GIS Grows More Accessible

There is good reason to believe that investments in geographic information systems technology could help drive new business.

Based on eWEEK Labs testing and evaluation of GIS in action, there is good reason to believe that investments in geographic information systems technology today could help drive new business and open new markets, as well as cut costs down the line by helping management get more out of organizational data and personnel.

In addition to tight budgets, the major hurdles for wider implementation of GIS have been the complexity of the technology and a general lack of familiarity with it outside the geography community.

So whats lowering those hurdles now?

For one thing, GIS software doesnt require the raw processing power it once did. In fact, with their significantly improved processing power, mobile devices have become viable platforms for running GIS software. Couple this with advances in Web services and the mobile Internet access market, and it is clear that mobile devices will be the gateways to location-based services.

A good example of business-class GIS software that caters to the needs of mobile computing is ESRIs ArcPad 6.0.2.

ArcPad 6.0.2 implements a lightweight GIS technology that allows users to access and modify information using mobile computing devices. ArcPad was easy to use during eWEEK Labs tests, and ArcPad Application Builder, which allows developers to create scripts and tool bars to simplify tasks, has interesting potential. ArcPad 6.0.2 began shipping in April; a single ArcPad 6.0.2 license costs $495.

Higher on the GIS chain is ESRIs ArcView 8.3, a professional-class GIS suite geared toward people who use maps and mapping technology on a daily basis. ArcView is much more complex and full-featured than ArcPad, but it is still relatively easy to use. This is a trend were seeing among even high-end GIS products.

ArcView 8.3 began shipping in February; a single-user license costs $1,500.

In the mobile GIS space, it will be interesting to see how location-based services develop. These services will allow users to gain access to specific applications based on their geographical location.

Microsoft Corp.s MapPoint Web Service is an XML/ Simple Object Access Protocol programmable system that allows developers to add location-based services to enterprise-class applications. Hosted by Microsoft, MapPoint Web Service could be used to enhance applications such as CRM (customer relationship management). For example, leveraging geographic data, a CRM tool could help determine the sales representative closest to a client. (CRM vendor E.piphany Inc. last year announced the integration of MapPoint Web Service into its E.piphany E.6 software.)

There are two pricing models for MapPoint Web Service: The service can be used per transaction (a transaction is defined as an activity that renders a map or takes data from the service) for 0.008 cents per transaction; the per-user model costs $3 with unlimited transactions. ´

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at