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…

David Weaver Receives 2016 Peter S. Thacher Award

Posted on November 10, 2016 in Awards,News

On October 18, 2016, former Vice President of Applied Geographics,Inc. (AppGeo), David Weaver,  was presented with the Peter S. Thacher Award at the Northeast Arc Users Group NEARC annual conference held in Falmouth, MA. The award is given to individuals, such as David, who demonstrate long-term commitment and excellence in GIS, particularly in local resource management and conservation. AppGeo’s President, Rich Grady, presented the award.

In his remarks, David reminisced about the start of his GIS career in 1974, “[…] in the pen and ink days of mapping” and commented on the evolution of GIS and cartography over the last four decades. During his successful career and in retirement, David has seen GIS technology grow exponentially into a world of “web mapping, big data, large scale map accuracy, sophisticated analysis, and applications.” (The full text of David’s speech can be read here.)

As presenter of the award, Rich remarked of his long-term colleague and friend, “His love of cartography to communicate complex information with clarity, and genuine concern for the coastal environment and our natural resources have marked his career, including his work with dozens of local communities on accurate base-mapping.  I can’t imagine anyone more deserving of this award based on measurable contributions to real GIS work in New England for the past 40 years.”

David’s expertise in GIS geographic analysis and cartographic design set a standard of excellence for his colleagues at AppGeo and beyond. His portfolio of work included numerous projects for the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management, NOAA Coastal Services Center and the MWRA, several federal agencies, and municipalities across New England. He is currently actively crowdsourcing environmental data and volunteer geographic information (VGI).  In addition to his long-term love of sailing, he has been photographing extreme high tide for and curating his 20th-century map collection.

Certified Partner to CartoDB

Posted on September 1, 2015 in News

We are proud to announce our certified partner status with CartoDB. Through this relationship, AppGeo will help its customers to take advantage of this exciting new location intelligence and data visualization engine, including building custom applications, adding CartoDB to your enterprise GIS implementation, and providing CartoDB licenses.

“Without question the CartoDB platform advances the speed and elegance of geographic data visualization for our clients,” said Rich Grady, President of AppGeo. “Our customers look to us for empathetic solutions that lower costs, increase public engagement, enable collaboration, integrate the newest datasets and visualize them in variety of expressive ways. CartoDB’s toolset is a key part of the current and future Applied Geographics solution stack for government and commercial enterprises.”

“We are excited to see the valuable technology solutions AppGeo will craft with CartoDB to help clients make better decisions,” says Javier de la Torre, CEO of CartoDB. “We believe this partnership will bring robust tools that help local government use data to uncover insights and enhance their operations.”

Based on its extensive functional capabilities, AppGeo has already built CartoDB mapping into the latest release of our MapGeo hosted Web mapping solution for local government.

In keeping with our mission, AppGeo continuously explores new technologies that match customer requirements for performance, functionality and cost-effectiveness when applying geography to solving problems. CartoDB meets our standard in all respects. Our geospatial analysts and developers consistently find that CartoDB technology provides faster turn around on geographic analysis and application development, yielding better results at lower cost.

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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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AppGeo’s Kate Hickey Named Principal of the Firm

Posted on September 8, 2014 in News

The Applied Geographics, Inc. (AppGeo) Board of Directors has promoted Kate Hickey to serve as a Principal of the Firm.

“Kate has served our customers and employees with distinction for many years,” said Rich Grady, AppGeo President and Board Chairman. “She is a natural leader, trusted by others to give constructive advice and make wise decisions.”

Ms. Hickey is on the AppGeo Management Team (AMT) and is the Director of Local Government Services (LGS) for the company, where she has worked since 2001 in various roles. In her new role as Principal, Hickey will provide expanded oversight and direction on consulting projects and customer engagements, mentor AppGeo’s team of Project Managers, and contribute to overall company strategy and profitability.

“I’m thrilled step up to this new leadership role. We’re on an exciting path filled with opportunities for innovation and creativity…I look forward to contributing to our continued growth and evolution,” said Hickey.

