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BPA may shake up GIS industry November 3, 2008

Posted by Bahadir Sahin in English, Haber (News).
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As Matthew Leopard sees it, the upcoming SmartBuy blanket purchase agreement for geospatial products and support services will redraw the landscape for government use of geographic information
technologies.

It is not just about obtaining volume discounts for federal users. Officials want to persuade agencies to work together to share information, centralize their geospatial management, and obtain greater and faster access to the latest technology, said Leopard, chairman of the Geospatial Common Services Work Group.

The group is coordinating with the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration to develop the SmartBuy BPA for the Geospatial Line of Business. SmartBuy is an initiative to help agencies manage enterprise-level software through aggregate buying of commercial software.

“This could be an exciting time for geospatial contracting,” Leopard said. “We will be expanding the use of geospatial tools to make them mainstream.”

Likening a federal acquisition program to the Super Bowl in size — as Leopard did at an Oct. 21 vendor day — is bound to get attention, something vendors will appreciate.

“SmartBuy will give our products greater visibility,” said William Spencer, president of Planet Associates, a geospatial software company in Arlington, Va.

But GIS companies also have concerns about the program. For example, the government proposes a provision that would let multiple agencies band together on purchases, enabling them to receive bigger discounts than they would get individually.

A second concern is more strategic. Government analysts worry that the contract might slow geospatial innovation, and vendors fret that mapping professionals and surveyors might be negatively affected by the contract’s definitions of products and services.

“There is controversy over SmartBuy,” said John Palatiello, executive director of the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors.

An active market
Geospatial technology industry is dynamic and growing rapidly, but it’s also fragmented. Software makers ESRI, Bentley Systems and Intergraph have been the dominant vendors, but in the last four years, Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth have created significant footprints. Dozens of other vendors are grouped into 11 major trade organizations.

Federal agencies use geospatial software for tasks such as producing maps and conducting geographic analysis. They also buy mapping imagery, data and services. The public-sector market for geospatial IT was estimated at $1.8 billion in 2006, according to Daratech, a research firm.

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