A fourth GeoWeb conference wrapped up in Vancouver last week and, once again, there were many strong presentations by both invited speakers and track presenters. In general, I think there was both growing acceptance of “GeoWeb” as a thing, as well as much debate on just what that thing might be. Noticeably gone was any debate on the utility of GML, or about crowd sourced geo-data which, I think, all reflects a maturation of the GeoWeb idea. At the same time, however, I found myself wanting several times to “correct” one speaker or another as they moved to hi-light why geo was important, or why such-and-such was a geo problem. While I had no quibbles with what they were saying, it struck me that the sharing aspect was at least as important, or perhaps even more so, than the “geo” aspect. Of course, it is the common world – the “geo” part – that we all inhabit and that necessitates, and drives, the sharing; but much of the technologies we need to put in place are really about the sharing side.
It is also interesting to look at this in terms of so called “Smart” technologies. Being smart about more or less anything – whether it is Smart Grids in the electrical domain, or smart asset management for potable and waste water management – surely means to use information (in part geographic) from many sources in order to better manager our interaction with the world. This is the very essence of GeoWeb. Think of us all building a series? collection? of parallel smart systems: smart systems for aviation; smart systems for environmental monitoring; smart buildings with green roofs, solar roofs, and wind-driven ventilation; smart Grids for electrical power generation and distribution. We might build these as separate, independent systems, OR we might start thinking of these as integrated systems (at least architecturally) that share some common standards, protocols and technology. This way we can try to avoid creating yet another layer of non-interoperable stove pipes and start moving in the direction of a global web of interconnected systems that make for smarter management of our interaction with the world. This way we can move even further toward the GeoWeb.