Organizations and teams are becoming increasingly more distributed as groups work to expand their global presence while rationalizing team members across skill sets and areas of expertise instead of geographies. With this expansion comes the need for a robust and comprehensive language for pinpointing locations of globally distributed information systems and knowledge workers. Geospatial information systems (GISs) provide a common framework for jointly visualizing the world. This shared understanding of the world provides a powerful mechanism for collaborative dialogue in describing an environment, its assets, and procedures. The collaborative framework that GIS provides can help facilitate productive dialogue while constraining impulses of extreme positions. Collaboration and GIS intersections take many forms. Under a collaborative work-flow model, individuals use GIS to perform their job and post data back to the central database (e.g., engineering designs and as-built construction). This article addresses the increasing role of GIS in emerging architectures and information systems in a number of applications (e.g., land planning, military command and control, homeland security, utility-facilities management, etc.). Real-time applications, mobile access to data, GPS (global positioning satellite) tracking of assets, and other recent developments all play a role in extending the scope and utility of the GIS-enabled enterprise. The impact of new GIS Web services standards and open geospatial-data archives are also addressed as areas of increased potential for remote GIS collaboration in global organizations. The expansion of enterprise GIS within organizations increases the opportunity and necessity of using GIS collaboratively to improve business processes and efficiency, make better decisions, respond more quickly to customers and events, and so forth.
The term geospatial is increasingly used to describe digital data about the earth in GIS, image, or GPS formats. The related technologies of GIS, remote sensing image-processing systems, and GPS data collection are all components of geospatial information systems. Geospatial-technologies use continues to expand in a great variety of applications ranging from land planning to utility-engineering design and military command and control. Those applications, which were once relegated to discrete groups of specialists, have now begun to take a more prominent role in the enterprise. Duffy (2002) describes the transition of GIS from a specialist technology to a more mainstream environment in the industry information-systems department from the end of the last decade into 2002.
The essence of collaboration is people and organizations working together to accomplish a common goal. Information–technology- (IT) enabled collaboration has improved business processes in many organizations and contributed to more functional and profitable operations. Collaboration technologies are characterized by three major generic attributes: communication, information sharing, and coordination (Munkvold, 2003). These characteristics can be further refined into available channels such as synchronous or asynchronous, the medium of sharing information through repositories or real-time interaction, and work-flow management to coordinate steps in a decision process or protocol. Geospatial technologies and systems extend collaboration in unique ways for problems that are related to location.
GIS provides a geographic dimension to enterprise collaboration, which helps solve a variety of problems that are difficult to address by any other means. For example, vehicle-routing and dispatching applications make it possible for Sears to deliver goods to customers more efficiently within tighter time windows. As a result, Sears is more profitable and customers are more satisfied. This example of distributed-network optimization using efficient queuing mechanisms based on location information is a simple illustration of the impact that GIS data may have on existing business processes. In fact, most aspects of business-process automation initiatives at present require some element of collaboration either between networked systems or dispersed individuals.
Collaboration utilizing GIS and geospatial frameworks continues to be a focus of research both in the United States and abroad (Boettcher, 2000; Songnian, 2004; Stasik, 2000).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Geospatial Information Systems (GISs): Systems that provide a common framework for jointly visualizing the world.
This work was previously published in Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology: edited by M. Khosrow-Pour, pp. 1278-1283, copyright 2005 by Information Science Reference, formerly known as Idea Group Reference (an imprint of IGI Global)
CAD: Computer-aided design.
RFID: Radio-frequency identification. This technology uses the electromagnetic spectrum radio signals to transmit information from a transponder (tag) to a receiver for purposes of identifying items. This technology has been in development for a standard to replace the Universal Product Code (UPC) symbol with the Electronic Product Code (ePC) symbol through the Auto ID Center, formerly of MIT.