Background Image for Online Mapping Platforms & the future of desktop GIS - is this still a relevant discussion?


Online Mapping Platforms & the future of desktop GIS - is this still a relevant discussion?

Why online mapping? Sarah shares five key benefits of online mapping platforms and whether the desktop GIS is dead.

4th October 2022

In 2015 I was asked to write about the future of the desktop GIS in an AGI publication. I had my crystal ball out, and I think I got it about right.

Our development team didn’t have a crystal ball. They had a belief, vision, plan and the brains to make my futuristic hopes reality. When I wrote the article we were at the beginning of our journey with GEOLYTIX MAPP. Fast forward to 2022 and more and more of our customers are enjoying the benefits.

Why online mapping?

  1. You can access it anywhere from any device: yes this is great (as long as you’re not on a train without any wifi!). I think this feature drives the most value for our customers who want to collect information: on their own stores, on competitors, on potential sites.

  2. Users: unlimited users is easier to implement in the cloud than desktop. The real value comes from role based users, where different teams can access different information that is relevant to them, ensuring a customer can have one system with one version of the truth, that is fit for purpose across the organisation.

  3. Simplification: Our developers are very protective of our product - they won’t add a button or process unless it makes sense. Google maps is intuitive and therefore users of any online mapping system expect it to be as easy to use. A surveyor that needs access to a site report can access a map and one report button. A location planner that wants to interrogate more data can have access to numerous layers.

  4. Speed: This benefit is huge. Is cloud quicker than desktop, or is it that our web developers won’t integrate anything that doesn’t ‘work’ immediately! Online mapping applications are built on the newest code platforms with the newest techniques (I never thought I’d be having to understand the concept of a serverless software, but that's for another blog). If data won’t load instantly then the data/code is optimised until it will.

  5. Model Integration: in 2015 this was something I thought couldn’t be done.
    “ 2020 the amount and volume of processing (e.g. loyalty card, competitor locations, demographics, gravity modelling, mobile phone or financial data) makes it likely that a web interface could not handle the transfer of data”

Our gravity and spatial interaction models are data and process hungry. However, how wrong could I have been! Our development and engineering teams have experience in desktop, customer models and are passionate about learning the latest innovations. Because of this and because they understand the whole end to end, they have surpassed our expectations, integrating any spatial forecasting model we throw at them, even when it includes processing millions of real-time anonymised mobile pings. At times we were trailblazers and we’ve won awards, including the Queens Award because of it.

Is Desktop dead?

Online mapping solutions are a better choice for most users. But for super users who want to run different spatial adhoc queries frequently, then a desktop GIS is a good solution for them, alongside the Alteryx’s of the world.

Because, in 2022, a desktop and online mapping system can access the same information seamlessly, I don’t think this is a question we have to ask anymore. If an analyst prefers to use ArcGIS, Mapinfo or QGIS, but can enter a potential site and run a report, and their colleague can open an online map and see that site, then everyone's a winner.

Sarah Hitchcock, Cofounder & COO of GEOLYTIX

Main Image: Photo Credit Lizzie Dawson

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