Sunday, November 13, 2011

Brain Droppings

Naaah, I haven't been ignoring this blog.  I've just been busy.  It's just one of those times when one's personal and professional life get a little crowded and you get distracted.

So anyway, what have I been working on that is related to maps, mapping, topography, GIS, et. al.?

Actually, quite a bit, although the activity is more of a low murmur rather than a series of 'ta-da!' moments.  Let's begin...

ArcGIS Online.  Aaah, the software I hate to love.  I can't discuss too much detail right now because we are involved in the beta test program (and that imposes some confidentiality rules on us), but it is starting to look like the new ESRI ArcGIS Online for Organizations program is shaping up to be something of a game changer for enterprise web mapping, particularly for small and medium organizations that can't afford or don't need heavy iron IT backbones to get their jobs done.  The ArcGIS Online program is part of ESRI's cloud GIS strategy and I for one like the direction it's going.  This program will allow many - perhaps a majority - of organizations that develop and deploy GIS web maps to leave their in-house IT departments behind.  It is not a complete solution, but it takes the field a lot further down the path of IT independence than we've ever seen.  Anything that helps destroy the perception that GIS is just another IT discipline is great.

By the way, you do have your ArcGIS Online accounts set up, don't you?  And you are using the free ArcGIS Online web mapping tools right?

Mobile Mapping.  This is loosely tied to the ArcGIS Online initiative.  We are testing some new mobile solutions that utilize the ArcGIS applications developed for Apple's iOS (iPad and iPhone) and Google's Android OS (smartphones and tablets).  While you will still need ArcGIS Server (but hey, that can reside in the cloud now, too), these new mobile apps make it easier to create and deploy lightweight apps that include a basic level of interactive field data creation and editing.  I'm sure we'll see more of this at the next ESRI User's Conference.  It's slick!

To The Cloud!  Lately I've been absolutely fascinated by the concept of cloud computing and I've been poking around in that realm just to see what's possible, what's not possible and what will be possible in the months or years to come.  Folks, this is the future of computing.  As Steve Jobs would say, it's 'the next big thing'.  Surprising then that Apple is still stumbling at getting their cloud computing programs up and running.  The idea of an OS-agnostic computing environment that maintains all your information in a secure data store on the internet (i.e., the cloud) and can be accessed from any computer through a simple web browser is compelling.  Apple, Google and Microsoft are in a mad race to stake out their territory in the cloud, but it's clear that Google has taken an early and substantial lead.  That's not surprising, given that cloud computing has been at the core of Google's business strategy been for years.  That's OK because Google's competitors are in a hurry to catch up, and the inevitable struggle for our attention (and dollars) will make this an exciting wrestling match.  I'm gonna' go grab a tub of popcorn and a Coke and watch the show from the cozy comfort of my iPad.

Oh, and keep your eye on the new kid on the block - Amazon.

Well, that's it for now.  What's up next?  Probably something to do with CAD & GIS integration methinks.