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Special Events > Technology Possibilities


Forum Name: "Imagining Possibilities: The Next Frontier for Geographic Information Technology"

When:   June 1, 2006 - 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Where:  Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey Center, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.


Summary Materials

Summarized Forum materials can be accessed below:

  • Click here for the detailed forum summary report (56 pages – 0.32 mb).  (Note: This file does not include the Appendices listed below, which have been set up for separate downloading due to their larger file sizes)  
  • Program Transition Slides (Appendix B – 0.18 mb)
  • Keynote Speaker slide presentations:
    • Michael Liebhold, Senior Researcher, Institute for the Future (Appendix C – 0.28 mb)
    • Clint Brown – Director of New Product Release for ESRI [Environmental Systems Research Institute] (Appendix D– 13.1 mb)
    • Michael Reichardt – President, Open Geographic Consortium (Appendix E– 7.7 mb)
    • Professor Ian Masser – Spatial Data Infrastructures (Appendix F– 0.4 mb)


Event Purpose

1. Identify a range of technology possibilities related to enhancing the sharing of and effectively using geospatial data and information important to the day-to-day operations of the organizations that comprise the MetroGIS community.  


2. Frame discussion for MetroGIS’s Strategic Directions Workshop planned for late fall 2006. 

Following the four forum keynote addresses, an hour-long panel session was held to explore the “big ideas” in more depth to ensure a clear understanding in preparation for discussion of preferences and options to guide MetroGIS into its second decade of fostering collaborative solutions to common geospatial information needs.  While MetroGIS has successfully implemented several regional solutions to common information needs, solutions for several others have yet to be identified.  A leadership adequately informed about possibilities will be critical to effectively answering the question, should MetroGIS’s focus be on maintaining what has been built or embrace new challenges?


Overview of Event

Nearly 250 individuals attended this event.  It was designed around the four keynote speakers listed above, who are respected nationally and internationally within the geospatial community.  They were invited to share their visions of capabilities that will exist within the next five years related to/as a result of geographic information technology.

Together, the four keynote speakers provided an amazing diversity of perspectives and “big ideas” regarding several aspects of the future of geographic information technology – the tools and applications themselves, standards needed to fully capitalize on the technology, and organizational structures needed to fully capitalize on the technology. 

Some of the “big ideas” they shared included:

  • GeoWeb – Locating information via Internet will increasingly be by way of maps, as opposed to by content (URL), and the GIS community will play an increasingly important role in the evolution of the Internet as an information and knowledge sharing resource.
  • “First person geography” and the “Tricorder” vision -- Location based services, capable of accessing and integrating a wide range of data for a particular “place,” will allow people to increase their standard of living and be more efficient with resources because they will have information currently invisible to apply in real-time use during their day-to-day activities.
  • Wide adherence to agreed upon standards, not only pertaining to data content but also to applications and access protocol, is critical to realizing “Tricorder” vision – common view of the Earth. 
  • Entrepreneurial investment can play an increasingly important role as a partner to meet application needs of government but to do so, restrictive data access policies must be revisited (e.g., investigate Australian model of public domain geospatial data funded via deed recording fee).
  • A large shift toward producing products and services for non-specialist users and opportunities for user-defined contributions has begun requiring Web interfaces, data content, and data descriptions to be more user friendly/intuitive if they are to become/remain “go to” sites.
  • To ensure harmony, yet respect diversity, more inclusive models of stakeholder governance will increase.
  • Collaborative solutions to common geospatial-related needs that have already been achieved in the seven-county, Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area are as good as it gets anywhere and, as such, this area is well positioned to take advantage of the geospatial technology advances on the horizon. 

This event was hosted by:

  • MetroGIS,
  • Mn GIS/LIS Consortium,
  • University of Minnesota,
  • MN Office of Geographic and Demographic Analysis,
  • Governor’s Council on Geographic Information,
  • Metropolitan Council,
  • Mn Chapter of GITA. 

MetroGIS served as the lead sponsor because its leadership had recognized the need for a glimpse into next-generation capabilities of geospatial technology before launching, later in 2006, an initiative to update the Business Plan that guides MetroGIS’s efforts.

Satisfaction with the Forum

1. Quote from William J. Craig regarding the “Imagining Possibilities” forum offered at the July 19, 2006 MetroGIS Policy Board meeting:

  • A superb event about the future of technology on individual lives, not just on the GIS world.
  • The best GIS event I've attended in the past 10 years
  • A coup for MetroGIS as the lead organization for planning this event
  • Excellent background material for MetroGIS as we move forward and plan our future for the next 10 years.

Craig is the Assistant Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota (co-sponsor of the forum), a charter member of the MetroGIS Coordinating Committee, and a Board member of the Mn Governors Council on Geographic Information and Mn GIS/LIS Consortium.

2. See Page 24 of the summary document for additional comments from participants.

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