Recently, more people are using maps every day either for business or even for personal life. It becomes a common scene to find someone using a mobile phone to find a near restaurant or to check the route to another location. This means many people today are using GIS technology even without knowing what GIS is. Moreover, many people use GIS Cloud every day without knowing!
What is GIS?
GIS (geographic information system) is a technology that enables us to visualize, analyze, interpret, and understand data on maps. Accordingly, GIS is an essential technology for decision making in many sectors. It is used in Governments, banking, real estate, telecommunication, transportation and other sectors.
Sample map shows the household income at the different districts in USA. Map Credit: Esri, ArcUser, Fall 2014.
The rise of Cloud
In parallel with the advances in communication & information technology, cloud computing is becoming a trend. Currently we can store and access date from anywhere through higher internet speeds, and from different devices.
For example, if you have a Google account, you can use “Google Drive” to save your files online. Then, you can retrieve them any time & anywhere.
Additionally, sharing files with others became much easier than before. Currently, instead of transferring data through hard drives, we can simple grant access privileges to others.
For entertainment, we started to play movies & listen to our favorite music using Sound Cloud. That allow us to share our playlists with friends using emails or social media.
By merging these two technologies, GIS & Cloud, a rapidly expanding trend is emerging which is cloud-based GIS.
How to use maps on cloud
To work with maps, people had to buy a GIS software and install it locally on their computers.
Now, it is much easier. All what you need is to have an internet connection. Then, create an account at a company that provides online mapping. You fill find many. one of the recommended ones is:
- Esri: it is one of the biggest GIS companies & the one who is leading technology in this field. Esri has its cloud GIS platform named ArcGIS Online.
For the cost, companies have several pricing plans. You will even find free plans that allows you to use online maps with limited capabilities. Usually, payments are in the form of monthly/annual subscriptions. Therefore, users can cancel their subscription when needed.
How Can I get Free GIS data?
One advantage of cloud based GIS is that people can share GIS data with others.
ArcGIS online allows you to search for data and view results on map. according to previliges set by the owner, you may be able to save a copy of the map, change the symbols, add some layers of your own. as the end, you may have a new map. The map is yours, while part of the data is not yours.
Who should use GIS Cloud technology?
Several segments can get use of it.
Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs)
SMEs are accountable for a significant percentage of employment and GDP (gross domestic product). However, they face several challenges that includes the tough competition with large enterprises and the financial funds. Therefore, cloud-based GIS is the best fit with SMEs as it allows them to get use of the powerful GIS visualization and analysis tools without the need to invest part of their limited capital into additional servers and software licenses.
A common use for GIS by SMEs is for Geo-marketing & sales. They can have a map on the cloud that include their locations, the locations of their customers, suppliers, territories… etc. In addition, they have options to control colors and symbols to classify these locations on map according to their needs. For the analysis, they can use heat maps, route calculations and some other helpful analyses. Generally, SMEs can perform a good portion of geo-marketing activities, business intelligence and performance monitoring using only the browsers on their regular machines or mobile devices.
For Business, enterprises are in need to map their locations, monitor their operations in the different territories, analyze their performance around the whole region, and analyze the best locations for business expansion.
In the modern business, when we talk about global business and international companies with virtual teams (where team members are located in different countries/locations), the cloud based GIS is a suitable solution to quickly & easily share geo-spatial data among team members and enable them to perform the required analysis anywhere.
Large enterprises and virtual teams can just jump in the GIS technology and get use of its tools without the need to wait for establishing IT infrastructure at the headquarter or a branch located in specific country.
Cloud GIS is helpful for non-business entities as well.
For NGOs, it is useful for them to minimize the expenditure on IT infrastructure and just utilize GIS services on the cloud. Additionally, they can get use of the available data layers that can be shared online such as demographic data that can be valuable for their analysis. Some organizations use GIS to find & analyze the locations that need social & financial support.
For Education, schools & universities used to teach GIS technology using prepared labs and computers where GIS software is installed. Now, students are able to use cloud GIS tools to learn GIS technology and do practice the tools anytime from home as well. These days, we can find many students access cloud GIS tools from their mobile devices during their school trips. Then, they share nice maps on social media for their routes, locations they visits, their images and the locations where the images where taken.
Read about new Education strategies
Currently, students in several countries are able to use interactive maps, get better awareness about their community and analyze its need.
Image for students show their GIS project for public in a conference. for the image source, click here.
Cloud based GIS is valid for individuals as well. People can access maps for free, get better idea about the places and services near to their locations. Additionally, they can add their own locations on map and share them with friends, such as the plans & routes of touristic trip, locations of cafes for their outings, the locations they wish to visit and many others. We can find people shares maps over the cloud for the locations of Starbucks in their city, the locations they went to during their honeymoon trips or their adventures trips with their friends.
You may read how users can get use of cloud based Story Maps.
You may also read Free educational resources to stay updated with GIS technology
GIS is now available for different uses either business or non-business. These different users are able to browse maps, share data and perform different analysis from anywhere. Subscription payment model makes the technology affordable to more user segments with options that varies from free tools to enterprise packages.
To sum up, we can say that due to the cloud, GIS technology became available everywhere and for everyone.
A writer & GIS consultant … Studied the Management of Technology … dreaming of a better world.