GIS has Become Ubiquitous

GIS has Become Ubiquitous

Jack Dangermond, Founder & President, Esri, US

Geography is a component of every major decision that organizations and individuals must make every day. So, it’s only a matter of intuition for any forward-thinking company involved in technology today to incorporate spatial analytics into their offerings. Location intelligence allows other capabilities to be what we call “geo-enabled”; this means that normal business intelligence gets supercharged with a geographic component that allows a holistic situational awareness, providing real-time insights into operations and systems.

Cloud computing, combined with IoT, devices, and apps, is beginning to enable an instrumented world — a digital twin in which computing can be harnessed to respond to new kinds of trends. New companies who understand these concepts, share a vision for them, and will envision and implement new kinds of geospatial solutions will ultimately emerge.

There is a massive opportunity for the GIS community in today’s ever-changing world. And many of these innovations and disruptions are emerging everywhere — coming from inside as well as outside of the geospatial community, including many exciting startups.

Analytics and aesthetics

Four of the most revolutionary game changers for our industry have been: the enormous amounts of geographic information that is being generated continuously by all the organizations in the vast, worldwide geospatial community; the adoption of Web GIS in the Cloud; the motivation of the geospatial community to share data openly with one another; and the emergence of using maps for storytelling have created a revolution in effective communication using GIS.

In the past few decades, the reach of GIS has grown exponentially; it is both analytic and aesthetic, and is useful for supporting our work and our communities. It is being applied virtually in every field of human endeavor — from helping businesses identify new customers to making natural disaster response more effective — and it has been accepted as an essential computing infrastructure for every organization.

One example of an exciting global project is the set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals from the United Nations. GIS will be used for reporting and tracking progress on each goal using a series of 12 to 15 measures and indicators for each goal that communicate the status and progress in each country globally. National mapping and statistical agencies worldwide are collaborating on the use of GIS to communicate the status of these in their individual countries and to chart our progress on each goal as we move ahead.

GIS is being applied virtually in every field of human endeavor. The very same geospatial users who have been implementing GIS for decades will play a significant role in this evolution and transformation.

IT will lead, and GIS will follow

The latest computing paradigm for Web, Cloud, and apps is a stable, next-generation platform where new capabilities are being added in each subsequent release. The transformational changes in technology are more incremental now than in past tech updates. The app pattern is being refreshed more rapidly because new and updated solutions are coming from many more small developers. This is virtually the same as consumer apps that you update on your smartphone where the tech continues to improve and evolve with each new version.

We expect the reach and impact of GIS to continue to expand. Information technology will lead the way, and GIS will follow. We will see GIS ecosystems being organized around Cloud computing and virtualization with GIS capabilities, and data being accessible anywhere (connected or wireless) via URLs with orchestrated analytics running across networks. Thus, users will no longer be constrained by traditional computing limits as in the past.

The very same geospatial users who have been implementing GIS for decades will play a significant role in this evolution and transformation. They will be augmented by creative software engineers and systems architects who will build new Cloud-based geospatial solutions and smart device apps. GIS analysts and data scientists will lead the way with exciting new breakthroughs in spatial modeling and location analytics.

Web GIS paradigm

At Esri we are working hard to move and evolve by applying planned and controlled patterns to the new Web GIS paradigm, and to enable our customers to make this transition when they are ready to do so and can see the benefits in their own work. The evidence in our customer base proves that this is not an either/or proposition but one that builds on and leverages traditional customers’ great GIS work and data investments in the past three decades. We have focused on a comprehensive geospatial platform that anticipates and responds to all of these trends. Our solutions are intended to leverage the work and investments that our customers have made in their current GIS work, enabling them to be prepared and move into a future in which they can exploit many new capabilities that are coming in IT. In addition to enabling our customers to do their work at building and sharing their systems of record, we are also expanding the analytical and data science capabilities of our platform to enable organizations to create and share a system of insight.

GIS is a great and rewarding profession. And as a community of practitioners, our most interesting work is only beginning. New Cloud and Web computing paradigms are enabling capabilities that were once thought to be unachievable. Today and in the future, the geospatial community will need strong and creative geospatial analysts and data scientists, great mappers and cartographers, incredible story tellers, analysts of all stripes, and imaginative software engineers to help us collectively achieve our visions.