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Editor's Points: Cloud Contemplations

February 24, 2011
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Not long ago, if someone said you had your head in the clouds, they likely would have been calling you a daydreamer, someone who is out of touch with reality. These days, however, the word “cloud” carries a different connotation. In fact, keeping your head in the clouds is likely to be a good thing.

First are the point clouds--that vast otherworld of scan data that is increasingly impinging on the traditional data landscape. In fact, as Sam Pfifle of SPAR Point Group notes in his article, software advances are making it easier than ever to create new and better deliverables from point clouds as well as integrate and manipulate point cloud data in various platforms. ( See “Eyeing the Point Clouds” ) Those who think point clouds aren’t relevant to their line of work will find them increasingly difficult to ignore as laser scanning goes mainstream--a trend that is expected to occur sooner rather than later.

Even the average homeowner may eventually demand 3D maps of their property corners. Don’t think so? Kurt Okraski, CEO of the geospatial services firm Vertical Mapping Resources, is quite certain that traditional two-dimensional topographic maps are quickly becoming outdated. “One day we will all work in a digital rendering or recreation of a true 3D environment,” he says. ( See “Street Smart” ) With a host of new 3D TVs, laptops, tablets and smartphones being developed and the 3D entertainment market expected to grow exponentially in the next few years, the idea isn’t far-fetched. 3D is likely to become the norm for both consumers and professionals.

Then there is “the cloud,” the enigmatic, multifaceted data repository that is fueling an explosion of new Web applications. Large corporations are leading the way, but they’re not the only ones taking advantage of cloud technology. In fact, some of the most innovative approaches are being pursued by small and mid-sized firms. This month’s Big Picture article highlights one such company that has a vision for a new paradigm in geospatial data sourcing. I always enjoy having the opportunity to glean insights from entrepreneurs, and my interview with Mike Tully, president and CEO of Aerial Services Inc. and the new SpatialCloud.com, was no exception ( click here ). Tully believes a mass move to the cloud is inevitable, and it’s easy to see his point of view. Why invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in storage infrastructure if you can save money and streamline your processes by using only the services you need when you need them? And doesn’t it seem reasonable for a geospatial services company to leverage its data beyond the traditional single-client deliverables? Fears about reliability, accessibility and security are unfounded, Tully says. In fact, the biggest hurdle is simply understanding the potential.

So if you’re having trouble envisioning how these advanced technologies might fit into your business model, don’t dismay. Just keep your head in the clouds. After all, a vivid imagination will undoubtedly be invaluable in the emerging enterprise.

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