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A interesting question and answer session around the term geotechnology, reprinted below. Is this the end for the term Geospatial?

Question on the Term GeoTechnology

Can anyone tell me about the derivation of the term “Geospatial Technology.”

In some senses, the term Geospatial Technology seems redundant …is there a non-spatial geotechnology that necessitates the two-part moniker geospatial? It seems that the “geo” (pertaining to the lands, processes, features, inhabitants, and related phenomena of the Earth) implies “spatial” considerations. Maybe there is concern that some sort of an abstract non-earth “data space” rendering, like the scatter-plots of remote sensing’s multivariate “feature space,” might get confused with geo-spatial technology.

Like Biotechnology and Nanotechnology, it seems “Geotechnology” would be a crisper (less confusing and off-putting) descriptor of the spatial triad (RS, GIS, GPS) and its allied technologies (e.g., robotics and spatially-aware implements, guidance systems, still/videography, in-situ and moving sensors, etc).

Responses to the GeoTechnology Question

1) I have to agree. Geotechnology is both simple and concrete. Today we combine geo based technologies to provide solutions. For example, by default, all mobile GIS applications use GPS. Increasingly we include sensors, geo-references images etc. Geo unites the technologies we leverage.

I think one of our big challenges is to stop using terms like GIS, geospatial, GPS. As we move from being a niche sector, into the core of organizational systems our language, messaging and reference points need to change. Geotechnology works on many different levels.

2) Maybe it would rather be that instead of geospatial technology, the term could be hyphenated, such geo/spatial technology. This is because all spatial technology is not geographic per say, such as the interior of a store, or mapping the surface of a cell, where spatial technology is employed in a non-geographic way.

Or, there should 2 words….geotechnology and spatialtechnology, to delineate both disciplines.

3) The term geospatial came about when attempting to quantify the various disciplines of land surveying, GIS, GPS, photogrammetry, aerial sensors, remote sensing, satellite imagery and related ‘geo’ technologies and sciences. Prior to this ‘GIS’ was used to describe everything and it did not make much sense since GIS is an important, but only one aspect of spatial technology. The Department of Labor anointed ‘geospatial’ as a unique industry.

4) Does Geotechnology sell short the scientific component of these allied tools and disciplines?

5) One reason to keep “geospatial technologies” as distinct from “geotechnologies” is that the latter term is used in engineering to mean something rather different—a field relating to ‘geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering’. “Spatial technologies” is not quite it either because, as Frederick mentions, things can be “spatial” without actually referencing Earth or any specific location per se.

6) Coming from an earth science and engineering background, geotechnology is already a word used widely in the literature. It’s use is related to science and engineering.

7) As a former geologist, I should point out that “geotechnology” could be understood to cover non-spatial technologies in the “other” geo: drilling technology, seismic interpretation techniques, seismic processing algorithms, geologic modeling software, geologic data management, geotechnical engineering techniques, etc etc ad infinitum. These have partial or zero spatial components. I like “geospatial” since it emphasizes the spatial part of geo.

8) I would not use geotechnology for defining GIS/remote sensing/GPS technology. For me geotechnology is very vague, are you talking about technology related to geography or geology?
Older references to geotechnology reference geology, but I have noticed that the geography based definition is starting to dominate… for good or bad our language is alive and changing.
For me geotechnology references geology and thus defines the study of subsurface conditions and materials through soil and rock mechanics (shear, hydraulic conductivity, capillary moisture, etc.)

9) It’s unfortunate that our industry suffers this fate of not knowing what to call itself. It reminds me of the ‘what is geography and how is it different from other disciplines’ discussions back when I was working on my MA. I get why many of us like to use ‘geospatial’ but it just doesn’t work well when talking to those outside the industry. In fact I find that all the names and acronyms we use among industry-insiders really don’t work well at all for outsiders. All seem to leave puzzled looks and beg the need for more explanation. For that reason, I generally settle for ‘mapping’ when describing my work to outsiders.

The full list of responses are available here

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