Category Archives: Industry Focus

Challenging Banks to Take an Uber-like Approach to Innovation

Today’s shopping takes place mainly via credit and debit cards that are linked directly to banks. Stores use details from your bank so you can buy online on the Web and through branded apps. While newer mobile payments from Apple, Google, and others are starting to cause disruption to this, basically the model is the same. Details are provided to a third party who brokers the sale when sufficient funds are available to cover the purchase.

This is causing some to view branches as increasingly irrelevant. Why? Because mobile transactions like payments and deposits (you can take a picture of a check while lounging at your home now, for example) are removing the reasons consumers need to visit a bricks-and-mortar bank.

Scaling up service to change the model

Financial institutions are missing out. What if institutions with 18th century business ideas took an Uber-like approach to innovation? Instead of a collection of apps on a customer’s phone, what if there was only one?  And what if that app was for the consumer’s bank, not a store? Continue reading

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How Spatial Analysis Kept My Wife Safe during Hurricane Joaquin

When Disasters Strike, GIS Can Help Hospitals Care for Staff

Hurricane Joaquin brought record rainfall to much of the Southeast this fall, flooding entire towns throughout South Carolina and closing major highways. As the storm heightened to a state of emergency, challenges for hospitals intensified too—from relying on shuttled water to complying with boil-water advisories and facing evacuations.

When emergencies such as these strike, hospitals’ top priority is to ensure that patients are safe, even if that means staff must work back-to-back 12-hour shifts and stay in the hospital overnight before being reunited with their families. My wife, a pediatric nurse in South Carolina, experienced these challenges firsthand. While trying to focus on caring for her patients, worrisome questions ensued: Is my family in danger? Is there flooding in my neighborhood? Will I be able to travel home safely? Continue reading

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Why I Like Property Tax

One day, I received a dreadful phone call at work. It was my neighbor. “Brent, there’s a fire truck outside your house.”

I raced home and, within minutes, my house was engulfed in flames. Three quarters of everything we owned: incinerated.

Thankfully, many special family items were rescued, including hundreds of irreplaceable photos—we have the local fire department to thank for that. Three huge fire trucks and at least 15 firemen worked well into the night dousing our house before the flames were completely extinguished.

I have no idea what it cost, but I’m really glad I didn’t receive a bill. Imagine receiving a bill for all municipal services. Did you know that road paving costs about $95 per ton of asphalt? Or that each high school student costs about $10,000 per year to educate? What if we received a bill for a bad guy being arrested in our county? What if you had to consider the cost of an ambulance before calling 911? Many essential services are paid for with property tax. Continue reading

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Location, Location, Location: Everything or Nothing

I work with amazing people in real estate. They’re dedicated, intelligent, and talented yet I’m constantly surprised by how much their careers and prosperity vary. It isn’t that anyone is more ambitious than the others or that they have more to begin with. What I’ve noticed is that those who excel learn what really works and keep learning. We all heard Thomas Edison’s quote that “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” But does it have to be that way? I don’t think it does. For me, Edison’s less famous quote “Opportunity is missed by most people because it looks like work” is much more revealing. Let me explain why.

What is the difference?

The difference in these two outlooks lies in how you regard the application of learning, a.k.a. your knowledge, experience, and habits. Every day we use information to get ahead in business and information is the root of success. Unfortunately we can lose sight of what we don’t know, what information we don’t have, and suddenly we are not succeeding. We’re outperformed and outsmarted by those we should beat. Continue reading

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Live from EGGC 2015: Startups Showcase – How Esri’s Startup Program Drives Change


Over the past 25 years, the annual Esri Electric and Gas GIS Conference (EGGC) has become the largest annual geospatial event for utility professionals in the world. This year’s conference focuses on how utilities can employ the latest GIS technology … Continue reading

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Building Better Civil Solutions with Agile Government

Modern technology has dramatically increased the pace of software application development. Within hours a single person can now conceive, create and distribute an app to millions of people. Thanks to the global internet, access and updating of these apps occurs automatically and constantly. Products can be prototyped, measured, improved and updated many times a day. A result of this rapid iteration is the increasing evolution rate and validation of product capabilities that minimizes time to market. Often referred to as “agile development” or lean, this process is a fundamental shift in how businesses achieve market adoption and customer satisfaction. By contrast, waterfall development historically meant long and disconnected cycles of requirements, design, development, testing and delivery that stretch interminably and often discover late in the process new opportunities or missing requirements. The cost of development and delivery time using waterfall processes can mean projects become “too big to fail” yet also fail to meet critical business and customer objectives. Continue reading

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Risk, Insurance, and the Location Domain

Recently I had the chance to work with one of the world’s largest insurers on improving their business processes. In discussing insurance workflows and data, we all recognized that every twenty-first century dataset contains location. What our sessions highlighted was the fact that every business process in insurance requires location data. The more we explored business units, governance, data management systems and the way people work, the more we hit on the notion of the location domain. Let me explain.

Domain describes a discrete set of land or computers that share a common purpose, owner or role. It’s also a sphere of knowledge, influence, or activity. The location domain is the influence of location within these business activities and systems, how it enables new or improved knowledge and can drive significant process improvement.

Fooled into Complacency

Think about risks and insured people and assets. Risks are often indistinct; they influence a large area without an exact or precise boundary. The insured are more discrete—they contain an address, a building, property, or asset which can be identified to a known location somewhere in the world. This has led many of us into a false sense of security about the accuracy of location specific data. Continue reading

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Building Space: Better Sales, Better Management, and Better Security with GIS

Type, status, condition … I hear these three words often from GIS users.  I hear them in a conversation that starts like this “Please help us improve our ability to find a person, a space, or an asset with a map and tell me its type, status, and condition … and by the way, can this information be updated in real-time?”

The next comment is usually along the lines of “… and do you know how hard it is for us to quickly answer this simple question and see the results on a campus, building, or workplace map?”

This conversation holds true for new clients as well as those that have used geographic information systems (GIS), for many years.  Often times, if the customer is already using GIS technology to manage location information about their outdoor property, infrastructure, and transportation assets, they will ask “… then why not store our indoor space & asset location data in GIS as well?  Why do buildings look like ‘black holes’ in our geographic database?” Continue reading

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A Location Strategy versus a GIS Strategy

It has been said many times that every 21st century dataset contains location. Geoenabled databases and systems exist everywhere in business, government, and society. But somehow we are still missing the value of that location data.

In my role as a marketing director at Esri, I meet a lot of people. Usually, they fall into two camps: those who’ve been enjoying the benefits of this GIS technology for decades and those who are new to the world of spatial data, analysis, and GIS.

One of the questions I’m often asked is, What’s the difference between a location strategy and a GIS strategy? The two are close cousins. While a GIS strategy many times refers to the implementation of systems and technology, I see a location strategy as implementing the business of using and understanding location data across an organization. Let me explain. Continue reading

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The Democratization of Accuracy

While writing this, I contemplated titling it, “The Deregulation of Positioning.” As you can see, I changed my mind. I don’t want it to sound like a literal judicial repealing of laws. It’s still, however, something that clearly has occurred and will transform our work and enhance the capabilities of GIS. No longer is high accuracy a luxury that only cash-rich business sectors can afford (utilities, for example). Now, everyone has access to highly accurate GPS tools and workflows without any middlemen or middleware.

Thanks, Standardization

Let’s discuss what’s happened. Continue reading

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