Seven GIS Trends: A Call to Action For Planners

At the NPC21 closing keynote, Esri founder and CEO Jack Dangermond spoke about the importance of planners using technology to help advance sustainable communities.

Here, in his own words, are the seven GIS trends that will impact cities and planning:

1. GIS in the cloud

With this development, "we can massively scale out problems. It also means, for planners, who are often not necessarily IT literate, we can actually use an outsourced environment more cheaply — and use the resources of the cloud in various ways."

2. Real-time GIS

"Think of this as maps that have things that move around on them. As we wire up the city for this digital transformation, and especially with the Internet of Things, basically everything that moves and changes will be fed into these GIS systems."

3. Image/raster analytics

"Imagery from remote sensing, drones, aircraft, and even spacecraft is becoming more and more available, and GIS is providing the framework to manage all these images — and also apply them in near-real time for various kinds of applications. This means that our challenges for gathering new data will become less and less."

4. 3D reality capture

"This new technology allows me to fly over a city with a drone or aircraft and build a 3D picture. Integrated into this picture is all the vector data of who owns what, what land uses there are. This is a new way to show GIS and visualize GIS, and it's going to become very popular across the world in the next few years. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a smart picture, like GIS can provide, will be very engaging." These models can function as a digital twin of the real city, and places like Boston are already using it.

5. Spatial analysis & data science

"GIS analytics and spatial data science continue to advance with literally hundreds and hundreds of new tools. On the forefront, for example, is the ability to take all the data for an entire city, put it into a cloud-based data warehouse, and begin to do analytics of relationships and patterns and see things that we have never seen before. But more practically, we can do things like time series forecasting, GeoAI, machine learning, and statistical reporting — this is all about creating a better understanding of the city."

6. GeoAI, machine learning, and deep learning

"GISes are integrating or interfacing with a whole library of open-source AI and machine learning tools. And, you don't have to be an AI expert, you just need to know enough about it conceptually so you can use the power of relationship building and statistics to be able to make predictions or create new understanding between things."

7. GIS in the field

This means being able to connect with every field worker in a city — people doing inspections, censuses, tree counts. We can also use this for housing or building inspections or observations of social conflict." Bringing this information together and monitoring it on dashboards allows us to " better manage everybody in the field and better react to things like disasters or emergencies."

Expand Your GIS Skills

APA and Esri have partnered to bring you a step-by-step GIS learning plan. The goal of the plan is to make GIS training more approachable to all planners and ensure APA members have access to timely and relevant training opportunities.

Understanding data and how to analyze it is just one part of your job. Helping the community and decision makers "see" how the data translates into outcomes enhances decision making and better equips the community to navigate change. Through this skill development, you will be better positioned to help connect analytics to the story of planning, demonstrating the immediate- and long-term value of planning.

Explore the Training Plan

Top photo: GarryKillian/istock/

May 10, 2021