Google Earth and GI Science

I have just returned from the beautiful town of Girona in Spain, where I was speaking at the AGILE 2008 Conference, a meeting of the key Geographic Information research laboratories in Europe, which was expertly organised by SIGTE the GIS Lab at the University of Girona.

As is increasingly the case at conferences I attend, researchers are using both Google Maps and Google Earth as mechanisms to communicate their results in an appealing way. I hope to be able to highlight some interesting examples over the next few days, but there seems to be a clear pattern emerging where spatial analysis may be carried out using programs developed by researchers or by using powerful analytic tool sets like ArcGIS or ArcGIS Server, but presented using Google Earth.

The products of the research are often rendered via KML for display, but what is perhaps still missing in some cases is for the results to be really published, i.e. for the KML files to be posted on a web server somewhere along with details of the research for others to discover.

Interestingly there was very little discussion of the neo/paleo-geography debate, which is great, I hope we have moved onto to a position where the users of “professional” high end tools such as those produced by ESRI see a natural final publishing step of creating KML output of their work, certainly with the tools now available in the next version of ArcGIS and the OGC adoption of KML this should be simple one.

Of course as you would expect there are limitations with the current generation of virtual globes, Google Earth included, for some aspects of GI Science. Notably in more complex handling of temporal and sub surface features, and in cartographic output more functionality is needed.

Some of these limitations reflect the largely mass-market focus of Google Earth, but such feedback is always useful to hear, todays research requirement could well be tomorrows mass-market standard feature, and it is wise never to underestimate how sophisticated users may become.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

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