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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The Changing Face of Health, in Five Story Maps

Using GIS to Identify Gaps in Care, Increase Food Security, Combat Big Tobacco, and Much More

Complex health data is no longer restricted to static forms and tables. Today’s health and human services professionals interpret facts and figures in a geographic context. Interactive maps and spatial analysis help them prioritize spending, site service locations, identify vulnerable populations, and tell their stories.

The following five story maps illustrate some of the ways GIS is modernizing and transforming health throughout the world.

Mapping the Story of Health Disparities

Everyone deserves to be healthy. Unfortunately, factors such as race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and geographic location can prevent people from getting the care and resources they need. Unequal differences in health status and gaps in care, known as health disparities, put vulnerable populations at a higher risk for preventable diseases and health conditions.  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?”

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Six Trending Topics in Web GIS

Analysis, 3D, Smart Mapping, and Other Trends Enable Us to Think About GIS Differently

The web continues to have an enormous impact on how we practice GIS and how we apply geospatial tools and capabilities to support our workflows and solve problems. It has fundamentally changed everything we do, and how we think. This trend has been evolving for years, but clearly has reached escape velocity and a new tipping point. No longer is the question “if” or “when” to embrace Web GIS, the question now is “how” to leverage the new opportunities and workflows it enables.

In an earlier post just after the 2015 Esri Federal GIS Conference, we covered the trending topics at that time. Here’s an update from the 2015 Esri User Conference, that focuses on how some of those trends have matured with new capabilities, and how a few new ones have arrived. Continue reading

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New App Puts the World in Your Hand

Field Notes – Earth uses the power of three new global maps to help answer important questions about our place in the world.

Esri is pleased to announce the immediate availability of Field Notes – Earth, a new smartphone app that uses three powerful new maps to help you answer important questions about your place in the world, such as:

  • What is your ideal climate?
  • Where does your food come from?
  • What drives your choice to live in a high or low density location?
  • …and much more.

Built using Esri’s AppStudio for ArcGIS, this free app shares the power of geographic information through a common language to describe in tremendous detail the landscape of planet Earth. Continue reading

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Smart Communities as Hubs of Innovation

Six strategies your community can employ to become a smart community.

Putting in place a GIS platform and open data strategy creates the infrastructure for information sharing, solution creation, and innovation. The most solution-oriented, economically competitive communities will find ways to make their GIS platform and open data initiatives actionable by others in the community. These communities will actively work to become a hub of innovation by engaging with NGOs, start-ups, academia, businesses, and citizens.

Encourage Start-Ups

Data provided by the local government can find innovative uses when put in the hands of local start-ups. Entrepreneurial thinkers are often willing to put time, energy, and resources into creating new solutions. If those solutions meet a real need, a small business can bloom and grow within the community, creating attractive new job opportunities. Continue reading

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Esri: Serving Our Users, Advancing GIS and Spatial Literacy

If you could not attend the 2015 User Conference and hear my opening remarks last Monday, I’d like to share a few thoughts about Esri’s role in serving our users as well as advancing GIS and spatial literacy. 


 Our organization is about serving you, our users, with what you need and want. It’s also about advancing GIS and a geographic initiative, promoting, and supporting the notion of “geoenlightenment.”

As an organization, Esri is strong and we’re continuing to grow. We’re dedicated to this. And we’re excited to see what you can accomplish and to watch your work evolve.

Professional Development

We’ve been investing heavily in opportunities for your continued professional development with a number of lifelong learning initiatives. This includes meetings like User Conferences where you can get together with your peers and learn from them as well as share your own best practices. We’ve been investing in more virtual classes and a number of other initiatives such as MOOCs—these massive online learning efforts; Esri Press, now with several hundred books published; technical certifications; and GeoNet, an online community to try to keep the kind of learning and sharing that happens at our User Conferences going all year long, all around the world, for all of our users.

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The ArcGIS Product: An Integrated System

If you were unable to attend the 2015 User Conference last week in San Diego, here is a summary of my plenary remarks about recent and coming improvements to the ArcGIS product. 


ArcGIS is made up of a number of components: a server component, a desktop component, an apps component, and now a content component, an online component, and a portal component. That’s a lot of components, but in fact it’s all one integrated system.


Desktop is the component of this integrated system that most of you work with and are familiar with. It supports mapping, visualization, and analytics, and it now embodies two main applications: ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro. These two applications run side by side.

We’ve been putting a lot of resources into ArcGIS Pro, the new 64-bit environment for visualization, over the last several years. We continue to improve and support ArcMap, and will continue to do so for long into the future. And over time, the power of ArcGIS Pro will become more attractive.

The desktop component of the ArcGIS product provides tools for mapping, visualization, editing, and analysis, and we are continually working to simplify and improve this environment.

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Creating Useful Technology and Supporting Our Users

During the plenary session of the 2015 User Conference last week in San Diego, I shared some of the big themes we are pursuing as we innovate the ArcGIS platform. For those of you who were unable to see the plenary, I’ll share some highlights of our work here. 


ArcGIS is an integrated Web GIS that is supported by services. These are abstracted in a geoinformation model that’s managed by the portal, and then accessible by a number of apps, which are the growing part of this system.

ArcGIS is an integrated Web GIS platform providing mapping, analysis, data management, and collaboration capabilities both on the open Web and on-premises.

As we continue to grow and expand the ArcGIS platform, our focus is on creating useful technology and supporting our users. In our work pursuing this goal, a number of themes have emerged. Continue reading

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