Category Archives: Industry Focus

Five Steps to Help You Find the Next Great Idea in Real Estate

Working with commercial real estate (CRE) professionals for nearly a decade has given me some interesting insight into this sector of the economy. The CRE sector can sometimes seem chaotic. Over the last decade, I have seen CRE professionals prosper where others have failed. While I don’t purport to be an expert, I have had the opportunity to see what success in CRE looks like. From my perspective, one trend seems to stand out. It’s not secret sauce or something someone learns from those get-rich-quick schemes we see advertised on late night television. The common thread among leaders in CRE is that they see opportunity where no one else does.

Information, Location, Strategy — the Trifecta of CRE Success

OK, that’s great, I’ve stated the obvious. But how do you do it? There is no magic opportunity wand; there is only what you know about the market. Therein lies the real secret to success in real estate—having access to information. Continue reading

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Localization and Location as a Service (LaaS)

Today’s customers expect a seamless experience as they research, engage and purchase across mobile, web and physical store locations. Successful retailers have put customer retention, marketing, and back-end IT systems in place to make sense of these behaviors in order to enhance the customer experience.

Many retailers are using localization, applying the unique nature of specific locations to reflect the product or service being offered, to integrate messaging and operations across these channels.

What is localization? In this context, it is using local market characteristics to place the right products at the right price in the right store at the right time. It requires location-specific planning and execution strategies across departments included targeted marketing, sales, merchandizing, store operations and distribution.

This movement uses data-driven processes and solutions, including gathering and analyzing local customer demographics, to better understand what needs to be offered in each location. Retailers do this in hopes of getting marketing, distribution, merchandizing, e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail operations all working in harmony. Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars, many times, the results haven’t lived up to the hype.

Why is this? One reason is that retailers have missed one fundamental element,  the location in localization. For all the focus on integrating demographics, merchandizing, transaction history and store size and format, none of these systems have been designed to truly create, manage, and share location-based insight. Continue reading

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Four Maps of American Health You Need to See

Eat your fruits and veggies. Drink plenty of water. Exercise 30 minutes a day. That’s the perfect recipe for good health, right? Well, not quite.

The truth is, your health depends on much more. Thanks to advances in mapping technology, today’s health professionals know that where you live, work, learn, and play has an incredible impact on your well-being.

Interactive maps paint the picture of community health, showing the spatial relationship between disparities, illness, and location—like visualizing how a neighborhood with no playgrounds influences childhood obesity. Maps offer rich insights that can help drive positive change in Americans’ lives.

Check out these four maps to explore the health challenges that permeate the United States and how place plays a pivotal role. Continue reading

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Turn the Lights Back on with GIS and Operations Dashboards

Distribution utilities can never guarantee uninterrupted power. A heavy storm, a fallen branch, a car accident or even scheduled maintenance can easily down electric lines. While disruptions are inevitable, what sets an agile and leading utility apart from the rest is its ability to quickly restore service and minimize outages, improving overall reliability.

One of the keys to rapid and effective outage response is efficient internal communication. How does information flow within the organization? Do staff, managers and directors have an up-to-the-minute understanding of how systems are performing, and what is being done to optimize that performance?

Access to real-time, accurate information about the current state of the utility’s network is critical to making intelligent decisions, especially during outages. Many utilities may already have the geographic information system (GIS) technology in place with a long-term vision of enabling this, but often, that goal remains unrealized. Continue reading

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It’s the Law! Really?

