The implications of the ten-year lag of geotechnologies

If we take the lag of geotechnologies behind mainstream computing as a common feature of this type of technology, there are quite interesting conclusions that can be drawn in terms of developing new applications and products. For example, it can help in predicting when certain technology will be ready for wide application in the geographical field.

Here is an example: very recently, Jakob Nielsen reported that he was positively surprised with the quality of reading from the Amazon Kindle 2, and that this is leading him to withdraw his conclusion that the efficiency of reading from a computer screen is low.

I’ve written about the problem of computer monitor resolution and the use of small screens for urban navigation – such as the use of maps for tourism where you would like to have a map that gives you a wider context of your area than the ‘tunnel vision’ that is provided on today’s mobile phones.

So here is my guess: in about 10 years, Kindle 10, or whatever its equivalent at that point, will be a suitable platform for delivering clever maps that can be as effective as paper maps. That means that if you are in the business of creating maps that will be used on these devices, you should start exploring how best to deliver them in about 5 years.

I can also guess that it will be more energy hungry, wasteful and way too expensive when compared to the paper tourist maps of today, but the prediction is about technology – not about what I think about its use…


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Professor of GIScience, University College London

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