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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.

Reflections on the Esri Dev Conference: Getting Technology out of the Way

March 9th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Palm Springs is an unpleasant place in March. Flowers everywhere, birds singing and 80 degree temperatures. Attendees suffer this unpleasantness to attend the Esri EPC and Dev conferences. This year is proving notable in many different ways. Big changes are taking place. Esri technology, internal structure and messaging are evolving rapidly. Sure we’ve seen change in the past, that is part of growth, but things feel different.

We’ve said it before: GIS is complex. data, spatial platforms, raster, vector, layers on and on. As GIS become more ubiquitous, ever more people will be exposed to this technology. That’s users and technologists. Our role as GIS experts is increasingly to simplify/hide this complexity. This will require us changing our language, our approach and the solutions we build. Like Esri we need to change.

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6 ways to Dramatically Improve your ArcGIS Return on Investment

March 1st, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

1. Look to use GIS to solve business problems. Today GIS talks easily to other business systems. Collaborating directly with a GIS will reduce complexity, provide rich location analytics, reduce costs and much more. See our recent blog post: What is ArcGIS Geo-Enablement?.

2. Still printing or generating pdf maps? Use GIS for more than just maps. GIS answers any and all location focused questions: show me which valves need inspecting? Where are our most profitable stores? Which homes are in areas at greatest risk of flooding?

3. Start thinking about platform. ArcGIS is one product made up of many complementary elements. Integration or geo-enabling has never been easier. See our white paper on our approach to leveraging and integrating with ArcGIS.

4. Consider configuration, before customization. For ArcGIS, Esri have made available over 50 applications or templates which are ready to be used. Simply configure and launch. Check out our ArcGIS Templates package if you need help.

5. Think about your data. Bad data, means a bad GIS – fix your data: the incorrect, incomplete, or old data. Simplify your asset data model: favour simplicity over complexity. Build the cleanest data system with only the core attributes, and remove data duplication.

6. Implement cross-device ArcGIS applications. In the utility sector close to 70% of field staff still use laptops in preference to, or in combination with tablets. The trend is towards greater tablet adoption, particularly as more ruggedized versions are released. But, given this mix of field devices, it make sense to adopt or develop GIS applications which work across devices. That means applications which is usable on laptops, tablets even smartphones. Web technology provides true cross-device access. Great strides have been made with Javascript/HTML5. It is now possible to build a single web app which can be used on any device: laptop or mobile. More than that Javascript/HTML5 provide advanced functionality. We have been building ArcGIS web applications which provide disconnected capabilities. See our white paper on offline ArcGIS

The Democratization of GIS

February 19th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Henry Ford famously wrote in the early 1900’s:

“I’m going to democratize the automobile, and when I’m through, everybody will have one.”

It was a bold statement. And though Ford did not invent the automobile, he was one of the pioneers of mass production providing low cost, reliable automobiles.

Similar to the automobile 100 years ago, are we now at the explosive growth phase of GIS?

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Expanding the Reach of GIS

February 12th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Let us in the post revisit the notion of emerging GIS. We have in other posts discussed what emerging is not: wearable’s, virtual reality and the like. We see emerging GIS as expanding the user base beyond GIS trained staff. Traditional GIS still serves a narrow user base. A huge untapped audience is crying out for the services provided by GIS. A user base so far largely excluded from this technology.

Widening the use of GIS Internally

Look across your organization. Think about your staff. Who today uses the output and services from your GIS? My guess is in many organizations this is a small group. Now consider who COULD benefit from maps and GIS services: maintenance workers, attorneys, engineers, surveyors, inspectors, installers, auditors, sales staff, site managers the list goes on. So the question is how to provide access to the benefits of GIS to these staff?

The question the is how do we widen the reach of GIS within organizations? We see the key is providing new intuitive, user friendly GIS tools. Take as an example the Web based offline ArcGIS editing application we have just released. This provides the ability to view and edit ArcGIS maps when in or out of wi-fi range. We’ve designed it so no training is required. The diagram below shows the application interface:

Easy to use GIS applications which provide focused functionality (editing, redline, custom forms etc) and improve on how users currently get their jobs done, is crucial for wider adoption of GIS technology

New GIS User Base

Many organizations simply do not use location technology. Visualizing organizational data on maps, and searching or analyzing this data spatially is hugely powerful.

Spreadsheets are common in many organizations to track assets, analyse and chart other business components. Pen and paper remain popular with many field based staff; recording work done, completing forms, and more.

GIS brings the power of maps and location intelligence to organizations. It brings new tools to users which can be made available across devices (PC, tablet and smartphone).

It has never been easier nor cheaper to implement and use GIS. ArcGIS Online from Esri is one of a number of cloud based GIS solutions which make publishing and providing access to maps and mapping services very easy. Historically we have helped our customers configure ArcGIS Server, which had its challenges. Now much of our focus is getting organizations quickly set up with ArcGIS Online and Portal for ArcGIS. A super easy process.