Utility Pros, Don’t Be Afraid to Challenge the Status Quo—the ArcGIS Platform Has Your Back

Twenty-five years ago, when I worked for a power company, I was the champion of the GIS project. As champion, I had a mission to get the most use out of the company’s investment in geospatial tools. We didn’t talk about GIS as a platform back then, but the idea was to share authoritative network data with everyone who could benefit from it. It was often a battle. Why? People were so used to using paper maps that anything different was frowned on by the field users. In fairness, they were concerned about safety. If one of their primary tools, like their operating maps, looked different, it might cause someone to be confused. Confusion, of course can, lead to accidents. Continue reading

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Challenging Banks to Take an Uber-like Approach to Innovation

Today’s shopping takes place mainly via credit and debit cards that are linked directly to banks. Stores use details from your bank so you can buy online on the Web and through branded apps. While newer mobile payments from Apple, Google, and others are starting to cause disruption to this, basically the model is the same. Details are provided to a third party who brokers the sale when sufficient funds are available to cover the purchase.

This is causing some to view branches as increasingly irrelevant. Why? Because mobile transactions like payments and deposits (you can take a picture of a check while lounging at your home now, for example) are removing the reasons consumers need to visit a bricks-and-mortar bank.

Scaling up service to change the model

Financial institutions are missing out. What if institutions with 18th century business ideas took an Uber-like approach to innovation? Instead of a collection of apps on a customer’s phone, what if there was only one?  And what if that app was for the consumer’s bank, not a store? Continue reading

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How Spatial Analysis Kept My Wife Safe during Hurricane Joaquin

When Disasters Strike, GIS Can Help Hospitals Care for Staff

Hurricane Joaquin brought record rainfall to much of the Southeast this fall, flooding entire towns throughout South Carolina and closing major highways. As the storm heightened to a state of emergency, challenges for hospitals intensified too—from relying on shuttled water to complying with boil-water advisories and facing evacuations.

When emergencies such as these strike, hospitals’ top priority is to ensure that patients are safe, even if that means staff must work back-to-back 12-hour shifts and stay in the hospital overnight before being reunited with their families. My wife, a pediatric nurse in South Carolina, experienced these challenges firsthand. While trying to focus on caring for her patients, worrisome questions ensued: Is my family in danger? Is there flooding in my neighborhood? Will I be able to travel home safely? Continue reading

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Why I Like Property Tax

One day, I received a dreadful phone call at work. It was my neighbor. “Brent, there’s a fire truck outside your house.”

I raced home and, within minutes, my house was engulfed in flames. Three quarters of everything we owned: incinerated.

Thankfully, many special family items were rescued, including hundreds of irreplaceable photos—we have the local fire department to thank for that. Three huge fire trucks and at least 15 firemen worked well into the night dousing our house before the flames were completely extinguished.

I have no idea what it cost, but I’m really glad I didn’t receive a bill. Imagine receiving a bill for all municipal services. Did you know that road paving costs about $95 per ton of asphalt? Or that each high school student costs about $10,000 per year to educate? What if we received a bill for a bad guy being arrested in our county? What if you had to consider the cost of an ambulance before calling 911? Many essential services are paid for with property tax. Continue reading

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Location, Location, Location: Everything or Nothing

I work with amazing people in real estate. They’re dedicated, intelligent, and talented yet I’m constantly surprised by how much their careers and prosperity vary. It isn’t that anyone is more ambitious than the others or that they have more to begin with. What I’ve noticed is that those who excel learn what really works and keep learning. We all heard Thomas Edison’s quote that “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” But does it have to be that way? I don’t think it does. For me, Edison’s less famous quote “Opportunity is missed by most people because it looks like work” is much more revealing. Let me explain why.

What is the difference?

The difference in these two outlooks lies in how you regard the application of learning, a.k.a. your knowledge, experience, and habits. Every day we use information to get ahead in business and information is the root of success. Unfortunately we can lose sight of what we don’t know, what information we don’t have, and suddenly we are not succeeding. We’re outperformed and outsmarted by those we should beat. Continue reading

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Live from EGGC 2015: Startups Showcase – How Esri’s Startup Program Drives Change


Over the past 25 years, the annual Esri Electric and Gas GIS Conference (EGGC) has become the largest annual geospatial event for utility professionals in the world. This year’s conference focuses on how utilities can employ the latest GIS technology … Continue reading

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