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Be Careful What You Ask For…

Posted on July 17, 2013 in Thinking

By Rich Grady, AppGeo President

“Be careful what you ask for…you just might get it,” as the old saying goes. Is this statement apropos for nationwide IT consolidation efforts that are absorbing independent, mature GIS operations? If you are a State GIS Coordinator or GIO, did you ask to be part of the IT “melting pot”? Maybe you did, or maybe you didn’t, but this has been the trend since the New Millennium. Around 2003, NSGIC leadership articulated the “Nine Criteria [for Successful Statewide GIS],” which were quickly embraced by Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) as part of the Fifty States Initiative to rejuvenate efforts to build the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). A lot has happened since then, and many of the lessons are applicable wherever IT consolidation is taking over existing GIS operations, whether state government or elsewhere.

For reference, criterion #3 of the “Nine Criteria” was: “The statewide coordination office [for GIS] has a formal relationship with the state’s CIO or similar office.”  This was not necessarily to advocate for consolidation of GIS into IT, thereby assimilating it into the mainstream IT world; but rather, the intent was to encourage formalized communication channels and partnering. There are many things GIS can learn from IT, and vice versa. In fact, the advent of GIS as “Spatial IT” is in many ways a result of healthy cross-fertilization. My colleague Michael Terner blogged on the subject of Spatial IT earlier this year.

Let’s look at a few things for additional context. The role of a CIO is considered to be a strategic position in many states, and CIOs are often gubernatorial appointees who outrank the statewide GIS coordinator by at least a notch or two, if not more. In contrast, GIS officials typically emerged from departmental ranks and were almost never gubernatorial appointees (although there are exceptions). More often than not, their backgrounds were in disciplines related to natural resources and the environment, or surveying and cartography. And, their GIS operations typically gained critical mass independent of IT sponsorship or direction, and were driven by the need for geospatial data.  

Regardless of different origins, discipline backgrounds, professional cultures, job titles, funding mechanisms, and value systems, the perception arose in a number of states that GIS was fodder for consolidation – after all, “a big fish” eats “a little fish,” right?  Unfortunately, consolidation has often been a “rocky road” because of these differences, for both GIS and IT — and not always a positive experience with the desired or intended outcomes.

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Observations on Privacy, Security, and Location-Based Intelligence

Posted on May 22, 2013 in Thinking

By Rich Grady, AppGeo President

Is there a coordinated response that society should take when confronted by the threat of terror to protect privacy while assuring security?  In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, many people are asking this question. The value of video coverage and digital photography was clearly high in identifying the culprits, and has spawned considerable discussion about how pervasive ongoing surveillance of our public places should be. I believe it is our responsibility as geospatial professionals to be aware of and help shape these wide-reaching security and privacy issues and possible solutions.

There is a popular viewpoint that increased security can diminish privacy. For example, the cover story of May 13, 2013 issue of Time Magazine was titled, “Homeland Security:  Do We Need to Sacrifice Privacy to Be Safer?” The article published the results of a recent Time/CNN/ORC poll, in which only 40% of the survey respondents said they were willing to give up some civil liberties if that were necessary to curb terrorism, as compared to 57% who were willing to sacrifice in 1995. In this same poll, 61% of the respondents were more worried that the government would enact excessive antiterrorism policies than fail to enact strong policies. As Americans, we like our civil liberties and freedom, and don’t want to give up these rights to “Big Brother”, which was George Orwell’s term for the all-seeing authority figure in his novel, 1984, written in 1949. The book was about a society in which everyone was under complete surveillance – a scary thought after the global battle against Totalitarianism in World War II. And today, almost 30 years after the year for which his book was named, both public and private surveillance is commonplace.

Personally, I am not particularly worried about our government being in the surveillance business, as long as its purpose is to improve our safety and security, which has been a long-standing tradition. And I do not entirely believe that privacy and security are inversely related. Many things that individuals do in their own home to increase security can serve to increase privacy too, like fences, locks, and doors. In public places, I assume that I might be under surveillance as a member of the public, but that it is for a specific purpose – to improve my safety. I would be less tolerant if I felt harassed and infringed upon, or if my freedom of movement was unduly restricted.

In our free and open society, it is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent all bad people from doing bad things, but we expect our government to provide public safety and homeland security as a public good. It is our government, and when we don’t like its behavior, we can change it through the democratic process and the courts if need be. And at times, it is self-correcting, as with the recent scrutiny of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over singling out conservative groups. Over-zealousness or politically biased purpose can be a problem, creating deviation from intended purpose in a way that is not beneficial, and instead, potentially harmful.

