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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The First Ecological Land Units Map of the World

The US Geological Survey (USGS) and Esri are pleased to announce the publication of the most detailed global ecological land units map in the world. This exciting new global data set provides a science platform for better understanding and accounting of the world’s resources.  Scientists, land managers, conservationists, developers, and the public will use this map to improve regional, national, and global resource management, planning, and decision making.

Ecological Tapestry of the World online explorer application: Explore the ecological data behind the land unit map and begin planning how it can be used in your work.

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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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Speaking the Language of Spatial Analysis

Asking questions and developing answers using a common vocabulary leads to better decision making.

As discussed in a previous post, spatial analysis can be viewed as a kind of common language used across an organization. It starts with a set of questions, such as Where are things located in the world?, What is nearby?, and How are things connected?, and then sets about answering those questions by leveraging the power of GIS.

Imagine a bank with a number of different branch locations, along with locations of all the customers they service in a specific geographic region. The bank can use spatial analysis to better balance its service to these customers based on drive time analysis and delineate geographic areas with similar capacity. Continue reading

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Selecting the Right Computing Architecture for Your GIS

From centralized to distributed operations, choosing the right architecture pattern for your GIS can improve user productivity and reduce operational costs.

[Note:  This is latest post in our series about Managing GIS.]

There are benefits of centralized operations, and there are some reasons why distributed operations may be preferred by some organizations. We can find reasons why a distributed operation may work better than a centralized one. Distributed operations require more hardware, higher administration cost, higher implementation risk, more data access problems (to centralized data sources), and reduced security. Selecting the right architecture pattern to best meet your business needs can improve user productivity and reduce operational costs. Continue reading

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The Story Maps Life Cycle

From custom beginnings to templatization: The evolution of a Story Map template

Story Maps can inform and inspire your audience. They combine interactive maps and multimedia content into elegant user experiences. One of the latest Story Maps—Geography Bee: A Global Gallery of Pollinators—uses the context of geography to present a spectacular collection of bee portraits by USGS scientist Sam Droege.

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Making GIS a Part of the Open Web

GeoServices provide a common API across all of GIS for users and developers to easily access information.

Today is GIS Day, an annual celebration and sharing to our communities about the use of geospatial technology to understand, affect, and engage with our physical world. You can join any of hundreds of local events around the globe to meet local experts, developers, analysts, government staff, and engaged citizens to learn about how to access open data and spatial analysis tools that help you make sense of complex relationships.

Common Services

At the interface of GIS is a commonly overlooked, but incredibly powerful mechanism that makes it possible to uniformly access data regardless of the underlying technology or source of the data. It is this interface which allows for a smartphone application to work with web sites and desktop analysis tools—meaning that people can use the user experience that most fits their needs but they are working from the same common information system.

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How Would You Determine the Value of Open Geospatial Information?

I serve on the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board charged with providing independent advice to the US government on GPS-related policy, planning, program management, and funding.  When Lightsquared proposed operating an LTE network in a spectrum adjacent to the GPS spectrum with conditional approval by the FCC, our Board and others raised deep concerns about interference with GPS receivers.  The FCC subsequently revoked the conditional approval.  In anticipation of similar interference in the future, the PNT Executive Committee, made up of nine federal deputy secretaries, decided that, in consideration of the presidential directive to find more broadband spectrum, even if there might be interference with the GPS signal, our Advisory Board should be tasked with documenting the socioeconomic value of GPS services.  The subtle inference was that GPS might be a lesser priority than LTE and broadband access.

So, just how would you document the social and economic benefits provided by GPS?  GPS is used practically everywhere today.  GPS produces direct and indirect economic and social benefits, tangible and intangible.   Expand that thought to include all the geospatial applications in use today such as national security and safety of life.  Then include precision agriculture and water resource management and the use of mapping to improve decision making in emergency management, managing endangered species, conducting property tax assessments and verifying insurance claims.  Add in many more, including the geo-referencing of earth observation and remote sensing data.  Geospatial data is BIG data. 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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Credential Creep in the GIS Field—For Good or for Ill?

A new generation of credentials herald better times ahead for adult education and workforce development.

Have you noticed the proliferation of GIS credentials?

Hundreds of GIS certificate programs, dozens of specialized master’s degrees, and even a few bachelor’s degree programs have sprung up at colleges and universities at an accelerating rate since the 1990s. The absence of standards and accountability for academic certification contributed in part to the rise of GIS professional certification programs. These credentials are conferred by a few professional societies rather than many individual academic institutions.

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