Peter Black, Principal Geospatial Engineer, Trulia
In the light of your experience what are the technological trends and challenges you’ve witn essed happening with respect to the Geographic Information System(GIS) space?
The Geographic Information System (GIS) industry has been an interesting space to work in and watch. Traditionally, it has been dominated by the software from one company, ESRI. Most people in the industry equate GIS with ESRI. While it is excellent software, we are seeing a new trend with open source data and software. The community is really coming together to build excellent tools, like PostGIS, Python, QGIS and even R.People who know how to code are suddenly much more in demand in this industry, which is something today’s young professionals must keep in mind.
Could you talk about your approach to identifying the right partnership/solutions providers from the lot?
At the home and neighborhood resource, Trulia, we’re using data to help consumers understand what’s around the home they’re thinking about buying or renting. For us to provide that insight, it’s important that data partners have accurate and complete coverage of the U.S. In addition, we often create data ourselves from open sources like the federal, state and local governments and from OpenStreetMap.
Could you elaborate on some interesting and impactful project/initiatives that you’re currently overseeing?
Trulia helps people find the right home and neighborhood for them, and geospatial data is a big help in that quest.
The cloud, in particular, has enabled the GIS industry to grow
Trulia’s maps are a perfect example of how we make it easy for buyers and renters to discover a place to live. Today, we have 34 different map layers, ranging from crime and schools to commute and amenities, and each help to paint the picture of what it’s like to live in different neighborhoods.
How do you see the evolution of the GIS arena a few years from now with regard to some of its potential disruptions and transformations?
The cloud, in particular, has enabled the GIS industry to grow. If you think about it, GIS is the original big data – there’s no other way to view the petabytes of data that is created daily by satellites’ geo tagged Twitter posts, or from GPS-enabled cell phones. The cloud makes it possible to now process all this data and derive signal from the noise. There are a number of startups who have realized this. Take Orbital Insight as an example; they are able to accurately assess the soybean crop in China, or estimate the sales of retailers simply by counting the number of cars in their parking lots. Incredible!
As we look ahead, expect HD mapping to become pervasive. HD maps will be used for autonomous driving and location-aware robots. As Lidar sensors become more ubiquitous, road mapping will be rapid. Additionally, beyond roads, satellites are growing in their promise of capturing the Earth in high-resolution imagery, as well as high-temporal resolution. The rise of machines powered by spatial intelligence will be a very interesting development to watch.
What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to a fellow or aspiring professional/ engineer in Geographic Information Systems, who looks to embark on a similar venture or professional journey along the lines of your service and area of expertise?
With the industry moving toward open source data and technology, people who know how to code are increasingly in-demand. Take the opportunity to learn how to code. I believe that in order to have flexibility in this career, you not only need to think spatially and critically, you need to be able to code.
The ability to process huge amounts of data efficiently and know which are the right questions to ask are also key to becoming a powerful and effective geospatial professional.