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Converging at ASPRS

Mark Alonzo

The theme of the recent annual conference of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) in Baltimore was "Confluence by the Bay--A Gathering of Geospatial Insights."  Per the conference organizers, the theme was chosen to highlight the synergy of ideas among the geospatial professionals in attendance, and the convergence of recent advances in imaging and geospatial analysis.  Given the need for today's resource-constrained geospatial analysts to solve complex problems with less and more quickly, the objectives put forth by this year's ASPRS conference were appropriate and well timed.

The confluence theme running throughout the ASPRS proceedings was clearly illustrated by examples of convergence between the remote sensing and Geographic Information Science (GIS) disciplines.  Many technical session topics featured a similar principle:  to derive the most comprehensive intelligence products from geospatial data, one must perform both image processing tasks and GIS analysis--to inform a decision with perspectives gleaned from both vector and raster data sources.  This dual-perspective approach marks the progression of a new geospatial analysis paradigm:  an era of new technological linkages that create unprecedented opportunities to solve complex problems using geospatial data, regardless of its source.

This new paradigm, fueled by an increasing abundance of geographic information, requires geospatial professionals to be proficient in the integration of available technology to effectively synthesize multiple data sources, and create comprehensive, multidimensional information that is timely, decisive, and meaningful.  Garnering the expertise and technology to meet this objective can be a challenge even under ideal circumstances, i.e. a period of financial prosperity that is conducive to unencumbered research and development.  Few of us have witnessed such conditions recently.  Even before the government sequestration action took effect for some of us, election-year politics and the financial symptoms of a recessionary hangover during the past couple of years created much economic uncertainty, put IT expenditures on hold, and yielded anything but fertile ground for technology incubation.

Despite slow economic times, technology innovation does carry on, and trade shows like ASPRS facilitate the exchange of information on which the geospatial industry relies to continue innovating.  Ironically, organizations facing economic headwinds often view the expense of attending industry trade shows as superfluous overhead, and subject the associated funds to discretionary cuts.  However, for those who are responsible for converting geographic data into meaningful information, whether it is for commercial, environmental, or defense-related purposes, participating in events that showcase cutting edge technology and methods is an invaluable aspect of their personal and professional development.  I personally saw people in attendance at ASPRS whose 2013 travel budgets had been eliminated; they chose to attend the event at their own expense.  These are the people who are motivated to be at the forefront of a changing geospatial industry; recognize the need to understand the implications and analysis opportunities presented by the convergence of remote sensing, GIS and enterprise computing technology; and value the networking and learning opportunities created by trade show events like ASPRS.  That the confluence of GIS and remote sensing technologies is activating innovation and participation among people, despite a governmental and economic headwind, is a positive sign for our industry.

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