Inside of WebMapSolutions we repeat often “GIS anywhere, anytime, on any device”. The phrase is actually included in our mission statement.

But what does this phrase mean to us?

We will jump around a little in this blog post in explaining.

Some while ago we wrote an article entitled The Democratization of GIS. In the post we wondered whether GIS is like the automobile of the early 1900’s, and paraphrasing Henry Ford:


“I’m going to democratize GIS, and when I’m through, everybody will be using the technology.”

The democratization of GIS is about mass market adoption.

The launch of the first iPad caught our attention at WebMapSolutions. We realised then the enormous implications of this release. Mobile devices meant easy access to computers (smartphone, smablet and tablet are simply miniaturized computers) anywhere. That term anywhere implies location, and changing location. With built-in GPS that meant mobile devices knew their location in space. That naturally meant mobile users could discover information about their current location. This has been the key driver behind the location technology and GIS revolution currently underway: the demand for location based information. And the revolution has only just begun.

Consumers have led, with business following very slowly behind. But like the adoption of the Internet, that will change. And rapidly.

ArcGIS Evolution

We will expand on this topic in a separate blog post. But esri continue to lead the location technology and GIS space with their evolution of ArcGIS. GIS has always been confusing. that’s why so many of us have spent much time, in school and on the job, learning. To non-GIS folk it can be a little intimidating.

We have spoken in other posts on traditional versus emerging GIS. This has been our way to try to frame and understand the dramatic changes underway. We see many not wanting to leave the comfy GIS niche they have lived in for so long. Part of this is driven by lack of understanding, part by fear of the new, but much is down to fear of change. A natural human reaction.

ArcGIS stretches across both worlds: traditional and emerging. Working with current and prospective clients we are seeing the following general adoption patterns:

– GIS departments who could never afford ArcGIS server are testing ArcGIS Online through desktop licenses.
– GIS departments hesitant or unable to upgrade from older versions of ArcGIS server. Concerned about ArcGIS Online credits, security etc.
– GIS departments gradually moving to ArcGIS Online in phases
– GIS departments fully embracing ArcGIS Online.
– Organization without GIS but who recognize their need for location intelligence, without understanding GIS.
– Organization without GIS who do not recognise the potential benefits of the technology.

We find platform adoption conversations vary widely; from outright resistance to immediate acceptance. But, moving clients from a naturally caution stance (traditional), to adopting of a new cloud/on-premise ArcGIS model (ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Portal respectively) has its challenges. Staying focused on the problem helps guide discussions. But if only it were that simple.

GIS Anywhere, Anytime, on any Device

No longer is GIS an office based tool. Today the cloud and mobile have opened the technology to users anywhere. Your GIS web application can now be used on site just as well as it can in the office. With the cloud, downtime is a thing of the past, your GIS and data is accessible at all times. Finally, no longer are applications built for just one device. With HTML5/Javascript GIS web apps can run on any device; smartphone, phablet or tablet and indeed across platforms: iOS, Android and Windows. Add to that offline and 3D and more and you have a range of advanced capabilities. All running in the browser.

At last technology whose focus is location has no boundaries to use.

Emerging GIS Innovation Units

At WebMapSolutions we have always tried to take a long term view of GIS. We recognised early the potential impact of mobile and cloud technology. And have been writing about the resulting GIS revolution for a number of years. We’ve begun to hear others mention innovation and research units. Building small groups within companies whose mission is focused on emerging GIS; new ways to apply the technology. We are super encouraged by these developments, but would like to add a note of caution.

For any emerging GIS solution at this stage to be successful it need be low hanging fruit.

In our own way our company is its own emerging GIS innovation unit. We have a mix of technologists. But most importantly our direction is guided by folk who have always had an emerging view of GIS, who successfully navigated the Internet GIS boom. They ensure our focus is on low hanging fruit. What are common client problems which can be solved by new ways to apply GIS. Solutions which are simple to demonstrate and implement. Too dramatic a change in existing workflows, or opening new markets with the technology is risky. We try to take small steps forward not giant leaps.

Our goal always being to provide GIS anywhere, anytime, on any device.

If you are wondering how to broaden your organizational use of GIS, to show ROI. Contact us we can help guide and advise. If you are setting up an emerging GIS innovation or research unit, use our experience and thought leadership.

Call us on 801-733-0723.

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