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Geographic Information Systems Buying Guide

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Posted February 27, 2014 By Drew Robb     Feedback

As business cases for geographic information systems continue to emerge, more vendors are offering GIS software. Our buying guide is a good place to start.

Enterprises are beginning to find strong business cases for geographic information systems. And there are plenty of choices out there for those interested in implementing GIS.

ArcGIS

ArcGIS by ESRI is probably the best known and longest established vendor in this space. Its founder was an early pioneer in bringing physical maps into the digital universe. Now the company is working to cloud-enable GIS so that it can integrate with just about any application.

Johan Herrlin, senior business strategist for ArcGIS at ESRI, said that ArcGIS Online allows users to collect information in the field and integrate the results with GIS; monitor events, activities, and assets through dashboards; and add mapping functions inside existing business apps. Users can share maps on the go and can control who accesses them with multiple layers of security. Pricing starts at $2,500 per year.

"ArcGIS means users can add mapping to BI, CRM, EAM and ERP systems without having to add, program and learn new applications, said Herrlin. "Whatever data added in remains yours; ownership rights never change."

 Over the past year-and-a-half, ESRI has built its ArcGIS Online platform. It comes with basic building blocks such as ready-to-use maps and apps, geocoding, directions and routing, and cloud storage as well as geographic analysis tools, demographics and some premium apps. Developer services make it relatively easy to build apps which include mapping functions.

"Enterprise GIS has evolved a lot over the years, from being a specialized solution for a small number of people in an organization to a ubiquitous tool used across desktops, servers, Web and mobile devices," said Herrlin. "Adding location to existing tools and workflows enables organizations to be more efficient and productive."

Oracle Spatial

With ESRI establishing such a market for GIS in the enterprise, it’s no surprise that the big boys are moving into this field. Oracle has done so via its Oracle Spatial and Graph option for the Oracle Database.

It provides GIS and analysis features, incorporating native support for the most common geospatial data models and data types including 2D and 3D vector data, imagery and raster data, planar and network topologies, as well as point cloud and LIDAR data sets. Both geometric and geodetic operations are supported, as well as thousands of coordinate systems and coordinate system transformations.

Oracle Spatial and Graph also includes geocoding functions and a routing engine which support HERE, TomTom and other map data products. On the development side, SQL, Java, XML and OGC-compliant Web service APIs are available, as well as a Java-based HTML5 visualization and mashup component (Oracle MapViewer, a feature of Oracle WebLogic). 

Oracle released its most recent version of Oracle Spatial and Graph in summer 2013, with  Oracle Database 12c. This release includes performance improvements, parallel raster query processing and raster algebra, and additional network analysis features. 

"Oracle Spatial and Graph 12c is about improvements in performance to address massive geospatial workloads and moving more advanced geospatial and raster analytics closer to the data, so programmers can perform operations by making function calls, rather than writing hundreds of lines of code," says Jim Steiner, vice president of Product Management for Oracle Spatial and Graph. "The latest release of MapViewer is faster, more interactive, and supports disconnected and mobile applications with the new HTML5 support."

Quantum Spatial

Quantum Spatial’s Dashboard 4-D is a software tool that integrates full motion HD video, LIDAR data, orthophotography and GIS. The goal is to enable a user to experience spatial information in a four-dimensional environment, said Stephen A. Ellis, vice president Enterprise GIS Business Development at Quantum Spatial.

Dashboard 4-D can display multiple data inputs simultaneously. This is important when you realize that modern LIDAR systems combined with advanced HD video and ortho cameras are capable of collecting massive amounts of data measured in the hundreds of gigabytes per project. Even after processing, data sets are often too unwieldy to be used. By correlating and integrating the different data sets into a visual product, the user gains rapid access.

"This is the first interactive software tool that integrates full motion HD video, LIDAR data, orthophotography and GIS data," said Ellis.

Dashboard 4-D is a Web-based portal application that resides on a cloud-based server. The data and mapping services it consumes reside on data servers in the cloud, as well as published Web mapping services and client-based internal servers.

Maptitude

Caliper Corporation's Maptitude GIS is said to allow widespread use of mapping software throughout an organization. Multiple users can manage, share and use geographic data for analysis and presentation.

It supports connectivity with a variety of geographic and tabular databases, such as Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle as well as many file types, GIS and CAD formats.

Users retain control over read-write permissions. It also allows simultaneous editing of geographic and attribute data files by multiple users.

Pricing is kept simple at a flat rate of $695. Installation in the Amazon Cloud requires you to have an Amazon EC2 Microsoft Windows Instance, which you access via remote desktop.

"Business mapping apps are in demand with players such as Google entering the sector as the burgeoning geospatial industry increases its worth to $270 billion per year," said Stewart Berry, director of Product Management, Maptitude Mapping Software.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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