Category Archives: Industry Focus

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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Today’s GIS Forecast: Partly Cloudy

Firewalls protect web-based GIS from the dangers of the cloud

When I was interning at a power company, the utility industry had just adopted a revolutionary technology: SCADA. Today, SCADA is so common most people don’t even bother to spell out the acronym (supervisory control and data acquisition system). But back then, SCADA was controversial. It eliminated the need for substation operators.

Utilities staffed operators who could act immediately in an emergency. They closed breakers, put out fires, and called for help. They checked fluid levels and did maintenance, cleaning, and inspections. They made the rounds, took the readings, spoke to the dispatchers, and made sure everything ran smoothly. Continue reading

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A Safe Supply Chain is All about Where

Location analytics gives global manufacturers new visibility into each stop on the way to the shopper

When pork was found in Ikea’s moose lasagna in Europe, as you can imagine, this had significant ramifications with both the Jewish and Islamic communities.

Cadbury suffered a major brand debacle because swine DNA was found in candy bars for sale in Malaysia—a predominantly Muslim nation.

Then of course, the yuck factor, otherwise known as food fraud: horsemeat in beef products throughout Europe, the fact that most of the olive oil, honey, and maple syrup is not what it says it is.

What if we could see every touch point and monitor all the processes that are necessary at this vast global scale to get that chicken nugget safely from a meat packing plant to your toddler’s table? Continue reading

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What about the Big Problem?

Don’t think you’re solving it. Know you are.

For decades, utilities have used some form of digital mapping system. It could be a CAD system, an automated mapping/facilities management (AM/FM) system, or a full-featured GIS. Yet the vast majority of utilities use the GIS mainly as a basis for network documentation. Sure, it often is the basis for asset management, outage management, and network design. That’s good. Utilities have come a long way from the old paper maps and awkward processes of keeping records up to date. Yet, many don’t see their GIS as a true mapping or location platform. They often don’t see it as one that extends into nearly every corner of the company.

Many senior executives still view GIS as just a component, albeit a vital component, of operations groups instead of a strategic tool to help run the business. Executives do not necessarily see the GIS as a strong tool in helping solve their big problems.  Continue reading

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From Bricks to Clicks: How Location Intelligence is Changing Retail

Location analytics helps retailers breathe new life into old strategies. 

Online shopping is well understood. We don’t only know how many people visit an online retail site. We also know that changing the size of a picture by a few pixels will generate more sales. We can even see if online shopping carts have been abandoned, what items people have viewed, and how long visitors have stayed on a page to calculate their interest in buying a product.

But when it comes to knowing how many people shop at a physical store, traditionally we scratch our heads. We’ve been trying to figure out those details for more than a hundred years. And don’t get me started on “dark shoppers”—customers that visit a store but don’t purchase. Unlike online shoppers, “dark shoppers” don’t leave an activity trail. There’s been a lot of talk about how in-store beacons will change this, but the jury’s out on how shoppers will respond. Continue reading

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