วันพุธที่ 16 กันยายน พ.ศ. 2552

Interview: Carl Steinitz on GIS and Design

Interview: Carl Steinitz on GIS and Design

September 16, 2009 in Design, GIS, Interviews

cslargeESRI writer Jim Baumann recently interviewed Carl Steinitz on the integration of GIS and design, and we share a portion of that interview here. Steinitz, Alexander and Victoria Wiley Research Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning, has been teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design since 1966. His interests are reflected in his teaching and research on landscape change, methods of landscape analysis, visual quality, and landscape planning and design. In 1984, he received the Outstanding Educator Award of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture; he also received the 1996 Distinguished Practitioner Award from the International Association for Landscape Ecology (U.S.A.). In 1997, he was chosen by the student body to receive the annual Graduate School of Design Teaching Award.

Baumann: You have stated, “At large scale, you are dealing with strategy, at middle scale you are dealing with tactics and as small scale, you are dealing with details.” Can you elaborate?

Steinitz: It is a generalization. When planning at regional scale, with changes such as new infrastructure, urbanization and conservation, or when looking at a regional scale plan, nobody cares if a village has two or three story buildings. When planning a village or looking at a village plan, nobody cares if the garden of a home has an apple tree or a pear tree. But when we were designing our garden, we preferred a cherry tree to an apple tree. Focus is typically a function of the lens of scale.

Baumann: How can GIS best be used in relationship to design when considering these telescoping scales?

Steinitz: We need to be able to work at several scales of resolution in space and classification.

Baumann: At what point should GIS be introduced into the design process?

Steinitz: GIS does not have an automatic role. If it is to play a role, it must be considered as part of the process of ‘designing’ the methodology of any study.

Baumann: How can GIS be used more effectively as a tool in architectural and landscape design?

Steinitz: This depends on many things: e.g. computer technologies, intuitive, easy-to-use interfaces, relevant software, appropriate data scale(s), needs for analysis, available or adapted models, trained people, and even fear and mistrust. The larger and riskier the design project, the more GIS is likely to be used.

Baumann: How would GIS tools that simulate dynamic processes be best used in the design process?

Steinitz: They can be useful in impact assessment when comparing alternatives, but would “best” be used in making designs—change models—iteratively, in immediate feedback interaction with impact evaluations.

Baumann: Would the development of a GIS data model for GeoDesign be feasible? If so, what would be included in it?

Steinitz: Not “a” data model, but rather capabilities for very flexible data models to meet particular data needs in time, space, and classification to be adapted to meet the needs of any particular design project. This will only be useful if the methodological framework for design can USE the data flexibilities in its several stages.

Baumann: Does a digital environment/alternative reality like Second Life play a role in landscape architecture?

Steinitz: I am not a fan of Second Life and consider it a sad retreat from real life. However, it has a potentially useful software base and is of interest to researchers at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London where I am Visiting Professor, and at other research groups. I expect it to be used more frequently to simulate projected designed environments. It can be adapted to be the medium of design.

Baumann: Michael Goodchild recently posed the question, “If spatial dependence in the form of Tobler’s First Law—nearby things are more related than distant things—is a general and fundamental principle of geography, what is its meaning in design?”

Steinitz: I have no idea what it means in design. But I do know that more and more designers are NOT following this law, and that technologies are increasingly enabling real time multi-user collaborations in Web-space. I have done this in teaching and research for years, and not with “local” collaborators.

Baumann: What does the future hold for the use of technology in design?

Steinitz: We will increasingly see experimentation in participatory design methods that are technology-driven, and that directly link to data acquisition at the beginning and to constructing changes at the end. Will the results be more “successful”? Who knows…but one can try.

วันอังคารที่ 15 กันยายน พ.ศ. 2552

How Business Intelligence and GIS are becoming more integrated.

How Business Intelligence and GIS are becoming more integrated.

Most people may think of geographic information systems (GIS) simply as Google maps or the navigation system for their car, but GIS tools do a lot more than help people get from A to B. Businesses are adding a spatial dimension to data to help make critical decisions in this tough economy.

We recently interviewed Yellowfin CEO Glen Rabie to find out more about this topic and why Yellowfin Business Intelligence with spatial data is so much more than just Google Maps.

