INTERVIEW                       A NEW                       GEOSPATIAL                       MODALITY                     ...
Interview“             Geospatial technology is evolving rapidly - opening up new              opportunities, new applicat...
ecosystem or infrastructure available to many. This archi-     "GIS for billion people"                                   ...
ago, now position themselves as infrastructure, archi-                                                                    ...
GEODESIGN: Designing geographies                                                       People want to know the implication...
lyzed. GIS users are now learning how to leverage this. So                                                                ...
do. Today, the North American market continues to be            natural resources, especially in mining, oil and gas and  ...
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Interview Jack Dangermond


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Interview Jack Dangermond

  1. 1. INTERVIEW A NEW GEOSPATIAL MODALITY IN AN EXCLUSIVE WITH GEOSPATIAL WORLD , JACK DANGERMOND, PRESIDENT, Esri REFLECTS ON THE CHANGING CHARACTER OF GEOSPATIAL INDUSTRY AND PRIORITY AREAS FOR Esri The definition of the geospatial industry is changing, rather, evolving at a fast pace. I appreciate your views on the same. Geospatial technology is indeed evolv- ing rapidly; opening up new opportu- nities, new applications and new ways of using geographic information in society. A new modality is emerging that uses everything we do now but in a new context. This is similar to what occurred in the motion picture indus- try when moving picture technology was first invented. Initially people filmed live stage performances and disseminated them widely. After a JACK while, people realised that a lot more DANGERMOND could be done and a new modality President, Esri emerged, giving birth to movies as we now know them. When maps were14 Geospatial World I January 2011
  2. 2. Interview“ Geospatial technology is evolving rapidly - opening up new opportunities, new applications and new ways of using geographic information in society. A ‘new modality’ is emerging ” that uses everything we do now but in a new context. It offers a complete geospatial ecosystem for the usersfirst automated using CAD systems, people digitised tics; its distributed, yet can dynamically integrate data.maps, changed their scales and disseminated them It involves the Web, crowd sourcing (VGI), templates, widedigitally. This was useful but limited. Digital maps as scaled access to open data, server based architectureselectronic drawings gave way to the GIS platform. and easier-to-use user interfaces and applications. When we step back and look at whats going onThis introduced spatial analysis and generation of multi- technically, there continues to be the traditionalple map products from a transactionally maintained data- enterprise computing patterns involving the desktop,base. The GIS represented a new modality, a whole new the server and the federated systems.approach for the application of geographic knowledge inapplications. These patterns are used extensively in utilities, business, government and natural resources as well as the moreWe are now at a stage where we are again seeing a major pervasive platforms of cloud computing and deviceshift in many aspects of the geospatial world. Take for patterns (i.e. smartphones). We have recently launchedexample measurement. In the beginning, we digitised and ArcGIS 10.scanned maps. Later, digital imagery was used to extendmap information. Now we are beginning to take full This new technology integrates all five computing pat-motion video and integrating with our GIS databases terns into one system; a complete geospatial ecosystemdirectly. GIS is integrating real time measurements, such for our users. So if you acquire a desktop license, you notas traffic, weather, earthquakes and a plethora of dynam- only have the local capabilities but also tens of thousandsic measurements.Another shift is to server GIS and the of resources such as map services, data services, mapuse of Web as a platform. We are seeing distributed GIS content, search capabilities and discovery and mashupservices emerge as well as the vision of a "system of" being realised by various organisations withdifferent mission responsibilities. This is not just about This means ArcGIS 10 extends from enterprise systems toconnecting enterprise data to the Web, it is actually the pervasive computing. Our purpose in doing this is to openemergence of Web oriented systems that are designed to up traditional GIS systems, make their accessibility muchprovide shared services and are maintained through easier and provide the knowledge and capabilities oftransactions. This is a new emerging architecture that these systems to users of the more pervasive worldwill support many of the visions of SDI that have been (browsers and mobile devices). This technology shift isdiscussed for decades. creating the huge modality shift. GIS professionals are developing new, more pervasive applications and evolvingWhat are you engineering in your products to take the geospatial market towards GIS for everyone. Whatadvantage of these new trends? that means for a GIS professional is that their work doneThe new GIS modality has many interesting characteris- on a desktop or placed on a server becomes part of anGeospatial World I January 2011 15
