Category Archives: Industry Focus

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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Hacking Location: The Future of TV Analytics

The way people view movies and television is changing. How can the industry keep up?

When Kevin Spacey pitched House of Cards to broadcasters, they asked him to do a pilot.

When Kevin Spacey pitched House of Cards to Netflix, they did not ask him to do a pilot.  They wanted to know many episodes he wanted to produce.  Netflix was able to ask that question with confidence because they already had knowledge from data and analysis that would support their decision to air the show.

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Knowing When Your Lights Will Come Back On

Knowledge is power. Does your utility have enough of the right spatial intelligence?

“More information is always better than less.” — Simon Sinek, Author

Sinek would never agree that “less is more.” The author went on to describe the value of more information: “When people know the reason things are happening, even if it’s bad news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly,” Sinek stated. “Keeping people in the dark only serves to stir negative emotions.”

When I worked for a power company, it was my job to make sure people were not in the dark—literally. When people were out of power, we figured out why: A snow storm had drizzled ice on the power lines. Or some drunk had crashed into a utility pole. Or else some stupid (now dead) squirrel had climbed onto the lines and forgotten that his tail was a very nice conductor. Continue reading

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Teaching Geography in the Twenty-First Century

New Tools Are Available to Teach Geography in More Engaging, Dynamic, and Effective Ways

Geography is considered one of the world’s oldest disciplines. It was first defined and formally established by Eratosthenes in 250 BC and has a rich tradition of scholarship extending from 2,000 years ago to the present. As a scientific discipline, geography has always embraced new technologies, research practices, instructional methods, skills, and content.

Teaching geography in the 21st Century includes working with mobile and online mapping tools, in addition to traditional focuses such as physical and cultural geography, fieldwork, and understanding landscapes.

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What is up with the Weather?

Climate change is here, and geospatial tools are already helping us adapt to the “new normal.”

It is hard to believe that as the Polar Vortex returns to North America bringing snow and subzero temperatures, meteorological offices in the UK, Australia, and other countries around the world announced that 2014 was the hottest year on record. Records dating back to 1659 tell us that eight of the UK’s top ten warmest years have occurred since 2002.

Soaring temperatures and high winds in Australia last year fueled some of the worst bushfires in more than 30 years. According to a recent report by Climate Council, a climate change research group based in Australia, changing weather, a growing population, and the proximity of vulnerable assets in bushfire-prone areas have increased the risks to lives and property. The cost of these bushfires is estimated to run into hundreds of millions of dollars each year. It is expected that Australia needs to double the number of firefighters by 2030 to cope with this threat.

Ironically, record warm weather like Australia’s dry spells and drought in California are mirrored with increasingly severe wet weather, including cyclones, in the Pacific and Atlantic hurricanes. Continue reading

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The Future of Web Maps in Next Generation Textbooks

Integrating interactive web maps with other digital content will make “nextgen” textbooks come alive.

Textbooks are changing, and so is the textbook industry, which accounted for almost $14 billion in US sales in 2013. The high cost of printed texts is driving the change. The Student Public Interest Research Group estimates that full-time US college students spend nearly $1,200 per year on textbooks, on average. Mounting public concern about the high cost of education in general, and textbooks in particular, is forcing publishers away from printed books toward a new generation of less expensive digital products. Esri is interested in the future of textbooks because they affect millions of young people every year, and because of the potential to make textbook maps come alive. Continue reading

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Insight beyond the Numbers

Location analytics lets you visualize your key performance indicator data on maps.

Russ was one of my favorite bosses. He was the president of the utility I worked at. I ran electric operations. Russ was an accountant, a bean counter by training. I was (and am) an electrical engineer. Yet we agreed on almost everything about running a gas and electric utility.

Russ once told me that there are only four things you have to do to be successful at running a utility. Only four? Yes. Make money, keep customers happy, keep employees happy and safe, and stay out of trouble. Continue reading

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Keeping It All Together

Esri’s 2015 Resolution for Vertically Integrated Gas Companies

This time of year, it’s customary to settle on a New Year’s resolution. That resolution often leads to a wish list.

Companies—especially vertically integrated gas companies—have asked Esri to prioritize a special wish. Vertically integrated gas companies need a pipe-network feature that enables both a linear-referencing network and a geometric, or facility, network.

We have some good news. Esri is rolling out two solutions:

Here are three reasons we need ALRP and UPDM. Continue reading

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Big, Bad Data

Context is crucial in making big data useful, and the key to that context is often location.

Move over, smart grid. A new buzz phrase has bumped you out of first place in utility IT: big data.

As with smart grid, no one really knows what big data means. We know it’s big in information technology, though. And I’m even not sure that the term “big data” is even grammatically correct.

I recently interviewed a candidate for a job and asked him what he knew about GIS. In his response he mentioned big data perhaps 10 times and smart grid only seven. I concluded that big data was now bigger in the utility IT space than smart grid. Continue reading

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Resolving the Challenges Facing National Mapping Organizations

To address private sector competition, organizations need a strong platform to support customer needs. 

While national map, chart, and data production (MAPS) organizations have long been recognized as the source of authoritative maps and mapping data, they are currently struggling to retain that unique position and, consequently, their funding, due to increased competition from the private sector.

Commercial map providers not only have the ability to quickly collect mapping data but also to package and distribute it in a way that resonates with businesses and government agencies. Because these commercial map providers are able to bring together data and services and deliver them on the Internet and in mobile environments, customers expect the same capabilities from their national MAPS organizations. MAPS organizations must move from solely being data providers to integrating and delivering information products including maps, data, web services, and apps, using a common platform delivered through Web GIS. Continue reading

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