Q. How does GIS integrated with BI differ from the traditional GIS approach?

A. A typical spatial specialists approach to GIS data is that it is about land use – and the optimisation of that – where to put that next store. Well on the one hand that is true and there is a place for stand-alone GIS apps to do just that, but the power of GIS is far greater. Land use changes – where you put a store or a branch today may not be that ideal in 5 years time – however what action can you take based upon your now relatively fixed network. How do you market to the changing landscape of customers and attract them to your store, how do you optimise the distribution channel that you have, how do you accurately compare one stores performance with another based on customer catchment segment analysis not necessarily proximity (still a spatial question believe it or not). This is the greater reality of GIS data and the massive potential it has for improving business performance.

Q. What are some of the newer and more innovative ways in which businesses are using GIS data beyond traditional niches?

A. When you think of GIS traditionally you think of government and urban planning. The major application in the private sector to date has been logistics. However, this is changing. One of the key uses of GIS is store/branch/dealer location. A great partner of ours eSite does just that – but there is a whole lot more. The most compelling is the use of spatial data for optimising marketing campaigns. Understanding the demographics of your desired customer and where they are located is critical if you want to maximise the return on your marketing dollar. Its not just about being able to target them but also understanding what the likely-hood of them accessing your channel is – especially if it is a bricks and mortar channel. What’s the drive time? etc.

Jet Interactive a partner of ours has a fantastic use of Yellowfin spatial. They use the spatial analytic capability of Yellowfin to provide 0800, 1300 call information. By tracking incoming calls Jet Interactive can overlay not the location of the call but all the demographic breakdown of the locations population. This is a highly valuable service to their customers who can now accurately measure the effectiveness of response rates to phone campaigns from a spatial perspective.

Q. How is GIS being integrated with traditional business Intelligence?

A.It is already happening with Yellowfin Spatial. This is location intelligence as simply another facet of our core application and designed for an Enterprise platform independent stack. It can access spatial data from a variety databases and provides map reports either through its dashboard interface or as a web service. These maps services allow developers to embed these maps into things like SharePoint or any other application. This approach is different than traditional GIS. It’s really mapping for the whole enterprise.

Q. You started out in as pure play BI presentation. Why did you get into GIS and when did you make the leap?

A. I did a little bit of urban planning whilst at University – dabbling really but I got a taste of how communities are formed and interact. Later I worked for a major bank in the BI space. We developed an impressive data warehouse but little focus was placed on the spatial side of BI. This was left to a separate department that concentrated on branch network optimisation –I did a little work with them and became fascinated by why some branches were more successful than others. Such a large part had to do with geography yet this information was never integrated into a manager’s view of branch performance. However, what really got to me was that organisations have whole departments that specialise in Geo Spatial business questions and yet these departments are rarely integrated into their general Business Intelligence and this I see as a major gap. I came to fundamentally believe that along with time – spatial data is a common and highly relevant dimension for any business.

So in the context of Yellowfin, I got really excited when in the last couple of years we had clients coming to us who really understood the interaction between BI and spatial data, and wanted to see their spatial data integrated into Yellowfin. It was with working with these customers that we really decided to take the plunge and develop our own native GIS functionality within Yellowfin to ensure its tight fit into BI. 4.0 was the first iteration of this – and not a bad start really. But with 4.1 it has really come into its own.

Q. So what are the main GIS enhancements in 4.1 and what does this mean for Yellowfin’s customers?

A. With 4.0 we enabled querying and rendering of spatial data types for Oracle and MySQL in 4.1 we have extended this to SQL Server 2008 and other databases. However – the really big breakthrough in this release was the ability to leverage Web Map Servers (WMS) for rendering spatial data. This allows us to connect to any GIS application that uses the WMS open standard for map delivery. This combined with the ability for users to build map layers – which can be turned on or off at run time– means that users have a huge amount of flexibility to built and view spatial analysis with an incredibly easy to use interface.

Q. You mentioned that there are big pay-offs for analysis with GIS. Does GIS belong integrated into core systems and applications such as CRM and ERP apps?

