Powering Location Services

GIS Extended to the Wireless & Internet World

By Ian Koeppel, Esri Location Services Industry Manager

It is a shared vision that GIS usage will become so commonplace that the people interacting with it would not know they were actually utilizing a GIS. ArcIMS-powered TrafficStation web page as described below leftThis is happening now as the Internet, wireless communications, portable devices, and other technologies converge to provide information where we want it and when we want it. Finding the nearest pharmacy, obtaining driving directions, receiving alerts about traffic jams, tracking the location of a delivery truck, notifying emergency service providers of your precise location, finding homes for sale that match your criteria—these are all location services that will utilize GIS technology to operate effectively and economically.

Above right: Esri Business Partner TrafficStation uses ArcIMS to deliver personalized traffic reports and alerts.

Think ahead two years to the end of 2002. By then it is estimated that 50 percent of the total workforce will be mobile, and total wireless Internet users will surpass wired users. The Yankee Group, a strategic research and consulting firm, forecasts that by 2003, one billion people worldwide will use a Web-enabled mobile device. An estimated 80 million of those devices will be equipped with location capabilities either in the device itself with GPS, via a wireless network, or by some hybrid of the two. In addition, Ericsson, a supplier of telecommunications services based in Sweden, estimates that by 2003, 25 percent of all cars will be online.

This means mobile phones will be "location aware," and wireless data transmission will enable users to have access to a wide range of Location Services. Access to these services will provide subscribers with information about what is nearby. These services will become indispensable tools to travelers, Business people, field crews, or anyone who has a wireless device linked to a network. In 2003, we may look back to the year 2000 and wonder how we ever managed to find our way without wireless communications and location-based services.

Market Drivers

The wireless carriers are committing enormous resources to building the communications infrastructure to make wireless services reliable and widely accessible. Location-based services are consistently cited by the carriers as one of the top applications that will enable them to recoup these investments. Growing competition, commoditization, and the spread of prepaid wireless services have reduced the average revenue per user (ARPU) from traditional cellular communications services. Wireless carriers are scrambling to develop Location Services to increase airtime usage, improve customer satisfaction, achieve differentiation from competitors, and develop new revenue sources.

In the Business sector, mobile workers performing deliveries, repairs, sales calls, and site inspections will benefit from a wide range of Location Service applications. Many of these functions have been available to desktop computer users with access to the Internet such as vehicle dispatch, fleet management, or ATM locators (Visa.com). Now, with wireless access to the Internet and expansion of wireless networks, it will become possible to obtain these services anywhere, anytime on a wide array of devices. The key to success, however, is to design these services not simply as an extension of a company's Web presence, but rather as a service that can be personalized in the context of the user's interests. GIS is an essential ingredient because it provides complex spatial data-handling capabilities that cannot be delivered by database management systems alone.

Esri Software for Location Services

The same fundamental architecture and software components developed for ArcGIS are also ideally suited for serving this new marketplace. Of particular interest is the fact that ArcGIS has been designed to do the "heavy lifting" demanded by these systems and is also designed as a uniquely open and interoperable platform so necessary for this environment. Location Services require technology that can manage extremely large volumes of spatial data and can integrate directly with all the rapidly evolving Internet and IT standards. Esri's technology uniquely supports these needs for both simple and more complex spatial data processing tasks. By providing a GIS technology platform as a foundation for Location Services, Esri is also integrating and providing many new opportunities to its very large and worldwide GIS user base. This technology includes

ArcIMS—This powerful GIS technology, designed specifically for the Web, provides a diverse set of mapping, location analysis, and routing capabilities for location service developers. Esri has already PortaTrack web page as described belowhelped hundreds of organizations develop applications for automated vehicle location (AVL) for fleet management and dispatching, telephone listings, store and facility location services, etc. Services such as m-Track , Air-Track AVL (www.air-trak.com), and PortaTrack by Main Course Technologies (MCT), an Esri Business Partner (www.gomct.com), utilize ArcIMS taking advantage of HTML or Java client viewers to optimize the performance of many operations. TrafficStation, an Esri Business Partner, utilizes ArcIMS to deliver personalized traffic reports and alerts.

Above right: MCT's PortaTrack system displays the location of vehicles on Web browsers including personal digital assistants and Web-capable cell phones.

