Category Archives: Industry Focus

Electric Utilities Need Answers

GIS Responds to the Tough Questions

Electric utilities face a new world–one in which the infrastructure is aging along with the workers. The price of everything keeps going up. Customers want better and faster service, but some of them cannot pay their bills. Natural disasters seem to get nastier each year. Governments continue to dole out more and more regulations. The community wants better service, lower emissions, and fewer mishaps. It’s a political nightmare to raise rates. Plus, the new smart grid devices are smothering utility operators with data.

In short: utilities cannot continue to operate as they have been. Utilities need a better way to do business. GIS can help. Continue reading

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USDA Adds People to Its Forest Inventory

At one time, researchers limited their forest ecosystems studies to biological and physical analysis. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service recognizes that humans are also part of the forest ecosystem. The condition of a forest greatly depends on how people think of it and the ways they want to use it.

Dr. Richard Guldin is the acting associate deputy chief for the USDA Forest Service’s research and development. In his keynote address at the Esri Forestry GIS Conference in May 2013, Guldin explained the role of GIS in tracking the health, productivity, and diversity of the nation’s forests. Continue reading

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Sharing Information to Support Smart Grid

I recently co-presented a session on GIS and the Smart Grid to a group of about 150 folks from the gas and electric utilities and the telecommunications businesses. We thought it might be interesting to have the groups come together since as more and more utilities implement Smart Grid (electric and gas), there will become greater interdependencies on one another. We further thought that this session would be a great opportunity for each company to tell us their current practices on sharing data, problems and issues. The premise was, of course, that since ArcGIS is a platform which facilitates sharing of information, that both groups could give us feedback on how best to facilitate collaboration. Much to our surprise, the groups do not have much collaboration at all. In fact, they hadn’t really considered it very seriously. When I probed them further, I asked, well how do you share information with each other? One utility guy, perhaps, half-jokingly said that he bought his friend from the phone company a beer and that’s when they shared information.

The biggest take away from this session was this: the discussion on this topic hasn’t really started. It should. Continue reading

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Esri and the Scientific Community

Updated: October 26, 2014

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At Esri we are concerned with supporting basic and applied science, but we also recognize that there are many major themes of compelling interest to society that will drive scientific research for the next two decades. And thus we view science as helping us to understand much more than solely how the Earth works, but 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). Continue reading

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After the Storm

The outbreak of bad weather that has plagued the US over the past few weeks has created a significant need for access to location data and pre- and post-event map imagery.  I was recently on a call with a former colleague who was looking for the latest post-event imagery.  He described how imagery and other recently available features of ArcGIS Online, Esri’s cloud-based mapping platform, were having a significant impact on streamlining their claims workflow and efforts to effectively align field resources. Continue reading

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Benefitting from Change

The Esri Forestry GIS Conference held its third meeting at Esri headquarters in Redlands, California on May 14-16. Esri president Jack Dangermond launched the event by welcoming attendees, who represented land and timber companies, government organizations, and universities, and came from as far away as Guyana, Ireland, and South Africa. Continue reading

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The Role of GIS in Sustainable Economies

The goal of sustainable planning, policies, and governance is to design processes that return our planet to a more balanced level of use.  To do so we must realign our values and earth’s ability to support them. The success of this effort is dependent upon a foundation of science, a means of collaboration, and the implementation of sustainable polices and administration. GIS is an essential tool for designing and implementing sustainable processes at a scale ranging from local to global.

People around the world continue to compile scientific data about resources, ecosystems, and human impact. GIS enables us to visualize and analyze these massive collections of data. Establishing a base for determining cause and effect, GIS tracks ecological change and provides chains of evidence of human impact. It tracks people’s land use, methods of resource extraction, and peripheral activities, such as supporting road networks.  GIS manages large databases, depicts and prioritizes problems, models scenarios of both positive and negative practices, and predicts environmental outcomes. It provides the quantified information and analytical capabilities required for making location-based decisions that increase economic efficiencies and reduce consumption and contamination.

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There’s More to Spatial Thinking Than You Think

If you are a geography educator or GIS professional, you might say that “spatial thinking” is a way of reasoning about the world, facilitated by maps. However, if you are a science educator whose students need to make sense of 3-D molecular models or of cross-sections of a plant, “spatial thinking” is likely to mean something quite different. So too for cognitive psychologists who employ experimental methods to understand how people learn.

A recent Specialist Meeting on “Spatial Thinking across the College Curriculumhighlighted these different perspectives. The meeting’s purpose was to “identify the current state of our understanding of spatial thinking, identify gaps in our knowledge, and identify priorities for both research and practice in educating spatial thinkers at the college level.” Forty-three thought leaders were invited to participate, including those from Geography and GIScience, cognitive and developmental psychology, research librarians, and science education, history, landscape architecture, philosophy, and political science. Continue reading

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Esri Convenes Historic Oceans Summit

This past week (November 7-8, 2012), we held the first and only Esri Oceans Summit at Esri headquarters in Redlands. This was an invitation-only, high-level strategy workshop attended by intermediate to advanced ocean GIS analysts and developers, including many long-time users of Esri software. It was also an important deliverable of our new Oceans GIS Initiative.

More than 50 attendees triumphed over agency travel restrictions, budget cuts, busy schedules, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and other obstacles in order to be here with us at their own expense. They came ready to discuss with more than 40 Esri employees the various GIS functional requirements for ocean science, justification for and validation of such approaches, use cases, and the like. One major goal was for Esri to listen carefully to these attendees in order to help us move forward in our thinking about our approaches and our products to better serve ocean science and resource management.  Esri employees came from all parts of the organization: Industry Solutions/Marketing, Core Development, Sales, Professional Services, and more.
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Governing in a Connected World

Driving change through GIS

The technology we use today, both in our work and personal lives, has become interchangeable. The smartphone that is available through any retailer today is as capable, or more capable, than what most people need for work. The computer that I used at my desk, just a few years ago, is less capable than the phone that I carry at my hip. One might say that we are holding onto an overabundance of computing potential in our very hand. Add to this the throughput broadband and 4G wireless networks allow. One only has to watch the news to see how citizens are reacting to this abundance of connectivity. Information about your family, friends, and business acquaintances is at your fingertips. So is information about your bank accounts, credit cards, hotel reservations, or a sale at your favorite store. But government is a different animal—it is cautious and slow to change. And it is this change that occupies the thoughts of many public leaders. Just as we’re growing to expect more information and answers at our fingertips, citizens’ expectations of government are also growing. Continue reading

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