I flew into Dubai this morning to attend the second Map Middle East Conference, and was knocked over by the presentation of Michael Jones CTO of the Google Earth/Map/Local team. Jones presented the vision for Google’s “geography” applications, which was breathtaking in its scope.
Building on the Google mission to organise the worlds data, Jones presented his mission to geographically organise the world data, that is all data – not just explicit geographical information.
What stuck me here, more than anything else, was the vision to present the context of geographical information rather than explicit information about locations, representing the sense of place – what does a place feel like, indeed the talk was entitled “A Sense of Place”. Geography here appears to be really important to Google – actually close you eyes and it might have been Jack Dangermond talking.
Indeed Jones cited “Father of GIS” Roger Tomlinson, who in the late 1960’s wrote of the ultimate GIS which would be a computer globe of interactive data, as an inspiration behind the development of Keyhole/Google Earth, another inspiration was Mr Spock’s Tricorder which could tell the science officer all the information he needed to describe his local environment.
With reference to the established GIS community Jones, perhaps mischievously, described Google Earth as the GIS for the 5.999999 billion people of the world’s 6 billion population who don’t know or care was GIS is.
To me it was quite a contrast to the other more traditional GIS vendors presentations, perhaps more than ESRI even, the Google Earth team seem to be driven by a very clear, user focused geographical vision.
Today’s business model for this may not be sustainable, but Google are building a massive user-base which will be difficult to displace, and the often forgotten professional and enterprise versions are gaining momentum in specific industries. When the current business model changes things will really get interesting !
And as many people at the conference mentioned, because of Google Earth, people at last know what we do !
Written and submitted from the Crowne Plazza Hotel, Dubai, using the hotels broadband connection.