Trimble Marketing Director Gareth Gibson Reflects on the Limitless Opportunities for GIS and Mapping
In recognition of GIS Day—created by spatial analytics leader Esri 22 years ago to spotlight all that is inspiring about geographic information systems (GIS) technology—we sat down with Gareth Gibson, Marketing Director for Trimble Mapping & GIS Solutions, to discuss some of the challenges, stakeholders and impact of this globally significant technology. Trimble has a long history as a provider of mapping solutions for the GIS community, including Esri, so we wanted to gather Gibson’s thoughts on the growing importance of mapping and GIS.
Based in Christchurch, New Zealand, Gibson helps guide the product development team and sets the direction of products and solutions while coordinating with the wider Trimble organization. For GIS Day this year, his team will celebrate with a large GIS-themed chocolate cake and a nature walk.
“Product Development is generally an indoor activity, but November is late spring and a great time of year for us to get outdoors,” he said. “We always have new products in development, and an important aspect of the development process is getting hands-on with our own hardware and software in the environments of our users. We’ll do a trail walk and some real-world product testing as we go.”
For his part, Gibson’s academic and professional background in product development and software gives him a deep perspective and interest in identifying and learning about problems that need to be solved, and then coming up with innovative and delightful solutions. “Because Trimble is so broad, and the range of industries we serve are so varied,” he said, “there are really limitless opportunities to find problems to solve.”
Gibson also believes there is space for everyone to find something that deeply interests them, especially when it comes to careers in GIS and mapping. “I have always been fond of the natural world, and the impact of humans on the environment,” he said. “As a child I spent many hours outdoors interacting with nature. I think this curiosity about the way things work in a natural environment piqued my interest in geography, mapping, and GIS, which is all about using science and technology to understand how our world works so we can make decisions that make the world a better place.”
Here’s more from Gibson on the larger impact of mapping and GIS.
Q: What do you find inspiring working in the GIS field?
The people. Our customers come from all over the world, and from all walks of life. Meeting and interacting with our customers is the most interesting and fulfilling part of our job. I enjoy hearing about the projects our customers are working on, and how they are using Trimble technology in different ways.
Q: Who do you feel GIS is most important to, and why is it so important to them?
That’s a tough question to answer! I don’t think any one industry benefits more from GIS than any other. Perhaps a good way to think about it is generationally. Knowledge is power, and with the right data we can overcome challenges by making better, more informed decisions. The biggest challenge facing the world today is climate change, and our children will bear the brunt of our climate change decisions. It’s therefore really important that our schools and universities educate today’s youth about the science of climate change so they know how to study, present, and communicate information with a geographical flavor. GIS provides the tools to make climate change easier to study, understand and communicate. By becoming more informed and geographically literate, today’s students can influence the climate change conversation and the environment of their future. This is really important because climate change is happening now, and the decisions we make today will measurably impact the world our school kids will inherit.
Q: How do you see GIS technology making a difference today? And how has this changed over time?
Overwhelmingly, GIS technology positively impacts the way organizations, industries, institutions—and even nations—conduct themselves. GIS helps drive intelligent decision-making, which affects the safety, security and sustainability of our world. GIS also helps us build and gather knowledge, and share that information equitably in understandable ways. Those principles haven’t really changed a whole lot over time. Perhaps where we do see change is the ways that information is collected, collated, analyzed and shared. GIS data and analysis are growing more sophisticated, driven by connectivity, the exponential increase in the amount of data captured and processed, and the technical evolution of the tools we use to crunch that data. Because of this, we can do more, but the flip side is there is more complexity to manage. That complexity poses challenges—for example being evermore vigilant around protecting GIS data privacy and security.
Q: What is Trimble’s view of the larger role of GIS in the world?
Trimble’s mission is to transform the way the world works—using technology to deliver digital insights that solve physical world problems. GIS is fundamental to that effort—it creates a digital geospatial infrastructure upon which data, information, insights, and analysis can be layered, performed, and communicated. We see GIS as an information platform assisting collaboration and decision-making. Importantly, GIS is not just a tool for the GIS community but for a much broader set of users, including the mapping community, the geo-analytics community, and knowledge workers outside of the geospatial field. For these users, GIS is also a communication tool for making complex topics understandable and accessible, including for the general public. The world faces many challenges. Together with Trimble, the GIS community is defining and leveraging this strategic tool for complex problem-solving on a global scale.
Q: Most people would agree: 2021 has been a teacher. What has it taught us about the role of GIS in daily lives?
2021 and the global and local impacts of COVID-19 have been challenging, to say the least. What is heartening, however, is how people and communities can come together around a common goal when the message, communication, and data are clear.
In New Zealand, where I live, GIS has been a fundamental part in the government’s response to managing and communicating status and information to the general public. Simple and constantly updated spatial data is being used to inform public health policy and decision-making. The data is also constantly shared with the public in simple, easily digestible ways.
Obvious examples are the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out maps, where region by region policy makers and citizens can monitor progress. The same data is used to track infection clusters, identify and communicate locations of interest, or to identify pockets of the community that are more vulnerable—all in near real-time.
GIS Is being used to track and report on locations that are potential exposure sites for COVID-19 community transmission in New Zealand. Source.
As the world opens up, and we start to look forward to a post-pandemic phase, it's interesting to reflect on how GIS has helped us understand the scope and scale of Covid-19 and its impact. We can apply lots of lessons, and it is inspiring to think about how GIS and spatial technology can contribute to tackling other global challenges, like climate change, natural disaster response, and conflict/violence.
In celebration of GIS Day...
Mapping our world is what drives the changes to make our planet a better place. This GIS Day we celebrate all mappers and users of GIS. Enjoy this poster, which we hope inspires you!
So, what will you map?