Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Mapping and data analysis for both GIS pros and beginners
October 20th, 2011 by Susan Smith
In a recent interview with Philip O’Doherty, CEO eSpatial, he talked about the company’s OnDemand GIS and its ability to provide services to the entire Geospatial and GIS industry – from GIS experts to complete beginners.
GISVoice: Who are the primary users of eSpatial OnDemand GIS?
We’re in the enviable position of dealing with users across the full spectrum – from GIS experts to complete beginners.
In the past, we worked with companies and organizations that were familiar with GIS – so our users were GIS experts in the fields you’d traditionally associate with GIS – like telecommunications, utilities and local government.
Now that we offer our software with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery, our user profile is very different.
We still provide services to industries who traditionally engage in geospatial analysis, but we also work with organizations who are only beginning to explore this area. For example, our customer base now includes companies in the recreation and leisure sector, a political organization, and food marketing specialists.
These organizations are keen to map their data – and they want it to be quick, easy, and very cost-effective. While they view our software as important, it’s not yet a key business application – so the low-cost, IT-free SaaS delivery really suits them.
In these organizations, the user profile is very different. In the past we dealt almost exclusively with GIS experts – now we work with a wide range of users, from a CEO to a salesperson, marketer or administrator. These users don’t usually spend all day logged in to our software – it’s part of a suite of analytical tools, and they’ll log in and out as the business demands.
It’s been exciting to work with organizations and users who are new to GIS.
While we work to accommodate the differing levels of expertise, we understand that all our users still have one common need: to map and analyze their data.
GISVoice: Do organizations need a GIS person in house to manage the program or is it a service that they employ from your company entirely?
Because eSpatial OnDemand GIS is delivered via SaaS, we handle all the technology. Users log in via an internet-connected browser and access the full functionality of the software.
From an IT manager’s perspective, it’s a huge bonus – no IT overheads, no downloads or servers or desktop installations to manage. Plus we automatically provide free upgrades, so all users always have access to the most up-to-date functionality.
In terms of using the software, each customer organization has an administrator user who can set up various permission-based controls – but there really isn’t any management required beyond that.
GISVoice: Where does the data come from? Is it generally collected from the organization employing the OnDemand service, or do you supply some data?
All organizations already have access to a lot of their own data – and this tends to be the starting point for all our customers.
Depending on what a customer wants to achieve, they may need to access data from external sources – data depicting state or regional boundaries is a popular example.
If GIS technology is deeply embedded in the organization already, the customer would usually have already bought or acquired the external data they need.
If GIS is a new discipline for a customer, we try to provide recommendations on where they could source it from.
Because our customers have such diverse needs, we haven’t supplied data in the past. However, due to overwhelming demand, we are going to start providing customers with pre-loaded census data in selected countries.
GISVoice: How is it that disparate data can be merged together or layered to provide an accurate picture or maps that the client wants?
Really, it’s pretty simple – but the first step is to understand what you’re looking for – what the questions are that you want to answer.
Once you know what you want to examine, you gather and upload the data, then use queries and thematics to create the map you’re looking for.
If you find that you need to add in extra attributes to existing data, we’ve added functionality so that you can add that data on the fly, rather than needing to re-upload the file with the new data.
GISVoice: What ways are the completed maps or data served out and can they be served out to the public?
Maps and charts can be used in four main ways:
- Shared with other users, or groups of users inside the software, by providing shared access to layers and queries.
- Printed for analysis.
- Exported to different file types like BMP, GIF, JPEG/JPG, KML, KMZ, PDF, PNG, SHP, TIF/TIFF.
- Shared via an intranet or public website.
The latter option – creating an interactive map to share with the public – is an increasingly popular way to use the maps our customers create.
A UK-based customer of ours recently launched a website that uses an interactive map. The site aims to raise awareness of local road safety performance – which it does by enabling residents to view and interact with mapped road safety data.
With the increasing global emphasis on transparency of government and the movement towards open data, we expect that providing interactive maps like this will become commonplace. It’s a great way to share information!
GISVoice: What is the cost of the service and is there any customization involved?
Our pricing structure is based on a monthly charge per user.
When you sign up for a 12-month contract, you’ll start at €40/ £32/ US$55 per user, per month. This includes standard support, and free upgrades to the software as they’re released.
There’s no customization involved to use our software. Customers who have opted for a custom demo of the software as part of the sales process will already have a subset of their data uploaded into their account, and access to the selection of queries and thematics that we set up for the demo.
And if customers need additional help with setup, our professional services team are available for project work.