Esri to unveil mapping tools in R

Software 'bridge' to connect ArcGIS map data and R can also be used on other geospatial files

Esri is set to announce an open-source software bridge that makes it faster and easier to move mapping data between ArcGIS and R. The aim is to help R users tap into an organization's GIS data housed within ArcGIS, a popular platform for high-powered geo-analysis, without the need to generate intermediate files. However, the code will also work to pull in any vector or tabular data supported by ArcGIS -- including but not limited to Shapefiles -- whether or not that data is stored within ArcGIS.

That software bridge is an R package called arcgisbinding and it's slated for release today during Esri's annual user conference in San Diego.

"R developers can quickly access ArcGIS datasets from within R, save R results back to ArcGIS datasets and tables, and easily convert between ArcGIS datasets and their equivalent representations in R," Esri Chief Scientist Dawn Wright said in an emailed statement.

Functions include easily translating between Shapefiles to R spatial geometry types such as SpatialPolygons.

"We've gotten a lot of requests from our customers to do something more with R," Steve Kopp, senior product engineer, spatial analysis at Esri, said in a phone interview. "We're seeing a growth in R use from being just in the research and academic community to now showing up in our enterprise customers." That includes users in the oil and gas industry and the federal government, among others, he said.

Esri is also launching an R ArcGIS community website on GitHub at aimed at encouraging collaboration among R users who also work with ArcGIS. Esri plans to populate it with a few software tools, but the goal is to spark community development that has been prevalent across other subject domains such as genome research.

The move comes on the heels of a new R Consortium backed by major tech vendors including Google, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle, as well as Microsoft's purchase of enterprise R company Revolution Analytics.

Esri has long been active in the Python community and those plans continue, such as an integration of ArcGIS with the SciPy stack of scientific Python modules.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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