Reflections on 25th Anniversaries in 2016… What was it about 1991?

Posted on January 3, 2017 in Thinking

The end of the year is often about both reflection and prognostication, and as we head into 2017 I’m a little stuck on the reflection side. In 2016 AppGeo celebrated its 25th anniversary, and as the sole member of the team who’s been at the company for all 25 years, I’m proud of the business accomplishments and also astonished by how much our geospatial industry has changed and evolved in a quarter century.

And, in the same way that someone will mention a new song (or movie, or book) that you’ve never heard of, and then once you hear about it you realize that it’s been all around you, my ears have been particularly attuned to other 25th anniversaries this past year. And indeed, AppGeo was not the only geo organization that was celebrating this milestone. And in talking to a couple of people involved in other 25th anniversaries, I don’t think it was accidental that AppGeo and others got started in 1991.

My first encounter with “another twenty-fiver” was when I attended the 25th Anniversary Utah Geographic Information Council (UGIC) annual conference in Bryce Canyon, UT in May. While there, I also realized that the state geospatial office – which has a classic “early days of geo” name of the Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC) – was also celebrating the 25th anniversary of their State Geographic Information Database (SGID).

My second encounter with an organization that started in 1991 was the year-long celebration of the National States Geographic Information Council’s (NSGIC) 25th birthday. Since 1991, NSGIC has provided a forum and amplifier for statewide geospatial program offices to meet, compare notes and to advocate for geo initiatives, while also collectively tackling the common challenges that span states.

During my trip to Bryce Canyon, Bert Granberg and I were musing on these anniversaries. Bert is the current Director of the AGRC and someone who has been active in NSGIC for over a decade and is – as of October – the current President of NSGIC. And over beverages we concluded that it was not entirely random that AppGeo, the SGID and NSGIC share a birth-year. Indeed, there was a confluence of at least three important and self reinforcing factors that came together that year.

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Find Your Spirit of Innovation on GIS Day

Posted on November 14, 2016 in Thinking

Why do we celebrate GIS Day?  One reason is to show pride in our profession and to promote it to others, which are both worthwhile endeavors. But as a term, GIS is not modern, and is somewhat limited in scope. It was coined by Roger Tomlinson in 1968, which was the same year that the “Harvard Lab for Computer Graphics” added “and Spatial Analysis” to its name.   The computer graphics industry spawned several technology leaders in early GIS, most notably, Intergraph (founded in 1969), who became the market leader in the 1970s and 80s. During the 1990s, the mantle of market leader shifted to Esri (also founded in 1969) – times change, as do market leaders.

The term GIS was adopted by vendors and academics alike during these early decades of the industry.  It was applied to map data and technology that needed a label to differentiate it from other types of data and technology, including computer graphics.  It became a banner under which a fledgling profession could rally and grow, along with the market.  An entire industry grew-up and matured under this label, and the biggest “GIS rally” for many years has been the ESRI User Conference, at which as many as 15,000 people now gather. Based on its success in what became a global market, the almost 50 year-old Esri is often considered synonymous with GIS, as other players came and went on a playing field that the market leader was able to define for everyone — until now.  Today, “GIS” is a label that does not adequately describe what many of us who have grown-up in this industry actually do, nor the data and technology that we often use to solve problems for today’s customers, which now includes many robust open source components as well as proprietary products.  Other blog posts have mentioned Geospatial/IT as an alternative term that is more modern in its genesis than GIS, which emerged when “MIS” was a common term – but how often is MIS used these days to describe information dashboards and analytical tools for the C-Suite and the rest of the enterprise? continue_reading…

Picked up pieces from the Global 2016 FOSS4G Conference in Bonn, Germany

Posted on September 9, 2016 in Thinking


Note: Here in Boston, we are privileged to have some of the greatest sports writing in the country on the pages of the Boston Globe. Once again, this blog is modeled after and is in homage to Dan Shaughnessy’s (@Dan_Shaughnessy) “Picked Up Pieces While…” columns…

  • After 30 years in the geospatial business and after numerous international visits to North American places (yeah, Canada and Mexico) this was officially my first business trip to Europe. This trip was catalyzed due to my role in leading the local organizing committee (LOC) that will lead the that will be held next August in Boston. Quite literally, I and the co-chair of the conference (Guido Stein, @GuidoS), went to observe and learn from the proceedings and to bring the “Torch” back to Boston.

