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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Living Atlas Resources for Earth Science Week and Beyond

Bioclimates in and around the Eastern Himalayas

It is Earth Science Week! Since October 1998, the American Geosciences Institute has organized this national and international event to help the public gain appreciation and understanding of Earth Sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth. We want to … 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

EGGC

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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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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Lift that Stein to Oktoberfest!

See Where People Spend the Most on Beer

Beer lovers from around the world are gathering in Munich, Germany to celebrate Oktoberfest. In 2014, close to six and a half million people attended the festival and consumed 6.9 million liters of beer–that’s a lot of lifted steins!

For those who can’t celebrate in Munich, there are plenty of opportunities to lift a stein in the US. Among the most popular festivals are Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio that attracts more than 500,000 people, followed by the Denver Oktoberfest that attracts more than 350,000 people.

Thousands of German-Americans probably brought the traditions of Oktoberfest with them when they moved to the US. Germans have been immigrating in significant numbers to the U.S. since the 1680s, when they settled in New York and Pennsylvania. The US Census notes that Pennsylvania has the largest population of German-Americans; 3.5 million people claim German ancestry — more than in Berlin. Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, has 348,979 German-Americans. Even though a large percentage of the Pennsylvania population is of German ancestry, beer preferences tend to vary by cities. For example, Pittsburgh residents drink regular and premium domestic beer more often than Philadelphia residents – probably because of the slightly higher median income in Pittsburgh; $38k compared to Philadelphia’s $35k. Philly residents buy beer in full-service restaurants four times more often than Pittsburgh residents; probably because Philly is a larger metro area with have more options to go out and 1.5 million people, compared to a little over 300,000 people in Pittsburgh. Philly residents spent $50,141,458 (total annual spending by all households) on beer away from home, compared to $12,823,149 spent by Pittsburgh folks. 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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