Category Archives: Industry Focus

A Location Platform Brings Simplicity and Execution

A brilliant electrical engineer approached me with a request. He asked if we could model a complex control system in electric substations with GIS. To better understand what he wanted to do, I asked what problem he was trying to solve. He described several.  First, the control system took incorrect action when faced with a failure in the power system. What happened was the control system tripped out a larger section of the grid than was necessary. The engineer thought that modeling the control system in GIS could help diagnose and ultimately correct this problem. I told him this was possible, but it would be complicated.

He was overlooking major, obvious problems that carried big impact.

I tried to change the subject. I asked the engineer what was the biggest problem facing his company. He asked what I meant. What was the biggest problem from an engineering perspective? From another? I clarified. I meant, generally, what was his company’s biggest problem? He said bad data, poor engineering standards, budget cuts, inconsistent operating practices, and more. I pressed further. Finally, he said, “Well, 60 percent of our customers don’t pay their electric bills. Is that what you mean?” Continue reading

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A Smart Approach @Esri UC

From web GIS to apps and more, here are the top five conference takeaways that show how GIS shapes national government.

In July, more than 14,000 GIS enthusiasts traveled to San Diego, California, for the Esri User Conference (Esri UC). From the moment Esri president Jack Dangermond took the stage at the Plenary Session the focus was clear—people are applying geography to create smarter communities, smarter organizations, and smarter nations.

There were so many exciting sessions, workshops, networking events, and exhibits. To give you a look at the most important news, we’ve narrowed down the top five things you should know. Here’s what’s trending in GIS.

Web GIS—The Future Is Now

Organizations use web GIS to drive efficiency and connectivity like never before. GIS-based portals are more than websites; they are hubs people depend on to do their work every day. The integrated ArcGIS platform transforms how national government staff make use of the web to map, analyze, manage, and communicate critical data. Innovative public-facing portals go a long way in connecting national governments with citizens. ArcGIS Open Data portals, for example, empower citizens to find the data they need to drive research, business ventures, and other important initiatives. Continue reading

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Four Building Blocks for Creating a Successful Smart Community

Esri holds the rare position of having worked across the community spectrum for more than four decades with governments of all sizes as well as businesses, NGOs, start-ups, academic institutions, students, and citizens. Millions of people use Esri’s mapping and spatial analysis capabilities every day. Through the experiences gained in these customer engagements, Esri has created a path for communities of all sizes to work toward becoming smart communities.

Step 1: Start with a World-Class GIS Platform

The first step is to adopt Esri’s ArcGIS platform. The ArcGIS platform provides a scalable solution that is designed to meet the needs of all stakeholders. GIS professionals who craft spatial analyses, maps, and apps have all the rich desktop, server, and online tools available for data creation, analysis, and sharing. This valuable content can be delivered across an organization to anyone, on any device, anywhere, anytime. Colleagues who consume maps and data can easily discover and use what they need, then add their own intelligence to the maps in a collaborative online environment. Interactive maps and data can be shared across the organization or externally, increasing the reach and impact of all contributors. Live map services enable online maps and apps to display real-time data, which is invaluable for smart community collaboration. Continue reading

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Why GIS in Education Matters

Teaching spatial thinking empowers the populace with the skills to understand and act upon the big issues facing planet Earth.

People have always been fascinated with investigating their home—the Earth. To help understand our planet, ancient scholars in Rome, Greece, and China founded the study of geography more than 2,500 years ago.

Today, spatial thinking is more relevant than ever before, as issues such as climate change, economic globalization, urban sprawl, biodiversity loss, sustainable agriculture, water quality and quantity, crime, cultural diversity, energy, tourism, political instability, and natural hazards grow in importance on a global scale but also increasingly affect our everyday lives.

To grapple with these issues requires a populace that has a firm foundation in spatial thinking—a populace that can see the “big picture,” but that also understands how different patterns and trends are related, from a global scale all the way down to their local community.

Spatial thinking is concerned with all of the relevant issues of our time, because all of these issues have a geographic component. Continue reading

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GIS and the Electric Utility Death Spiral

“The report of my death was highly exaggerated.”

It turns out Mark Twain never really said the quote like this. But that doesn’t really matter. The quote retains its meaning. For a utility professional like myself, Twain’s insight reminds me that though many are speculating on the impending demise of the electric utility, that death is highly exaggerated.

The Electric Utility Death Spiral Goes Like This

In the United States, we have a new trend. Customers are installing solar panels to beat the band. In most places, customers can sell excess electricity these panels generate to utilities—at the same price they buy electricity from these utilities. The controversial practice is called “net metering.” The question people are asking is, “Is this fair?”

Continue reading

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Seven Ways GIS Enables Smart Communities

Leaders can leverage GIS to get a complete picture by viewing, mapping, sharing, analyzing, and acting on information about their community.

To get a clear view, community leaders must seek first to understand:

  • What and where are the community’s needs?
  • What is the status of available resources?

Smart communities are already getting a comprehensive view of needs and resources by using GIS and even incorporating realtime sensor data and 3D visualization. Citizens and businesses are using open data and increased governmental transparency to collaborate and drive innovation. When you can see the entire, community-wide landscape, it is much easier to identify gaps in service or areas that need to become more livable, sustainable, and resilient. That clear view can be seen from a GIS platform — a way to view, map, share, analyze, and act on information about the community. Continue reading

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Smart Communities: Meeting the Challenges

New advancements in technology and data collection can help communities successfully tackle challenges by working smarter instead of harder.

Demographic, economic, and other changes are presenting communities with unprecedented challenges and opportunities. And there are reasons to be hopeful. A combination of smart technology and smart people can drive the development of smart communities. 

Change is a Constant

Demographic shifts and fiscal fluctuations impact communities around the globe, prompting community leaders to adapt by changing the way they think and operate. Continue reading

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Smart Policies Lead to Smart Nations

Maps help policy makers consider all aspects of issues and communicate their positions to fellow government leaders and citizens.

Policies reflect a nation’s identity—its values and ambitions. In our modern, interconnected world, understanding policy issues and making the right decisions are critical to creating a sustainable world. When it comes to issues like climate change, use of natural resources, energy, healthcare, and economic growth, policy makers need a way to see all of the factors at play and potential impacts. How will their decisions impact people today and 10 years from now? As leaders from all levels of government consider key issues, they are turning to GIS.

Unlike any other technology, GIS takes big data and makes it easy to understand. Maps can show where money is being spent—is it going to areas of greatest need or to well-heeled neighborhoods? Maps can show where resources are harvested and how that impacts surrounding lands. Maps helps policy makers consider all aspects of issues. Once they have a deep understanding of an issue and take a stance, maps help them communicate their position to fellow government leaders and citizens. Continue reading

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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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