Most companies are surprised to learn that most GIS software platforms are open source. Many managers are familiar with the open source disasters of a decade ago. University students put their software on the net. The objective was to show the large software companies see how well they could code. Others believed that all software should be free, like a book. Whatever reason the software was let loose on the web it created a president that made it possible for today's GIS systems to expand faster than their documentation.
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Many users are familiar with Open source GIS systems through web based maps and urban planning tools. They may even have some experience with weather mapping, urban sprawl, and wildlife tracking tools.
Few people are aware that GIS data and systems are used to reduce the risk to swat teams by creating 3-D images of buildings with the tools needed to add layers including gas and water lines, telephone, fiber optic lines, and risk factors that may have been unknown previously. Thanks to Open Source GIS systems an emergency clean up team may race to a toxic waste spill at a railroad, communicate with each other, while alerting local schools, fire departments of hot spots that need to be cleared out. They can alert a hospital to pending patience, and even send a map to the ambulance dispatch pinpointing their exact location.
Unlike earlier software platforms, the growth of GIS technology is 100% boosted by the fact that the software is open source. Developers from around the world can work on applications, improving and streamlining them. A developer in the Outback of Australia can solve an application problem as easily as a software expert in New York.
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It would be almost impossible to manage cities such as New York and Las Vegas without the urban planning, public safety, and population management software. Anyone, anywhere can make a spatially based query through a web browser.
These systems are ever evolving. An urban planning department can create an interface that allows the general public to report minor incidences. The user can choose the right department. The number of queries from a certain location, example 'where is the nearest soccer field' can determine where the next sports facility should be located. Or, more important, it might let municipal planners trace urban blight long before a ghetto is created and the crime rate rises.
Simple applications are similar to one used in Las Vegas. A person is robbed. They phone the police. The GIS based system identifies the cell tower, and uses the location to route the phone call to the right police department, whether in Las Vegas or Clark County.
GIS has made huge promises of technological advances that will change our lives within the next few years. The broader implications will go beyond decision-making and problem solving. Web based Open Source GIS platforms signal a revolution in how government and industry uses location data to improve citizen's services and strengthen internal infrastructures and operations.
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