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Business Geomatics: A Burgeoning Discipline/la Geomatique des Affaires : Une Discipline en Plein Essor.

Canadian Journal of Regional Science 2006, Autumn, 29, 3

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Geomatics is the science and technology of gathering, analyzing, interpreting, distributing and using geographic information. (Geomatics Canada 2006). It encompasses a range of disciplines, including; geodesy (precise measurements of Earth), photogrammetry (measurements taken from airborne photographs), remote sensing (measurements taken from satellite images), satellite positioning (to locate objects or phenomena on Earth), cartography (maps) and geographical information systems (to store, visualize and analyse spatial data). Geomatics is used across a variety of industrial sectors. Research and development in geomatics has focused been heavily within the physical resource, environmental and engineering domains (GEOIDE 2006), with an emphasis on natural resource extraction and management (oil and gas), geology and mining, civil engineering and construction, environmental monitoring, agriculture, forestry, oceanography and marine biology. In the realm of human geography, geomatics has centred on property, transportation, health studies, urban planning, commerce and education. Business geomatics refers to the application of geomatics-based approaches to decision-support activities within the business sector, ranging from new methods of data collection to data mining and visualization. As Yeates notes (2001: 378), business geomatics is ' concerned with the testing of theories, and the discovery of patterns and regularities, that explain and predict both spatially and aspatially referenced information'. The purview of geomatics extends to; retailers making multi-million dollar decisions related to new store expansion; the optimization of bank networks; the identification of markets for the development and distribution of new products and services; the modeling of residential and commercial property valuation; and, the delineation of travel impacts of new commercial developments--to name but a few application areas of business geomatics. The potential size of the business geomatics market within the retail and service sector is illustrated by the 1.7 million (12.3%) of the Canadian labour force employed and 5.9% of GDP accounted for by the retail sector (Statistics Canada 2006). The service-producing industries (including retail and consumer services) in Canada account for approaching 70% of GDP. In 2004, the geomatics industry was estimated by Natural Resources Canada (2004) to have generated $2.8 billion in revenue, of which over $1 billion dollars was generated within the oil and gas industry. The value-add to GDP of the geomatics industry was estimated at a further $2 billion, with over 2,200 establishments and just over 23,000 employees in the geomatics industry across Canada. The geomatics industry is comprised mainly of small firms with 70% of firms having less than 10 employees; 94% of firms having less than 50 employees, and 97% of firms having less than 100 employees. The business sector (private sector) is the main client of geomatics products or services, accounting for 68% of sales revenue to the geomatics industry ($1.9 billion) in 2004, followed by all levels of governments and public institutions representing 23% ($634 million).