Friday 5 March 2010

Gathering clouds over the horizon...

... intermittent sunshine and showers predicted tomorrow. No this is not a meteo prediction, but a metaphor for opportunities and confusion that cloud computing creates. I see it as a pressure-release valve, where the constant demand to deliver more for less is pushing both sectors, for-profit and not-for-profit.

I discussed earlier technologies available over the web helps reduced implementation costs - that's for the consumption or demand side. On the supply or delivery side, geospatial data have been available on the web in various guises for a while
The government sector was an obvious starting point for web-delivery, as it truly resolved both mandated delivery and decreasing costing issues that squeezed them forever it seems. However ExxonMobil's global license for cloud computing and ESRI joining Amazon's AWS partner network are sure signs that the for-profit cloud-geocomputing is here. And while the data quality vs. ownership debate rages, there are signs of sunshine on the horizon:
  • the UKMAP (business) was endorsed by the UK Land Registry (agency) to register parcel data (via #thierry_g)
  • volunteer mapping on the web using OpenStreetMap in Haiti is mainstream news
  • and a common operating picture, termed by Don Murray here, seems to be emerging
In other words, while Larry Ellison rants about the cloud - has been around for a decade, and I add AWS for half that time - we geospatial types stand the most to benefit from distributed production and consumption on the web. A lot has been done already on portals such as GEOSS, data repositories such as WeoGeo mentioned above, and tools such as SafeSoft to rationalise and bring together data formats and metadata for all to use. I think the key new benefit is the geotagging events and data, tweets being an excellent starter - this will be more widespread, once it's settled which format works best - while discussions and semantic websters push RDF, yet another battle of protocols clouds the horizon... And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, proper metadata will ease the burden of choices, as data and applications will actually have a handle to grab onto, no matter which lever will be used in the end.

PS: I volunteered at OCO 88 when the Jamaican bobsled team in the video performed, after which fellow Canadian John Candy RIP created Cool Runnings.

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