GISCafe Weekly Review April 24th, 2014

Bentley Systems 2013 annual revenues announced
April 22, 2014  by Susan Smith

On April 16, Bentley Systems announced its 2013 annual results in a press call. Bentley is a private company and uses the opportunity to highlight its annual accomplishments such as its involvement in trends and new products. Bentley is a leader in the market in the areas of electric power generation, electric power transmission, distribution and communications; water and wastewater distribution, EPC and AEC, and mining and metals. Bentley’s geospatial offerings are integrated into many of the above market areas.

Bentley’s view of BIM Level 3, as the amount of available information increases, it is also pushed out for broader access by more stake holders. (Image courtesy: Bentley)

Bentley’s view of BIM Level 3, as the amount of available information increases, it is also pushed out for broader access by more stake holders. (Image courtesy: Bentley)

ArcGIS Online DeMystified
April 22, 2014  by Matt Sheehan


We’ve been working with ArcGIS Online since its inception; indeed this is where the majority of our work is now centred. We recently gauged the sentiment of users with a short Q&A. The responses were excellent. After collating and digesting the feedback, we thought it worth sharing some of our thoughts and reflections. And to clear up some misconceptions.

The list below is organised by theme based on the responses.

ArcGIS Online DeMystified

1) Useage

Getting our heads wrapped around what ArcGIS Online offered was initially a challenge. Much of that was changing our mindset. We spent time learning how to set up our account, understanding users and groups, web maps versus hosted services. Now we have moved past that initial learning curve, we have found working with ArcGIS Online pleasurably easy. Our ArcGIS server folk suggest too easy and have voiced their concerns over their usefulness (they remain essential).

Esri are still working out kinks, but overall we have liked how user friendly we have found ArcGIS Online.

2) Templates

Over the years Esri have released many free apps which support/add value to their server based solutions. We still remember well the ArcIMS Javascript template. Many still use the Flex viewer for ArcGIS. We’ve been surprised by how many configurable, free apps Esri have launched over the last year (I think over 40 have been released by the local govt team alone). They are not all perfect, but have made it much easier to stand up a focused app quickly. Most are configurable, so a tweek here and there will alter functionality look and feel. Many, but not all, are ArcGIS Online focused.

One respondent mentioned not liking the map viewer. We use that largely for admin purposes; publishing, styling etc. Customized templates is what we provide to our users.

Its true in some case you’ll need somebody who can code to step in. But often we have found if you have accessible data, it’s quick and easy to configure one of these templates. Having more autonomy, without the need for development expertise, we see as a big deal.

3) Credits

We found the credit model confusing when ArcGIS Online was launched. Thanks to feedback Esri have simplified. It remains a pay as you go model. Certain tasks and service will consume credits: map tiling, GeoEnrichment etc. Overall we have found we have used very few credits in our day to day map publishing and use (and we are heavy users, yet in 2013 we only used around 150 credits).

The credit model has taken us a while to understand. Its different to how we used to work; with an ArcGIS server license. But we seem to be able to do much with little credit use-age, which we like.

4) Pricing model

It was interesting to read that a number of respondents saw ArcGIS Online as expensive. A couple of people mentioned free and freeware. Ultimately ArcGIS Online is a subscription based model, which has a built in pay as you go element (credits). A developer account is free and provides more limited functionality. Base subscription pricing starts in the low $2k. From a subscription account, maps can be published as public or private. The base price of a subscription is tied to private or named user accounts.

We have viewed pricing as low versus the need to buy a server license. True the more you do and more private users you want, the more you will pay. But what you get for relatively little money down – that is relative to what we used to get – is considerable.

5) Functionality

At its core we use ArcGIS Online for publishing and sharing maps. We often mash up ArcGIS server layers, with other data sources. This was something we once had to do inside an application using code and configuration files. Users are now empowered to style and publish maps easily and quickly. Back-end processing still applies, and new custom functionality can be added to Web and mobile apps through application development (clever GIS developers still have gainful employment).

One other thing worth mentioning is that folks can publish their data in whichever projection they choose. You are not stuck with Web Mercator.

6) Integration

Stepping back one thing we see is now the ability to integrate each of the GIS pieces (we call it the GIS revolution in our blog). The emergence of mobile and cloud technology have helped drive this change. Esri’s place in this universe is their ArcGIS platform; ArcGIS Online is one piece of this bigger whole. In many ways it serves as the glue (Esri may not like me calling it that but I’m gonna stick with it). Rather than abandon other pieces, in favour of ArcGIS Online (and it may look that way), Esri are firing on many complementary fronts and pulling all together under the platform.

A long post. I’ve tried to avoid a sermon/bias, and give our thoughts on not just the path we think we see Esri following, but demystify some misconceptions. We also tried to give a little wider perspective. We live in a rapidly changing world. Location and location technology are no longer a niche. We see releases like ArcGIS Online as enabling technologies. Never before could we provide complimentary location-centric (GIS) solutions to field staff, executives, analysts, and non-GIS folk.

These are exciting times.


Mobile Management of Water Main Breaks in Henry County, GA
April 21, 2014  by Mladen Stojic, President of Hexagon Geospatial

Realizing the true potential of mobility, local government organizations are quickly developing strategies to provide more business workflows on smart mobile devices and are moving away from cumbersome, desktop-based GIS systems.

Thankfully, today’s smart mobile and tablet devices finally have the processing power, storage, and network capabilities to support high-end applications including powerful data access, superior visualization, creation, query and analysis.

For example, the Henry County Water Authority (HCWA), the public water utility in Henry County, GA, recently received demonstrations of key mobile solutions from Intergraph to support end-users and customer service departments who require field inspection on their infrastructure assets.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing” – Theodore Roosevelt

Yes, I know that there is no such word as “wronger”. But I also know that there is no such thing as an infallible survey, and most certainly that there is no such thing as an infallible GIS. Disclaimer: I am a licensed surveyor, but I have also been involved in geodetic framework development and data acquisition for GIS for three decades. I have also seen instances of a disturbing reversal in momentum that had been leading us towards realizing the dream of seamless enterprise geospatial data – push-back from both sides of the survey/engineering-GIS “fence”. Mostly this is due to mutual misunderstanding; and primarily the mistaken notion that there needs to be a “fence” in the first place. The real harm this “fence-ism” does is in wasting data-rich and accurate resources.

You cannot beat a beautiful paper map. Cartographers are talented people. But in today’s fast paced, mobile world, paper maps used for day to day work are no longer practical.


As soon as they are printed paper maps are outdated for one. For two, they are in essence pretty pictures. Pictures which take an age to produce.


Today we all need and want more insight than a paper map can provide. Interactivity and the ability to query and search are ever more essential. In such a fast moving world we need deeper insight 24×7. We need access from anywhere, using any device (PC, tablet, smartphone). We need cloud enabled GIS!

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