Specialized Capabilities Put San Diego on the Geospatial Map

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a number of companies were working in the area,” Talreja says. “The startups and so forth are starting to increase.” Just from counting responses to an e-mail blast the software industry council sent last week, “there are easily 40 to 50 in the area,” Talreja says. (The GIS steering committee plans to hold its inaugural meeting at UC San Diego’s Computer Science and Engineering building at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 18)

One explanation could be the legacy expertise of the U.S. Navy in satellite-based global positioning technologies, as well as the development of location-based services for wireless devices at San Diego-based Qualcomm and other companies. ESRI, a world leader in GIS modeling and mapping software and technology is about a 2-hour drive up Interstate 15 in Redlands, CA. ESRI holds its international user conference annually in San Diego, with more than 14,000 people in attendance last year.

Local academic expertise also emerged in 2007, when researchers at San Diego State University’s Visualization Center led an effort to provide detailed, real-time images and data about the out-of-control wildfires raging through San Diego neighborhoods. The visualization center was established within SDSU’s Department of Geological Sciences, which has become increasingly proficient at collecting real-time information about natural disasters, using GIS technologies to combine the data, and making it available to the public over the Internet.

“GIS is gaining strength because it visualizes complex data and allows people to grasp ideas quickly,” Slapin says. “Just think of the traffic maps of [the] live freeway movement. It will become important in agriculture, pollution monitoring and fields we have not thought of yet. The big trick with all this stuff is how you get the diverse data sets into one useable data structure for display…The heavy lifting is done somewhere in the cloud.”

Talreja acknowledges that there are more GIS-related businesses in Silicon Valley than in San Diego. But he contends that the stage has been set for the same sort of transformation that occurred when cell phones became a ubiquitous and must-have consumer device. “This is definitely an area where we could be—if not No. 1, then at least No. 2.” Talreja says.

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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