Clearly, three dimensional (3D) representations of objects, especially urban built environments, are becoming a mainstream deliverable for both professional and public audiences. There were companies offering 3D visualisation delivered as cloud-based hosted data with web viewers for internal or public use. There were several demonstrating dynamic integration between desktop CAD software, GIS and web platforms. Software vendors included the well known international brands but also many unfamiliar German and European companies.
Obviously, if you are going to represent objects in three dimensions you need data to support the object models. The second major theme of the exhibition apparent to me was the range of vehicles to collect imagery and LiDAR, or perform laser scanning. These vehicles came in all sorts of shapes and sizes from light aircraft, cars and vans fitted with elaborate mounted units; to purpose-built, all terrain cars and then the full gamut of model-sized vehicles. I saw fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, hovering wings, even a boat that collected sonar. Some of these vehicles were guided remotely and others were programmed. Obviously the human operated cars and vans could efficiently gather imagery over large areas (a la Google Streetview). Most model sized vehicles were designed for collecting data in hard to reach places (such as canals, power pole inspections, crop monitoring or landscape change detection). It seems to me there is an avalanche of high resolution data coming that will also include dimensions of time and elevation (or depth). From a GIS perspective, we have to consider how best to manage, analyse and communicate with these data.
The German government is keen to foster innovation and was a major sponsor of the fair. The exhibit had a very interesting open GIS section that highlighted open GIS resources and the small companies leveraging these. These vendors and the larger companies all seemed to offer access to OpenStreetMap. Clearly, OpenStreetMap is increasingly recognised as a legitimate and reliable map base, especially in Europe. In Australia the extent of detailed coverage by OpenStreetMap is generally limited to major cities. However, when you consider the expansion of OpenStreetMap in the last few years, there is no doubting that its general use is becoming more pervasive. ‘Official’ providers of spatial data have to consider how their offerings can add more value to the market place.