Google and the future of GIS Professionalism

Allpoint’s points out a computerworld article reviewing the raging debate.

Sounds a lot like the debate over the role of professional journalists in the blogosphere.

Shade Tree GIS Mechanics
Dangermond’s question “Who wants to dig a hole and run into a pipe?” struck close to home. I was planning on planting a tree in the back yard a couple of years ago. After calling the water, electric, telephone a cable TV companies, each came out with detectors and marked on the ground where their utilities were. All these utilities have GIS, yet they did not add them to their map. I planted a tree in a safe spot. A few months later, when I wanted to plant large bush, the orange spray paint they marked our lawn with had faded away. Now that Google has released My Maps , I could almost add the utility locations myself. If it were on-line, the utility company would even be able to link to it.

I say “almost” because google is missing the most basic data layer for homeowners: parcels. Since parcels are in the public domain, I suspect some day (soon?) google will hav those too. When that day comes I will be able to measure how far from the property line the pipe/cables/conductors are and digitize them into my maps.

But what about Analysis?
GIS analysis gets a lot of attention, but currently most work revolves around just keeping track of where things are. Nevertheless I suspect the debate will become more heated as Google adds analytical capabilities to their web mapping apps.

I’m not a Google pagerank expert, but their “page rank algorithm including a dampening factor” sure looks like those adjacency matrices could be harnessed to do some cool GIS analysis.

After all, ranking how close things are to each other is the foundation of geographic analysis (see Toblers first law of Geography). I think it is only a matter of time until Google tweaks their search engine to search geographic space with the same ease as they search text space.

What if Google indexed parcels nationwide? Advertisers would likely be willing to pay money to appear next to parcel search results. Most large cities already provide web access to parcel databases, often with map interfaces. I bet people would like to request alerts like this: Send me a list of all parcels about to be foreclosed on that are more than 1 mile but less than 3 miles from a major freeway and within 2 miles of an elementary school ranked “acceptable” or better based on the NCLB test scores.

Can Google Maps Save us from Recession?
The big drop in the stock market last week supposedly was a result of fears about mortgage defaults. Once houses in a neighborhood start being foreclosed upon, there can be a snowball effect. As the foreclosures drag down house values, more homeowners become under water – with debt exceeding assets, in turn causing more foreclosures. It could be argued that more efficient search engines are needed to expedite the marketing of foreclosed properties. So therefore it would be in the interest of an appraisal district to collaborate with Google.


3 comments so far

  1. jxn on

    i know this post is old, but saying parcels are public domain is retarded. try getting them across the country.

  2. Kirk Kuykendall on

    I’m not sure about the rest of the country, but here in Texas there is something called the Open Records Act.

    Texas is not normally on the cutting edge when it comes to openness, so I bet other states have something similar. At any rate, my point is that it’s in a District’s best interest to be open in order to help minimize the time-on-market for houses under foreclosure. Oversupply drives down valuations reducing tax revenue.

  3. Geo on

    Parcels, depending on the municipality that you live in maybe open to the public. However, If you have ever looked at digital parcels you will soon realize that they are not survey quality. They are mere cartoon copies of metes and bounds.

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