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Java Location Services: Working to Bring GeoSpatial Technology to the Internet

By Carl Reed - article first appeared at Sun's Java Location Services web portal
The original concept for the language now called Java came to Sun’s James Gosling during a rock concert early in 1991. He needed a new language that would run on a small hand held appliance and would not have the limitations of existing languages such as C and C++. The new language was first called Oak. However, the group that developed Oak dissolved in 1994. It was not until Bill Joy saw the potential of Oak in the emergence of the Web that the project was resurrected. And so Java was born.

Now a short digression from Java. Distributed computing, multi-tier architectures, location based services, ASP’s, Java, componentware…. Our world is awash with new, rapidly evolving technology, and along with it, the requisite terminology. The use and acceptance of the Internet has spread more quickly than any other technology in history. Its impact on our economy and society will likely exceed that caused by the telephone, the internal combustion engine, and mass communication (radio, television, and movies).

The Internet is creating Geoffrey Moore’s tornado in many industries. The "tornado" is the name Moore gives to the phase in which market dynamics create hyper-growth in an industry and a (potential) new gorilla emerges to become the market leader. The geospatial industry may be entering this phase. The Internet will radically change the way we access, utilize, and pay for geospatial technology, data and services. New geospatial software and service companies are emerging that better fit the requirements of the Internet economy. Other companies and organizations are changing their business and service practices to best meet rapidly changing buyer and user demands. Companies that do not change their business model to meet the demands of the new Internet economy face hard times and potential extinction.

Which brings us back to Java. I first learned of Java at an Open GIS Consortium (OGC) meeting in the Fall of 1995. Many of us in the OGC believed that Java was the language of the future. Personally, Java appealed to me as software engineer. Back then, I felt that the Internet was going to radically change the geospatial industry. Java was going to be the language of choice. I believed this strongly enough to convince the company I was working for at the time to develop a Java client, which they did in 1997. Neither the company nor the market was quite ready. Now, I believe that the infrastructure and the market are both ready.

There are still those who believe that Java will not last - that it is just a flash in the pan. Just last summer I received an e-mail from an executive VP of a major software company stating that Java was not and never will be a language of choice. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Java programmers and the thousands of companies doing Java development. I think what many forget is that all languages go through a birthing process in which there is considerable argument about a language’s merits, performance, and so forth. There are many of us around who lived through the same process with FORTRAN, C, and C++, and all these languages became very successful. Java also has something else going for it that the other languages did not - an open, community-driven process that controls the evolution of Java. This is known as the Java Community Process.

The net result is that there are an ever-increasing number of Java activities in the geospatial industry. These range from development of client applications, to standards activities, and to application service provision. However, it is very difficult to keep track of all this activity. Therefore, a new Web site called JLocationServices.com is now available. Next is a discussion of the reasons for the JLocationServices.com Web site. This is followed by a discussion of "GeoJava" applications and standards activities.

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Contents:
This article is the property of Carl Reed - (c)2000. All rights reserved. Any copying or reproduction of the article in whole or in part is strictly prohibited.


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