The Geospatial Revolution is Just Beginning

Geospatial technology has been used across many industries, but its wider value has been under-appreciated. With the growth of Esri’s ArcGIS system supporting a broad range of apps including field data collection, operational dashboards, and new analytic tools, geospatial technology is being used in many ways across existing organizations.

The “traditional” GIS-centric organizations continue using it as their system of record, expanding the “geo-footprint” as teams leverage existing work and geospatial infrastructure. Many of these organizations are expanding into data science, integrating GIS analysis tools to gain better insights into their large data collections.

GIS was previously regarded as a specialized tool. Over the last 3 years, we saw a huge uptake in new organizations leveraging key aspects of ArcGIS to address their business challenges. Many do not see themselves as GIS organizations—rather, GIS is one of their enterprise-class data intelligence platforms and workflow simplification tools.

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The geospatial revolution is just beginning. Wider adoption and increased use of GIS in formal curriculums are changing the landscape of next-generation managers, analysts, and executives. They see the value of the geographic approach across their traditional and newer areas, influencing broader markets. They understand geographic thinking is crucial for managing our world.

Technology solutions promoting sustainability

Each industry is looking at sustainability differently, considering what makes up a sustainable city, sourcing for manufacturing, managing carbon offsets, and so on.

Everywhere geography is a key element in analyzing sustainability practices. Organizations are increasingly using digital twins to understand current challenges and develop the best action plans. They can see how a planned city’s infrastructure functions in extreme weather; or how to minimize the carbon impact of a new development—before breaking ground. Digital twins can help identify assets at risk, or monitor where social inequities occur.

AI is another tool applied across sustainability areas. It has enabled organizations to simplify and accelerate data generation using automated feature creation from remotely sensed data. AI is giving analysts the ability to ask deeper questions to build up new layers of results, modeling what was, what is, and ultimately what could be.

Our work with Microsoft (and many others) is focused on providing authoritative data enabling organizations to better target where to engage most effectively in sustainable agriculture. Combining our GeoAI capabilities, and satellite imagery with Microsoft’s technology, we’re hoping our tools provide a deeper understanding of agricultural opportunities, ultimately helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Esri named leader in Forrester’s Climate Risk Analytics Report 2022

While we are honored to be named a leader, it is our customers who do heroic work responding to the climate crisis. Esri is committed to supporting them with improved tools, workflows, and content.

An example is our work with Yale University, supporting E.O. Wilson’s vision of mapping biodiversity for the Earth. This data will be used by GIS analysts in nations, states, and cities to identify areas important for conservation. Setting aside 30 percent of land and water for nature by 2030 is a key climate and biodiversity action, known as the 30×30 initiative.

We worked with the White House and NOAA to help stand up a climate portal, which brought together authoritative scientific information for state and local governments to use in selecting the right locations for mitigation efforts and to learn about available grants. I am excited about that project because it leverages an all-of-government approach to create a better future.

ALSO READ: The Geo Diversification Imperative

Our users are using satellite and drone imagery to monitor real-time changes to land, detect where and when deforestation happens, and identify areas impacted by extreme weather. We also worked with several organizations to help develop a new, high-resolution global map of land cover. Developed with help from AI and machine learning, the map can show changes on the earth’s surface on a weekly basis. So we can do more to protect the planet using information to predict, with modeling, what may happen next. We can see where sea rise could overtake land, where crops are at risk, and where conservation policies can be enacted to make an impact.

Esri aids census initiatives

We entered into an agreement with the United Nations Population Fund to help countries use GIS techniques in their census work. There are nations that haven’t had the resources to invest.
Esri’s official statistics modernization program stands ready for eligible countries who would benefit from not only the technology but also direct training to collect census data.

GIS identifies infrastructure needs

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act announced in 2021 commits a historic amount of USD 1.2 trillion in investments to improve America’s infrastructure. While the IIJA comes with unprecedented funding, local governments, tribal nations, and other organizations need to identify where funds should be applied.

GIS can bring together all the data needed for rational, equitable decisions. Data such as infrastructure location and condition can be combined with dynamic usage information. Communities can be modeled and prioritized based on need and impact, bringing demographic information together with asset planning. Communities can also use GIS to communicate their needs and priorities.

Ultimately for this opportunity and across other areas, GIS provides a means to apply holistic thinking to our most pressing challenges. It doesn’t just bring an understanding of where to take action, it enables us to model multiple what-if scenarios, track how solutions are implemented, and measure their effectiveness.


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