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Looking Back at 2015 and Looking Ahead to Our 25th Anniversary Year

Posted on December 22, 2015 in Thinking

The arrival of colder weather and the winter holidays bring thoughts of the New Year ahead. It also reminds us to take stock of the year about to end, and to remember the many clients and partners that we have had the privilege to work with these last twelve months. We count these among the highlights from the past year:

  • New partnerships with CartoDB and Safe Software
  • Continued growth in our relationship with Google
  • New releases of our own MapGeo and GPV solutions
  • Development of a WMS/WTFS Imagery Appliance for serving Google Imagery that is currently serving statewide imagery for Texas and Utah state governments
  • Growing our national footprint with expansion of our staff presence in Texas, and the addition of new staff in Nevada and California
  • Signature projects from coast to coast that apply our geospatial skills to transportation, environment, emergency management, municipal, county and state government, federal agencies, and increasingly to commercial customers.

On a more personal level, 2015 included a notable milestone, the retirement of one of our original founders, David Weaver. David was a key cog in the AppGeo machine for 24 years and a friendly and positive presence that we know many of you experienced directly. We miss him but wish him well in his retirement. David will continue to serve on our Board of Directors. Looking ahead, 2016 marks AppGeo’s 25th anniversary! What an amazing ride it has been, growing from three people with an idea in 1991 into a mature business with offices, people and customers across the country. Our recipe for success has remained the same through this quarter century:

  • A true love and passion for the geospatial arena
  • A commitment to our customers’ success
  • A dedication to innovation and new ideas within an ever-changing technological landscape

As this year closes, we could not be more excited for what’s ahead. We see nothing but continued opportunity and growth for AppGeo, our partners and our clients. We look forward to doing great things together in 2016.

Why We Built MapGeo

Posted on September 8, 2015 in Thinking

When you were a student it’s likely your parents and instructors reminded or scolded you to “Pay attention!” They believed that keeping an eye on what’s going on around you is valuable both for learning content and for getting ahead in life. At AppGeo we work hard to pay attention to our clients needs, to technology changes and new software and application licensing and delivery options. These were all part of bringing MapGeo (AppGeo’s hosted local government mapping solution), and now MapGeo 2.0, to market. Other related posts include what’s new in MapGeo 2.0, and a description of the uses and benefits of MapGeo.

Our Clients are the Driving Force behind MapGeo

AppGeo has served local and regional governments for more than 20 years. Our consulting and programming staff listened to customer requests and probed their needs, resulting in dozens of well received custom GIS websites. All that experience revealed some common needs. So, we started a list. Our local government customers needed:

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How MapGeo Delivers Value for Cities and Counties

Posted on September 7, 2015 in Thinking

AppGeo created MapGeo (AppGeo’s hosted local government mapping solution, first launched in 2011) to help city and county governments better use and share their geospatial and property data. Now in its second release, MapGeo is putting more data, tools and answers to questions into the hands of local government leaders, staff, businesses and citizens. Below we describe how MapGeo aligns with the expectations of today’s consumers of map-based information. Other related posts include a description of what’s new in MapGeo, and a look back on our motivation for creating MapGeo.

Beyond the Basics

Nearly everyone involved in government, both insiders and constituents, is sold on the need for accurate data, transparency and accountability. These same people are also sold on the value of maps in visualizing those data, sharing information and making decisions. But today’s challenges go beyond just creating and sharing maps. Municipal leaders and those who work for them demand quick access to a wide variety of data and new ways to view, measure and share project outcomes. Citizens are more savvy; they want quick answers to their questions and assurances their concerns are received and addressed.

The maturation of local government mapping systems revolves around performance based management. Municipal leaders and constituents are pushing maps to address performance questions:

  • Are we taking the right actions?
  • Are we effectively communicating what we are doing?
  • Are we meeting our goals in a timely manner?

For example, city leaders might set a goal of improving response to citizen service requests. Maps showing the status of service requests built off the latest data would help leaders determine if the selected strategies were working, help citizens follow progress and provide regular reports on meeting goals. A time series map could show exactly how the status changed weekly, monthly or across the year.

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Happy 10th Birthday Google Maps!

