What is Blended GIS Data?
Winters: “For every minute I spend or we spend or members of this community spend, how do we maximize our impact? This idea that if you are controlling every bit of the GIS data you need to get your job done, you’re probably doing something wrong! You have to rely on other people’s expertise in their lane, doing what they’re best at, and now I’m going to rely on that. Whether that’s another government agency, a commercial provider, or even crowdsourced data from the public, there are certain slices that we’re best at and there are certain slices that others are best at.”
Blended data simply means using a mix of data from different sources; public, commercial, and government. The advantage of a blended data model is it saves a significant amount of time and effort by sourcing data from other sources rather than having to produce it in-house. Additionally, it can help cover for gaps in your company’s data where it might be too expensive or otherwise inaccessible through traditional imagery sources. Oftentimes when commercial data comes through a licensing agreement. The specifics of what rights and protections licensed data has depends on the individual license, but there are several main types that are consistently available such as creative commons.
As a result of the vast amount of data and location information being gathered as part of routine operations in both government and commercial work, there is much more non-governmental imagery that exists on the market. The potential to use commercial imagery to supplement other sources is huge. Data providers have begun to add data to their software licenses to improve their product and because of that your company might already be using blended data!
The Acceleration of Commercial GIS Data
Johnson: “These big internet companies decided to make huge investments in global mapping capabilities. All good maps used to be produced by government organizations… But that stuffs all pretty much gone and people are relying on the maps they get on their phone from Google and Apple and others, so there’s been that whole surge of investment in mapping data from the big internet companies. And now we’re seeing this whole internet of things, Cisco is big in the internet of things where there are sensors all over the place. The car companies are all making huge investments in very detailed data along the roadways for autonomous vehicles. The quality, the volume, the richness of these data sets is growing at a phenomenal pace. We’re not having to ask if data is available, in almost every case you can think of its like ‘what’s the best of the data out there?’”
The data environment is shifting radically towards commercial data. With more data available than ever before, it makes less sense to create all of your data in-house. Sourcing data from outside the company is a much more viable alternative than in the past and government agencies and companies should embrace the change. Whether the data is just used to fill in gaps or completely replace swathes of data, blended data is the way forward.
The applications of this massive volume of data are nearly endless. With more and better data technology can be improved and refined, but only by bringing together data from multiple sources can we effectively make use of this new resource.
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