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Shared Value, the Working Cities Challenge, and Maptivism

Posted on May 9, 2013 in Thinking

by Rich Grady, President

A couple of years ago I was doing my regular catch-up on economic news and trends, and I picked-up on a concept that Michael Porter presented as part of a plenary panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I’ve tracked some of his writings over the years on topics like global competition and value chain concepts, and he hit on a theme at Davos that resonated with me, because it expressed what I’ve believed for many years – that creating “shared value” for society is good for business. Although Porter wasn’t speaking specifically about the geospatial industry, he hit on values that I think we embraced a long time ago – values that attracted many of us to the GIS arena in the first place, and now, to the FOSS4G arena. What values am I talking about? Read on!

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (FRB) is currently running a Working Cities Challenge as a campaign for systematic change in older industrial cities in Massachusetts. The potential benefits of the program, “to advance collaborative leadership in Massachusetts smaller cities and to support ambitious work to improve the lives of low-income people in those cities”, is of national interest. The FRB studied a number of cities across the country that are successfully coming out of the recession, and looked for distinguishing characteristics that led to successful economic development initiatives in these “resurgent cities”. What they found is that the primary driver of recovery for successful cities was mutually beneficial public/private partnerships. This is consistent with the IDC prediction that 70% of successful smart cities programs will be driven by joint ventures between the public and private sectors, with city leaders and private sector leaders working together.

When Larry Summers served on the National Economic Council in the first Obama Administration, he had a hand in writing a budget guidance memo to the heads of Federal agencies directing them to coordinate efforts across agencies to concentrate their planned expenditures on “place-based strategies,” to achieve synergistic impacts. Understanding this symbiosis between the critical complements to economic growth and revitalization of urban areas, including public safety, education, transportation, and resource clusters (e.g. land use, capital availability, technology infrastructure, workers, and educational attainment), can help focus local investments where they are most needed. By getting everyone “onto the same map” with regard to the visual representation of a city’s assets and needs, leaders are more likely to see the potential benefits of coordinated place-based strategies. Economic geography and cluster mapping apply analysis and visualization that can be used in order to better understand the business ecosystem, leading to better investment planning and the creation of shared value. Porter also addresses this “next big idea” concept of shared value in articles, as part of the U.S. cluster mapping initiative, and via founding the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City.

Cities need specific strategies for growth, and part of the strategic process is making sense of multiple sources of data, to analyze and predict what will work, and what might not – and visualizing it on a map. Once a cross-sector team of leaders in a city is established and they develop a strategy, they then need to make sure they have access to data and tools to perform analysis, and methods to engage local residents. Modern tools and methods like geo-analytics and maptivism can help yield insights for leaders to access and assess data, and for citizens to engage. If collaborative thinking and communication is facilitated among leaders, and the power of citizen participation is harnessed – “crowd sourcing” in Web 2.0-speak – progress will happen.

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MapGeo Subscription Growth Expands Access to Local Geographic Data

Posted on November 8, 2012 in News

Subscriptions to our MapGeo property mapping platform continue to increase steadily and have picked up in the last few months.

“Since July, we have added more than a dozen MapGeo subscribers” said Michael Terner, Executive Vice President, “and today there are more than 40 MapGeo subscribers representing counties and municipalities in 7 states, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia.”

The web usage statistics show that MapGeo sites are visited regularly and repeatedly, generating maps and views of all types of data.  Even more important than the numbers, users find substantial benefit in the data access provided by MapGeo.

“The feedback we are getting from subscribers and users is very positive,” said Terner.  “Local government staff, real estate and other business professionals, and residents have written to tell us how much they like the user interface and how MapGeo makes it easy to access local geographic data directly, saving them time and money.”

“Our focus at AppGeo is empowering our clients to put geographic data to work for real benefit,” said Rich Grady, President. “The democratization of authoritative local geographic data through MapGeo supports that goal.”

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Who will shape the GIS of the Future?

Posted on October 23, 2012 in News

AppGeo President, Rich Grady, and AppGeo’s Director of Software Architecture, Peter Girard, are presenting today on GIS and GIS programming at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, Department of Applied Mathematics.

“This is another example of how interest in GIS and the recognition of the importance of location-based analysis is spreading to all corners of higher education,” said Grady.  “We’re enthusiastic about sharing our knowledge and experiences with this audience, and interested to hear about their perspectives.  Mathematicians and contributors from many other disciplines will help to shape the GIS of the future.  And the nexus of location-based services, big data, the internet and social media, mobile devices, and evolving GIS platform technologies challenges all of us to stay in ‘learning mode’ as GIS professionals.”

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