The development and release of ArcGIS® Online by Esri® ushered in a new era of GIS access and availability. ArcGIS Online allows organizations and individuals to manage and display their map data on the internet via an easy-to-use interface. This has been useful for GIS professionals who have been overloaded with small requests for geographic information by allowing their users to self-serve data and maps that have been developed and published by the GIS analyst. It also allows users in the field to display ground truth information that may be collected as a series of GPS points or geographic notes. According to Esri, “In addition, non-GIS professionals, such as knowledge workers who have a need for GIS, now have a way to quickly create maps from the unstructured information they work with in spreadsheets and text files and share these maps with others who can access them on any device. This type of on-demand and self-serve mapping frees up GIS professionals from having to respond to constant requests for maps and instead concentrate on making and publishing authoritative information products.” (Esri, June, 2012)
Along with map and display capabilities, ArcGIS Online comes equipped with the ability to conduct geo-processing tasks, or geoservices. Esri currently provides geocoding and network analysis geoservices, among others. Users with an ArcGIS for Server instance can also publish their own geoservices and models from the Esri software suite and consume them via ArcGIS Online. This means that customized workflows can be distributed via ArcGIS Online for consumption by non-technical users in the field. These services can be also be integrated into custom interfaces developed using the ArcGIS Web Mapping API’s or the ArcGIS Mobile Runtime SDK.
This example of ENVI image analysis being run on image service data from the ArcGIS online environment is a snapshot of the future. In the same way that the storing and viewing of map products has migrated to the internet, so too will the analysis of large data be executed on large servers in remote locations and consumed via thin clients and mobile apps. What do you think? Are thin clients such as ArcGIS Online that consuming remote data and analysis functionality the future of GIS? Do you see a need in your organization for web-deployed analytics?