Latitude & Longitude, Easting & Northing, X & Y, Go Code, Loc8, Eircode, Geo-Directory; Does it matter….?

I think there should be general, and widespread, agreement that Latitude & Longitude, Easting & Northing, X & Y, Go Code, Loc8, Eircode, Geo-Directory are all valid ‘coding’ systems/methods that enable anyone with an appropriate ‘decoding’ tool to identify ‘where’.

The lowest common denominator needed for us (GIS people) to exercise our skills, expertise and knowledge is the ability to locate a place or a thing. That is the starting point for everything we do and everything we say to our customers and prospects. Knowing where things are and the ability to ‘locate’ is critical to the value proposition of what it is GIS people do for their existing customers, their prospects, their respective organisations and their external stakeholders.

Do we care about the mechanism or the tool that enables us to do what we do? Should we care? Does it actually matter to the value proposition that we have? Given the pending release of Eircodes (and the continued ensuing debate around whether it is the right ‘coding’ system for the Country) these are questions that I have been asking myself in the context of the service that we (GIS people), as purveyors of a geographic approach to business, provide to our customers.

My personal opinion is that it shouldn’t matter, as long as whatever system is used, there is an appropriate ‘decoding’ tool available to enable a user to get the information they need to help them make better and more informed business decisions. Given the variety of ‘coding’ systems available, this also raises the age old question of ‘fit for purpose’, as it is likely that no one system will necessarily meet the requirements of all. What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander, there are many ways to skin a cat, etc.

In terms of my ‘many ways to skin a cat’ quip, let me now throw in yet another way, in the context of a ‘coding’ system that helps people locate stuff!

what3words – Here is a company that has devised a very creative and innovative approach to ‘locating’ anywhere on the earth’s surface, simply by knowing the combination of three words from the English dictionary. what3words is a global grid of 57 trillion 3mx3m squares. Each square has a 3 word address that can be communicated quickly, easily and with no ambiguity. Really?

Yes really, test it for yourself. Click the following three words for Esri Irelands Office location – Swim-Wiser-Stews; here is where I live – Nutrition-Modifies-Terrace; here is the children’s climbing frame in our local park – Munched-Titled-Skilled; here is the spire on O’Connel Street – Drew-Colleague-Shot …. You get the picture.

It’s this sort of innovative and creative thinking that puts ‘coding’ systems associated with location into perspective. It certainly makes me wonder what all the fuss is about, especially when you have the tools to decode them (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/what3words/id657878530?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4).

Just think, we could take the entire GeoDirectory database overlay it on the what3words global 3mx3m grid and hey presto we have a what3words postcode system for Ireland.

Dare I bring this to the attention of (Former) Minister Rabbitte? ….. Nah!

Paul Synnott

2 steps to access MyEsri – our new “one stop” website for your Esri transactions

Launched on Monday, July 7th 2014, My Esri provides a single “one-stop”

MyEsri website

MyEsri website

website for you to interact with Esri. This new website replaces the existing Customer Care Portal and Customer Service site, which were previously used to download software, manage authorisations and view product maintenance and orders.

Should you have been a user of those websites, you will now automatically be redirected to https://my.esri.com

If you are the main point of contact for your organisation with us at Esri, what you need to do now is:

  1. Visit https://my.esri.com, and log on using your Esri Global Account
  2. You will need to request access to the
    Requesting access permission from MyEsri site

    Requesting access permission from MyEsri site

     appropriate details for your organisation. To do this,go to the “my organizations” tab, and click on “Request Permissions”, and fill in the details requested.

If you need any assistance or clarification, please do contact us on +353 1 869 3900 or help@esri-ireland.ie

Q: When is Desktop software more than Desktop software?

A: When it is ArcGIS for Desktop?

Those of you who know us will have noticed that over the last 24 months Esri has put significant investment into the ArcGIS technology stack, and particularly, into the interconnectedness of all of our software products to create what I believe is the most extensive GIS platform available today.

