View all newsletters
Receive our newsletter - data, insights and analysis delivered to you
  1. Technology
January 22, 1989


By CBR Staff Writer

The term Geographic Information Systems conjures up romantic visions of faraway places with strange-sounding mountains and valleys and a general wealth of exotic topology – but the truth of the matter is rather more prosaic. Users of the systems are much more concerned about where a sewer has been laid and whether the gas man’s new deep-bore pipeline is suddenly going to break through into the tunnel being excavated for a new tube line than in the exact height of a peak in the Pennines or the precise roll of a fold in the downs. And as more and more organisations find themselves forced to dig holes in the road or build tunnels rather than lay yet more of surburbia waste under new roads, the information collected by the intrepid geographic informers is becoming more and more valuable. Now an association has been formed to foster promote their study and their capabilities, and Katy Ring and Helen Matson were in at the birth – and the government dispatched the energetic Colin Moynihan to wave the flag – and he demonstrated how valuable the work of the new association was going to be by applying a derivative of its work to find his way to the inauguration.

In an effort to articulate the interests of the UKP50m per year Geographic Information Systems sector of the British economy, the Association for Geographic Information has been established to work for common standards in the industry, and to disseminate information and experience throughout the Geographical Information community (CI No 1,097). Geographical Information is used to manage assets that are geographically distributed, to plan marketing, or to assist in decisions on where to locate business activity. Reservoir For example, if chemical waste was to get into a reservoir, this type of system could quickly pinpoint the likely source of the leakage, suggest the best diversion for the contaminated water, and trace the consumers who would be affected. In the UK, expenditure on geographic systems is forecast to grow at about 25% in the next five years with utilities and local authorities viewed as the biggest spenders, followed by central government and commercial organisations. In particular, the soon to be privatised water and electricity organisations are seen as major users of this type of technology for the efficient use and maintenance of their distribution network assets, which are to be closely monitored under government tariff controls. Other applications for such information include the much-publicised Autoguide, an on-board digital map system computer which will enable drivers to read off the the best route for a car to follow to their chosen destination, taking into account the traffic conditions and other varying factors. (Indeed, one was successfully used by the perky Hon Colin Moynihan, dimunitive Minister for Sport, to reach the Association’s launch.) One would think from all this that prospects for the Geographical Information community were rosy, particularly as the OS 88 specification for digitising large-scale Ordnance Survey maps has just been published, which means that the UK will be digitised by 1992. There are, however, two large problems facing its newly formed Association. Firstly, there are difficulties surrounding the dissemination of data necessary to create the databases which can be exploited by the Geographical Information Systems toolkit. The Population Census, for example, offers a whole range of spatially-related data which, if referenced in a suitable form, would be of great use in such a system, as would data from the Land Registry, the Department of Trade & Industry, and the Department of Employment. In his speech at the Association’s first public meeting, Lord Chorley suggested that such information could be sold to interested parties at a profit. In terms of public opinion, however, this would be feasible only if the information released was of such a general nature that there would be no risk of a breach of confidentiality. Thus there is still a conflict of interests between considerations of confidentiality and how illuminat

ing the data data gleaned in the light of such considerations can be. Further, there is an acute shortage of trained people, at all levels, who would know what to do with such information if it were made available in a sufficiently detailed and referenced form. The Association is of the opinion that funding offered by bodies like the Economic and Social Research Council for the research and development of geographic information systems in higher education, will gradually lead to knowledge filtering down to further and secondary education. Such a long term and vague policy seems symptomatic of the newly-formed Association’s general lack of direction and identity as a lobby that will solve user problems. No doubt aware of these shortcomings, Mike Brand, the Director of Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland, and a leading Association member, declared that the Association would not allow the Geographic Information community to be hijacked by a single interest group, or by big computer companies.

Anxious For a body sponsored by names like IBM, DEC, ICL, Intergraph, McDonnell Douglas Information Systems and Prime Computer, and which is also anxious to gain access to government sponsored data, the pursuit of that aim alone is likely to keep the Association busy in the near future! For those interested in joining, membership rates range from UKP2,500 for a sponsor, through to a sum of UKP250 for corporate bodies, down to UKP30 for salaried individuals, UKP15 for the those with no visible means of support.

Content from our partners
<strong>How to get the best of both worlds in the hybrid cloud</strong>
The key to good corporate cybersecurity is defence in depth
Cybersecurity in 2023 is a two-speed system
Websites in our network
Select and enter your corporate email address Tech Monitor's research, insight and analysis examines the frontiers of digital transformation to help tech leaders navigate the future. Our Changelog newsletter delivers our best work to your inbox every week.
  • CIO
  • CTO
  • CISO
  • CSO
  • CFO
  • CDO
  • CEO
  • Architect Founder
  • MD
  • Director
  • Manager
  • Other
Visit our privacy policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.