The O'Reilly Radar Blog today posted a number of articles dealing with Yahoo! Pipes. The introductory article is Pipes and Filters for the Internet. It gives a very good description of what pipes are in terms of the web and RSS (another TLA).
What I found interesting was that the example used by the blog to demonstrate the power of pipes, GeoRSS and filters on the web was a classic GIS one:
A good example Pipe is "Apartment Near Something". It allows you to input what you would like to be near (for example: "parks"), what city (for example: "Palo Alto, CA"), and how far (for example: 2 miles). It outputs GeoRSS of available apartments in a Palo Alto, CA that are near parks.The beauty of a tool like this is that your business analysts can put together dynamic queries of multiple data sources including your Smallworld data. You might also call this "roll your own dashboard". This might include applications that present power outage information, gas leaks or unserviced customers near your services taps.
If Smallworld has not included GeoRSS with their next version of IAS then I think it would be easy for someone else to write a GeoRSS service quite quickly to provide this service.
The Yahoo! Pipes graphical tool actually reminds me a bit about Safe Software's FME Workbench tool. It seems to me that if Safe would include a GeoRSS reader and various RSS manipulation transformers in its toolkit, then could provide a service that Yahoo! Pipes cannot: a RSS manipulation toolkit that resides behind a corporate firewall. A typical Smallworld customer has data that cannot or should not be exposed to the 'net. That means the Yahoo! Pipes tool cannot access it. But if FME had this capability, your business analysts could do the same thing in a secure environment.
In short, SOA is one way to get your data out to non-programmers and others that are more interested in the data than they are in the mechanisms/protocols for accessing that data. Yahoo! Pipes is a useful tool for that. If Safe could add this functionality to their toolkit, I would be even more excited!