Posted by: oheb | July 5, 2007

Technology Keynote – Information Modeling

Weds: 8.30am
Scott Morehouse
ESRI Executive – Software Development

Scott Morehouse, long bearded and clearly very intelligent, gave a Technical Keynote today on Information Modeling.

GIS is an information system, it takes real-world things and creates an abstracted representation of those things. Although they are abstracted, we can apply those representations to the real-world in order to better understand it.

So how did GIS get to where it is today? And where is it going?

Before computers there were Nautical Charts, and Topographic Maps, which provided the precursors for many common GIS concepts. There was also the tile based delivery of imagery, such as the taping together of 9”x9” air photos.

Then came the computer, and these well established geographic models had to be transposed to the digital environment. At first the software was I/O based; you put in an input, performed an action on that input, and received an output. It then moved to an Object-Oriented model, where objects had behaviours, and relationships to other objects. That model was then integrated into RDBMS systems. It all still does the same thing as a Topo map, but in a very different way.

Not yet. But the next generation of applications is using the web as an output for its representations. The web does many things well (searching, disseminating, messaging, facilitating collaboration, and dealing with tons of unstructured information), and new applications will have to take advantage of these things, and find ways around what the web doesn’t do well (information security, and structured information).

ESRI is looking at these emerging issues, and some of the things that Scott’s division is working on are:

  • Cataloguing / Tagging
  • geoRSS messages (geoTagging)
  • Semantic Networks and Ontologies
  • Integration with Business Intelligence systems


  1. I’m imagining GIS was not only started for the purpose of navigation, but for territorial purpose. Now it seems politically powerful. It’s a little scary sometimes and coupled with the mighty camera must require lots of self-discipline to curb curiosity or abuses of power or privacy. Hope the’powers that be’ are ethical.

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