However, when we think ‘platform’ we all invariably think online, internet, content, web etc. In our case this generally means that we think ArcGIS Online. And while we consider that ArcGIS Online is the glue that connects all component parts of the ArcGIS platform together, we must not forget that ArcGIS for Desktop is the engine that transforms data into actionable information and actionable information into business intelligence. In light of this, ArcGIS for Desktop is now so much more than just a simple desktop software product. And for me, this is what differentiates ArcGIS for Desktop from any other desktop GIS software on this market.

When you buy ArcGIS for Desktop today (or whether you are maintaining existing ArcGIS for Desktop products) you are now getting so much more than just desktop software. Desktop users now have all the capabilities of ArcGIS the Platform, including access to on premise server & services, hosted web GIS and all of the services, functionality and collaboration that comes with that.

But even more tangible and fundamental to the desktop user is that ArcGIS for Desktop is no longer simply just ArcMap, or ArcGIS Pro (a new desktop application shipping with ArcGIS for Desktop this year). But as integrated users within the ArcGIS Platform, ArcGIS for Desktop users (at any level, basic, standard or advanced) now have access to all of the ArcGIS applications, enabled through an ArcGIS Online entitlement that you get with your desktop license.

What does this mean? It means that the ArcGIS for Desktop User now has the access to, and the ability to use and deploy, the following ArcGIS applications:

Quite an array of applications and functionality.

Furthermore, and over and above the applications listed above, ArcGIS for Desktop also includes an online digital atlas. ArcGIS for Desktop users have access to a wide variety of continuously updated data: global data; local data; data kept current by a community of professional GIS users all over the world, including an active community here in Ireland. Using this rich spatial content and spatial data infrastructure Esri also provides access to useful geo-processing services such as geo-location & search, geocoding, geo-enrichment, routing and various online spatial analysis services, all available to the ArcGIS for Desktop user.

I believe that with all of this capability ArcGIS for Desktop now delivers value that is far greater than the sum of its individual parts. When you invest in ArcGIS for Desktop you are investing in the ArcGIS platform: a platform that is evolving every three months in terms of improved functionality, new applications and additional content; a platform that embodies the notion of ‘dynamic stability’ (something that is both stable and dynamic at the same time).

In summary ArcGIS for Desktop is not just desktop software. It now comes with access to everything within ArcGIS Online, providing individual desktop users with their own platform for success and development within their respective organisations.

How many of you are aware of this already? Contact us, at mapsmakesense@esri-ireland.ie, if you want to know more.

Paul Synnott

We’re hiring. Sales/Business Developmen

We’re hiring. Sales/Business Development role @EsriIreland; find out more & apply via: http://bit.ly/1qlRisv

Maps Make Sense for the Irish Economy

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Those of you who know me will know that as well as being responsible for Esri’s business in Ireland I also take a keen interest in the value of what it is we (the geospatial community in Ireland) do for our customers. To that end I am always looking for value contribution, tangible business benefits and return on investment associated with the effective and efficient use and application of geospatial information.

In this regard much of what I have written and talked about over the past few years has been informed by the work that we (Esri Ireland) do with our public and private sector customers, experiencing first-hand the value contribution and power of geospatial information in helping organisations and companies make better and smarter business decisions.

This month further evidence of the value of ‘location’ based products and services has been published in an independent report, an “Assessment of the Economic Value of the Geospatial Information Industry in Ireland”. This report was commissioned by the Irish Government through the Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi), and carried out by Indecon Economic Consultants. The report, which can be downloaded from the OSi’s website (www.osi.ie), finds that the use of geospatial information is estimated to accrue annual savings of €82m in the public sector alone.

The report also reveals that the industry contributes €69.3m in terms of Gross Added Value to the Irish economy, and has an economy-wide impact of €126.4m. The sector directly employs an estimated 1,677 people, supports the employment of a total of 3,000 people and spends a total of €84.4m on wages and salaries. Export sales of geospatial products and services amounts to €18.9m.

