A Book Review
Why ‘Where’ Matters: Understanding and Profiting From GPS, GIS, and Remote Sensing by Dr. Bob Ryerson and Dr. Stan Aronoff. Available at www.geoeconomy.com
Looking for a go-to reference book on geospatialtechnologies that is not overly techie? This is the book for you. Believe it or not, Dr. Bob Ryerson and Dr. Stan Aronoff, two PhDs with extensive experience in GIS and remote sensing have been able to distill complex geospatial terms, applications, and technologies into lay terms for everyone to understand.
The book provides a good basic description of Satellite and Aerial Imagery, Remote Sensing, Mapping, GIS (Geographic Information Systems), GPS (Global Positioning System), and location-based applications, for a comprehensive understanding of all the geospatial/location-based technologies available to businesses, governments, and individuals today. Ryerson and Aronoff go through the history of technologies, their technical foundations and how they work, and how they can be applied to address specific questions. As a mainstream geospatial reference book, this hits the mark.
The book is sprinkled with references to the GeoEconomy. For Ryerson and Aronoff, the GeoEconomy is about “the ability to collect, store, and analyze more information, more quickly than ever before possible.” In other words the ability to easily access geo-referenced data is critical to “replac[ing] geo-luck with geo-advantage.” They explain how geographic information has always been important; however, the difference today is the speed at which that information is available and the democratization of that data – now accessible to ordinary citizens and business people.
The authors talk a lot about how lots of geoinformation will be utilized in the future, and those that have access to that information will be more competitively positioned. They focus primarily on the use of geospatial data in natural resource planning, environmental monitoring and climate change, education, and health care delivery and public policy.
They describe the geo-advantage as being measured in many ways that are often reduced to some monetary advantage. However, it can also be measured in time – the ability to act sooner, or with greater efficiency. In other cases in may be measured in capability – the ability to do more with less. It can also provide improved quality of product or service for the same price, and it can improve our standard of living.
The book also provides a high-level view of the global social, political, economic, environmental trends/drivers that will increase the use of geospatial data including:
- Climate change
- Food security/management of strategic commodities – metals, minerals, oil
- Water scarcity
- Global competition
- Infrastructure needs/renewal — $1.6 trillion needed over the next five years in the U.S. alone
Where the book falls short is on the GeoEconomy discussion and tangible business applications and case studies. While it lists a number of public policy and business questions that can be answered with geodata, it does not provide an economic model for the use of geodata. However, the purpose of the book is to be a simple, easy to use reference guide on geospatial technologies, not to provide an economic argument for the use of the technologies. As such the subtitle of the book about profiting from GIS, GPS, and Remote Sensing is a little misleading.
The authors go to great effort to reinforce the message that geospatial technologies promote a geographic approach, which by definition is a holistic view. A geographic approach therefore helps us to understand our surroundings and the interrelationships that exist between location-based variables. For example, understanding the interrelationship between climate, soils, and topography is critical to predicting agricultural productivity. As such, the authors believe that geographic data should be made available at a low cost or no cost.
The book is a worthy addition to your geospatial library.