT specialists who "ideally" know a little programming, maybe Oracle DBA’s, or have some GIS training. SMEs are not that much in demand. She can tell them how to work with urban planners and give that department the geospatial support they need.

Dan Shannon echoed these sentiments and very much agreed that DBA’s who can turn around project work quickly would be most in need.

Phil Davis at Del Mar College represents a two-year program that is turning out GIS experts who are trained and ready for the workforce.

There were very few in the audience who, at this time, could speak for the SMEs. Most professionals who have spent 20+ years in the geospatial profession came from some discipline-specific industry. But we have lost a generation of trained geospatial professionals and this will be a continuing problem. Since 2006, I’ve covered this issue as it has come up many times before especially with respect to the demand being placed on intelligence agencies like the NGA. The demand for more geospatial professionals came up at the 2006 GEOINT conference, (1, 2) in an interview with NGA Director Admiral Murrett, and the importance of geospatial technology has been city by the Department of Labor in 2004. This problem is not going away any time soon.

by Joe Francica on 04/22 at 09:26 PM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Yahoo reported less than stellar earnings: first-quarter profit fell 78 percent to $118 million (8 cents per share), though last years earnings were high due to investments in China. It also announced plans to layoff 5% of the workforce, about 675 people mostly product managers and engineers. Yahoo cut 1,000 jobs in January 2008, and 1,500 more last October.

I’ve been looking for what that might mean for Yahoo Maps. One thought, from Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research: Maps might be outsourced to another company. I’m not sure of the logic for such a move.

- San Francisco Chronicle

by Adena Schutzberg on 04/22 at 07:43 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share reports on Congressmen worried that the latest plans for new satellites and more imagery from commercial players don’t have enough detail.

Also noteworthy: how much DigitalGlobe and GeoEye spent on lobbying.

DigitalGlobe spent just over $1 million in 2008 and 2007 lobbying Congress and the executive branch on “issues relating to [the] nation’s use of commercial satellite imagery and remote sensing,” according to the firm’s lobbying disclosure reports filed with the Senate.

GeoEye spent $400,000 lobbying over the past two years on defense appropriations and authorizations to “sustain government support for commercial space imagery,” records show.

by Adena Schutzberg on 04/22 at 06:00 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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