Posted on February 9, 2015 in Thinking

Sunday, February 8th marked the 10th anniversary of the launch of Google Maps and I still clearly remember when my friend, and former colleague at AppGeo, Rich Sutton, called me over and said “hey, check this out.” Even at first glance it was pretty clear this new site would be a game changer. And in hindsight, I’d put this date somewhere in my personal “top 3” of the most important developments in the geospatial industry. The other two would be the 1982 release of Esri’s ARC/INFO (or, if you prefer, their earlier release of PIOS), and the release of the initial 1990 TIGER data by US Census which democratized the availability of geo data. continue_reading…

Life after Google Maps Engine – Positive Disruption

Posted on January 21, 2015 in Thinking

In the fast paced and ever changing technology world, deprecations (i.e., the phasing out of a product) are a necessary part of the landscape. Whether it’s a failure to create sustainable market share, large shifts in backbone technology or the emergence of better alternatives, there can be good reasons to deprecate products. Still, such deprecations are always challenging from a customer point of view.

Google recently made such a decision and has now notified its partners and customers that Google Maps Engine (GME) will be deprecated. This means they will stop selling GME subscriptions immediately, and that GME will no longer be available soon after the end of 2015: Existing GME customers have approximately one year to find an alternative technology and to adapt applications that rely on GME.

While this is generally not good news, the deprecation does come at a time when there are numerous offerings in both the Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) space that can match, or exceed GME’s capabilities. And, in many cases, these alternatives can also provide improved capabilities and lower costs. AppGeo has been actively investigating and testing these alternatives, and we are ready to provide both advice and assistance to GME customers who are evaluating their migration and replacement strategies.

As a Google Geospatial Partner with deep experience in deploying GME and building Maps API solutions, we’ve been tracking and preparing for these changes. In addition, AppGeo is a certified partner with CartoDB, whose technology has been identified as a viable alternative to GME. AppGeo also has a long history of using Open Source geo serving tools, deployed in cloud infrastructures such as Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to provide capabilities that are similar to GME.

If you have questions on GME replacement strategies or need migration assistance, please consider AppGeo as your partner and contact us. As a Certified CartoDB partner and an authorized Premier Google geospatial partner, AppGeo is in a unique position to assist you with your cloud-based geospatial needs. As the saying goes, we’d like to help you make lemonade.

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MapGeo Online Property Mapping wins Best Web Map Application Recognition at 2014 FOSS4G

Posted on September 17, 2014 in News

Map Gallery judges at the 2014 annual international FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for GIS) conference chose MapGeo as a “Best Web Map Application” from among the almost 100 entries.  MapGeo was developed by AppGeo for local governments to empower them to provide access to authoritative geographic and detailed property information through a modern, useful and high performance mapping interface. 

The scalable MapGeo platform leverages the Leaflet open source javascript library; PostGIS for data storage and geospatial queries; GeoServer for web map services and cartographic styling; GeoWebCache as well as Arc2Earth for tile cache creation; Amazon Web Services as Cloud-based Infrastructure with Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) for servers and Simple Storage Service (S3) for tile cache storage.  AppGeo continually adds to and improves MapGeo, which is provided on a subscription basis to local governments across the nation.

More than 75 municipalities and counties currently enjoy the high performance and utility of MapGeo for sharing their property data with government staff, businesses, and residents.

Pictured below is Beverly, MA .

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Breaking up is hard to do…The story of how AppGeo left the Esri BP Program and what it means for our industry and customers

Posted on September 10, 2014 in Thinking

By Michael Terner (@mt_AppGeo), Executive Vice President

Through the lens of having three kids who have been in high school, I’ve heard about “getting dumped by text message” and how that can complicate and deepen the confusion of what is an inherently difficult situation. Well, earlier this year our company went through the business equivalent of such a break up.

In May, after almost 20 years as an Esri Business Partner we were informed that Esri would like to “let our formal partnership retire.” We weren’t informed by text message, but rather we first heard the news from one of our big city customers who apparently was told by Esri before we were. About a week later, on May 12, we received a formal letter from Esri signed by our “Manager of the Regional Partner Team”. Our Regional Manager for the Northeast and Jack Dangermond were CC’ed. The “Manager of the Regional Partner Team”, who we’ve known for over a decade, gave us another name to contact “if you have any questions.” So as of June 25th, 2014, we were out of the club.

But, as with high school romance, sometimes break-ups are necessary, and while they can hurt, they can also lead to new growth and opportunity. Three months after receiving the news I think our team has processed the “message” and has some perspective on what happened as well as a really optimistic outlook on AppGeo’s future. Ultimately, while we’ve broken up, we do want to “remain friends” which Esri also relayed in their letter to us. Indeed, upon reflection, we think this episode says a lot about where our company and our industry are heading, and we believe others may be interested in our assessment.

We weren’t surprised

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