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Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan
Matt holds an MSc in Geography and GIS. He has been working with clients solving problems with GIS for over 17 years. Matt founded WebMapSolutions whose mission is to put innovative, intuitive GIS driven applications into the hands of new and existing users.

Is GIS really Google Maps on Steroids?

January 4th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

When you are in conversation and somebody asks what you do for a living, how do you respond?

“I make maps”

“I provide location intelligence to businesses”

“I solve real world problems using geography”

“I work with a technology called GIS”

Over the years I have tried all of the above. And am usually met with the same blank stare or a polite “very nice” response. I find the answer which provides at least a glimmer of understanding is:

“I work with a technology which is like Google Maps on steroids”.

I still cringe every time I say this, but everybody knows Google Maps and by including steroids in this sentence we add the (mental) image of muscle or power.

Is GIS really Google Maps on Steroids?

This is our 2016 reality (see our 2016 predictions). Less the competitive challenge of Google, more perception. We owe thanks to Google for making maps ubiquitous, but now need to overcoming the barrier which has become Google Maps. Googles ending of its march into the enterprise GIS sector – with Google Maps Engine – has drawn a line between a pretty map product (Google) and business solution (GIS). Both have their own unique strengths.

Google Maps and GIS provide the same output: a map, but that is where the similarities end

Traditional GIS Sectors = Non-GIS Users & Smaller Organizations

Non-GIS users and small to medium sized organizations will be the story of the traditional GIS markets in 2016.

We heard often in 2015 “Our staff love using Google Maps but we want them to start using our own system of record.”

GIS has never been more affordable. This is a message which, for various reasons, has still not been well communicated. Large and small organisations can now leverage the power of GIS without the need for expensive in-house server based installs. The cloud and new subscription models have made GIS more available and dramatically cheaper.

But GIS applications have historically been targeted at GIS users

In 2016, as a wave of smaller organizations adopt GIS we will see the release of more GIS applications. Applications which are simple and intuitive to use. No more GIS workflows, no more need for training or manual reading. We are on track, see this series of flood focused Web apps from Esri

In the mobile space there will be much activity. We predict there will be an explosion of Web GIS apps released. These are far more flexible than their native counter-parts. These apps will provide focused tools for field based staff to get their work done, ending the use of pen and paper with the adoption of digital technology. In our case, we’ve been developing flexible offline mobile GIS Web apps. The increasingly more popular hybrid laptops will be a key mobile GIS app driver.

Non-Traditional GIS Sectors = Education & Rapid Adoption

Commercial GIS will be a key growth area in 2016. This is the (huge) non-traditional market little penetrated by GIS. I’m reminded of the phrase “We only know what we know”. The commercial sector challenge in 2016 is demonstrating that GIS is more than simply a map. GIS is different to Google Maps. GIS provides a key missing business tool: the location arm of business intelligence (BI). We will still hear the term location intelligence, but believe GIS will provide both stand-alone business solutions and (importantly) be integrated with existing business intelligence (BI) platforms. Any BI platform which has integrated GIS capabilities will provide a huge competitive advantage to their subscribers. LI as part of BI.

Let’s return to the original thrust of this blog post: what you do for a living. My hope is that by the end of 2016, when I am asked this question I will be able to respond with the following:

“I help organizations spend less (and make more) money”

Contact us for more information on 801-733-0723.

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Categories: ArcGIS Online, cloud GIS, location data, Mobile ArcGIS, Mobile GIS, Web and mobile GIS

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