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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.

ArcGIS and Making Sense Out of Google’s Geospatial Evolution

June 11th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

I thought it worth following up on John-Isaac Clark’s article Making Sense Out of Google’s Geospatial Evolution. I’ve met John at past geo-conferences. He is Chief Innovation Officer at Thermopylae Sciences & Technology. Thermopylae have built their product suite on top of Google, so the recent changes announced by Google around their geospatial products could have a direct impact on Thermopylae’s business. In some ways Johns blog post was written to reassure his companies existing clients. Aside from this, there are some interesting points made worth discussing.

Google Impact on Geospatial

The launch of Google Maps in the mid 2000’s sent ripples (tidal waves?) across the geospatial industry. Suddenly interactive maps were easy to access and use. The Google Maps interface was beautifully simple. No head scratching was needed to use their maps. And with slippy tiles the user experience was extraordinary. For those of us developing mapping applications, simply finding good base map data was a huge undertaking. Google changed all of that. Rich base map data-sets suddenly became available. That was a huge change. I agree with John that the Google geospatial releases “enabled geo-literacy to be introduced to non-geographic information system professionals”.

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6 Key Challenges Slowing ArcGIS Online Adoption

June 8th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

From our work with customers, we are beginning to see the pace of adoption of ArcGIS Online and the ArcGIS Platform pick up. Ever more maps are being published in Online. But for apps, we remain in a world of early adopters.

What do we mean here?

We mean the pace of those deepening their engagement with ArcGIS Online beyond simply map publishing. Below we discuss 6 key challenges slowing ArcGIS Online adoption.

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5 things you need to know about Web mobile ArcGIS

June 2nd, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

ArcGIS Online is still relatively new. Many organizations have begun looking seriously at this cloud based GIS solution. Sure there are still worries about credits, cost concerns, confusion around named users. But wider scale adoption is on the horizon.

Web Mobile ArcGIS

As organizations dig deeper into ArcGIS, the question of mobile is often raised. In this post let’s discuss 5 things you need to know about Web mobile ArcGIS.

1. Ubiquitous – run on any device and platform

In today’s world we use many devices: PC’s, laptops, smartphones, tablets. These are all basically computers. Devices like smartphones, and tablets mean we are no longer limited to our office or home based computers. Now we can use applications anywhere and at anytime. GIS technology is particularly useful on mobile devices. Not only does it provide (easily understood) maps as output, but detailed, focused information based on location:

“Show me all the water valves which have not been inspected in Sandy City in the last 2 months”

“Alert me if I start digging with my excavator within 30 ft of an oil pipeline”

We all have a mix of different mobile devices: smartphones, tablets, Apple, Android, Windows, Blackberry. Ideally we want our mobile ArcGIS applications to run on any and all of our devices. Web ArcGIS is the perfect solution. Write once run everywhere is the true power of web ArcGIS technology. Pull up a browser on your device and you are good to go.

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Is the GIS Revolution still being driven by early adopters?

May 14th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

In this blog post I wanted to step back and reflect on the dramatic changes in GIS, we’ve been calling it the GIS Revolution. To ask the question is there a gap between perception and reality? And discuss the continued importance of early adopters.

The emergence of cloud and mobile technology have raised dramatically the profile and demand for location technology. Esri and other vendors in the GIS space have reacted to these technology changes and new demands by releasing new products. That actually understates reality, in the case of esri, they are in many ways reinventing themselves. We are in a phase of GIS innovation. The path is to mainstream acceptance and use of GIS; new uses of the technology and a vastly expanded user base.

Traditional GIS users are seeing their world turned upside down. Those new to GIS now have an entry point. They are no longer excluded from the technology. Publishing maps has never been easier. A plethora of GIS apps are now available. Configure first has become an esri mantra. And why not. If your GIS app needs are shared by others why reinvent the wheel? Esri are releasing new configurable apps at a prolific rate.

Is there a Gap between Perception and Reality

So where are we in the GIS revolution?

Have traditional users adopted the new cloud based solutions, are they configuring apps and providing them across their organizations? Are non-GIS users adopting the technology in droves? Reading the GIS press you would think yes.

The reality is definitely, maybe!

The Importance of Early Adopters

The GIS Revolution still being driven by early adopters. The GIS press is in reality focused on where we are going not where we are. We see adoption rates as picking up, definitely close to a tipping point, but not there yet.

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Do those new to GIS understand the value?

April 17th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Value. Now there is a slippery term. Value is very much down to individual perception. Yet providing and demonstrating value is at the heart of our mission as GIS solution providers. And I don’t just mean by companies like ourselves who provide GIS services. Those looking to provide new GIS based tools across an organization will come across the value proposition. Why should i give up my paper based approach to data collection? Stop using spreadsheets for asset management?

Do those new to GIS see the value?