Business GIS the New Frontier

The use of GIS to help run businesses remains limited. Business systems such as ERP’s historically have lacked spatial components. This is being recognised as a huge gap. Geo-enablement has become increasingly more important. This is the application of location or geospatial information as part of business processes or using ‘location intelligence’ to augment non-spatial information systems and/or Business Intelligence (BI). This leverages location information in processes and workflows of a business system without the need to fully integrate with a geographic information system (GIS).

Geo-enablement provides the best of both worlds – location intelligence combined with business intelligence – without the expense and complexity of full integration. We’ve taken a data driven geo-enable approach with a web based framework called Geo-EnableJS for ArcGIS. This is one of a number of powerful new geo-enabling frameworks.

Emerging GIS is focused on widening the reach of GIS. To provide new spatial tools to non-GIS users to improve both insight and workflows.

Google Esri and the Huge GeoSpatial for Business Opportunities

February 4th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Announcements this week from Google and Esri surprised everybody. Esri have now posted a ‘Common Questions’ web page providing answers around the transition from Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine (GME) to ArcGIS. We find the fact that Esri and Google have started working together very refreshing. Our speculation here is that we are seeing an admission by Google that with Enterprise and GME they have strayed beyond their core base which has always been consumers. Lines have been drawn in the sand. This is a win for us all as both Esri and Google turn their attention back to what they do best.

But is that the end of the story?

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Google and Esri Surprise

February 1st, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

So there I was sitting comfortably happily writing a blog post post entitled Enabling Jack Dangermond’s GIS Vision commenting on Jacks excellent ArcNews lead article when bam the following stops me in my tracks:

What is the Esri/Google relationship?

Google and Esri are working closely together to provide replacement software and training to all of Google’s enterprise customers and partners who have implemented Google Earth Enterprise and Google Map Engine technology. Esri will be providing the new 10.3 version of ArcGIS for Server and related client/app technology to all Google Enterprise customers and partners.

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Is Google Getting out of the Mapping Game?

January 23rd, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Two recent announcements caught my attention:

“The Google Earth API has been deprecated as of December 12th, 2014. The API will continue to work on supported browsers until December 12th, 2015, and will shut down on that date.”

See the full Google Earth API announcement

“Google will end support for the Google Maps Engine (GME) product on January 29, 2016. After January 29, 2016.”
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Emerging GIS may not be what you think!

January 19th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

In this post I am going to return some of the discussions we started last year with our “Is GIS Splitting” post. The general consensus from these conversations was that we are seeing a polarization of GIS. Traditional GIS remains solidly in place, but a new emerging GIS sector is developing. Let’s discuss this polarization.

Traditional GIS

I’ve described traditional GIS as ‘business as usual GIS’. That sounds a little belittling, which is not the intention. GIS has a long history. It has and continues to serve well the geospatial community. Traditional GIS is the bedrock of the discipline. Attend a GIS conference and you’ll be surrounded by peers who talk, think, discuss, and present on deep geospatial issues. Traditional GIS is our comfortable GIS niche.
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2015 GIS Predictions

January 2nd, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Happy New Year. Like many other we have been mulling over our 2015 GIS predictions. But before we jump in let’s review 2014.

GIS in 2014

We saw GIS in 2014 as a year of advancement and self examination. Mobile technology, fed by data and services in the cloud, has put location on the tips of many tongues.

Show me who and what is near me

Give me the ability to search and query using my current (GPS) location

Give me (spatial) tools to help me run my business

The (niche) GIS industry is in the process of reinventing itself. Our blog post suggesting GIS is Splitting was met with a considerable reaction: from outright agreement to “what do these guys know they don’t even have GIS in their title!”

We don’t actually believe GIS is splitting, but it is definitely changing. In 2014 we saw a more polarised GIS sector; on one end traditional GIS, or business as usual. On the other emerging GIS; the wild west of GIS: uncharted, rule free, a little scary, but filled with opportunities. We also began to see discussions on these changes, challenges and opportunities.

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Taking the gobbledegook out of Location Analytics

December 15th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

Location analytics is much discussed in GIS circles. We felt taking the gobbledegook out of location analytics was long overdue. Many organizations new to GIS are still grasping at the basic GIS concepts, throw the language of location analytics into the mix and you end up with ??????

What is business analytics?

Put simply:

Analytic systems turn an organization’s data into actionable information by discovering and illustrating patterns, trends, and relationships in business data

The typical output from current business analytic systems is in the form of statistical reports. These usually summarize data in tabular form, often including graphs and charts. Analytics are often implemented as independent business intelligence (BI) systems but can also be part of larger enterprise systems, like customer relationship (CRM), enterprise resource (ERP), and resource management systems (RMS).

But traditional business analytics systems do a poor job of answering the where question:

Where are our assets, where are our customers, where are our sales?

Where is at the heart of GIS. Visualizing data through maps, and spatial analysis.

Spatial analysis …. we are in danger of straying into gobbledegook territory. Keep reading!

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