Frontiers of Geographic Information Technology

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In addition, because of a strong interdisciplinary nature of Geovisualisation, only a separate book can possibly summarise all the developments thoroughly.

For example, there is a vast litera- 22 Frontiers of Geographic Information Technology ture on cartography involving the principles of map making, projection, coordinate systems, non-geographic mapping i. A number of textbooks have been written on these topics e. History of Geographic Information analysis tools Geographic information analyses range from simple map overlays for studying contour patterns to sophisticated software-hardware systems for numerical modelling.

The stage of analysis comes after data collection hence traditionally most data analyses have been done using laboratory based tools although some modern portable computers are robust and lightweight enough to be equally useful in field conditions.

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There is however, a slight overlap between what can be regarded as data collection tool and data analysis tool. In many cases, a tool can serve the purpose of both creating and analysing data. For example, an ordinary ruler can be used both to make and analyse contour maps.

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Typically, such a multipurpose tool has the characteristic that it can only analyse the data if it is in the format it is capable of producing itself. This logic applies to most geometrical e. Arguably, the output of an analysis is also some form of data. However, in the latter case, the output geographic information is more interpretation and less numbers.

Despite the subtle overlap, it can be suggested that computers, as the geographic information analysis tools, have defined the horizons of GI analysis. This observation links back to the proposal mentioned at the beginning of the chapter that the state of GI hardware pretty much dictates the type and accuracy of the possible GI analyses.

Thus, a brief overview which is by no means an exhaustive and strictly chronological of the developments of computing is relevant. As discussed in the section on history of geographic information collection tools, the earliest records of geographic information collection come from the Babylonians and Egyptians.

The datasets were mostly land surveys, astronomical charts and census datasets. The analysis of these datasets was done manually with the help of tables and charts. It was also mostly number crunching.

Bibliographic Information

Such a manual comparisons based analytical approach remained in use for a long time until the development of the mechanical and automated means for calculations. One of the earliest known forms of a numerical calculation tool is the abacus. The oldest surviving form of abacus is the stone Salamis tablet ca. During the middle ages by ca.

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The first calculating machine was invented by Blaise Pascal in although it is also believed that Leonardo Da Vinci and William Schikard had created designs of a similar machine long before Pascal. Age: BC b Map of warring states carved on a wooden board, China. Age: ca. Age: e Box Camera by Fox Talbot. Age: i Automated Mapping Systems. Age: Post Figure 1. A timeline of events that links the various Geovisualisation technologies.

These arithmetic engines were mechanical and worked by means of cranks and gears. One of the significant deliverables of the Babbage era was the punch card, instrumental in the US census, which used electro-mechanical tabulators for data input. This event also marked the origin of the computing giant IBM, whose co-founder Hermann Hollerith was the major contractor of these tabulator machines.

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Even today IBM makes a substantial chunk of revenues by processing government back-office jobs and data mining. Hence it deserves a separate paragraph. Electric valves could be switched on and off thus corresponded to the 1s and 0s called bits of the Boolean logic.

Geographic Information Systems as a Career

Atanasoff and Clifford Berry developed a bit adder device based on electronic valves. Geographic Information Technologies — An Overview 27 a The Salamis Tablet: The oldest counting board, made of marble, has a large crack across the middle.

Geographic Information Systems and the Law: Mapping the Legal Frontiers

Some milestones in the computing hardware. Colossus was in fact used to crack the Lorenz code to understand the functioning of the Enigma machine. First, in William B. Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter H.


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The development of computer has been well documented therefore it will serve little purpose to dwell further on the miniaturisation and performance of computing technology. Starting from the humble and hugely oversized beginnings of light valves, computers are now literally everywhere. In fact, for certain processes e. It is quite ironical that many crises have been the focal point and causes of several technological innovations. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. Today, the extent and enthusiasm of Internet and WWW have reached feverish pitch. Internet and WWW offers something for everyone; governments can save money and time by providing e-governance, customers get significant discounts with online purchase as the online sellers pass on the savings from avoiding overhead costs, big universities can increase the revenues by providing distance learning and so on.

