This article originally appeared in Geospatial Solutions Magazine's Net Results column of January 1, 2002. Other Net Results articles about the role of emerging technologies in the exchange of spatial information are also online.

1. Introduction and Glossary   2. Spawn of the TIGER   3. Species Specialization   4. Surveying the Territory

Welcome to 2002 - a brave new year with a tough act to follow. After the roller coaster that was 2001 - a declining stock market, multiple rounds of layoffs, bio-terrorism, and war - what headlines are left for the year ahead?

Maybe what 2001 has bequeathed to 2002 is the desire to return to meaningful work. People seem eager to roll up their sleeves, clear off their desks, and accomplish something useful. Because most geospatial projects start with basemap data, this article will herald the return to meaningful work by explaining trends in commercial spatial datasets and the three largest vendors in this market space: GDT (, Navtech (, and Tele Atlas (www.tele (Note: Tele Atlas, a European spatial data vendor, acquired long-time spatial dataset vendor Etak in 2001, thus historical references to Tele Atlas can be assumed to refer to Etak prior to the acquisition.)

The content of spatial datasets reflects industry trends in LBS, in-vehicle navigation systems, and real-time spatial decision-making in general. All three leading spatial data vendors are well aware that data content is at least as important as accuracy to emerging LBS and auto navigation customers. Consider, for instance, how Navtech hopes its data will support spatio-temporal applications (as explained on its Web site):

Your alarm clock rings 15 minutes earlier because it receives traffic information that identifies traffic congestion along your route.

Your mobile phone rings you when you are within a given radius of your favorite store that is having a sale on the shoes you want.

On a weekend road trip, your car informs you that you are almost out of gasoline and finds the nearest gas/petrol station with the cheapest prices that you can put on your favorite charge account.

[You gain] the instant ability to become a connoisseur by checking your PDA and recommending a great restaurant in the immediate area that your business client has just suggested.

Navtech clearly isn't promoting just basemap street data anymore, nor are GDT and Tele Atlas. Such scenarios, after all, require a service-based, spatio-temporal data feed. To understand why this new focus is appearing in the big three data vendors' strategies, it helps to know the history of digital spatial basemap data.

DIME: Dual Independent Map Encoding.
GBF: Geographic Base File.
LBS: Location-Based Services
NSDI: National Spatial Data Infrastructure
USGS: United States Geological Survey
TIGER: Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing

1. Introduction and Glossary   2. Spawn of the TIGER   3. Species Specialization   4. Surveying the Territory