  3. 3. ecosystem or infrastructure available to many. This archi- "GIS for billion people" tecture blends all five computing patterns and is totally _ open and interoperable with other IT systems. Today, GIS is being deployed on a new platform the Web and cloud computing-and we all are in the early stages of In summary, we are in a time of very rapid change. We adjusting to it. The characteristics of this environment are are still making maps and doing analysis on the desktop, easy-to-use technology, more pervasive access, and the ability to mashup or integrate distributed knowledge. This and at the same time GIS is moving to a new level with a means that access to geospatial knowledge will grow platform that is allowing the realisation of SDI visions. exponentially. Our existing users are gradually adopting this new paradigm and integrating this platform with A significant number of mergers and acquisitions their traditional workflows. So, in addition to running have taken place in the past five years in geospatial t their enterprises, they are putting up public services and industry, both of large and smaller companies. Many applications that can be accessed by anyone. This will claim it as a process of consolidation. How do you ultimately result in a geospatial platform that could perceive this? potentially reach billions of people. This is always going on in most industries. Esris business Over the last few decades, widespread adoption of GIS has strategy is to focus on evolving a well designed and caused a change in thinking. People can look at overlays of engineered system rather than making acquisitions to maps, see new relationships, see different kinds of phe- nomena, and it creates a new understanding. Up until buy market share. We think this is better for our users recently this has largely taken place in specialised commu- and creates a more stable organisation for our users and nities, or with professionals using specific applications. employees. Our approach also involves partnering with The next step in GIS evolution means that everyone will other organisations to create a broad ecosystem of have access to the idea of map overlays and spatial analy- integrated geospatial technologies and applications. sis. While traditional GIS has brought greater understand- Esri has occasionally acquired technology companies that ing within organisations, this next step will mean greater made our overall system better or helped our users but understanding within society at large. we remain focussed on developing a simple integrated geospatial platform thats open, interoperable and stan- It also means greater collaboration and communication dards based. across organisations. Esri is one participant in this move- ment and while we are dominant significant player in Acquisition of Intergraph by Hexagon has definitely terms of research and advancement of the platform, there is an enormous ecosystem of other players participating. I influenced the ecosystem of the geospatial industry s am personally very appreciative of the opportunity to and has affected in some form or other many geospa- participate and continue playing a part in mak- tial companies. It has enabled Hexagon to acquire c ing all of this happen. technology in almost all segments including GIS, GNSS, imaging, software, hardware and so on. There is a strong feeling about the emergence of geospatial camps in the industry. How do you view this new equi- librium? I dont like the culture and implications of ‘camps.’ I do know that technology continues to evolve rapidly and with this evolution comes changes in business alliances and more importantly end user capabilities. What has kept Esri so healthy over the decades is our focus on our cus- tomers needs and make a large ongoing commitment to investment in successful innovation. Also, we work hard on maintaining an open policy on business partnerships. While the geospatial industry continues to be competitive,16 Geospatial World I January 2011
  4. 4. ago, now position themselves as infrastructure, archi- v tecture and business intelligence solution companies While the geospatial industry respectively. How do you look at these developments continues to be competitive, and in your opinion what is the core value and utility of these days we see less GIS in coming times? What would be its peripheral environment? competition in some areas and We remain focussed on building enabling platform tech- more cooperation based on a nology for enterprise and the pervasive geospatial market maturity in the knowledge of what is our core business. Many of our traditional competitors each of the vendors does best s have moved into niche markets with more of a solution focus. As a result, we see less competition in the geospa- tial platform business and more partnerships by large software companies like IBM and Microsoft. Our partners in selected vertical markets see competition with some of these traditional GIS compa- nies. The improvements inthese days we see less competition in some areas and interoperabilitymore cooperation based on a maturity in the knowledge between systemsof what each of the vendors does best. Interoperability have had a hugestandards have helped in this regard. Vendors have been benefit for endtrending toward more specialisation and selling into the users. For example,areas that they do best in. GIS is increasingly being integratedIn technology business, there are three kinds of technolo- with CAD technologygy companies: 1) core technology like Intel and traditional around specific work-DBMS companies; 2) solutions business and; 3) system flows. ArcGIS forintegration. In geospatial areas these three types can be AutoCAD hasseen in both software and data. Organisations like Digital- made the Auto-Globe and GeoEye focus primarily on core data leaving CAD desktop asolutions business to their partners. In GIS, Esri has powerfulfocussed on core technology. Our partners, like Telvent or client for theTelcordia, focus on utility applications. ArcGIS ServerEsris business is to provide platform technologies. Ourbusiness success is based on the fact that wedo this very well and have strong developeroriented platforms and an open and collabo-rative business partner programme thathelps our partners be successful.GIS has moved beyond traditionalboundaries and so has the focus andapproach of GIS companies. Bentley, tAutodesk and MapInfo, which werevery much in the GIS space a decadeGeospatial World I January 2011 17
