Worried about getting caught in an earthquake? There’s literally an iPhone app for that. Called Earthquake Buddy and featured at an IEEE conference, if you’re in a 5.0 or heavier earthquake, you receive an email. Fail to answer it in a given amount of time and someone sends the cavalry.
This app, which could be very handy in some parts of the world, is the result of a combination of technologies, including remote sensors, cloud computing, and geographic information systems.
GIS is a powerful technology that allows organizations to combine location information with other data to perform complex analyses and both gain insights and automate processes in ways never before possible. People who have gone through a GIS degree program understand how to make the technology work. However, organizations can still see limitations in their abilities to use GIS, particularly in remote offices that might not have the same speedy access to corporate data centers as a headquarters or regional facility. That is just one of the reasons that the appearance of GIS as cloud-provided services is so important in the development of the technology. They can add flexibility and options that are unavailable any other way, largely due to the inherent capabilities of cloud computing, including the following:
- Centralized resources — Cloud computing can allow a company or its service provider to centrally deploy and manage GIS resources. That reduces the cost of management complexity.
- Service delivery everywhere — When you deploy software locally, users are dependent on being within the reach of the organization’s data center. With cloud delivery, users can be virtually anywhere that an Internet connection exists.
- Leverage all sorts of mobile devices — In a traditional GIS implementation, software might run on a server or a desktop. But in either case, users are bound to the office. With a cloud deployment, it’s possible to provide access through any sort of device, including smartphones and tablets, improving the organization’s operational flexibility.
- Use a service provider’s expertise –Having GIS experts on staff doesn’t eliminate the costs and complexities of using the associated software. Companies may need to train IT staff on how to run the applications. With cloud access from a vendor, a company can make use of the capabilities and leave issues of maintenance, configurations, and upgrades to people whose full-time job it is to manage the software in question.
- Scale up or down — When a company runs software on its own premises in traditional configurations, adding users can be complicated. The company might have to order new servers and undertake a system upgrade. With cloud computing, a company that needs to ramp up GIS use simply adds users to the monthly contract. Finished with a busy period of GIS use? Scale cloud usage back down to save money.
Any company that might use GIS internally or for customer applications should consider whether a cloud implementation might offer some compelling benefits.