Adobe Public Sector Blog

September 25, 2008 /Government Innovation /

Adobe and geospatial? Really?

So, Adobe and geospatial? Is Adobe really thinking of jumping into the geospatial market to compete with the likes of ESRI and Intergraph? Well, of course not. However, when thinking about Adobe’s focus on engagement and our mission to revolutionize the way people interact with information, it really makes sense that our technologies become interesting and useful to those needing to share and use this kind of information. For today’s entry, I’m going to begin setting context for you by outlining the various types of users in this community. I am going to generalize the users into three categories; geospatial experts, intermediate geospatial users and casual users and then provide a high level overview of who these people are and what they do, geospatially speaking of course.

First, are the geospatial experts. These are typically individuals who have studied the art and science of geospatial concepts and have made it their career. These highly trained folks are generally the ones who leverage tools from companies such as ESRI to create geospatial applications. They speak with terms such as projections, geocoding, raster imagery, vectors, coordinate systems and registration. They understand how the world is represented by various standardized data points that address practically every square inch of the world. With this knowledge and experience, these people are the ones who generate what most people refer to as maps. Also included in this group are geospatial and/or imagery analysts, the folks that study geospatial information, perhaps as a scientist or as a military analyst. The tools leveraged by those who practice this trade are very robust and mature. Of the three groups, this is by far the smallest number of users.

Next are the intermediate users. This is a group of people who typically depend on knowing where things are as part of their job. For example, a police officer needs to know who to get to the site of a crime and a transportation analyst needs to be able to see or visualize traffic patterns within the context of place and time and a platoon leader in Iraq needs to know the sites of insurgent activity. Likewise, many times, these individuals are required to work as part of a larger team, thus requiring the need for collaboration and data collection. If you were to chat with a person in this group, they may or may not even recognize the term geospatial, but, they do understand the importance of knowing where things are. Unlike the geospatial experts who usually work from fixed locations using highly powered workstations, folks in this category work from wherever they are using whatever equipment they have available. They cannot even assume a consistent network connection. When compared to the experts, this category is substantially larger in terms of the number of people.

At the far end of the spectrum, are the casual users, people who have no clue what geospatial means, BUT, they certainly recognize a map when they see one! These folks are the ones who use maps to find something or get someplace. They are generally content to engage with a map in very rudimentary ways, such as, zoom in/out or get the directions from point A to point B. Of course, this category encompasses pretty much everyone else, making this an extremely large population of users.

Now, with these basic characterizations in mind, I would also like to mention briefly the typical interactions between and within the groups. Generally speaking, the experts have little, if any, interaction at all with the casual user. Experts create maps and geospatially enabled applications which are then published and made available to the casual user. The casual user typically finds what they need on the map and they move on with their life. So, we are going to call that type of interaction ‘publish and go’. Within the casual group, there may be some simple sharing of information, for instance, sending someone a link to directions, however, again, the interaction is usually simple and one way. There are very few cases where the casual user interacts back with the expert.

The more interesting interactions happen between the experts and the intermediate users. Quite often, the intermediate users serve as data collectors. Take for example, a first responder arriving to the scene of a disaster and finding a bridge missing, this information needs to be made available to the experts so the geospatial databases and products can be updated to reflect reality. In addition, teams of users can be brought together, intermediates and experts alike, to collaborate. This form of interaction allows for better analysis of a situation, leading to better decisions being made.

Within this basic context, for my next entry, I will begin to focus on sharing models for geospatial information with a closer look at online/offline formats and a few important security considerations.

Until next time……

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