GIS in the cloud assists data management
Currently, we have to manage abundant data - maybe terabytes of unrelated tables of production, sales or customer information. It's almost impossible to convert unrelated data into information for the management to take action. We need tools to link those data to gain an insight into what is going on.
The Geographic Information System (GIS) is a technology that defines a framework to gather and organise those data by linking them with the location. Not only does GIS visualise the information using maps, it can analyse the data for management to see the big picture of how the data are related. By showing this data in the map, it reveals a relationship that cannot be achieved using traditional charts or graphs.
Cloud computing is the emerging technology that lets us better utilise resources and provide on-demand network access to applications and services.
Actually, we have been using this technology for quite a while in daily life without knowing about it. When we want to have an e-mail account, we can just use a Web browser to go to the website, create a new account and start using it to send or receive e-mails right away. We don't even know what kind of server is used to run it, where it is located or which software is installed. The process of opening a new e-mail account is seamless and self-service, not to mention the fact that everyone can do it by themselves.
This pattern of automated cloud application is used everywhere as you can see in many e-business systems such as ERP, CRM and SCM, which leverage from traditional IT infrastructure to the cloud.
As for GIS, the current trend is to put this technology in the cloud infrastructure and let meaningful knowledge be shared and available to everyone. In the past, spatial data visualisation and analysis were usually done by GIS professionals.
The process involves transforming or converting data manually from papers or tables into GIS-enabled formats. Then, this GIS data is analysed, visualised and finally shared with prospective audiences through papers or Web map application that is hosted locally on the organisation's IT infrastructure.
With Cloud GIS, everyone can easily access GIS application through Web interface without hardware and software installation. It provides easy-to-use workflow to enable not only GIS professionals but typical users to convert their own spreadsheet data and create a beautiful map on their own. The map and data are stored on the cloud, allowing GIS professionals to download and further analyse the data on the GIS desktop application.
Finally, they can simply share those analysis results back to the cloud and publish it as a Web application, which everyone can access from anywhere, either from workstation, notebook, smart phones or tablets.
This Cloud GIS will enable GIS data to be available to everyone, from field users to top management. Let's say that in retail markets, sales and marketing data can be entered at the point of sale with the location of the stores and then converted automatically to the secured Cloud GIS.
The management at the headquarters will then go into the website to see these data updated almost real time, which visualises the profit and how the market looks spatially. By using this emerging cloud GIS, it will transform the way information flows throughout the organisation.
Krairop Luanguthai is general manager of ESRI (Thailand)