Adaptive Skills Pay for GIS Technology

If you work in Geographic Information Systems or are pursuing a GIS degree or profession, you’re no doubt technologically savvy.

And while it may seem odd to those who manage technology for a living, many individuals seek to avoid our society-wide dependency on technology. The truth is: Technology is so integrated into our society that in the near future, someone who is unable to use a computer will be considered as illiterate as an individual who cannot read a book.

With that said, the technological world is forever changing. And if you’re not willing to change with it, learning new software and playing with new hardware systems, you might get left behind.

The same can be said for the GIS industry. It’s important to not pigeonhole yourself to one type of software or frame of thinking. “Similar to contemporary culture, technology is always dynamic in nature. This vitality has gained momentum with increased software and hardware capabilities,” says American Sentinel University Professor Gabriel Schmidbauer. “GIS is similar to other technical fields that rely on several tool sets to solve various research problems. And like the IT industry, many of these tool sets are open source in nature.”

[event tag=gis]Finding the Plugins and Widgets for Tomorrow

A recommended book for exploring open source GIS software for your desktop is Desktop GIS: Mapping the Planet with Open Source Tools. The book educates readers on open source technologies for building maps. These include gvSIG 1.0, GRASS GIS 6.4, Capaware rc1 0.1, SAGA-GIS v. 2.0.3, Whitebox GAT 1.0.2, GRASS GIS, SAGA GIS, Quantum GIS, MapWindow GIS, ILIS, uDig and several others. Using and becoming familiar with the many software options available is a great way to keep your skills sharp and flexible for the next software hitting the market.

For example, GRASS GIS (Geographical Resources Analysis Support System) is a free, open source system that handles raster, topological vector, image processing and graphic data. It is one of the few software applications that presents the user with a UNIX shell and uses a new graphical user interface called wxGUI.

While it’s not quite at the level of Windows, wsGUI is an example of how changes in GIS software can impact the whole industry. The interface can be used in GRASS or more complex UNIX systems. It comes with a Georectifier, graphical modeler, layer manager, map calculator and a 3D mode. This free tool may be the future or may just be the first step toward more free 3D tools that lead to something greater.

From the WebMap Server Mapnik, a C++/Python library for rendering used by OpenStreetMap, to PostGIS, spatial extensions for the open source PostgreSQL, to the ever-steady ArcGIS, there are many tools available for the GIS professional.

So the next time your “software updates available” note pops up on your desktop, make sure you click “update.” You don’t want to be a generation behind.

This is the third of a three-part series that is leading up to Esri Education Manager Dr. Joseph Kerski’s Top 5 Skills You Need to be Successful in a GIS Career webinar Sept. 27

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