A. I think that just like BI and its GIS counterpart these are not core systems and are better integrated into application. Yellowfin specialises in providing an embeddable BI tool for software vendors. Our solution is easy to integrate and designed to support developers as well as end-users by allowing application vendors to rapidly bring spatial analysis to their customer base.

Q. The embedded mapping capabilities on websites often come from Google and Microsoft etc. What is Yellowfin’s niche?

A. Microsoft and Google are very much consumer-focused. They look at mapping as one more aspect of search. What they have done is pump prime the need for GIS applications. However, their technology is more geared towards fast visualisation access; it’s not a GIS system.

Yellowfin does not focus on the consumer – our target is the business user. Whilst we do use Google as a content provider for some of our maps we enable business users to actually build the content that can be visualised or analysed on the web. Analysis is where the big pay-offs on GIS arise, and this is where Yellowfin excels with its fully integrated Business and Spatial Intelligence solution.

วันจันทร์ที่ 14 กันยายน พ.ศ. 2552

Top Five Benefits of GIS

Top Five Benefits of GIS

September 14, 2009 in GIS

GIS benefits organizations of all sizes and in almost every industry. There is a growing interest in and awareness of the economic and strategic value of GIS, in part because of more standards-based technology and greater awareness of the benefits demonstrated by GIS users. The number of GIS enterprise solutions and IT strategies that include GIS are growing rapidly. The benefits of GIS generally fall into five basic categories:

1. Cost savings resulting from greater efficiency. These are associated either with carrying out the mission (i.e., labor savings from automating or improving a workflow) or improvements in the mission itself. A good case for both of these is Sears, which implemented GIS in its logistics operations and has seen dramatic improvements. Sears considerably reduced the time it takes for dispatchers to create routes for their home delivery trucks (by about 75%). It also benefited enormously in reducing the costs of carrying out the mission (i.e., 12%-15% less drive time by optimizing routes). Sears also improved customer service, reduced the number of return visits to the same site, and scheduled appointments more efficiently.

2. Better decision making. This typically has to do with making better decisions about location. Common examples include real estate site selection, route/corridor selection, zoning, planning, conservation, natural resource extraction, etc. People are beginning to realize that making the correct decision about a location is strategic to the success of an organization.

3. Improved communication. GIS-based maps and visualizations greatly assist in understanding situations and story telling. They are a new language that improves communication between different teams, departments, disciplines, professional fields, organizations, and the public.

4. Better geographic information recordkeeping. Many organizations have a primary responsibility of maintaining authoritative records about the status and change of geography (geographic accounting). Cultural geography examples are zoning, population census, land ownership, and administrative boundaries. Physical geography examples include forest inventories, biological inventories, environmental measurements, water flows, and a whole host of geographic accountings. GIS provides a strong framework for managing these types of systems with full transaction support and reporting tools. These systems are conceptually similar to other information systems in that they deal with data management and transactions, as well as standardized reporting (e.g., maps) of changing information. However, they are fundamentally different because of the unique data models and hundreds of specialized tools used in supporting GIS applications and workflows.

5. Managing geographically. In government and many large corporations, GIS is becoming essential to understand what is going on. Senior administrators and executives at the highest levels of government use GIS information products to communicate. These products provide a visual framework for conceptualizing, understanding, and prescribing action. Examples include briefings about various geographic patterns and relationships including land use, crime, the environment, and defense/security situations. GIS is increasingly being implemented as enterprise information systems. This goes far beyond simply spatially enabling business tables in a DBMS. Geography is emerging as a new way to organize and manage organizations. Just like enterprise-wide financial systems transformed the way organizations were managed in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, GIS is transforming the way that organizations manage their assets, serve their customers/citizens, make decisions, and communicate. Examples in the private sector include most utilities, forestry and oil companies, and most commercial/retail businesses. Their assets and resources are now being maintained as an enterprise information system to support day-to-day work management tasks and provide a broader context for assets and resource management.


