An overused, over-abused word we have today is “data”. Often people say they “just want to see the data”, but that is almost never what they mean. What they really mean, is “show me the data in a picture arranged just so that I don’t have to read anything to understand it”. That may sound cynical, and I don’t mean it cynically, but that is my experience. Every now and again you’ll get a scientist or someone with a truly scientific bent who really does want to see the data, but they’re not common, and certainly not as might be implied by all of the Church of Data blog posts and manifestos might have you believe. Now, with GIS and geo-writ-large, the connection to data is explicit and apparent, and some are prone to obsess over data, its forms and formats, interfaces for access and frobbing, to the point of distraction. For some, data is the end, it’s their product. But if it really is data, then that’s only a point, or narrow band, on a wide spectrum spanning from data to information to knowledge to wherever that knowledge might take you: insight, action, wisdom, understanding. That’s the point. While the generation of data might put bread on some analyst’s table, it only does so because that data is part of a larger whole. Yes, carefully designed and developed, high-quality, accurate data sets are valuable, but only for what you can do with them. To that end, it’s very important to make it accessible – the lower the barriers to access data enhance the possibilities for its use. If things are locked up in proprietary systems and locked away behind proprietary interfaces, it’s harder to make use of the data and necessarily limiting its utility and value.
Archive for the ‘technology’ Category
If TerraGo’s tag line is “Share Anywhere”, then I would have to say that “do more with what you already have” is its mantra, though that is certainly implicit. I talk a bunch about doing more with your investments in ArcGIS, but should focus on exploring doing more with your people and yourself. An employee’s value to a company is measured by more than just performance against a job description. They can provide feedback and observations that have no places on forms or tables in the company’s database which can be extremely valuable. An aspect of a workforce to consider is its potential for distributed intelligence collection. By “intelligence”, I don’t necessarily imply anything covert or clandestine, but rather collecting information that is relevant to the efficient operation of the company. TerraGo provides tools and capabilities that facilitate the collection, recording, and sharing of observations and information, both ad hoc and structured. There are, of course, many systems for collecting data, but they tend to be closed loop, working within certain systems and paradigms for bespoke purposes. TerraGo, historically, extended systems already in place to meet wider audiences and provision those audience with powerful location-enabled tools to let them do more with what they got from those systems. Use Publisher in ArcMap to make a GeoPDF map that can be shared , interacted with, and marked up in Toolbar in Reader, transforming what would be an otherwise static document into a data collection tool.
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…
It wasn’t too long ago that maps were a dark art, reserved for things like surveying, tactical operations and family road trips. Remember? And to obtain one of these map things you had to order it (as in postage), go to a truck stop or have it printed especially for you. It might’ve taken weeks to get it. It was paper (laminated if you were lucky) and probably reflected data from when your great grandpappy was runnin’ hooch through the hills of Dawson County.
That’s what we had to work with and we were thankful for it. I guess…
Fast-forward a few years: Need to check a live traffic feed before you head out of the office? Hit-up Google Maps. Need to see if that sharknado is headed your way? Check the live Weather radar map. Need to find your friends at a football tailgate? Turn on your friend finder map/app (??mapp??). It’s all so easy now and right at our finger tips. And oh-by-the-way this ain’t hooch data, IT’S LIVE DATA!
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.
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.
According to an article in Forbes, people make 150 million maps a day with Esri® software. 150 million.
It’s amazing when you consider the unmatched value of GIS for helping us better shape our understanding of the world we live in. The only thing that makes it more powerful is making it easier to share that understanding.
GIS systems create so much more than flat maps. But out of those 150 million maps made today, how many of those end up shared as paper or even a static image on a Powerpoint slide? What is the cost to train people to be GIS experts, cartographers, geographers, scientists, analysts, engineers, designers, planners and more? How can we leverage all that talent and all that knowledge if we lose so much information on the way out of the GIS system while sharing it with the non-GIS masses. What if you could unlock those maps and let end users truly interact with the data behind the map to better answer their questions? For free.
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.
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.
GIS professionals create amazingly detailed, accurate, cartographic quality information that can be visualized and analyzed in any number of ways to model complex problems, perform “what if” scenarios, identify hidden patterns and answer questions in ways not possible without GIS.
Yet many organizations are still sharing all that rich GIS information as paper maps or flat images in a PowerPoint, so a lot of that intelligence gets lost on the way to the GIS department’s most important stakeholders.