  5. 5. GEODESIGN: Designing geographies People want to know the implications for better decision making of various changes in the boundaries. A new Web application does this. GeoDe- sign uses GIS layers to guide design; The concept of GeoDesign started my tion districts, the territories of which basic map or analytic models and inter- career many years ago. The concept change every ten years. The boundaries active tools to design alternative plans. was actually pioneered by my profes- While GeoDesign can help us to design sor, Carl Steinitz at Harvard Universi- fair and equitable election districts, the ty, who will soon publish a defin- same process can be used in the itive text on the field. GeoDe- designing of land use plans, siting sign uses GIS as a platform of retail stores in a region, for designing geogra- highway plans or transmis- phies at multiple sion plans-GeoDesign scales. Specifically, gives us a scientific the scientific infor- framework for evaluat- mation that GIS ing the alternatives and users collect and selecting the best one. process is used to So, GeoDesign is an old guide them in idea. But it is also a designing things new idea considering and quickly evaluate nature or considering the consequences of society as part of the alternative designs. process for creating the This supports one of the future. GeoDesign is rather basic tenets of GIS: better fundamental and you can think decision making. I suppose of it at the engineering level like GeoDesign concepts have been designing a new road, at town level part of GIS workflows indirectly in like modifying it in a decision support many agencies for decades. From the role. But up until recently, GIS has not dawn of GIS technology, people have are redesigned by politicians or been so well connected. GeoDesign is a used it in a decision support role. But up lawyers. This is an interesting process combination of process, technology, until recently, GIS has not been so well because by changing the boundaries in and methodology which allows us to connected. As an example of a GeoDe- various ways one could increase the evaluate quickly the consequences of sign problem, in the US, there are elec- probability of winning the election. alternatives. and as a result integrated workflows within many of our enabling of business intelligence, we are seeing that hap- clients. In other cases, shifts in technology have changed pen in core companies like IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Ora- the market. For example, with the new support for 3D cle. All four of them have the vision of geospatial enable- data models and analytic tools, the building management ment of simple business intelligence applications using industry has embraced GIS for new applications like facil- maps as a "report." This market is small but with the ity management and energy optimization in smart build- advent of consumer Web mapping, there is greater ings. Our users are basically extending their GISs into awareness and people are demanding to see their data campuses and buildings. With respect to geospatial visualised in this way. This is a good idea and our server18 Geospatial World I January 2011
  6. 6. lyzed. GIS users are now learning how to leverage this. So its not just a new kind of data source for them to inte- Crowdsourcing is an interesting grate, its also a new set of methods for them to use. concept that has been particularly successful with GIS on the Web. Another kind of crowdsourcing which is even more excit- ing to me is crowdsourcing from authoritative sources. One of the first really successful Last year, we started the Community Topographic Base crowdsourced maps was Open Map. This is a template that users in various agencies Street Map. Another kind of around the world download, pour their data into and exciting crowdsourcing is one r upload into ArcGIS Online. Our template involves 20 dif- from authoritative sources ferent scales of a topographic map and has been designed for use in a GIS system. The map is a cache and has continuous dynamic qualities. It is a beautiful map and more than 500 organisations have contributed to this system. We are currently making more than 12 million maps a day on this system after only a few months. I see this "community" approach as one way that SDI will be realised. technology is now regularly being integrated with sys- Esri is as strong as ever in the GIS market space and tems such as SharePoint, Cognos, and Business Objects is becoming a de-facto standard in GIS. This is great in a seamless way. news, but it also requires a significant amount of localisation of Esris capabilities. How do you foresee Crowdsourcing is another buzz word at the moment providing customer support and fulfilling local needs r and presumably this is a pre-requisite for GIS for in times to come? Billion People. What new direction is crowdsourcing