Top Ten Geospatial Developments of 2015

Written by Matt Ball Published: 15 December 2015

In our regular end-of-the-year reflection, Sensors & Systems looks back over the past 12 months to come up with the top developments of 2015 that will have strong implications for geospatial industry growth and diversity in the coming years. Making the list are technology disruptions, acquisitions, modeling frameworks, mapping efforts and global change.

1. Google’s Mapping Effort Gets to Ten Years and Is Retooled — Early this year Google and their mapping efforts Google Maps and Google Earth eclipsed the ten-year mark. At the same time, they saw a number of high-profile mapping people leave and they decided to mothball their Google Earth Enterprise effort. The company has a lot of very interesting mapping assets however, and clearly mapping provides the platform for so much of what they do from local search to autonomous vehicles. We are watching and waiting for their next move.

2. Uber Acquires Map Talent — The international transportation network company, powered by a smartphone app and empowered by cloud-based technology, is hiring many mapping people. Uber hired Brian McClendon who ran Google’s mapping effort, and they recently hired Manik Bupta who had a product role at Google Maps. It will be interesting to see what technology comes from this mapping and transportation technology pairing.

3. Nokia Sells Here to Automobile Consortium — The sale of Nokia’s Here maps unit to the automaker consortium of Audi, BMW and Mercedes for $3 Billion, is another notable pairing of maps and transportation. The automakers relate the importance of precision maps for the future of mobility. The lidar sensors that Here has been using provide a very accurate map that we have yet to see in any sort of online mapping application. That may never be the end goal though as with this precision, they’re obviously interested for safety and navigation aspects of autonomous vehicles.

4. Significant Advancements in Virtual Reality — The emergence of high-resolution goggle-type headsets (Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s Hololens, among others) means that virtual reality is making leaps toward our living rooms. The likely first foray will be gaming and entertainment applications, but serious commercial platforms to extend virtual reality toward augmented reality are also coming online, such as the infrastructure-oriented DAQRI helmet. These empowering and immersive new devices will be huge consumers of maps and models, and it will be fascinating to see how they pair the two.

5. Smallsats Continue to Proliferate — The number of Silicon Valley-based smallsat providers just got bigger with the addition of Hera Systems. This newest player has plans for affordable high-resolution imagery with a constellation of nine one-meter resolution satellites in October 2016 with plans to expand to 48 satellites with imaging technology licensed from NASA. This joins Planet Labs and Google SkyBox as one more credible player that will drive down imagery cost and increase the exploitation of imagery insight, with a focus on information and analytics.


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