As GIS professionals the value of GIS to us is obvious. Location based data is better understood, easier to work with, when presented on a map. Maps are images, our brains are wired to understand images. Hidden behind the (map) covers is the analysis part of GIS. Spatial analysis, location intelligence call it what you will. GIS is very powerful technology.

So then do those new to GIS understand the value?

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Super Flexible ArcGIS Apps: a Sneak Peek

April 13th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Flexibility and simplicity. This should apply to any and all ArcGIS apps. As a company we stay focused on providing this perfect balance. In this article will provide a sneak peek into a development effort in which we have been engaged which brings amazing flexibility and simplicity to ArcGIS web apps.

Sounds like cheap advertising. If you read this blog regularly you know me better than that. Read on you might be surprised.

The ArcGIS Platform

Before we jump in, let’s just step back for a moment. The concept of the ArcGIS platform is still sinking in for many. Those who attended the recent Esri developer or partner summits in Palm Springs were given a deeper dive into the idea of the ArcGIS platform: identity, web map, maps and apps. Esri aren’t alone in their evolution. As GIS becomes a core technology (its popularity driven by cloud and mobile technology) much is changing. Its change for the best. Different to our old narrow comfy niche. Call it advance and progress. Long overdue in our view.

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GIS Asset Management Solution Providers need to Act Fast

April 2nd, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

If you are GIS asset management solution provider, small or large, you need to ask yourself two questions:

1) Do we have a mobile solution which works on all devices (PC, laptop, smartphone, tablet) and platforms (Apple, Android, Windows)?

2) Are your field products offline enabled?

If you answer is no to either or both questions … you need to act fast!

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GIS anywhere, anytime, on any device

March 23rd, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Inside of WebMapSolutions we repeat often “GIS anywhere, anytime, on any device”. The phrase is actually included in our mission statement.

But what does this phrase mean to us?

We will jump around a little in this blog post in explaining.

Some while ago we wrote an article entitled The Democratization of GIS. In the post we wondered whether GIS is like the automobile of the early 1900’s, and paraphrasing Henry Ford:

“I’m going to democratize GIS, and when I’m through, everybody will be using the technology.”

The democratization of GIS is about mass market adoption.

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Take an ArcGIS Javascript Widgets Based approach to Field Asset Management

March 17th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Short and punchy the title of this blog post is not. But keeping things simple is the focus of this discussion. In place of ‘Take an ArcGIS Javascript Widgets Based approach to Field Asset Management’ we could have simply put ‘Make your ArcGIS field apps modular’. Better.

In this post we will discuss widgets. Dojo widgets (don’t worry we wont be getting technical) to be precise. We have moved past the days when we need to build big bloated web applications loaded up with tools. I used the analogy of a cruise ship versus a speedboat in a recent post: Esri, Me and my Cats.

Today we do not need to spend the time and money building one big web application to serve all needs. We can start with a simple configurable map viewer and add widgets to provide focused functionality.

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Esri, Me and my Cats

March 12th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

I like writing.

Writing helps me pull my thoughts together. Helps me understand. I write in large part for myself. Over time my 2 cats have joined me. Sitting on my lap, letting me know in their own special way when they disagree with something I have written (they were particularly amused by my reference to the Osmonds in my recent Utah blog post.)

Over time I have realised these blog posts and articles I write have a reach wider than just my cats. It would seem others (you) are reading these regular missives. I find that very interesting and in many ways surprising.

So why title this post “Esri, Me and my Cats”? Regular readers will note I often reference esri.


Simply put I love esri technology, and I think they have arguably the most huggable group of employees on the planet (its ok, i am European we are like that). The thrust of much of my writing is around what I call emerging GIS. Its the move from a niche technology to core. Much of this is being driven by the new recognition and demand for location based information. Now don’t get me wrong i don’t agree with everything esri. But they are helping to forge the path forward for much wider acceptance and adoption of location technology.

Let’s talk about traditional and emerging GIS. And within the same discussion consider how esri are changing the old models. I see traditional GIS like taking a cruise (stay with me here). Huge ships, filled with everything you could imagine to do (and eat). They move slowly, take an age to turn, are tough to dock. They live in isolation. I see emerging GIS as that slick speedboat we have always wanted. Cool looking, fast, easy to manoeuvre, does one thing really well, can dock anywhere and with anything.

I believe esri are now focused on providing ready built tools for us to easily construct these lightweight, highly focused (GIS) speedboats. To me that is what they mean by configure first. Today GIS is all about providing tools which work super well, are simple, and focused. See Web AppBuilder (widgets), see App Studio (templates), see the ArcGIS platform itself: a web map and identity provide access to a plethora of tools and applications.

Its hard to leave those comfy (traditional) cruise ships. But those of us who have embarked on the emerging GIS path (and I spoke to many last week at the esri EPC in Palm Springs) are in for an exciting ride. One which will bring enormous value to our customers.

I wanted to find a good video to finish off this post. The “laughing Gnome” really does not fit well with the discussion, but its the cats favourite ….

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