Category Archives: Industry Focus

Building Better Civil Solutions with Agile Government

Modern technology has dramatically increased the pace of software application development. Within hours a single person can now conceive, create and distribute an app to millions of people. Thanks to the global internet, access and updating of these apps occurs automatically and constantly. Products can be prototyped, measured, improved and updated many times a day. A result of this rapid iteration is the increasing evolution rate and validation of product capabilities that minimizes time to market. Often referred to as “agile development” or lean, this process is a fundamental shift in how businesses achieve market adoption and customer satisfaction. By contrast, waterfall development historically meant long and disconnected cycles of requirements, design, development, testing and delivery that stretch interminably and often discover late in the process new opportunities or missing requirements. The cost of development and delivery time using waterfall processes can mean projects become “too big to fail” yet also fail to meet critical business and customer objectives. Continue reading

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Risk, Insurance, and the Location Domain

Recently I had the chance to work with one of the world’s largest insurers on improving their business processes. In discussing insurance workflows and data, we all recognized that every twenty-first century dataset contains location. What our sessions highlighted was the fact that every business process in insurance requires location data. The more we explored business units, governance, data management systems and the way people work, the more we hit on the notion of the location domain. Let me explain.

Domain describes a discrete set of land or computers that share a common purpose, owner or role. It’s also a sphere of knowledge, influence, or activity. The location domain is the influence of location within these business activities and systems, how it enables new or improved knowledge and can drive significant process improvement.

Fooled into Complacency

Think about risks and insured people and assets. Risks are often indistinct; they influence a large area without an exact or precise boundary. The insured are more discrete—they contain an address, a building, property, or asset which can be identified to a known location somewhere in the world. This has led many of us into a false sense of security about the accuracy of location specific data. Continue reading

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Building Space: Better Sales, Better Management, and Better Security with GIS

Type, status, condition … I hear these three words often from GIS users.  I hear them in a conversation that starts like this “Please help us improve our ability to find a person, a space, or an asset with a map and tell me its type, status, and condition … and by the way, can this information be updated in real-time?”

The next comment is usually along the lines of “… and do you know how hard it is for us to quickly answer this simple question and see the results on a campus, building, or workplace map?”

This conversation holds true for new clients as well as those that have used geographic information systems (GIS), for many years.  Often times, if the customer is already using GIS technology to manage location information about their outdoor property, infrastructure, and transportation assets, they will ask “… then why not store our indoor space & asset location data in GIS as well?  Why do buildings look like ‘black holes’ in our geographic database?” Continue reading

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A Location Strategy versus a GIS Strategy

It has been said many times that every 21st century dataset contains location. Geoenabled databases and systems exist everywhere in business, government, and society. But somehow we are still missing the value of that location data.

In my role as a marketing director at Esri, I meet a lot of people. Usually, they fall into two camps: those who’ve been enjoying the benefits of this GIS technology for decades and those who are new to the world of spatial data, analysis, and GIS.

One of the questions I’m often asked is, What’s the difference between a location strategy and a GIS strategy? The two are close cousins. While a GIS strategy many times refers to the implementation of systems and technology, I see a location strategy as implementing the business of using and understanding location data across an organization. Let me explain. Continue reading

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The Democratization of Accuracy

While writing this, I contemplated titling it, “The Deregulation of Positioning.” As you can see, I changed my mind. I don’t want it to sound like a literal judicial repealing of laws. It’s still, however, something that clearly has occurred and will transform our work and enhance the capabilities of GIS. No longer is high accuracy a luxury that only cash-rich business sectors can afford (utilities, for example). Now, everyone has access to highly accurate GPS tools and workflows without any middlemen or middleware.

Thanks, Standardization

Let’s discuss what’s happened. Continue reading

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A Location Platform Brings Simplicity and Execution

A brilliant electrical engineer approached me with a request. He asked if we could model a complex control system in electric substations with GIS. To better understand what he wanted to do, I asked what problem he was trying to solve. He described several.  First, the control system took incorrect action when faced with a failure in the power system. What happened was the control system tripped out a larger section of the grid than was necessary. The engineer thought that modeling the control system in GIS could help diagnose and ultimately correct this problem. I told him this was possible, but it would be complicated.

He was overlooking major, obvious problems that carried big impact.

I tried to change the subject. I asked the engineer what was the biggest problem facing his company. He asked what I meant. What was the biggest problem from an engineering perspective? From another? I clarified. I meant, generally, what was his company’s biggest problem? He said bad data, poor engineering standards, budget cuts, inconsistent operating practices, and more. I pressed further. Finally, he said, “Well, 60 percent of our customers don’t pay their electric bills. Is that what you mean?” Continue reading

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A Smart Approach @Esri UC

From web GIS to apps and more, here are the top five conference takeaways that show how GIS shapes national government.

In July, more than 14,000 GIS enthusiasts traveled to San Diego, California, for the Esri User Conference (Esri UC). From the moment Esri president Jack Dangermond took the stage at the Plenary Session the focus was clear—people are applying geography to create smarter communities, smarter organizations, and smarter nations.

There were so many exciting sessions, workshops, networking events, and exhibits. To give you a look at the most important news, we’ve narrowed down the top five things you should know. Here’s what’s trending in GIS.

Web GIS—The Future Is Now

Organizations use web GIS to drive efficiency and connectivity like never before. GIS-based portals are more than websites; they are hubs people depend on to do their work every day. The integrated ArcGIS platform transforms how national government staff make use of the web to map, analyze, manage, and communicate critical data. Innovative public-facing portals go a long way in connecting national governments with citizens. ArcGIS Open Data portals, for example, empower citizens to find the data they need to drive research, business ventures, and other important initiatives. Continue reading

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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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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?”

Continue reading

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