The world of technology is in a constant state of flux. New terms and acronyms are thrown at us continually; portals, dashboards, cloud computing, HTML5, Rich Internet applications, SAAS. On and on. True advances or simply new fashions are what we often have to ask.
It’s hard to avoid reference to the new phenomena that is cloud computing (an odd term I’ve often thought). What is it? Put simply it takes the need for the purchase and maintenance of expensive computing environments; servers and software, out of the hands of organizations and into third party providers. So for a monthly fee organizations can stay focused on their core business and reduce the demands on the internal IT department. Software as a service or SAAS has become the common acronym. Cloud computing allows new software services to be provided by vendors, and updated on an ongoing basis.
In the GIS world, it is now possible to have own your own instance of ArcGIS Server (given a license) or GeoServer hosted in the cloud. Updates, maintenance, tuning, load bearing, are all others concerns. ArcGIS Online (AGOL) is a new cloud service provided by Esri. AGOL is ArcGIS Server, but friendlier and easier to access and use. Data publishing no longer requires an ArcGIS expert. Esri are rolling out new additions to AGOL continually. No longer are updates a part of the ‘next published release’, as was the case with ArcGIS Server.
Collaborative GIS – Desktop, Mobile and Executive Dashboards
We are in the verge of moving into a brave new GIS world. Historically office and field workers have lacked the ability to collaborate. Desktop GIS has been the bastion of GIS analysts, while managers have lacked a cohesive set of tools which allowed them to view their organizational data and make informed decisions based on real time information. That is all slowly beginning to change. Field workers are discarding their paper and pens and using GIS and mapping apps on their iPads and Android devices. They now have the ability, by connecting to the cloud, to add field data in real time to centralized systems like ArcGIS Online. Those using GIS desktop products in the office, can connect to these same cloud based services and interact with this data. Now they are able to do their analyses against these real time data feeds. Finally, executives are being provided with Web based management tools such as executive dashboards which allow this data to be viewed, searched and queried in many different ways. Cost reduction and improved efficiency is the net result of the adoption of this new approach.