tion Agency. The scenarios and examples in the report illustrate the exciting opportunities opening up as research enhances the accessibility and usability of geospatial information. The recommendations for research investments were derived from suggestions presented at a workshop (details are available in the Preface and in Appendix B), white papers submitted by workshop participants, and input from several outside experts.
Imagine a world in which geospatial information is available to all who need it (and who have permission to use it) in a timely fashion, with a user friendly interface and (if wanted) integrated in a real-world context. As the volume of geospatial data (geodata) increases by several orders of magnitude over the next decade, so will the potential for corresponding advances in knowledge of our natural world and in our ability to react to the changes taking place. The information distilled from these data will enable more productive environmental and social science, better business decisions, more effective urban and regional planning and environmental management, and better-informed policy making at all levels, from the local to the global.
The evolution of location sensing, mobile computing, and wireless networking is creating a new class of computing. Location-aware computing systems behave differently according to the user’s location. They operate either spontaneously (e.g., warning of a nearby hazard) or when activated by a user request (e.g., where is the nearest police station?). Sensors that record their location and some information about the surrounding environment (e.g., temperature and humidity) are being deployed to monitor the state of roads, buildings, agricultural crops, and many other objects. For example, Smart Dust sensors (devices that combine microelectromechanical sensors with wireless communication, processing, and batteries into a package about a cubic millimeter in size) can be deployed along remote mountain roads to determine the velocity and direction of passing vehicles or can be attached to animals to record where they travel. The data transmitted wirelessly in real time from such location-sensing devices are growing not only in volume but also in complexity. Advances in location-aware computing could greatly affect how geospatial data are acquired, how and with what quality they can be delivered, and how mobile and geographically distributed systems are designed.
Our ability to generate new geospatial data already outpaces our ability to organize and analyze them. To address this situation, the technologies for geospatial databases and data mining must advance as well. Integration of geospatial data is problematic owing to the myriad formats,