How GIS is becoming Insightful, a Look into the Future

You probably haven’t heard yet about one of the greatest things to happen to data analytics in GIS that’s about to happen. Esri has reinvented what mapping means again with a new program that simplifies data and how users interact with it. This new product is in Beta testing right now and is called Insights for ArcGIS. Insights is a new visualization tool that works much differently than what typical desktop users are used to seeing. It has a clean interface that works with what are called cards and workbook pages. These cards and workbooks can display all types of data from enterprise geodatabases, real-time data streams and even Excel spreadsheets, all integrated and accessible for analysis. The drag and drop functionality of Insights makes it very intuitive for every user and provides a way to see and understand complicated problems and solve them.

Insights promises to offer a variety of formats for visually-orientated mapping ranging from maps, charts, and tables can be displayed on these cards. The user can drag and drop all types of data onto these cards. Another advantage of Insights is that you can strip away the formatting and get down to the true data which leads to one of my favorite capabilities, the ability to change field format types. For instance, you can take a number field and turn it into a text for easy joining of files.

Insights was first announced at the Federal User Conference this year. It was also part of the Plenary for both the Esri PUG and the Esri UC. It’s creators, Linda Beale and Arthur Haddad, explained during the Plenary how easy it will be to find patterns, conduct analysis, and easily explore what-if scenarios through super-fast geoprocessing capabilities via the ArcGIS Desktop tools. This also reinvents the concept of what we think as legends and turns them into a query source to quickly filter your data, each card also is it’s own filtering mechanism as well. Each time a dataset is dropped onto one of these cards or workbooks it is dynamically linked to the other cards in the view-port containing that data, which allows for a greater understanding through multiple visualizations via the maps, charts or tables. A user can also drag and drop multiple datasets and data types in a card for quick aggregation, overlays and analysis. The results of this work are available on the back of the cards and workbook in almost a pop-up style fashion. Yes, the cards flip to reveal even more data.

This is a powerful tool for sharing work-flows and models across the organization because your work is being recorded in the background. Once saved, this model can be shared and other users can run the same analysis using their own datasets. One also has the option to export these models into embedded code for web page display for data sharing internally or externally on any web page and includes the ability to make the data interactive or display as static images.

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