In GI technology, internet played a key role in attracting attention to distributed computing to wider public. The idea of distributed geo-computing has been brewing for some time. The early ideas in early—mid s, focussed mainly around experimenting the capabilities of parallel processing in computer networks to share Geographic Information Technologies — An Overview 29 Figure 1. However, these ideas remain limited to large institutions with access to super computer facilities and such large networks.

In , Miron Livny realised that the vast number of networked computers in large organisations e. He 10 developed the Condor software system to utilise the CPU of these idle processors for scientific computing. The SETI servers delegate the processing and distribute data amongst several computers around the world in this way.

However, this is set to change with the national initiatives by several international research funding agencies to promote the latest concept in computer networking called the grid computing networks. The grid computing networks are essentially a form of parallel, heterogeneous, distributed computing, whereby new types of networking protocols are being used to not only share the computational load but also to link up with data sensors and other resources into a single network.

Thus grid computing is here to stay for some time and it might just be possible that a researcher based in UK can do an experiment using a software model based in the Europe and data based in the USA. These are clearly exciting possibilities, of course only once we have passed the hurdles of data standards, licensing, privacy and above all human indifference.

Therefore, a lot is at stake in these recent initiatives as it is uncommon to see such a massive financial support for research and development of infrastructure. Therefore, the flow of data has relatively been more restricted compared to the flow of hardware technologies. In addition to the obvious strategic reasons for this irregular flow, accurate data collection requires training and an attitude to details.

These qualities are not always transferable. While one could perhaps construct the history of geographic information by following the history of geographic information collection tools, we decided to dedicate a small separate section to highlight some influential individuals and events, otherwise remain unnoticed in the massive history of GI technology.

The earliest well documented geographic information were the cadastral, astronomical, civil engineering and census types of information by the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians. In Asia, at this time the Chinese recorded similar information but also a great deal also on physiography of natural landscapes e. In ancient Greece and Roman cultures, census played a crucial role in their respective democracies but the Greeks particularly excelled in cartography and map projections.

The medieval period observed little progress in the original geographic information concepts explorers and remained so until the late 18th — early 19 th century however the knowledge of geographic information concepts spread far a field by the Arab and European explorers. In , Thomas F. The establishment of these mapping agencies started off the era of regular and widespread collection of administrative and natural resources mapping. This century also started off the collection of socio-economic geographic information. The first modern census in Britain took place in , which consisted of just five questions and counted 10 million people the population of London in was roughly 7 million living in two million households.

At first, aerial photographs were used for reconnaissance but later they found their most important and wide use in forest mapping. Then came, satellite imagery initially only in visible wavelengths and later in multi-spectral bands. The time difference between the transmission and collection of radio waves could be used to calculate the distance to approaching aircraft.

Finally, until the last decades, it was almost impossible to assign a sense of collection time and surroundings to the field data records as they could only be at best shown with a set of static images and observations. However, now the advancement in digital electronics and computer software has made it possible to not only capture streaming video, sounds, images but also to embed them within the Geovisualisation interfaces. While the above summary provides a brief overview of the key events related to the history of the various geographic information types, it is also interesting to note 32 Frontiers of Geographic Information Technology Figure 1.

Census return by Queen Victoria in the s. Clearly, the bulk of the geographic information format history is based around the digital era. In order to trace some key developments in the history of geographic information formats it is convenient to follow the classical divisions in geographic information, namely the vector and raster data types as these data types evolved fairly independently.

Frontiers of Geographic Information Technology

The geographic information formats were influenced by the data structures in computer science therefore a thorough review of geographic information format requires a treatment Geographic Information Technologies — An Overview 33 Figure 1. There are mainly three types information stored in a geographic information, namely the geographic information, attribute information and display information.

The geographic information as the name suggests includes the geometrical data about geographic features, attribute information provides non-graphic information associated with the geographic features, and finally the display information describes how to show the geographic features on the screen. At present, there are bewildering numbers of commercial and non-commercial geographic information formats being used around the world. The following descriptions mention only the most widely used types. The principles of vector data formats have been around for a longer time than the raster data formats for the reason that the vector data format relate well to the construction of general graph data structures and hence to the fundamental geospatial relations such as topology, attributes, attribute linkages, database structures, and display information.

The earliest vector formats to store spatial data structures were the ones used for computer-aided design CAD.

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