Combining data and real-world locations through GIS technologies is a powerful way to gain customer and user insight. It tells businesses where to apply their resources, lets researchers discover unsuspected connections, helps organizations track people, and tells individuals about their own neighborhoods. Mobile devices and the Internet of Things have helped geographic information systems (GIS) to collect data faster and more thoroughly than ever before.
Business insights, humanitarian efforts, and mass entertainment are just three of the areas where GIS technologies are advancing. Let’s look at recent advances in each of those areas.
In business, SAP HANA combines geospatial organization with analytics. This lets a business optimize resource movement and assess location-related risks and opportunities. It can provide a clearer idea of how customers are distributed and how their habits vary in different areas. It uses ArcGIS to represent data in maps. Data can be imported from any spatial reference system or coordinate reference system.
The ST_Geometry data type holds two-dimensional spatial data, which ArcGIS can access. The ArcMap application displays the data in map form and supports a variety of processing.
SAP Geographical Enablement Framework, introduced in June 2016, provides two-way navigation between SAP applications and ArcGIS. Custom code can use the GIS API to fetch data, and an organization can publish its geospatial data as a service. Conversely, SAP BusinessObjects Cloud can use geospatial features of business objects. The framework’s map-based UI can be embedded in Business Suite applications.
When people are fleeing a war zone, it isn’t easy to keep track of them. Hosting is often informal and transient. 1.5 million Syrians have fled into Lebanon, and hundreds of thousands to Europe and other places. Over a thousand settlements are found just in Lebanon. The relief agency Medair is using mobile GIS technologies and GPS devices to map refugee settlements.
In today’s world, even people who have almost nothing often have access to mobile devices. When they’re forced to leave their homeland, it can be their only connection to their families and friends. It can also be their connection to relief agencies.
Refugees receive cards with a bar code for their settlement. Medair puts refugee data into ArcGIS, using mobile phones and tablets. The data is available for coordination with other agencies. People who might be forgotten remain, literally, on the map.
Get them all!
The most popular GIS application in 2016 was one which few people thought of by that category: Pokémon Go. It was the successor to Ingress, a game of reaching as many marked locations as possible. Niantic, the company that created both games, employed a number of people who had previously worked on GIS technologies such as Google Maps and Google Earth.
Adding the Pokémon brand turned the game into a fad, but Ingress already had the geographic data and the mechanics of using it. In July and August, people everywhere were chasing the critters. 45 million users were registered at the peak.
The game experienced the problems of massive scaling. Players often got cryptic error messages from the servers. Its huge number of real-time, interactive users made it one of the biggest GIS maintenance challenges ever, and after a few weeks the number of users started to drop precipitously. However, it’s still alive and adding features. A wearable Bluetooth device called the Pokémon Go Plus saves addicts from constantly staring at their phones and wandering into traffic while they’re on the hunt.
GIS keeps growing
GIS technologies have been around for many years, but the widespread deployment of location-aware devices has greatly expanded its potential for large-scale, real-time use. Its applications are widely available to individuals, whether they’re playing games or just trying to survive. We’re sure to see even more in the coming year.
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