The OSi is to be commended for taking on this challenging but very worthwhile exercise in trying to attach an economic value to what our industry does for the Irish economy. As an industry (if we can indeed call ourselves that) we now have a solid foundation for ongoing discussion and debate about the impacts of ‘location’ to government, business and the citizen. But as Colin Bray, CEO of OSi states “it is (but) a stepping stone for the geospatial industry in Ireland”. This I fully agree with and while rigorous in its approach and solid in its findings I believe that this current report is still somewhat unfinished business in the context of the “value contribution” story.

In my opinion the overall estimate of economic value is conservative and I make that statement with particular reference to the representation of the private/commercial sectors within the report.  Having read through the report, and based again on our (Esri Ireland) experiences of working with this sector, I believe that the estimates attributed somewhat to private sector (i.e. accrued time savings of €279m and competition benefits of €104) are simply a ‘tipping of the cap’ to the real value contained within this sector. In presenting these figures the report states that “In our analysis we focus on potential public sector cost savings but productivity gains from the use of geospatial information apply equally to the private sector.” I am not quite sure whether I agree with this statement but if, in the context of ‘economic value’ this is true, I would have thought that the value associated with such productivity gains would be very different in private sector than it would be in public sector.

For example, we are working with one private sector Company that has a €36bn business issue for which they are now looking to location intelligence to help address. Through the efficient and effective use and application of mapping and location data they have already resolved €1.5bn in their first 14 months of using such information. This is just one example from one customer in one particular industry sector and we know of many more such examples.

That said, we (in the industry) must also recognize that this report is about ‘economic value’, which is different to value associated with individual cost savings, return on investment and increased shareholder value, which are all measures that we historically try to attached to the value of what it is we do. I am also the first to acknowledge the extreme difficulty in extracting any form of value contribution from private sector organizations. After all such value is typically that customer’s competitive advantage in their respective industries and markets. And how many of us would willingly divulge our competitive advantage?

In any case I do believe that there is merit for the industry to explore more of these commercial business examples so that we can get a truer reflection of the value of maps & location to the private sector. In light of this I would encourage the OSi and Indecon to progress further our collective understanding of the benefits and value of geospatial information to commercial businesses by taking a deeper dive into the private sector use and application of such information.

Anybody got any other thoughts?

Paul Synnott

You have the stories, we have the maps!

We all love a good story and what better way to tell your story than through a visual depiction of the setting or the sequence of events and actions about that story.  Maps provide the canvas on which a story can be easily laid out, presented and understood by everyone.  My earliest memories (about 30 years ago) of maps being used to tell a story was when I was first introduced to the works of JRR Tolkien and his wonderful map depictions of middle earth, in ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’.  Of course more recently we have seen a much more explicit use of maps to tell the story of the City of Dublin, in Muiris DeBuitleir’s recent publication ‘A Portrait of Dublin in Maps’.

Today, we can combine intelligent web maps with web applications and templates that use text, multimedia, and interactive functions to create dynamic Storymaps that inform, educate, entertain, and inspire people about a wide variety of topics.

Over the course of 2013 we (Esri) have been working hard and having fun with the use of maps to tell a story.  This has been a global success and there are now Storymaps popping up all over the world, covering all sorts of interesting and diverse topics. Locally, here in Ireland, we have had very positive response to the many fun Storymaps that we have pushed out into the public domain in the last few months.  And while Storymaps are fun, they are also fast becoming a creative and innovative medium for both public and private sector organisations to convey business information. They can give business context to “business stories” that can add value to organisations and their customer’s experience.

The concept of Storymaps is made possible because, quite simply, everything happens somewhere.  Using the power of place and location to tell your story enhances your narrative. They help bring to life the essence of your message for a much wider audience, an audience that may not necessarily be directly impacted by the story itself but more by the places and locations that are an integral part of the overall story being told.

You will see and hear more from us in 2014 with regards to the Storymap approach but in the meantime we have a gallery of Storymaps that we, and our customers, have made around a number of interesting, topical and fun stories.  For a greater portfolio of worldwide Storymaps please see here.  We’ll be adding to and growing this as more and more local Storymaps become available.  People love stories and we’re all about maps. Combining both brings events, news and places to life that resonates and gives meaning.

