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The New Age of Real-Time GIS

April 12, 2013  - By 0 Comments

Editor’s note: This is a reprint of Matt Artz’s April 1 blog. Matt is a GIS and Science Manager at Esri.

I’m a big believer in real-time data and have written quite a bit about it recently in GPS World and here at Geospatial Solutions.


GIS is a platform for understanding our world. In the past, the data that fueled GIS was typically created to represent the state of the geoscape at a specific moment in time (“historic” or “current”; or “future” to represent a future modeled state). While this data has proven valuable for countless GIS applications and analyses, even the “current” snapshot falls out of sync with the real world quickly. In today’s fast-paced, constantly changing world, the “current” snapshot is outdated almost as soon as it is created.

A number of new technologies are combining to enable the real time collection of data, and the sharing of that data in real time with GIS. The result is a dynamic platform which enables real time visualization, analysis, and understanding of our world. This is the new age of real-time GIS.

Some of the new technologies enabling real-time GIS include:

  • GeoEvent Processor is a new ArcGIS for Server extension. It gives users the ability to connect to real-time data streams from a wide variety of sensors, perform continuous processing and analysis of those data streams, and send relevant information to users or other systems.
  • Geofencing is the creation of a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area. In the case of GeoEvent Processor, the GIS server is detecting and using geofences to issue an alert when a mobile device approaches, enters, and leaves the geofenced area (which can be based on any map feature). GeoTrigger technology will let developers build geofences into their apps that can be triggered based on time of day, speed, or position. This technology will be available as part of developers’ ArcGIS Online subscriptions in the second quarter of 2013.

GeoEvent Processor for Server makes it possible to use GIS features as geofences and create geofences on the fly
Source: Esri

  • Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS provides a common operating picture for monitoring events. Operations Dashboard integrates maps and a variety of data sources to create comprehensive operational views that can include charts, lists, gauges, and indicators which update automatically as underlying data changes.
  • Collector for ArcGIS is designed with field crews in mind, and is used to capture and update both tabular and spatial information via smartphones using the built-in GPS capabilities of the device, or by tapping on the map. Data captured using Collector can be displayed in the Operations Dashboard.
  • Mapping social media data provides insight into what people are saying and where they are saying it. Social Media Mapping apps let you display in real time what people are saying through location-based social media such as Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • Esri is also busy adding new features to ArcGIS Online such as Real-Time Data Services, support for GeoRSS Feeds, and more, and we are working with our imagery partners to enable the delivery of Real-Time Imagery in to ArcGIS Online just seconds after it has been captured by satellites.

New types and sources of geographic content, and new ways of sharing them, provide people with exciting new capabilities to incorporate dynamic, real-time information into decision making. The result, as Esri president Jack Dangermond likes to call it, is a Living Atlas of the World—a new vision for the concept of an atlas. “It’s a kind of global gathering place for integrating and applying knowledge about our planet and sharing it with everyone—and to do it all in real time,” says Dangermond.

The thematic information available within this virtual atlas is dynamic; it’s not stored in one centralized, static database—“It’s live, linked to and feeding in from multiple sources across the web and across the world in real time,” adds Dangermond. “The Living Atlas of the World is not only changing the way we look at the world, it is also changing the way we interact with it.”

About Matt Artz
Matt Artz joined Esri in 1989. In his current role as GIS and Science Manager, he helps communicate the value of GIS as a tool for scientific research and understanding. He writes extensively about geospatial technologies, manages the GIS and Science blog, and is the editor of Prior to joining Esri he worked as an Environmental Scientist at a large science and engineering consulting company, on such diverse projects as highway noise modeling, archaeological impact assessment, and chemical weapons disposal. His educational background includes an M.S. degree in Environmental Policy and Planning and a B.S. degree in Anthropology and Geography.

This article is tagged with and posted in GIS News, Mapping, Mobile Devices, Technology
Eric Gakstatter

About the Author:

Eric Gakstatter has been involved in the GPS/GNSS industry for more than 20 years. For 10 years, he held several product management positions in the GPS/GNSS industry, managing the development of several medium- and high-precision GNSS products along with associated data-collection and post-processing software. Since 2000, he's been a power user of GPS/GNSS technology as well as a consultant with capital management companies; federal, state and local government agencies; and private companies on the application and/or development of GPS technology. Since 2006, he's been a contributing editor to GPS World magazine and the Geospatial Solutions website. He is the editor of Geospatial Solutions Monthly, a weekly newsletter focused on geospatial technologies. Follow Eric on Twitter at @GPSGIS_Eric.

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