Category Archives: Industry Focus

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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A Strong Core Leads to a Healthy Business

Using ArcGIS as a system of record can help retailers navigate the global marketplace successfully

The retail world is expanding. According to an International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), 70 percent of the retail chains around the world are opening new stores this year. It’s a global phenomenon that is coming at a time when consumer expectations and habits are evolving at an unprecedented fast pace.

What is driving this growth? The ability to understand microdemographics, changes in distribution channels, and the power of the web seem to be the catalysts that are ensuring growth across a large scale. Retailers no longer need to be entrenched in a local environment to understand their customer base, build up brand, and grow sales.  There has been no other time in history when a retailer could first open a store in San Francisco, a second in Sydney, and a third in Singapore in quick succession and expect to be successful.

By understanding where data comes from, anyone in a business can decipher knowledge quickly and make better decisions.

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Mastering Spatial Thinking through Web Mapping

Teaching spatial thinking concepts and their practical application through hands-on exploration prepares today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs. 

Spatial thinking is identifying, analyzing, and understanding the location, scale, patterns, and trends of the geographic and temporal relationships among data, phenomena, and issues.  Spatial thinking helps us better understand our world and solve the tough problems we face today.

Geo-technologies—which include geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, global positioning systems (GPS), and web mapping—are the way we apply spatial thinking concepts to our everyday lives.  In 2004, the US Department of Labor identified three rapidly growing fields for the 21st Century: Nanotechnology, biotechnology, and geo-technology. Teaching the concepts of spatial thinking and the use of geo-technologies to today’s students is important because it’s where the jobs are—and will continue to be in the future. Continue reading

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Risk. Utility. And location.

GIS gives utilities a repeatable means of mitigating risk and minimizing surprises.

The probability that something bad will happen makes us think of our protectors: insurance companies. Insurance companies accumulate the combined risk of policyholders. Insurers lose money if bad things happen. They make money if bad things don’t happen.

Some say utilities are risk averse. It’s true that utilities historically are conservative. They avoid taking actions that could trigger unwanted consequences. The problem is, the cost of remaining conservative rises constantly. Given recent economic troubles, utilities must learn to avoid negative consequences while also avoiding overspending to do so. The situation gets worse when you consider utility infrastructure ages faster than many utilities can afford to replace. So as facilities enter disrepair, hazards abound. Reliability suffers.

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Before Time Runs Out: An Ocean of Information for Climate Resilience

Recent innovations in information, analyses, and science-policy linkages  can help guide the planet towards a more resilient future.

For many of us when we think about the ocean, it’s a situation of “out of sight, out of mind.” In our limited awareness of the ocean, we see only the surface and think only of vast expanses of lifeless water, not realizing all of the complexities at play.

In fact, the ocean provides over HALF of the oxygen that we breathe. It regulates ALL of our weather patterns, it feeds us, and it provides for our energy and economy.

The ocean is a champion at absorbing human-derived (anthropogenic) CO2. Around half of all carbon dioxide produced by humans since the industrial revolution has dissolved into the world’s oceans. Coastal habitats store five times more carbon than do inland tropical forests. This has all helped to slow global warming.

So in reality, the ocean is vital to all of us, no matter WHERE we live. Continue reading

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It’s a Fuel Eat Fuel World

Advanced location analytics assist gas utilities in the face of growing demand—and growing competition. 

Natural gas and electric distribution utilities compete to bring energy to homes and businesses for heating purposes. Today, these utilities continue a long-running battle to gain market share at the expense of each other. Stakes are high. Generally, the winner supplying energy for heating has some competitive advantage in supplying energy for hot water and cooking. But not necessarily.

At times, executives responsible for customer growth in natural gas distribution envy their peers in water and electric distribution. Virtually every household and business needs water and electricity for some purpose. That’s not the case for natural gas.

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3 Clicks to Public Works

Three clicks to public works? If you read about the Internet of Things, there is a theory that everyone wants information in three clicks or fewer. I read an interesting rebuttal to this theory, suggesting that it is not the number of clicks that is important but whether users are getting the information they need along the way. At Esri, we are working hard to get you the information you need in as few clicks as possible. Truth is, many public works challenges cannot be resolved in three clicks, but at least we give you the information you need in each step of the business process.

I recently gave an overview of the water industry from the public works perspective at our inaugural Esri Water Conference in Portland, Oregon. I was privileged to reflect on how water infrastructure challenges were faced in the past versus now. Several years ago, as the asset management manager of Colorado Springs Utilities, I helped our organization fight water main breaks with a myriad of tools, including Esri’s very own ArcGIS, pre-platform. I say “pre-platform” because we did not have ArcGIS Online or configurable web maps and apps that run on any device, anywhere and at any time. We did have a state-of-the-art enterprise GIS back then, but let me tell you, there were lots of moving parts and many button clicks. We spent as much (or more) time managing the technology as we did fixing water main breaks. And don’t get me started on managing all that data.

Now, enter the platform of ArcGIS. Today’s ArcGIS has all the traditional components — desktop, server, and mobile capabilities — but has been improved with a common thread of web services and web maps served up through ArcGIS Online, backed by the Living Atlas of the World, with thousands of datasets useful in public works decision making. These components have become inseparable and offer a true collaborative platform for delivering information to field and office personnel on any device, anywhere, anytime. The ArcGIS for Public Works solution suite offers a configuration of the platform to jump-start your public works department.

ArcGIS is not your father’s GIS anymore. Three clicks? We are getting closer every day.

 

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Seven Ways to Modernize Utility GIS

Take a hard look at your GIS.  It’s probably time to modernize.

I hate the word “selfie.” But this new concept is everywhere. Over the past year or so, everyone seems to taking pictures of themselves and tweeting them. This seems awfully self-indulgent. Yet, maybe it’s a good thing to take a hard look at yourself once in a while. Maybe taking a selfie gives you a chance to re-invent yourself.

Utilities need to reassess their practices, too, particularly in this age of rapid change touching everything from climate and renewable resources to technology. One technology utilities might want to take a hard look at is their GIS. After all, utilities have been using GIS for ages. So it’s probably time to modernize. Here are my seven ways utilities can modernize their GIS.

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Et tu, Juno?

Catastrophic weather is no longer a one-off event. How can we be better prepared?

Popular opinion pointed to the 2014 Polar Vortex as a one-time event. The wind, ice, and snow brought by that harsh winter weather was responsible for $1.7 billion of the $2.3 billion in insured losses in the affected states that year, according to ISO’s Property Claim Services.

Then Juno, the blizzard of 2015, struck. While not affecting as many communities as first predicted, the storm dumped up to two feet of snow and caused flooding in homes and businesses across New England. Once again, people are bracing for loss.

It seems that again, the impossible happened. How can we predict the unpredictable and help our communities get back on their feet faster? Continue reading

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