Why not tell your story using the medium of maps? If you need help just let us know.

Paul Synnott

Challenges for GIS in Ireland – November 2013

There is nothing quite likeGIS-Ireland an annual conference to ignite thought leadership and debate.

And GIS Ireland 2013 was no different – you can pick through the program and talks that are available here.

There is great energy and intent around GI in Ireland if the opening session from Bill McCluggage (government CIO) is taken as a barometer. That the office of the government CIO (OGCIO) focus on the best experience for citizen engagement with government, on government as part of a sharing platform, and all with GIS at the heart of it, is heart-warming for us in the GI industry (I give up! Let’s just call it an industry!).

Although hardly a popular topic the turnaround time, compliance levels and revenue generated from the local property tax efforts were cited by Bill as an example of good use of GI by government. The mooted postcodes for Ireland have the potential to act as an excellent locational code, assuming the licencing is not restrictive (or dare I say it, is open and accessible?). Initiatives like a national health identifier will need geography at their heart, and big data projects within government are likely to be heavily location dependant. Bill mentioned that Ireland provides 13% of the global milk powder yield, and maintaining this is a big data challenge combining weather, farming, geochemistry and other geographic information together.

Later in the plenary sessionAgeOfPlatform, and partly inspired by author Phil Simon, my colleague Paul Synnott ably broke down the key components of a platform as we now know it: content; infrastructure; and ecosystem. It is around these concepts that I think it is best to gather together the key trends and initiatives for GI in Ireland right now, and to define the current challenges we face too.

Regarding content, it wouldArcGIS-Online_content seem that open data is the key government initative, and one close to my own heart. Perhaps open data is seen as a quick win by government, and data sharing and governance will be a key component of this (as will the ability to get to the top of the 5 star model for open data – through linked open data). So it is great to see the four commitments from Minister Brendan Howlin around producing a national action plan for the open government partnership: to sign up to the G8 open data charter; to establish an open data board; to set up an open data imlementation group; to build an online open data platform.

It looks as though a national GIS strategy is coming, to be led by OSi CEO Colin Bray working into Bill. Part of that will mean the development of a pan-government mapping agreeement which should pave the way to intra-government sharing, and perhaps more broadly out into non-government sharing scenarios.

Regarding infrastructure, the national GIS strategy is intended to build upon the central technical portal (www.geoportal.ie). In addition, and given the commitment from DPER towards government cloud services, it is good to see geospatial services as a key inclusion within Bill McCluggage’s thinking.

Regarding the ecosystem, Platform_Ecosystemthis is where most of us in this community come in.

Collectively we need to make and share applications and information following the path laid by Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon – what our community brings is the geographic advantage!

Government participation as both producers and users of GI is critical. The national GIS strategy has the potential to allow us to get to the types of benefits that Spatial NI is delivering in Northern Ireland, with www.geoportal.ie having the potential to help deliver economic, social and public services interaction.

I hope you will see some consistency here back to previous posts on the subject of the challenges we face. We are making progress because we have:

  • a commitment from government for a national GIS strategy, with suggested ownership and accountability
  • connected well into key data/information initiatives, such as open data and big data

It will always be the case that challenges remain, and my belief is that these include:

  • the urgent need to develop, within our industry, much enhanced skills in and engagement in benefits quantification and storytelling: to give meaning to what we do; and to avoid GIS being seen as a cost by budget holders
  • the requirement for on-going development of GI skills through primary and post-primary education
  • continued lobbying to mandate the capture of location information within government data, and to then share that data
  • remaining influential upon government reform. In particular, how accountability and responsibility for on-going reform will be devolved to middle management and operational levels across the public sector

These challenges are daunting but achievable, especially if the energy and vitality I saw at GIS Ireland 2013 remains focused on those challenges.

Let me or my colleagues know what you think!

Michael Byrne, Esri Ireland