ArcIMS offers a completely scalable solution to grow as site traffic demands. There are many ArcIMS-based sites now generating 500,000-1,500,000 maps per day.

ArcIMS also enables application service providers (ASPs) to offer their customers faster time to market for m-commerce (i.e., mobile transaction commerce) services allowing organizations to target their technical resources for applications development and customer services.

ArcSDE—ArcSDE and API technology provide an open strategy for query, manipulation, and analysis of data stored or managed in various DBMSs. Also, ArcSDE is a key component to enterprise solutions such as customer relationship management (CRM), which enables large mobile telephone operators such as Telecom Italia Mobile S.pA, and France Telecom Mobiles to leverage the power of GIS in their customer care operations.

RouteMAP IMS—RouteMAP IMS is an extension to ArcIMS and is dedicated to providing routing and directions to mobile and stationary clients. As Location Services moves beyond simple applications into field productivity applications, RouteMAP IMS provides both simple (point-to-point) as well as sophisticated (multipoint/traveling salesman) routing. This has recently been deployed by homestore.com, a powerful service for home buyers.

ArcPad—ArcPad is a new mobile GIS that is designed to operate on high-performance CE-based devices. This product operates both stand-alone (GIS data is loaded on a mobile device) as well as in a "wireless" communication mode as a client to ArcIMS. ArcPad gets workers out of the office and into the field where they can use geographic (locational) information directly. Specifically, ArcPad, when integrated with GPS, enables mobile field crews to communicate their locations in real time and to access large databases for information about assets in the field. Applications now include field data collection, workforce automation, use of data in field analysis, etc.

Geography Network—The Geography Network, built with ArcIMS, is a global network of geographic information users and service/data providers. It uses the infrastructure of the Internet to deliver geographic content to user browsers and desktops. Content may be provided in the form of raw data, maps, or more advanced services dealing with, for example, lifestyle mapping, flood risk mapping, address geocoding, and network routing. The Geography Network is also a global community of governmental and commercial users, data publishers, and service providers, large and small, who are committed to making geographic content more widely available.

Esri's More Traditional GIS Software

Esri's more traditional GIS products are also being seen as valuable components in the general Location Services world.

ArcView—The spatial data visualization, querying, and analysis capabilities of ArcView are used extensively by Location Service providers such as Snap Track, Go2 Online, and Webraska for preprocessing of applications and promotional activities. SignalSoft utilizes ArcView in its MAPS application for the provisioning of wireless location-based services. It facilitates geoprocessing operations, geocoding tasks, map composition, and the integration of maps with charts, graphs, tables, and multimedia displays.

ArcInfo—By using ArcInfo software's rich geoprocessing engine to provide services to ArcIMS, developers are beginning to implement high-end geoprocessing or other GIS functions even if the client is as tiny as a cell phone. This enables Esri and its partners to offer Business-to-Business solutions in applications such as field engineering, fleet management, and agriculture. Using ArcInfo and ArcSDE as advanced server functionality, there will be increasing demand for high-end products to create and manage geographic databases. This may very well be the most beneficial effect of Location Services. There are many users, such as Webraska, TruePosition, and MapQuest, that already use ArcInfo for data preparation and high-end analysis.

Esri in Touch

Location Services offer significant advantages to the government and Business sectors. It is a well-known fact that the vast majority of data developed, maintained, and disseminated by organizations today is location-dependent. GIS, at the foundation of LS, adds value to the service by a palm pilot displaying a vehicle location on a street map.delivering results that are meaningful to end users. GIS is the best technology for managing spatial data and for creating location-based applications supporting the Location Service requirements of mobile workforces.

At right: A Palm VII displaying a vehicle location on a street map.

Esri, which is in the unique position of being in touch with all sides of the issue, has committed itself to the successful implementation of Location Services through GIS. Now that the technologies are available to locate fixed and mobile assets (including people and their phones and vehicles), a wide range of Location Services have become feasible. Inspectors, work crews, field scientists, home health care personnel, snow plow drivers, and many others could benefit from access to information about their location, obtain driving directions, traffic information, and other types of location information.

For more information, contact Ian Koeppel, Esri Location Services Industry manager (tel.: 703-506-9515, ext. 8040; e-mail: ikoeppel@esri.com).

ArcNews home page

Contact Us | Privacy | Legal | Site Map