Democratizing Geospatial Data
The ability to access global data via the web is changing
the face of GIS.
By James L. Sipes, ASLA
A new breed of geographic search tools is changing how we view the world. Google
Earth, NASA’s World Wind, and MSN Virtual Earth all combine satellite imagery, geospatial data, 3-D objects, and search engines that let
you locate virtually any place on Earth. The amount of global information available over the internet is staggering.
A Growing Industry
For NASA, the focus is more on conveying research information to the public, but companies like Microsoft and Google have made the
leap to searchable mapping software in large part because of the potential economic gains. Online advertising, already more than
a billion dollar industry, is expected to continue to grow, and local searches provide an opportunity for more advertising.
The idea behind searchable mapping software is not new. I have been using MSN Search for years to find information through online
White Pages or Yellow Pages. It offers an immersive experience that allows users to see their cities and neighborhoods as they search
for a specific geographic location.
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