Ever since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic in early March 2020, journalists, public officials, and researchers around the world have turned their attention to a dashboard managed by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The map, which tracks the spread of the novel coronavirus in every country and region of the planet, has become a staple of television news broadcasts, and the website that hosts this dashboard is visited millions of times a day.
The software technology that the Johns Hopkins coronavirus dashboard is known as geographic information systems (GIS). There are quite a few GIS platforms around, but the one chosen by Johns Hopkins University and by many other institutions is called ArcGIS, the flagship application of Esri, a California tech giant that commands the largest share of the GIS market.
GIS is one of the most underrated technology innovations of the 21st century. As one of the most powerful Esri solutions, ArcGIS is used in everything from mapping to urban planning and banking to pest control. Any situation that can benefit from geographically determined business intelligence can be enhanced by a skilled ArcGIS developer. The City of Los Angeles, for example, has been able to improve its response to the devastating social issue of homelessness thanks to the use of ArcGIS visualizations since 2018.
How GIS Helps In Transforming Businesses and Industries
GIS solutions let companies know exactly where their business stands from a geographic point of view. Executives at General Motors have been using GIS data to decide where new car dealerships should be opened or relocated; whereas in the past these decisions were based on historic data, predictive intelligence from precise real-time information is driving these processes today, and it is doing so with greater accuracy than ever.
Any business that needs to manage information that is based on location can benefit from the implementation of GIS solutions. Commercial banks, for example, can trust an ArcGIS developer to develop an internal platform to see where their clients are doing business; moreover, they can also determine the most profitable ATM locations. Wholesale distributors can get a clearer picture of how supply and demand are impacting their business operations, and they can gauge where competitors are enjoying greater success.
Without GIS platforms, companies such as Uber and Starbucks could not have achieved tremendous success. Prior to expanding to major metropolitan areas such as Buenos Aires, Manila, and Sydney, Uber executives conducted a deep analysis of traffic flow; this is also how they can adjust rates on the fly.
As for Starbucks and its ubiquitous stores that seem to be located every other block across the United States, the decision to open new cafes and guarantee foot traffic is purely based on GIS analysis. The corporate divisions of nearly all major fast-food chains keep an Esri developer on payroll to help them guide their decision.
Going From a Digital to a Spatial Transformation
As much as cloud computing and Big Data technologies have dictated new business paradigms, they are limited to transmitting and processing in the digital realm. When companies are ready for implementation and executions of their plans on a tangible and geographical level, they consult with an Esri developer to advance their efforts from the digital to the spatial plane.
With the right GIS solution, an advertising firm can take all the marketing intelligence data it has crunched to practical use; for example, supermarket chains can make the right investments in relation to their expansion plans, and then they can place strategic advertising in the areas they are entering. Instead of investing in national radio and television advertising, retailers can use geocoding to craft highly targeted marketing campaigns that are effective at just a fraction of the cost.
Highly accurate data that is connected to spatial factors is the most valuable for companies that seek to benefit from GIS applications. True business intelligence needs to be tied to a real-world location; it must be dynamic and presented in real-time along with visualizations.
Getting back to retail chains and commercial banks as examples: These are the kinds of business operations that need to get a clear understanding of purchasing power near their locations, and this is something that can be accurately pinpointed with GIS data. Knowledge is power, but only if rich information is providing the basis for that knowledge. GIS data is the richest information companies can analyze these days because it drills down to communities and spatial relationships.