August 26, 2005 By Government Technology
When people think GIS, they think ESRI. Tucked away in the quiet bedroom community of Redlands, Calif., ESRI has established itself as the nation's leading GIS provider. Now ESRI is taking GIS to a powerful new level with ArcWeb Services, which offers fully hosted on-demand mapping and GIS.
ArcWeb Services' chief advantage is that it allows government agencies to incorporate GIS capabilities into their processes without hosting data or developing applications. ArcWeb Services delivers highly secure, highly reliable access to vast amounts of up-to-date information. Instead of investing in more hardware and software, an agency simply subscribes to ArcWeb Services and accesses the service through a custom-built portal that looks just like a part of the agency's Web site.
"It is completely hosted," said James Killick, development manager for ArcWeb Services at ESRI. "The way you access it is through a set of Web services. You can access satellite and aerial imagery, flood zone information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), real-time traffic and weather patterns -- a whole host of applications. It's not just about putting dots on maps. It can be used for far more powerful applications that go beyond just the map."
Governments at all levels are discovering just how valuable ArcWeb Services can be. For example, a municipality might use ArcWeb Services to track sex offenders. A county could provide real-time road closure data on its Web site or post the locations of restaurants that violate health code. An even simpler application might be merely offering constituents a locator map for government services or offices.
From handy to mission-critical, the mapping applications made possible by ArcWeb Services are limitless. ESRI also offers demographic data in thousands of categories. There are broad data sets like population and income, and narrowly focused sets like consumer spending and visitor information. ArcWeb Services can take this information and map it by time frame, area or just about any subset.
All this can be done without a single penny invested in new infrastructure or software. It is all hosted by ESRI. And ArcWeb Services boasts a 99.9 percent availability rate while delivering as many as 5 million maps per day. Governments searching for ways to stretch every dollar and expand constituent service now have an impressive and powerful option.
Agencies can choose from existing applications or work with ESRI to design applications specifically for their needs. The U.S. Postal Service, for example, uses ArcWeb Services for everything from establishing delivery routes and drive times to locating sites for new facilities. Meanwhile, the agency accesses and maps demographic data to determine how better to serve citizens in a specified area.
At the same time, New York City currently is working with ESRI to develop an ArcWeb Services-based version of its popular 311 service, which will be used to report nonemergency situations like graffiti or broken fire hydrants.
Crisis management agencies, such as FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), use ArcWeb Services to map and create valuable analyses of threats posed by terrorists and Mother Nature.
These services often hold great interest to smaller, local governments that would like to emulate New York or the DHS. With the ArcWeb Services outsourcing model, even small municipalities can leverage powerful GIS solutions in a cost-effective, reliable and secure manner, said ESRI's Director of Internet Services Mike Tait.
"It's not just the size but the availability as well," he said. "What happens when the power goes out? Is it a secure facility? Do they have hacker and virus protection? There are all these types of benefits with an outsourced model."
As most agency administrators are aware, total cost of ownership for IT solutions continues to rise. Outsourced solutions such as ArcWeb Services offer a way to avoid buying expensive new equipment while giving governments the tools they need to reduce costs, increase security and improve service.
Citizens and businesses are on the move and on the job 24 hours a day -- and government must keep up. ArcWeb Services offers powerful tools that make vital information available on demand wherever it's needed, and the ArcWeb Services portal looks, acts and feels just like a part of the agency Web site it serves.
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