Web2.0 Routing Analysis

In a recent interview with Government Computer News, Jack Dangermond describes the differences between Google and ESRI. Google is focused on visualization, while ESRI is focused more on spatial analysis services with authoritative data.

In my opinion, Google’s iPhone routing application (described here by Peter Batty) constitutes spatial analysis for the masses – or at least for the masses interested in transit.

I think ESRI could compete with Google in this arena by providing a service where their business partners could develop Network Solvers to complement the one offered by ArcGIS Online. The architecture for integrating these solvers would be similar to that used by Network Analyst.

Instead of relying on advertising revenue, ESRI could offer something similar to Amazon Web Service’s cost calculator, but extended so that business partners could set a price for usage of their solver. This price would be added by ESRI to the ArcGIS Online bill sent to those who use the service, in addition to charges for cpu usage, geodatabase i/o etc., on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Put the Author back in Authoritative
Consider, for example a travelling salesman (TSP) solver. While there are some TSP algorithms that work on the client side, I suspect many might be too chatty and are best implemented behind the firewall. A business partner could develop a solver, expose it as a service, then sell a routing application at Salesforce.com’s AppExchange that consumes it.

If ESRI could also web-enable model builder (as I’ve describe here) the solver could also be exposed as a geoprocessing tool.


5 comments so far

  1. Peter Batty on

    Kirk, interestingly the post of mine that you link to here (thanks!) is an example of Google using authoritative data. To the best of my knowledge, all the data used in Google transit routing (bus and train routes, timetables, etc) comes directly from the transit agencies themselves, which I would call authoritative. I think that trying to come up with hard boundaries between things that ESRI (and other traditional GIS vendors) do and that Google (and other new generation systems) don’t is a bit of a fruitless exercise – I think that there are plenty of examples of interesting spatial analysis with authoritative data happening in the “neogeography” world. And I’m seeing increasing interest from “traditional GIS” users in taking advantage of “non-authoritative” datasets like OpenStreetMap in the work they do. For heavy duty spatial analysis obviously more work is done using traditional GIS tools today, but the boundaries are very blurred.

    • Kirk Kuykendall on

      Hi Peter –

      In retrospect, my attempt to shift the discussion from authoritative data to authoring tools is a bit convoluted. I’ll try to elaborate.

      I’m speaking from the perspective of an ESRI business partner. Like a lot of business partners, much of my work involves extending ArcGIS desktop. The highly extensible architecture of ArcObjects is well suited for this. While ArcGIS Server is also based on ArcObjects and thus extensible, maintenance is quite costly. I’d rather someone else worry about keeping data up to date, load balancing etc. At first glance ArcGIS Online looks like a good platform, but it is not extensible. As far as I can tell, all geoprocessing services at ArcGIS Online are owned by ESRI.

      I would like to see ESRI open up ArcGIS Online to its business partners. This could be done by supporting the Author-Publish-Serve workflow so that authors outside the firewall could develop and publish geoprocessing services to ArcGIS Online where subscribers could use them on a pay-as-you-go basis.

      After all, isn’t Web 2.0 more about being an author than about recognizing authority ?

  2. mapbutcher on


    Good read. I believe that ESRI, by placing what can appear as a value statement around ‘geo-enabled’ v’s ‘geo-centric’ users are in danger of casting their user base into rather black and white groups. There is little doubt in Google’s ability to deliver powerful visualisation and analytical services. Further to this Google are in an extremely strong position to leap ahead if they wished to implement large scale geoprocessing using mapreduce frameworkse – this could change the way we think about large scale spatial data processing.

    I love the idea of GPaaS – especially with ability to use hosted data resources as input parameters.


  3. Kirk Kuykendall on

    Hi Simon –

    ESRI has made great progress with GPaaS. Take a look here:

    What is needed is GP hosting as a service.

    It will be interesting to see if Go goes spatial.

    I see a “reduce” function, but no “map”.


  4. Ben Murphey on

    I believe that – just as government data fiefdoms begat Open Records laws – current efforts to distinguish “older/traditional/commercial/whatever” GIS entities from “newer/unusual/public/whatever” GIS entities will be result in the latter group’s interests being served in the end.

    Regardless of who owns the stuff under the hood, the customer just wants the car to run.

    That doesn’t mean the battle for control of the engine is wrong-headed. It just means that consumer demand is an extremly powerful force, and it will roll right past those who fail to see it coming.

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