There are very few opportunities to see large gatherings (a gaggle?, a pod?) of geonerds, the Esri International User Conference is one exception. Last week, 15,000 geonerds gathered in San Diego to drink the kool-aid straight from the spigot. I have to admit, I am envious since I was not able to attend. But in true geonerd fashion, I have been following along via twitter and the usual blogs.
There were a number of new technologies announced this year, but it seems like Esri was really behind ArcGIS.com, their FREE web-based map and data sharing application, as the big technology for the year. The official definition from Esri is:
ArcGIS.com is a website for working with maps and other types of geographic information. Visit the site to create maps; find and use maps, applications, and tools; and share your maps and applications with others. Within the site, you will find applications for building and sharing maps. You will also find useful basemaps, data, applications, and tools that you can view and use, plus communities you can join.
I have been reading through the material being published about this product and it seems like a good starting point for agencies that do not currently have crime mapping capabilities. While there are a number of pros, it does have a few cons as well.
It’s Free – you can’t complain about the price. One of the big hurdles in starting a crime mapping program is the initial cost of implementation.
Training – everyone’s budgets are tight and getting training is difficult. Esri did a very good job of putting together a series of videos to help users get started using ArcGIS.com. If you aren’t a video kind of learner, the Help Documentation is very complete and will get you up and running quickly.
Ability to Share Information – ArcGIS.com has security built right into the core. Whether sharing data or constructing maps, the information can be shared as just the dataset or you can create maps to share with the other people in your group, agency or the general public.
Information Sources – not everyone has a GIS software installed on their machine, but they are still creating information. ArcGIS.com can access CSV, KML and GPX files. All of these data types can be created by software that is open source/free or already installed on your machine.
Distribute via the Web – the maps are not locked into a proprietary system. The constructed maps can be used in a mashup internally or by the public by leveraging Esri’s Web APIs or in free and commercial desktop GIS products.
Incorporation with Other Data Sources – there are a number of data sources that can be used in conjunction with your personal data. Esri has a number of base map services that can be used to provide and a consistent map service (even outside your jurisdiction). There are also tasks that allow you to geocode records to display tabular information on a map or route vectors from Point A to Point B. .
Sharing – I know, I already said that it was a Pro, but it is also a Con in the sense of security. The information is stored on a publicly accessible site, obviously you won’t want to put sensitive data up here. The following is Esri’s statement in regards to security:
Security is similar to other online sharing sites (such as Flickr). This means that only those users you choose to share with will see what you share. The application uses the public web over HTTP. People looking at web traffic can sniff data (like web e-mail). The site is best for content that is not highly confidential or proprietary.
Esri does have Organizational and Hosted Mapping accounts available, but I was not able to find any pricing on them (plus if it involves pricing, it negates Point #1 above….)
Storage space – The free accounts have 2 GBs of storage space, that sounds like a lot of space, but I am not sure 2 GBs will go as far as folks might want for a crime mapping system.
I want to do some more testing, but I can see ArcGIS.com (as it stands today) meeting some of the needs of smaller agencies but I don’t see it as being a solution for larger agencies where security and data volume are a concern.