GIS in the Rockies: Increasing Geospatial Awareness Since 1989
The first GIS in the Rockies (GISITR) conference was held at Colorado State University in Fort Collins in 1989, when desktop mapping tools were starting to become mainstream and mobile mapping technology was still in its development phase.
Next week, the 26th annual GISITR event will be at the University of Denver with the theme "Local to Global: Geospatial on the Move." The emphasis this year is on communicating that the influence of geospatial-related activities is expanding into many fields, and that diverse types of people—from CEOs to elected officials—are familiar with and rely on geographic information for decision making.
The concept of “Local to Global” is central to the geospatial profession. At a local level, geospatial experts combine the available data, tools and science and create custom applications and solutions to meet business and societal needs in the immediate vicinity. These solutions are shared with others globally so they can customize it for their needs.
“The GIS community is very open to sharing tools, programs, skills and knowledge,” said Darcee Killpack, GISITR Board Member. “This helps us all leverage the opportunities presented by the growing demand for data, while at the same time ensuring that information is as correct and accurate as it needs to be for each application. Technology advancements are achieved locally but the community works to make them accessible globally.”
“Geospatial on the Move” is all about access to geospatial information via the Web and mobile devices. “There is a very broad appeal and growing demand for mobile apps, GPS in cars and mobile data collection from cars, airplanes and other means,” said Dave Watson, Chair of GISITR Planning. “At this year’s conference, there is more emphasis on applications and solutions moving to the Web than ever before.”
The rapid changes in technology can be hard to keep up with, particularly for small organizations or local government agencies, so opportunities to learn about important technology developments are important. Attendees at GISITR typically include representatives from local, state and federal government, the utilities industry, environmental services, land surveying professionals, the oil and gas industry, students, educational practitioners and retail and business marketing professionals.
“GISITR is for geospatial professionals to network, collaborate, learn about what is going on in the field and expand their knowledge of GIS,” Watson said. “It’s a great way to get out of the office and reinforce that you are part of a larger GIS community.”
The GISITR conference focuses on education and highlights how geospatial experts can produce the solutions that clients and the public need. “We as professionals are being expected to go in more directions, the demands are broader, so we have to increase our skill sets,” Watson said. “GIS is now just one part of the larger geospatial field. We are not working in a static environment.”
The shift from using the term GIS to geospatial is a reflection of the evolving definition and boundaries of what is included in the profession, but there is no doubt that there is growth and opportunity in many areas. There are 25 booths registered, representing a variety of commercial vendors, educational institutions and professional societies.
“GISITR has seen more diversity of vendors over the past five years, including big players in the market and also the little firms,” Killpack said. “There is increasing interest in using GIS in the Rockies as a platform for showcasing tools and solutions. It provides the opportunity to network with the decision makers of the profession.”
In addition to two days of educational sessions (Oct. 9-10) and numerous networking opportunities, GISITR holds a job fair to help attendees better understand today’s GIS employment environment and to give businesses the opportunity to make contact with job seekers.
One day prior to the conference, two workshops are offered by Rocky Mountain URISA for GISP credits. The full-day Asset Management workshop focuses on several aspects of developing an asset management system that helps to improve performance, reduce long-term costs and maximize return on investment in infrastructure assets. The half-day ModelBuilder workshop teaches participants how to create an analysis model that compares several different linear route features based on their relationship to the surrounding resources to determine the best way to get from point A to point B.
Next year’s GISITR conference will be held jointly with GeCo West in Grand Junction, Colo., Sept. 22-26, 2014. The change in location is intended to attract attendees and exhibitors from neighboring states, such as Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, to enhance the exchange of valuable information throughout the geospatial community.