GIS for Public Works

From the Trenches

Winter 2013

I have started to travel the world talking to public works directors and senior management about GIS and find that they want more from it than just a powerful mapping tool. They want GIS to help them make business decisions. However, many times they don't even know what questions to ask to perform specific analyses because generic GIS analytical tools can be so broad in their application. Public works managers are asking for specific solutions that answer key questions. Many of these questions involve the challenge of aging infrastructure.

Beyond the challenge of correctly running analyses is access to relevant data. This is where ArcGIS Online comes in. If you haven't tried it yet, you need to. ArcGIS Online does not replace your existing server and desktop installations, it enhances them. ArcGIS Online completes your enterprise platform by bringing an entire catalog of local, national, and international datasets to your organization. The catalog of data is growing daily with contributions from your peers and Esri data services. The Community Maps Program encourages local communities to upload high-resolution basemaps into a seamless worldwide dataset. Communities from Redlands, California, to Kuwait City, Kuwait, are contributing to this growing body of data. With respect to imagery, Esri is loading a significant amount of additional imagery to bring our global imagery up to date with 100 cm resolution for the entire planet and 30 cm resolution for the United States. Stay tuned for exciting announcements in the spring when you will be able to leverage our premium data services for near real-time imagery. We've even started an Ocean basemap and are working on a global hydrography basemap. The maps and applications gallery for ArcGIS Online provides sample storyboards and jump-start solutions, all free of charge for you to modify to suit your organization's specific needs. Need a lightweight field data collection solution? ArcGIS Online has one. Need a public-facing dashboard? Got that too. Your IT department may need to configure them for you, but it is a great way to implement those solutions you've been waiting for. Best of all, Esri is there to help support them.

We have many public works departments that are starting to embrace ArcGIS Online. We find the most successful ones are finally bridging their enterprise asset management systems with their enterprise GIS. Since most of the critical public works assets have an x,y location, it makes sense to create a singular physical ledger of their assets and leverage the strengths of each (i.e., the GIS shows you what you have and where it is, and the asset management system tells you what you are doing with it via cost and maintenance records). Putting those two pieces together is possibly the most significant key to success in answering those business questions.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me.

David Totman,
Esri Public Works Industry Manager

Read previous columns: Summer 2012Winter 2012 issue.

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