In ArcGIS 10, we decided to change our approach towards taking worldwide? localisation with respect to language. So, in addition to First, crowdsourcing is an interesting concept that has English, ArcGIS now ships in French, Spanish, German, been particularly successful with GIS on the Web. One of Chinese and Japanese. We will expand this to include oth- the first really successful crowdsourced maps was Open er languages this year. Within our organisation we have Street Map (OSM). The concept OSM used was to develop an initiative called One Esri, to consistently spread busi- a well organised classification system of streets (data ness practices and user support globally. For many of our model) that allowed crowdsourced observation and easy distributors, it is like opening the door and walking data entry. Esri adopted this concept of building an ontol- straight into Esri headquarters in Redlands, California. ogy on a server and built it into ArcGIS 10 so that users That is the level of service and quality in support and could set up their own map layer or feature class in the maintenance our users want everywhere. We are now database and through Web editing tools, easily collect working with our distributors to implement the same observation data using crowdsourcing. business practices and customer support, training and technical support. Technology and globalisation are help- This is a significant step because it means that a COTS ing us support our users and help grow our business product could be used to organise a database on the serv- partners so they have the same capabilities globally. er and any organisation could collect VGI observational data and use it immediately. This has been a key for our In the given economic scenario, we see a significant users who desired to do citizen science and crowdsourc- shift in focus to emerging economies. What are the ing of citizens. The bottom line here is that in order to be priority areas for Esri in this new economic world useful, VGI data needs to be collected in a structured order? manner so that it can be properly manipulated and ana- Our basic philosophy is to follow what users want us to20 Geospatial World I January 2011
  7. 7. do. Today, the North American market continues to be natural resources, especially in mining, oil and gas and strong for us. While there is certainly less money in gov- forestry, growing. ernment, our users continue to deliver efficiency and better decision making to their organisations. The result What I am personally interested in is the growing interest is that GIS is seen as important even in difficult economic in open data policies and open government. It is an inter- times. Enterprise licensing has allowed our users to esting area for new applications of geographic informa- navigate around and be creative in delivering significant tion. I also continue to be interested in education, growing value to their organisations. the next generation of professionals. The last area of per- sonal interest for me is our NGO-NPO programme. Last Outside of North America, the Middle East, China, and year we introduced a new programme which provides Russia are investing heavily and growing enormously. nearly free software to NGOs. Thousands of organisations Latin America (especially Columbia, Peru, Brazil, and have already used this. For a small fee NGOs can get a Chile) is certainly another growth market. There are, of free copy of ArcInfo and all of its extensions, downloaded course, changes in the market place from year to year but and delivered on his/her desktop in any country. Likewise, frankly, GIS is either sta- organisations can get a full ArcGIS enterprise server ble or growing all over license. Our programme goes hand-in-glove with the the world. growing open data policies of governments around the world and delivers many benefits. What are the four major ver- You have been focussing a lot on India and your recent ticals for the efforts have brought tremendous movement in the geospatial thinking of political and administrative leadership in industry? India. Would you please share your vision for India? The utilities Senior leadership interest is a growing trend around the segment con- world. My sense is that India is very much embracing GIS tinues to be a as a societal platform. This is also being done in many growth area countries including China, Indonesia, Abu Dhabi, and oth- globally. We are ers. Even the United States is embracing GIS at senior seeing both new government levels. utilities growth and continued rollover of GIS is moving from simple mission to being seen as competitive technolo- important technology infrastructure for governing. gies into our platform. Basically a movement is afoot at the executive level in The government sector, governments and corporations that GIS matters. both at the local and national levels, con- In India, when I met with many senior leaders, I found a tinues to grow. The broad understanding of the power of GIS and how it could military and help them govern. Geospatial technology has an opportu- security mar- nity in India to deal with the real issues of water, food, ket is grow- environment, urbanisation, transportation, and comm- ing and unication in a holistic manner. This could empower and we inspire so many things; increase collaboration, better also communication and improved decision making across see government and society. This could happen with some of the leadership I met. They have the passion to drive it and are willing to take risks to make it happen. This will make India a better place.22 Geospatial World I January 2011