The importance of the intersection of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and Public Safety may not seem very obvious to some at first glance, but GIS has a lot to offer beyond just mapping in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of systems to create a High Performance EMS. (See my previous post on GIS for EMS for more details.) Over the last few days, Esri has hosted their business partners and developers in overlapping conferences to highlight upcoming feature functionality in new releases of their market dominating ArcGIS software family.
Of the highlights important to public safety professionals is an upcoming release of a comparatively small footprint, easily deployed, core GIS product that will be called the ArcGIS Runtime. Unlike their ArcView product, the runtime software is actually a developer tool distributed through partners or developers within industry focused applications. When it is released this summer, developers will use their unique knowledge of public safety functions to build applications much smaller than previously possible. This new deployment will also allow these applications to
be stored on a USB memory stick and installed as easily as plugging in the device and opening the application. Data to support the map layers in the application can also reside on the USB device or come from web services like ArcGIS Online if network connectivity is available. Probably most importantly, this runtime can dramatically improve the deployment of mobile applications to vehicles over wireless networks or directly to laptops through portable memory devices as new computers are added in the event of a disaster response. In the past, GIS has proven to be a very useful tool in managing disasters but its installation requirements has been a costly and time-consuming impediment. This limiting factor will be mitigated once the new generation of applications are available on this platform later in the year.
ArcGIS Online, a cloud based service providing map data and applications to work with geographic data, is also going to see some significant improvements. What has been just a free, personal use subscription for storing and sharing data will soon be offered as an organizational subscription. The new fee-based version will offer additional administration capabilities and new cloud service features such as hosted image tiles of your own map layers. This could be important for organizations that have large amounts of quality GIS data to share quickly or to a large audience.
A third announcement of some interest is a mapping extension to Microsoft Office currently named Esri Maps for Office to be released later this year. This extension will allow Excel users to easily map data series and quickly move the map into Powerpoint. This map can also include ArcGIS Online data services and during presentation the map can be activated for interaction. While not serving a direct operational function, it will fulfill strategic needs to describe operations in briefings.
Finally, the Public Safety team at Esri challenged the recent trend of providing a single map-based Common Operating Picture filled with many general layers of data by suggesting a GIS centric Common Operating Platform instead. This “next generation” platform should provide task focused applications based on ICS roles including Logistics, Operations, Command, and the PIO. You can learn more about Esri stratgeies in Public Safety and Connect with Others through their website.