Is the GIS Consultant Dead?

GIS Evolution

One question I get asked all the time is ‘How did CloverPoint manage to come out of the recession stronger than before?’ I always answer diversification, but in reality, I want to say unrelenting ambition, and an If-you-build-it-they-will-come outlook, but that sounds cheesy.
The truth about CloverPoint is this: we are no longer purely “GIS Consultants”, but shhh….don’t tell anybody.
As the longest standing employee of CloverPoint (other than Jeff Warwick – the head honcho) I have had the rare pleasure of participating in the company’s evolution from GIS analysis and cartography company to a full blown software development shop. We have come to realize that the power of spatial information is not solely in how it is stored, but how it is shared. GIS in the hands of the masses is a powerful tool that can bring social and economic change (as long as the ‘masses’ are not messing with my data!), but only if they are using it in an environment where they are comfortable, and inspired.
So, do I think the GIS consultant is dead? In short, no. These skills are still our core competencies at CloverPoint, and that will never change. There will always be a role for those who make maps and analyze/model data. The shift we ARE witnessing is GIS as a skill set instead of GIS as a career. It seems GIS applications are on everyone’s desk, tablet and mobile device. In just a few decades the technology has gone from Computer Mapping (70s), to Spatial Database Management (80s) and Map Analysis/Modeling (90s). The basement GIS consultant can still thrive supported by piecemeal government GIS Contracts, but a burgeoning IT company in the technically savvy capital city of BC has to be so much more.
So what does CloverPoint do now you ask? Well, we will save that for the next post…
And as for me – well, It has been a ride or die journey as I have had to carve out my own role in the wake of an economic recession, changing environment, and shifting economy, but in the end I am better for it, and I have the joy of waking up every morning, stoked to get on my bike and cruise to my office to hang out with my favourite group of geeks…
So, how has the GIS paradigm shift affected you? For the Better? Or for the Best?

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GeoAlberta – Connecting People Without Monitors

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My Coach (and Boss) Karl Swannie and I just got back from 3 days in the technology hotspot of Edmonton, AB where we partook in the 2011 GeoAlberta Conference – The Premier GIS and Geomatics Conference in Western Canada. The theme of the conference this year was “GIS Evolution: From Drafting to Dreaming” and for anyone familiar with CloverPoint’s history this title screamed for our attendance. We were blown away by the huge, captivated audience, but baffled by the lack of 3D integration. So, despite the fact that we had to fly on game nights (for all those Canuck Fans) the conference was a huge success. Some highlights for us were:

 Our Map Submission

CloverPoint, outside of the box thinkers that we are, submitted a ‘map’ to be included in the talent showcase. As we are generally not a team of people who live inside the confines of 2D space, we pressed the envelope and ended up submitting a projection of ‘Insight UBC – our 3D Campus Simulation Information System’. Not only did we end up winning first place in the ‘Drafting to Dreaming’ Category, but we also got to present Laura Colquhoun – one of our GIS Technicians –  with a winners plaque and a 5” Sony Reader for all her efforts. To get an idea of how awesome the submission was view the presentation here.

For a virtual tour or demo of the 3D fly-through we had projected at the conference just ask!

 Our Booth

As part of our 3D map submission we were given a table next to John Horrigan – purveyor of antique and unusual maps – to set up our projector and demonstration (to view his blog click here). The effect was like travelling through a time warp where ancient maps of African tribes were juxtaposed with a virtual campus simulation including explosions and fly-throughs of underground pipes. We continued to blow the minds of the delegates that passed through our zone as we demonstrated the power of the Samsung Galaxy Tab to show the relative positions of pipes in the walls. We had a ton of people filing through our booth, asking great questions, and having great discussion. If you are one of those people, thank you! You made that conference awesome for us.

 Our Presentation

It is such a rush standing in front of 30 peers, and telling them about your vision for the future of GIS. The talented Len Rodrigues and I walked the room through the evolution of visualization from balsa models, to power point campus plans and from 3D models to 4 dimensions, and x-ray vision! The audience was captivated after seeing glimpses of the future where hardware is an accessory, and social networking is a primary source for data. At the end of our 45 minutes, a line-up of interested minds formed to question the potentials of our geospatial future. As great as this experience was, nothing beat reading the reviews of the presentation where every comment mentioned the energy or enthusiasm exuded during the presentation. Obviously – what we do rocks and everyone should be excited about it!

The People

A conference is only as good as its attendees, and, as I said before, the people we met, presentations we saw and the connections we made left a lasting impression on us. A special thanks to Michael Schlosser of Autodesk for a pointing me out as the only 3D user in the room during his presentation, Jennifer Rolph for organizing the speakers, and Bart Hulshof, and Dennis Chao for organizing the booths, dealing with our special requests, and letting us set up our projection. Thanks to everyone else who played a role. Well done, and we at CloverPoint hope to see you all again next year.

To view CloverPoint’s product line, and see some of the demo’s I am referring to please visit Cloverpoint.com.