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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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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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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Happy PostGIS Day!

Posted on November 21, 2013 in Thinking

The celebration continues – happy PostGIS Day to one and all! We here at AppGeo use and support all types of spatial IT platforms, including PostGIS software from our good friends at Boundless, “the most trusted provider of enterprise-grade, open source geospatial software.” Some of our most interesting projects have used the open source platform, including innovative broadband mapping applications, and a park facilities, trails and recreation area interactive mapping application for the National Parks and Recreation Association (NRPA). We applaud the efforts of Boundless and the wider open source community for providing a variety of open source software (OSS) for the benefit of Spatial IT professionals everywhere.

Picked Up Pieces That Have Settled Out Since the FOSS4G North America Conference

Posted on August 26, 2013 in Thinking

By Michael Terner (@mt_AppGeo), Executive Vice President

Here in Boston, we are privileged to have some of the greatest sports writing in the country on the pages of the Boston Globe. This blog is written in the style of, and in homage to both Dan Shaughnessy’s (@Dan_Shaughnessy) “Picked Up Pieces While…” columns, and Bob Ryan’s (@GlobeBobRyan) “Cleaning Out the Desk Drawer of my Mind…” columns. Here is a recent example from Shaughnessy.

  • The second-annual Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) North American conference, aka FOSS4GNA, was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in late May. After many bitten fingernails from the host committee, the conference drew almost 400 people as the notoriously late-registering “open source crew” came through over the final three weeks leading up to the event. This very respectable attendance came in spite of two significant hurdles. First, unlike the initial FOSS4GNA conference last year in Washington, D.C., there was almost zero attendance from Federal employees due to the sequester and associated travel restrictions.  Second, and unlike last year (when the international conference scheduled for Beijing was cancelled) there will be an international FOSS4G conference in Nottingham, England in September, and undoubtedly some had to choose between the two events. The success of the Minneapolis show fully validates the health of this community and the ability of this continent to support its own FOSS4G gathering.  
  • Next year, North America is slated to host the 2014 international FOSS4G event, which should have no problem exceeding the 2013 North America- only attendance figure. After heady competition with Washington, D.C., OSGeo recently announced that Portland, Oregon won the bid to host the international FOSS4G conference. This leaves open two questions:
    • Will this year’s international conference in England outdraw the Minneapolis show, and if so, by how much?
    • Where will FOSS4GNA 2015 be held, and how many people will come?

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Looking Forward/Backward in Early 2013 to Fully Embrace Spatial IT

Posted on March 22, 2013 in Thinking

By Michael Terner, Executive Vice President

With the turn of the New Year I read many of the pieces that both looked backward at the year past and forward to what is coming, and I naturally tried to decide what I would have said. So, after nearly three months of mulling things over in quiet times walking my dog, and also at louder times as our company actively plans for the coming year, I think I actually have an answer:

The most influential thing I heard last year was Paul Ramsey’s typically brilliant talk at the OpenGeo User Meeting that followed the inaugural FOSS4G North America conference in Washington, D.C. His talk posited that our industry may be both misnamed and held back by the term “GIS” (geographic information systems). He argued that “GIS” connotes a particular type of software and doesn’t fully describe what many of us are actually doing, and he proposed an alternative name, Spatial IT (information technology). This new nomenclature strongly resonated with me. Brian Timoney’s blog piece from October 2012 provided an important and articulate “second” to many of these notions. Probably more importantly to me, my colleagues at AppGeo (founded in 1991) seemed to share the “ah-ha” moment of this relatively simple observation.

To me, the core of the argument for a “Spatial IT outlook” is that “GIS has grown up.” The professional-grade software (e.g., from Esri, founded in 1969) is incredibly powerful, mature and feature-rich. Most of the big data automation and digitizing projects have been completed or are underway. The “case for GIS” has been made to most geographically oriented organizations – be they government agencies, utilities, or the established cartographic houses like National Geographic – and “GIS” is in daily action managing and publishing geographic data. Most importantly, the public awareness and expectation for electronic mapping is extremely high whether on the Web or on a smartphone; whether in your house, office, car or city park. The battle for “geo-relevancy” is over.

So while lots of “GIS” is going on, the most interesting and challenging problems are no longer “about GIS.” Rather, the problems many of us find ourselves working on involve integrating geospatial information into complex workflows; or coordinating the efforts of stakeholders, data providers, and data consumers operating at different levels of government; or, publishing an ever wider array of geospatial information to new audiences who use the latest devices and user interfaces; or, extracting business and/or environmental intelligence by exposing and mining the spatial relationships, both hidden and embedded, within corporate databases, web statistics and sensor networks. Indeed, we are tackling many of the same challenges that the rest of the information technology and software development industries currently face. We just have a particular vantage on the “spatial” dimension, and the term “Spatial IT” captures these concepts perfectly.

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