The Future of GIS Lies in the Cloud

September 08, 2011 -- The demand for GIS tools is constantly growing. Whether it’s consumer mapping, with services such as Google Maps, Google Earth, and Bing Maps, or freely available data, from OpenStreetMaps to numerous data bundles from local governments across US, the changes that the industry is going through are clear. Still, GIS is most often hard to use. Most companies in the industry still have expensive and unnecessarily complex software and only a small number of features actually get used on a regular basis. In today’s world, where connecting to others is everything, the current generation of GIS software lacks accessibility; there is no easy way for the simple sharing of data and projects with a person at the desk next to you, not to mention larger distances. Users are required to use several different tools to visualize data, setup server for web publishing or access APIs

We have to ask ourselves: Why is it this way? We should know better. There are solutions that can help us do our job much easier, collaborate with our co-workers and save precious time for other things in our lives - and they are based in the Cloud.

The Solution For GIS is in the Cloud

When we at GIS Cloud started growing the idea of moving GIS from the desktop to the cloud, it was still uncertain where will the cloud go. Visionaries and evangelists had a lot of different opinions but mostly all could agree, in one way or another, that the future of GIS lies in the cloud.

Today it is more clear that, whether relating to GIS or any other IT system that requires powerful hardware processing and large amounts of data storage, the Cloud can make life easier. The benefits it offers to a company are well known - lower IT costs, scalability, and others. Even with these advantages, some companies still don’t trust it and like to have their data within their four walls. Nevertheless, the established cloud computing providers have shown it to be safe and trustworthy. Amazon as an infrastructure provider and Salesforce as the largest CRM in the cloud are just two examples.

Why is the cloud a good fit for GIS?

  • it gives users the possibility of paying only for what they need from the service

  • they can easily access it through the browser no matter where they are, whether at the office, or an off site location

  • the latest changes to a project are published online immediately

  • there is no need to setup GIS infrastructure yourself

How We See GIS Cloud Helping You Move Forward

GIS Cloud is taking GIS to a whole other level. GIS often needs to be connected to other systems within a company. This usually isn’t an easy task, and usually involves more than one piece of software to accomplish. Why have several applications when you can manage all work processes that are actually interconnected from just one, with easy to use specially designed apps for each department.

As an example, let’s use a water utility company that needs to know all about its infrastructure and other assets. The engineering, planning and operations departments will need simple access to the data. There is also a team that works off site that sends information directly into the system in real time without collecting it on paper first. GIS will be tasked with processing and analyzing data collected by the off site team from smart metering devices, using it for billing and monitoring purposes, and giving customer services access to the information as well. Lastly, all parts of the project that are meant for public consumption are easily published online on a web service that helps customers know more and helps the company improve its service.

Handling this kind of data through GIS Cloud allows companies to work with information in real time, helping them make the right decisions from anywhere in the world.

The increase in sharing and collaboration between different offices fosters a better flow of information and increases efficiency, while at the same time reducing the possibility of error. The emphasis is on providing components for each department that are closely connected to their line of work and make them as easy as possible for that department to use. It is all about simplicity, interoperability and one centralized system that can manage, visualize data and provide tools that go beyond basic GIS.

GIS Has Been Waiting For The Cloud

The dream about GIS in the Cloud has been a reality for more than two years now. A quote from Vector1 magazine has always been an inspiration to us:

“GIS has been waiting for the cloud. GIS was born to exist in the cloud. It will reach its highest potential there. The Cloud is fertile ground for a GIS. A GIS is about much more than location alone. Its truest value and highest potential are exposed through the capability to perform spatial analysis, model and simulate. In a sense GIS is a 5-speed F1 racer that has been operating in second gear. The cloud has enormous potential to change that, shifting spatial gears and accelerating the wider use of GIS functionality. Buckle up – the ride is about to begin.”

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GIS Specialist for Olsson Technology at Overland park, Kansas
Body Structure Engineer (Entry Level) for HATCI at Superior Twp, California
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