Where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed impacts everything else in our lives. When we examine the movements and decisions people make in their physical environments, we see patterns of human behavior. The science of mapping and understanding patterns critical to business and government is powered by a geographic information system, or GIS. Executives and leaders rely on GIS technology to deliver location intelligence—data visualization and analytics for insight, decision-making, and prediction.
On November 13, we celebrate GIS Day when GIS users share their smart maps and analysis with the larger community. GIS Day brings together innovators in business, education, government, and nonprofit groups to build a stronger understanding of the world we live in because of location-based insight.
People use GIS to solve real problems
Working with GIS, people can see and understand thousands of individual data points holistically within a geographic context. The powerful technology can integrate an organization’s data with information from every imaginable external source including demographics, satellite imagery, sensor feeds, traffic, and weather. Through a GIS dashboard, it’s possible to dive as granular as examining the HVAC efficiency of a single building or as high-level as nationwide delivery optimization for a logistics company.
Rather than relying on one-dimensional spreadsheets and text-based explanations, GIS empowers visual storytelling through maps. Since nearly everyone is comfortable using maps, GIS is effective in conveying complex data to large, diverse groups such as stakeholders, customers, and staff.
People use GIS to:
- Identify risk and problems
- Drive efficiency
- Increase productivity
- Monitor change
- Manage and respond to events
- Perform forecasting
- Set priorities
- Understand trends
The technology supports smarter decisions about land use, energy, water, natural hazards, biodiversity, climate, and other key issues.
Identify problems: Addressing the opioid crisis across the US
The US opioid epidemic has reached crisis level, with 78 Americans dying everyday due to overdose. The number of prescription opioids sold in the US and the number of prescription opioid deaths have both quadrupled since 1999.
To facilitate more responsible disbursement of pain medications, the health community is using GIS to map opioid prescription sales in every US county.
The interactive map pulls in data from credible outside sources like the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and visually displays the aggregated stats. One example is a map comparing counties throughout the US where the percentage of opioid claims is higher than the national average and those where claims are lower than average.
With greater awareness of exactly where opioids are impacting Americans the most, the healthcare community can target its adoption of new clinical practice guidelines that can lead to safer, more effective pain treatment as well as a decrease in misuse, abuse, and overdose improving outcomes for individuals and communities alike.
Perform forecasting: Monitoring housing and traffic patterns in Honolulu
Hawaii residents consider themselves lucky to live in a place often cited as the happiest and healthiest in the nation. The same beautiful beaches and easy lifestyle that make Hawaii a great place to live are also high draws for visitors from around the world.
As demand increases for short-term rentals, long-term housing options for residents are in diminishing supply for the land-limited island state. Furthermore, the unique topography and aging infrastructure of densely populated Honolulu results in some of the worst traffic in the country. The city has recently started using location intelligence to address both problems.
The Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting used 3D visualization tools to examine and visualize proposed low-rise apartment zoning changes in the neighborhood of Mo’ili’ili. They were able to immediately see the potential impact on housing prices and availability, as well as forecast the effect larger apartment buildings would have on traffic and resources in the area.
The 20-mile, 21-station Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project aims to help alleviate traffic woes by introducing elevated rail to the region. Paired with the rail project is a new approach, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), a strategy to increase the density of housing, jobs, and services around rail stations. City officials used GIS to create a unique participatory environment that allows government, business, and community stakeholders to easily visualize TOD redevelopment scenarios and rezoning proposals.
Set priorities: Growing India’s largest mobile network operator
You don’t become the largest mobile network operator in India and the second largest in the world without setting aggressive growth goals and finding the right technology partners to meet them. Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited credits location intelligence gained from GIS as critical to helping connect and coordinate steps in building its network and marketing its services.
Decision-makers at Jio start with a standard map of current and proposed service areas and enrich it by adding the number of potential customers, how many towers are needed to connect those customers, how much cable is needed, and so forth. On the service side of the business, GIS is used to coordinate materials for just-in-time deliveries and to dispatch crews for network construction when and where they are needed.
The company’s marketing executives use GIS technology to understand population demographics and target outreach efforts. And field sales team members analyze demographic data on a GIS-based smart map so they can knock on the most promising doors to sign new customers.
All of this planning has helped Jio accrue 350 million customers less than three years after launching commercial operations.
Humble beginnings and a limitless future
In the 1960s, researchers around the world began to focus on key geographic information science topics such as spatial analysis and visualization. These efforts fueled a quantitative revolution in the world of geographic science and laid the groundwork for GIS.
Esri founders Jack and Laura Dangermond were among this early group of GIS developers. Together, they pioneered the use of location intelligence to help land use and resource management planners make more informed decisions, establishing acceptance of GIS as a unique and potent problem-solving tool. Since Esri was founded in 1969, GIS has advanced to working with real-time feeds, online maps of open data, mobile apps for routing, data collection, working with drones, and much more.
The technology has evolved into a means for continuous data sharing and collaboration across every industry and applies to nearly every use case imaginable. As our world faces challenges—population growth, harsh weather, loss of plant and animal wildlife, pollution of natural resources—GIS plays an increasingly vital role. On this GIS Day, we recognize how this technology provides the location intelligence we need to understand and address key issues, then communicate and collaborate around solutions using the common language of mapping.
For more information about location intelligence, visit esri.com/location-intelligence.