If you are not in the business of building a map into a product, then you probably have not heard of Esri. If you have experience with GIS (geographic information systems for the former group), then you no doubt know that Esri is one of the main providers for mapping software. They are reported to have over forty-percent market share of the market for mapping technology and have even forced Google out of the map business for enterprise sales. The best way I can describe their offering is from this article about the founder of Esri who is considered the godfather of digital maps: “Google is great for directions or locating your home on Zillow. But if you are, say, the Bavarian police charged with securing the G7 Summit near Munich and need a detailed real-time dashboard that can pinpoint every delegation, police officer, emergency vehicle, first responder, protest site, road closure, mountain trail and access point to the summit’s venue, you’ll use Esri.”
The company is still privately held, the founder’s only debt was for a $5,000 loan from his mother, and with revenues at around $1.6 to 1.7 billion, they are one of the biggest private tech companies in the world.
Esri holds an annual “User Conference,” which they started on their campus in Redlands, CA in 1981 with 16 attendees, that has ballooned to a full-on convention that fills the San Diego Convention Center with over 18,000 people and thousands of sponsors that pay up to $100,000 for an exhibition space.
This year they announced a beta adaptation of their flagship product called ArcGIS Indoors. The technology will allow users to map inside of buildings and integrate it into the outdoor mapping that we have all been using for years. One of the main focuses of this new technology is the facilities management industry. Beau Ryck is one of Esri’s “workplace geographers” that presented at the conference, saying, “ArcGIS Indoors reduces the cost of ownership and enhances facility experience by providing a system of record for facilities and operations data, using indoor location intelligence to support facility operations, and providing indoor way-finding to facility occupants.”
“Google is great for directions or locating your home on Zillow. But if you are, say, the Bavarian police charged with securing the G7 Summit near Munich and need a detailed real-time dashboard that can pinpoint every delegation, police officer, emergency vehicle, first responder, protest site, road closure, mountain trail and access point to the summit’s venue, you’ll use Esri.”
The system can be integrated with other datasets like room occupancy sensors or key-card data to help building owners, managers and occupiers at real-time spatial data to their analytics. The company even works with clients to build these integrations. One of the interesting things about the ArcGIS Indoor presentation was that the majority of the audience was from either the government or universities. Obviously, they have large campuses and buildings that need monitoring, but with the increased attention to data analysis by the commercial real estate industry, it might only be a matter of time before Esri become a mainstay in boardroom conversations.
It isn’t only those that control large parcels of land who are interested in this new technology. One of the presentations was about how Apple is eager to integrate the data into their Indoor Mapping Data Format. One application is for their maps app to go beyond taking the user to an address and instead be able to direct them to the door of their destination, even if it is on the fifth floor of a building in a large industrial complex. This is likely part of a larger plan by Apple to overhaul their mapping capabilities to be able to compete with Google.
The ability to track assets, peg information to a location and create wayfinding tools for occupants is what every modern facilities manager wants. But, with a company like Esri now providing indoor spatial data, this may only be the start. With almost fifty years of experience creating and integrating digital mapping solution to enterprise customers, they will likely be able to facilitate new and inventive ways to collect, use and analyze geographic information, whether it be out on the street or inside a skyscraper.