วันพุธที่ 9 กันยายน พ.ศ. 2552

Five “Green” Applications of GIS

September 9, 2009 in GIS, Green Technologies

Earth-Recycle-WebGIS software supports applications that help conserve natural resources and reduce pollution, including:

1. Renewable Energy Siting - A popular application is determining the best location for renewable energy facilities such as solar and wind generation sites. GIS is helping many organizations perform these studies at multiple scales ranging from national to local settings.
2. Energy Savings via Automated Routing – Organizations with vehicle fleets can realize almost immediate energy savings by using GIS-based logistics planning software for optimized routing. These applications provide huge benefits in reduced fuel consumption–typically 15% – 20%–and benefit both private and public organizations dealing with dispatching and routing inspectors, field workers, and home deliveries, as well as paratransit agencies and trucking companies.
3. Carbon Accounting - GIS is being used to acquire measurements and monitor carbon balance geographically. This is happening at many scales, from global down to local geographies. The Clinton Foundation, working with the Australian government, has created a national system whereas American Forests has set up accounting systems to measure the change in carbon balance within metropolitan areas.
4. Conservation Planning - GIS is being used to define wildlife areas and corridors and integrate this knowledge for better land use planning.
5. Land Use and Transportation Planning - GIS is being used by planners to support the design of more sustainable cities, regions, and states.


วันศุกร์ที่ 4 กันยายน พ.ศ. 2552

The Rise of Geoconsumerism

The Rise of Geoconsumerism

September 2, 2009 in GIS, Visualization

New Tools, the GeoWeb, Ubiquitous Data Bring “GIS for Everyone” Vision to Life

The vision of “GIS for everyone” has been around for a long time. GIS is a transformational technology, with the ability to empower the masses to make better decisions. But from an implementation standpoint, for many years the “GIS for everyone” vision was not very practical. For the most part, GIS use remained fairly exclusive; the tools, data, and decision making were relegated to a fairly small number of “GIS professionals.”

Happily, this landscape has changed over the course of the last few years. Development of a new generation of geospatial tools, proliferation of the Internet as a backbone for sharing and collaborating, and widespread availability of geospatial data have laid the foundation. The infrastructure is now in place to deliver powerful geospatial information and applications to almost every inhabitant of our planet. We’re seeing the dawn of a new age; an age of “geoconsumerism,” where geospatial information developed by GIS professionals is packaged in a way that it is quickly and easily available for use by everyone. “GIS for everyone” is here.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at an analogy: electricity. Electricity has been around for a long time. Scientists and researchers lead the “discovery” of many of the details of electricity. Once many of the details were discovered, engineers set out designing and building the infrastructure to electrify the world. Once the infrastructure was in place, inventors and industrial designers set about building products that leveraged the hard work of the engineers and delivered products to the masses—easy-to-use appliances for people who could benefit from this technology, but who didn’t need to know the details of amps and ohms, or how the electricity they were using was generated and where it actually came from. Throughout this evolution, electricity became available to exponentially more people and the knowledge and skills needed to work with electricity became heavily stratified.

Evolution of the Electrical Consumption System.

We don’t often think of it in this way, because most of the world has reliable electricity infrastructure, but every time we do something as simple as flip a light switch or turn on a TV, we are touching one small end of a huge, complex, sophisticated system designed to generate and transmit electrical current across many miles and deliver it where, when, and how we need it, in the most transparent fashion possible. The initial foundational work by the engineers to build the infrastructure, as well as ongoing work to maintain it and advance it, coupled with the brilliance of the inventors and industrial designers who give us products that leverage the electric infrastructure and make our lives easier and better, is often not fully appreciated by the consumer. And in a mature system, that’s the way it should be: the consumer should flip the switch, and it should “just work” in the most transparent way possible.

Looking at geospatial information, GIS professionals have been working hard over the last couple of decades to build the infrastructure. While not “complete,” this infrastructure is to the point where it is comprehensive enough that it can be of great value to many people beyond the traditional GIS audience. Making the infrastructure accessible to “everyone” is now in the hands of developers.

Evolution of the Geospatial Information Consumption System.

Some developers are taking a more traditional approach, often developing sophisticated applications for very specific uses, while others are looking at ways to bring more simple applications to a much larger audience. Both approaches are valuable and needed, and the line between them is beginning to blur as developers focus on using the most appropriate techniques, tools, and methods for the intended audience.

The next generation of geospatial applications will have broad relevance across society, will leverage the infrastructure built and maintained by GIS professionals, will make people’s lives easier and better, and will be transparent and “just work.” Developers, this is your time. “Everyone” is waiting.