GIS round up - location and navigation takes off

Australians are currently downloading 18 million Whereis online maps a month, tripling the download figures in less than a year and indicating a massive growth in the GIS (geospatial information services) market.

Sensis Search general manager Greg Ellis believes that just about every search provider is chasing mapping content, with the integration of mapping and search evolving quickly.

"Advertising is becoming more and more localized. It's now about a buyer's ability to find your business - both online and physically," Ellis said.

"In this environment, location and navigation plays an increasingly critical role."

Mapping is also now moving beyond the Web, with the introduction in the last few months of wireless location and navigation services in WAP and Telstra's new iMode channel, as well as Sensis seeing the introduction of mapping capabilities to the Sensis 1234 voice service.

Sensis general manager of location services for Whereis, Chris Smith agrees that the GIS market has taken off in Australia, particularly from the handheld and portable side of things.

"I think a lot of large organizations are taking geospatial information services seriously, but it's viewed by most businesses as simply one of many tools," Smith said.

However, for Mapinfo sales director Asia Pacific David Ower, the GIS market is changing with Mapinfo preferring to focus on enterprise solutions.

"The benefits of GIS to the enterprise are beginning to be known. Businesses are now looking towards spatial information to solve business problems," Ower said.

"In fact, we now actually call it location intelligence, rather than GIS."

While Ower believes it's difficult to estimate how many users there are of the company's solutions, he has seen a much stronger demand over the past year for enterprise technology suites in this field.

"The traditional GIS market in terms of growth is moderate, but location intelligence is a much broader term and there is plenty of opportunity for adoption and growth in this area," Ower said.

Frost & Sullivan senior industry analyst, technology practice, Foad Fadaghi agrees the GIS market is going though a transformation and says many partnerships will be formed in this space in coming years.

"The market is not growing as fast in ad revenues as the search engine market, and I think over time companies like Sensis will merge with others," Fadaghi said.

"I think essentially GIS has been an SME activity in the past, as they spend a larger portion of money on GIS services than enterprise."

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