Under the radar at FedUC: Cloud offering to unite BI, GIS data

In many organizations there are those who worship at the altar of geographic information systems and those who pay homage to the great oracle of business intelligence. Each group is a separate culture unto itself, blissfully unaware of the other's data. But what can happen if you combine those data streams?

APOS Systems has grown its business model by helping business analysts find out. A few years ago the company launched its Location Intelligence Solution, software that lets business analysts combine mapped data from ESRI ArcGIS systems and Business Objects data stores into a single unified view, and then leverage the power of Business Objects to drill down right then and there for deeper answers.

That product raised awareness of the potential synergies business analysts can achieve by integrating GIS and business intelligence data. But organizations that didn't already have a GIS system -- and the in-house expertise needed to exploit it -- couldn't justify the investment. "This prevents a lot of organizations from getting started. For us that is a big hurdle" says Allan Pym, chief operating officer and vice president of sales at the company.

So next month APOS will try to solve that problem by recasting its Location Intelligence offering as a pay-as-you-go subscription service. The offering will include a cloud-based ESRI ArcGIS service that pushes GIS images and data overlays to an instance of APOS Location Intelligence Solution software running behind the user's firewall. "Some of our software will be in the cloud as well, but a lot of it will be behind the firewall," Pym says.

The subscription fee will cover both the cloud-based services and locally installed software - no separate software licensing fee required. The new, as yet unnamed service, will be formally announced during a February 15th Webinar. Pricing has not yet been finalized. Pym made the comments during a one-on-one interview at the ESRI Federal User Conference in Washington DC on Wednesday.

Why not put the whole service in the cloud? Because it consolidates sensitive business intelligence data from ERP, data warehouse and other in-house sources, the Location Intelligence Solution software needs to remain behind the user's firewall, Pym says. What comes down from the cloud in most cases will be base layer maps and data overlays; integration with sensitive business data happens on premise. This approach also limits the amount of data that must be transmitted over the network, helping to avoid potential performance issues.

APOS Insurance Dashboard

What can you do with GIS data? For the uninitiated, APOS offers the example above. Here an insurance company has overlaid the locations of insured properties on a map showing the path of an impending hurricane (the green line shows the projected path; the red area shows the "cone of uncertainty," which shows alternative areas that might be affected if the storm were to change course).

The insurer used the system to visually identify potential losses -- information from its business intelligence data -- and then to drill down to see where the biggest losses might come within each city and state. After the storm strikes, the insurer can also use the system to locate claims adjusters and assign them to the nearest affected properties, and to identify claims that warrant extra scutiny (e.g. flood claims within a floodplain versus those in higher elevations).

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