Welcome to the fantastic world of digital maps, says Esri UK managing director Stuart Bonthrone
When I say I’m in the digital mapping business people often reply, “We use Google”. Well, yes, Google do offer a mapping service. And it’s great if you want to drive to Leighton Buzzard.
What we do at Esri with maps is so galactically advanced from this it’s like saying LEGO is in the construction business.
In a nutshell, Esri offers the world’s most sophisticated mapping platform. You start with a vast library of maps, Ordnance Survey, road maps, historical atlases, the world’s oceans and sea beds, political districts and constituencies, and so on. Then you add new layers.
We offer live weather data from the Met Office, census data from the Office for National Statistics, geologic research, crime reports, traffic data from the Highways Agency… thousands of streams. Users weave in their own data – retail streams, architectural plans, footfall, field-staff location, or anything else to create 2D or 3D maps.
The Esri ArcGIS platform is used for so many things I have trouble keeping up.
Argos use it to calculate the best place to locate click-and-collect stores. Road maps are combined with traffic data and census information, and then Argos adds its own data – shopper numbers and behaviours, sales figures and where customers live. It becomes clear where the best sites are.
Esri offers the world’s most sophisticated mapping platform
Crossrail relies on our platform. The new London train line stretches 100km through 40 stations. Crossrail project managers have built a detailed 3D model of the entire project, from Reading to Shenfield. The model is used for predicting passenger flows through stations, for examining the impact on traffic, calculating costs, for logistics, security and even gardening. If there’s a tree which may cause a problem, the model will flag the issue.
The platform is designed for collaboration. Teams in various offices can all work with the same data. And it’s ideal for field agents. For example, utility companies use ArcGIS to map their assets. If an electricity sub-station blows a fuse, then headquarters staff can identify which engineer is closest by looking at live mobile phone GPS data. A job ticket is sent to the nearest available engineer, who can review the information and report back via a mobile device, sending photos, notes and new geo-data.
Collaboration is possible across organisations. At the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Esri platform was used to create a common operating system for umpteen organisations. And during the 2015 Boston Marathon, police, emergency services, traffic mangers, games managers and ground staff could all work on challenges together on the same shared platform.
With ready-to-use maps, apps and data, the ArcGIS platform is easy to use and intuitive. Layers can be added, hidden or deleted with a click. 3D models can be zoomed, rotated, switched between visualisation models.
Aesthetically it is stunning. One of the most arresting uses is for imagery.
As our user-base knows, we are the world’s number-one company in the field. Nasa work with us to produce detailed maps of Mars. We call up their satellites to improve our imagery maps when needed.
Our 2,700 staff serve a million customers in 200 countries.
Who should start using Esri? We work with retailers, telecommunications companies, logistics firms, housing associations, oil and gas drillers, the defence community, political researchers, all levels of government – even startups doing customer research.
Geo-data is a part of almost every firm. We offer a unique visual way to combine your current information with almost every available dataset. What you can do is limited only by your imagination.
So yes, keep using Google Maps. But boy, can you do so much more.