Let's Get Physical


By Eileen Feretic

"The eventual integration of all business processes that relate to the physical world." That's the mission of GeoWeb, which is designed to "automate the aggregation of information about the physical world," according to Ron Lake, founder of the GeoWeb conference (going on this week in Vancouver, http://geowebconference.org) and inventor of the Geographic Markup Language (GML) that's used by geographic information system (GIS) professionals.

Basically, GeoWeb is the convergence of GIS and the Internet to provide fast, easy access to information about the physical world. This would enable people to find data based on its geographic location instead of just by doing keyword searches. Think Google Earth and Yahoo Maps, which have increased awareness of the role of geography as a way to index information on the Web.

Who would need this information? Well, governments for one. "Information is captured into a model of a city to support a variety of applications related to development, construction, public safety, flight zones, environmental issues and smart energy management," Lake explained. He said that this hasn't yet happened in a uniform way but that we're moving in that direction.

Europe is moving more quickly than North America, Lake added, saying that Germany is taking the lead. "Hamburg and Berlin already have city models with several million buildings," he said.

Think how vital this type of information about the physical world would be for fire and police departments during an emergency. It could literally make the difference between life and death.

As someone who works in New York City, I feel strongly that our federal, state and local governments should be "moving in that direction" a lot more quickly.