Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015
Geographic Information Systems (or one of the other subtle variants of the acronym) will never disappear completely, but they should be more invisible than they are. It’s remarkable how long the apparent (and mostly false) dichotomy between that’s what’s spatial and that’s what not spatial has persisted. Having spent a good part of my career letting people integrate place into their workflows and systems, however, I can understand why it’s there, however. There are thousands of different coordinate systems with their different purposes, etc., and one person’s place exactly where they think it should be is not where another might expect it to be. Further complicating things are units like rods and chains and feet (really, feet are still used, in some places. And there is more than one foot to choose from!). A grad for good measure (pi/200 of a radian, in case you were wondering). Making that all go away for people for whom that’s a raft of irrelevant implementation details is actually pretty hard work, and I have the source code to prove it.
The reason that it’s important to hide as much of this kind of stuff when it’s not relevant is that the complexity of normal GIS workflows, worldview, and thinking prevent the adoption of location based capabilities in workflows in non-GIS contexts, which actually makes it harder for GIS and its champions to deliver value in proportion to the investments made in them or to their potential. In fact, I’d go farther to assert that it throws up barriers to adoption even in GIS contexts, because I see it all the time. It’s just a little too much of a pain to do this, that, or the other, so I’ll just jot it down on this paper form here…
Monday, August 24th, 2015
From data on new drilling opportunities to monitoring exploration and collaborating with field workers, sharing timely and accurate location information is critical for the oil and gas industry.
Though, for many years, this critical business data intelligence ended up being used in a paper map or a static image in a PowerPoint slide. While GIS is a powerful platform for scientists, mapping professionals and cartographers, the reality is that not everyone who needs geospatial data is trained in GIS software.
However, TerraGo is seeing a shift where many progressive firms have found a way to increase the return on their GIS investments by using GeoPDFs to share free, interactive, lightweight GIS applications with people not trained in GIS, including decision-makers, analysts, scientists, engineers and field personnel.
Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
I’m pleased to announce the release of TerraGo Toolbar, TerraGo Composer, and TerraGo Publisher for ArcGIS version 6.7.3. It should be of interest for all users of TerraGo GeoPDF products.
Adobe recently released a significant upgrade of Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader called “DC”. DC stands for Document Cloud and the new products are deeply integrated into Adobe Cloud services, and represents fantastic new capabilities for Adobe customers. One thing I’ve noticed about Reader DC is that it opens and displays maps noticeably quicker than Reader 11, so you might want to check that out. TerraGo Composer and Toolbar are compatible with Acrobat DC and Reader DC as of version 6.7.3. The DC user interface has been radically altered and the TerraGo tools can be harder to find, but they’re there! The drop down menu is still in there as always, and you can get to iconified toolbars under Tools.
Tuesday, June 16th, 2015
A while back I was on a plane next to a man with a small backpack branded with the logo of a company with whom we do business. Small talk revealed that he was on his way to Afghanistan to help with the stabilization effort. He asked me what I did, and I segued with “I work at a small software company called TerraGo”. He stopped me there with “Oh TerraGo! I know you! The PDF guys! You’re all over Afghanistan!”
I don’t remember much of the rest of the conversation, but I do remember, I’ll admit, a glimmer of pleasure at TerraGo’s recognition, but too a state of cognitive dissonance in which being characterized as “the PDF guys” had left me.
Thursday, June 11th, 2015
Geographic Information System professionals built an industry on understanding the importance of data in geographic context as an organizational principle and facilitating decision-making by gathering and analysing these data.
They are growing the industry by communicating results in ways that take some of the mystery out of the process, allowing managers to understand information and insights, to offer feedback and to use it creatively and with confidence to predict, react to and even foment change. And those GIS professionals have come to realize that there’s a new responsibility associated with their role: measuring its value.
Where once the work of the GIS professional was used as an adjunct to decision-making, it’s now judged on its contribution to the bottom line, justifying itself through the same means as any other expenditure: return-on-investment.
Managers demand a way to justify increasingly capable – and costly – GIS operations. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to show significant return on investment.
To read the full Earth Imaging Journal “Industry Insights” article in the March/April issue, click here.
Tuesday, June 9th, 2015
TerraGo has just released the version 6.7 of most of our core products which focus on bringing GIS-Lite functionality to document workflows under the aegis of our OpenGeoPDF initiative. That’s a mouthful, so I guess it wouldn’t be too bad to shorten it to version 6.7 of our OpenGeoPDF products. In this release, we’ve added two functions which significantly enhance the GIS-Lite capabilities provided by the recently-added Identify tool in Toolbar: search and update of GeoPackage feature attributes.
Search has become an essential paradigm. My once punctilious management of email, each incoming message being tagged and routed to its own place based on an arcane library of rules accumulated over more years than I care to admit in Emacs Gnus has been replaced by a couple of rules for alerting me to things of current urgency, but otherwise I just search to find in an sea of unsorted emails Outlook, at least at work. With Toolbar 6.7, you can search attached GeoPackage for features matching what you type in the search field, get a list of matches, and then you can click the match to see where it is on the map. Double click the match and you’ll zoom to that feature. We had to add additional metadata to the GeoPDF documents to make this all go, and that’s some of what went into Publisher 6.7, including persisting the field names that ArcMap thinks is the most useful to identify a particular feature. Again, using OpenGeoPDF to tie Publisher to its client application Toolbar helps illustrate the connection. I hope Esri clones the feature in their Identify tool — it’s pretty damn useful and cool.
