Category Archives: Industry Focus

Rip Up Those Old Paper Maps

Pop quiz! What’s the difference between a paper GIS and a digital GIS display?

“You can fold the paper plot, but you can’t fold the display.” That’s the most common answer. That’s also the problem.

Many people still view GIS displays as less convenient ways to see GIS plots. When I worked for a power company, we built special cabinets in the dispatch center just to hold our medium-voltage operating map sheets. That’s because we’d plotted our sheets on nonstandard sizes, so the standard file cabinets didn’t work. When we converted from our old, hand-drawn operating maps to GIS maps, we just plotted the new map sheets to look exactly like the old ones. And we plotted them on the same size paper as the old paper maps. Why? So they could fit in our custom file cabinets. If we could have recreated coffee stains on the GIS plots, we would have. Everything—the symbols, annotation, line weights, and of course plot sizes—were the same on the new as on the old map sheets.

Our underlying basemap grid was also a throwback to some arbitrary system from early in the previous century. Change it? Get out of town! Continue reading

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Success through Data Science

How a start-up is helping big name brands cash in through spatial modeling and analytics.

Shawn Hanna, Managing Partner of Retail Scientifics

Finding a successful retail site doesn’t require a crystal ball, but it does take the ability to clearly see and understand what your data is really telling you. And this is a whole lot simpler and easier when you couple GIS technology with real-world experience.

Shawn Hanna, Managing Partner of Retail Scientifics, knows this well. For thirteen years, he was responsible for advanced analytics at Petco, helping the company with real estate, market planning, marketing, and pricing, all using location intelligence.

When Petco moved the company’s analytics function to Texas from San Diego, California, Shawn and several others decided to venture out on their own. They opened up a consultancy that performs analytics projects for retailers broadly. The group focuses on modeling, forecasting accuracy, ad hoc analytics, and other data driven projects. Continue reading

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Seeing is Believing: The Reach of Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management was one of the factors that helped us out of the middle ages. Where would we be today without the tools and processes to manage the flow of goods and services or the ability to utilize specialist’s skills and resources far apart from another? Chances are, we’d still be raising our own food.

While I admit that I have days when I fantasize about this type of simplicity, I like my cushy life too much to give up on essentials like Starbucks coffee. Plus, my family would quickly starve if we had to rely on my farming skills. So, it is good that instead of farming and foraging, I work for a software company instead.

Today, the flow of goods in the world relies heavily on bits and bytes shared among the world’s computers. Each day, software and computers control billions of dollars-worth of goods traded between countries. These goods—anything from livestock and produce to mobile phones and coffee beans—travel from farms and assembly plants to stores by truck, rail, air, and ship.  Supply chains link the world’s population tightly together; all our lives depend increasingly on timely and smooth operations and careful supply chain management.

Logistics centers keep the global supply chain moving.

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The Location of Things

In an era where nearly everything moveable, measurable, and monitorable, location has become a crucial component of the Internet of Things.

The buzz about the Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere. You know the IoT: the notion of an always-aware network of sensors found in interconnected devices. Typically these sensors capture identity, status, and other relevant information. But for what value? Having a sensor alerting you to a device-based problem is no good—unless you know where to send a repair person. If a sensor alerts you to your colleague in trouble, it would be nice to know where to send help.

Location is a crucial component of the IoT, and geography gives the IoT its actionable value. That’s why I get even more excited about another new buzz phrase: The Location of Things.

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Breaking Down Barriers

Enhancing internal and external collaboration with the ArcGIS platform.

In the novel You Can’t Go Home Again, mid-20th-century American author Thomas Wolfe fictionalizes his hometown. Wolfe’s main character gets into trouble, angering the townsfolk of his hometown. I can relate.

I grew up in a blue-collar city, where the main claim to fame was that at one time it was the most densely populated city in the United States. That meant packed houses and city streets. You could say that I grew up on the streets of this very crowed city. Shortly after marrying and having a child, my wife and I moved to the suburbs. Later, my career became running electric operations for the power company that covered my old home town.

