Collaborating in geospatial context since 2000!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Future of GeoPDF

The market for mobile locative technologies is exploding, and I expect to see exponential growth in coming years. A friend wondered what role GeoPDF would play in this future, especially with dramatic increases in wireless bandwidth. Might GeoPDF be rendered quaint by the technologies that lie under things like google maps?

In a word, no.

There are critical roles that simply are not addressed by these technologies. Two that spring immediately to mind are grab-and-go and archiving.


My parents, sister, her family, and many friends from childhood live in Pensacola -- the place I grew up. Hurricane Ivan hit Pensacola and the Gulf Coast pretty hard, and, like thousands of other people, my folks were without power for days. Those guys busting chops overtime in the bucket trucks need stuff they can rely upon whether the net is up or not. As bad as it was for the Pensacola, the folks in and around the Indian Ocean had it much worse. In light of these disasters, what would having current snapshots of entire utilities networks distributed on laptops mean for reliability for stability for utilities? Seems like a no brainer, to me. First responders will need grab-and-go for decades. Warfighters will need grab-and-go for decades. But grab-and-go doesn't have to be strictly serious. Heck, I could see someone developing a grab-and-go GeoPDF app for geocaching. The possibilities are endless.


Anyone in AEC is familiar with as-builts -- documents of record that describe in technical detail how something was built -- and permitting. CAD systems are powerful design tools, but are too expensive and complicated to foist upon the owner and the much broader audience of people who would like to review the as-builts and permits. Plus, they don't readily provide facilities for tabular data (spreadsheets) and supporting documentation. This is likewise true of even the so-called free viewers. In addition, some things need to be published in a specified way with certitude. PDF, and thus GeoPDF, was designed with this as foremost consideration.

John Warnock envisioned PDF's role in both grab-and-go and archiving more than a decade ago in his The Camelot Project [PDF]:

One obvious application for the IPS viewer is in its use in electronic mail systems. Imagine being able to send full text and graphics documents (newspapers, magazine articles, technical manuals etc.) over electronic mail distribution networks. These documents could be viewed on any machine and any selected document could be printed locally. This capability would truly change the way information is managed. Large centrally maintained databases of documents could be accessed remotely and selectively printed remotely. This would save millions of dollars in document inventory costs.

Specific large visual data bases like the value-line stock charts, encyclopedias, atlases, Military maps, Service Manuals, Time-Life Books etc. could be shipped on CD-ROM's with a viewer. This would allow full publication (text, graphics, images and all) to be viewed and printed across a very large base of machines.

Hmmm... combining grab-and-go with archiving of current snapshots, and distributing that data through out your enterprise. Good idea? Good idea!

As I wrap this up, there is one more role that springs to mind: hacking. I just like messing with maps. When something happens in the world, I like to snarf the appropriate map, georegister it, and play around. How far is is from here to there? What's the latitude, Kenneth? Playing around with maps in this way leads to nifty ideas.

GeoPDF is going to be with us, in some form or another, for a good long while, methinks!


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