Thursday, June 4th, 2015
We’ve been using a couple of new words of late at TerraGo when describing part of what it is we do for folks: OpenGeoPDF and GIS-Lite. It’s had the desired effect of stimulating some very interesting conversations, but has also caused a little confusion. Let me see if I can clear things up.
TerraGo makes software that lets people turn their static maps into interactive GIS-lite applications by letting ArcMap users target a client application (TerraGo Toolbar) with TerraGo Publisher. GIS-Lite is what we provide.
TerraGo mashes up industry standards, common IT practices and infrastructure, and best practices under the aegis of its OpenGeoPDF technology initiative to enable its customers to deliver GIS-Lite apps to their audience. OpenGeoPDF is how we provide GIS-Lite.
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
If you saw GIS-Lite in isolation, you might imagine it to be pretty much anything not quite GIS. We’re starting to use the word at TerraGo to help explain part of what we do for people — let them transform what would otherwise be a static document into a lightweight location-enabled interactive application. But that’s a mouthful, so we call it GIS-Lite.
One of the reasons we are thinking in terms of GIS-Lite is to illustrate how at once a GeoPDF document with TerraGo Toolbar is not GIS, but is an intimate connection to the GIS and the person who created the document in the first place. When talking with folks about GeoPDF and Toolbar, people make comparisons to pseudo-alternatives like web applications or lightweight GIS software, which shows we failed to make our point: it’s not an either-or proposition. Web apps and GIS programs are distinct and don’t really compete directly at all, although there might be a superficial feature comparison here or there. Paper and PowerPoint are the competition. The real question is would the documents you create with ArcMap be more valuable if people could use Toolbar to take advantage of the geospatial context and data used to create that document? More often than not, the answer is a resounding yes.
Friday, May 29th, 2015
Our GIS users create lightweight applications using GeoPDF, and share them with non-GIS experts. We call this GIS-Lite.
Of *course* GIS-lite is not GIS! How could it be? GIS can never be supplanted or replaced. But, its concepts are so amazingly valuable, it would be criminally negligent to not use them in proper proportion in all applicable workflows.
Any time a map is used, doesn’t it make sense to make them interactive….to be able to measure, extract coordinate information, dig into the feature attributes and the like to allow people to get that great GIS experience without having to learn GIS? To enable them to answer their own questions? GIS-lite is not a threat to GIS (that’s laughable! How could it possibly be?) – it’s a natural companion and extension.
No organization should have GIS without GIS-lite! You’re not getting the ROI you should without it!
Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
It’s easy to fall into a trap of considering data for data’s sake. Knowledge is power, after all, and by democratizing data; you spread power to more places and more people.
To what end? When an organization considers the means to acquire, analyze and present data, the investment has to be driven by both its cost and its impact on the bottom line. By performance, more than power. In this case, performance means the Return-on-Investment (ROI) in democratized data.
The military faces this challenge regularly in its goal of making personnel “human sensors,” adding what they see on the ground, in front or behind them in real-time, to satellite and unmanned aerial system sensors to provide situational awareness to commanders miles or even continents away who are making life-or-death decisions.
In industry’s case, decisions can make or break a company and careers, and those decisions have a goal. In his blog, Michael McCarthy writes, “investing in democratizing data needs to have a wide range of influence over many decisions across the organization … The objective is to excel at decision-making. The reason for doing this (in business) is to realize revenue growth.”
He adds, “More emphasis needs to be placed on making better decisions faster and identifying the data needed to support those decisions, and not the other way around.”
That’s why TerraGo created OpenGeoPDF – to combine the latest, most appropriate geospatial and IT standards, practices and capabilities to extend the reach of GIS to the widest possible audience. These capabilities include a bi-directional relationship with field operations that can offer decision-makers a better sense of situational awareness than data limited to that normally available at headquarters. It can do so with mobile data input and decision reception from an iPhone or Android device.
This audience can then drive decision-making away from the realm of the “gut” and the limitations of company policy to allow managers to adapt to changing times. Data to support these decisions can be more up to date and adaptable to operational environment ebb and flow. Data behind the presentation maps can drive other decisions, as well as creativity and innovation in areas not imagined when the data was harvested. That’s democratization.
Measuring return on investment in GIS is easy enough if you limit it to reducing time-to-customer and man hours saved with the capability. But what about savings attributable to using data available to a wider range of people within an organization and the impact on revenue and market share growth? On measuring efficiencies vs. opportunities?
On attracting and retaining employees at decision-making and information-gathering levels because they see the “why” in the work they are hired to do, rather than just the less-rewarding and often-frustrating “what?” Those metrics can be softer and more elusive, but they are no less real or of diminished importance in cost-benefit analysis that drive ROI.