About 15 years ago, my hometown City Council invited me as a special guest at the chamber. Residents packed the public session; I felt certain at least a few might have gone to high school with me.

The residents weren’t happy. I felt like Wolfe’s character. Continue reading

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Local + Global = Real Estate Success

A collection of data, maps, and apps powered by ArcGIS Online is one broker’s not-so-secret key to success. 

John Schultz is a commercial real estate broker in Baltimore, Maryland. With a drive to help retailers continually find their next location, John juggles a lot in any given day: site reviews, lease negotiations, market tours, and much more. And he works in multiple markets, with multiple clients. He’s also a strong family man who’s committed to making time for his wife and two kids.

How does he keep up? He works smart.

John Schultz, a partner at MacKenzie commercial Real Estate Services, knows maps make smart business colleagues.

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Two Mapping Forums for Advanced Users and Senior Executives

For more than 30 years, the annual Esri User Conference (Esri UC) has brought together thought leaders to share the latest innovations and applications in geographic information system (GIS) technology, which seems limited only by the imagination.

Interest in GIS has grown exponentially over the years, which, in turn, has attracted more and more people with varying backgrounds and expertise to the Esri UC. As a result, attendees began demanding coinciding events specific to their particular areas of interest. Esri’s mapping and statistics team will be staging two forums at the Esri UC this summer to meet the needs of users whose business is mapping and GIS data production. Continue reading

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Esri and the Scientific Community: Year in Review/The Year Ahead

Science at Esri continues to be an exciting initiative where we are concerned with supporting both basic and applied science, while also recognizing that there are many major themes of compelling interest to society that will drive scientific research for the next two decades. Thus we view science as helping us to understand not only how the Earth works, but also how the Earth should look (e.g., by way of geodesign), and how we should look at the Earth (i.e., by way of Earth observation in varying forms and the accompanying data science issues of analysis, modeling, developing and documenting useful datasets for science, interoperating between these datasets and between various approaches). In addition to supporting the science community, we seek to do good science at Esri ourselves, as it underpins much of what we do as an organization. This is helping us to evolve ArcGIS into a comprehensive geospatial platform for science; a platform that supports research project management and collaboration, spatial analysis, visualization, open data, and communication of science, all at multiple scales (i.e., from individual researcher to lab workgroup, to multi-department, multi-university, university-to-agency collaboration, to citizen engagement).

You can always track the totality of the Esri science initiative at esriurl.com/scicomm, but in this post I’ll share some highlights from 2014, and as we near the end of 2015′s first quarter, talk about the immediate road ahead. Continue reading

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16 Things We Can Do to Increase Geoliteracy

Many of the big issues the world is facing today are fundamentally tied to space and place—they are geographic issues. To grapple with these issues requires a population that can assess and use geographic information to make wise decisions—in short, a geoliterate population. Creating a geoliterate population requires cultivation in three essential areas: core content, geographic tools, and the geographic perspective.

Core content. While core content is important, it is often maligned, perhaps because it is often equated with memorization of facts for examinations. Geography’s core content is richer than mere facts—and much of it is systems thinking: ecosystems, and systems of climate, culture, watersheds, oceans, land use, governments, and many more. Core content focuses include learning about natural phenomena such as how ocean currents affect climate, and cultural phenomena, such as sense of place.

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Killing Old Habits

To stay profitable and transform business, utilities must break with old habits.

There’s a well-known saying that goes, “Old habits die hard.” All my life, I’ve struggled to manage my weight. I’ve probably lost 1,000 pounds in my life, but the problem is I’ve gained 1,050 pounds. If I really wanted to lose weight permanently, I would kill off my old bad habits for good, not just suspend them for a while during the diet and then bring them back again as soon as I lose enough weight. To really transform yourself, old, negative habits must die.

Electric companies are going through huge change. Regulators insist on unbundling utility components: generation, transmission, distribution, and retail services. In the old days of vertical integration, electric companies could make money on the strength of their business diversity. Today that’s less so. And to make matters worse, energy delivery,  transmission and distribution (T&D), faces lots of unknowns, including weather, theft, vandalism, terrorism, and public scrutiny.

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