We bring you a use case demonstrating how cloud based GIS can be used for improving decision making in telecommunications industry through data visualization, sharing and publishing. Technologies Management, Inc. (TMI) is a consulting firm established in 1986. They provide expert consulting services to clients in the telecommunications and regulated utility industries, offering extensive regulatory analysis, comprehensive informational tools and publications, effective compliance strategies and business advice.
In the last several years, there has been an increased need for broadband and voice service providers to report data to state and federal agencies based on geographic areas served. One of the most complex reports is the Form 477 filed semi-annually with the United States Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”). The Form 477 requires providers to report customer counts and deployment data by US Census Tract and Block.
Why this report was so complex for the service providers?
Technologies Management describes the difficulties that occurred in reporting as a consequence of the fact that US Census blocks can be very small – “In many cases, they are literally that, a city block. This makes printing block level maps impractical for clients who offer service in large areas or on a nationwide basis. It might take hundreds of maps to see a service area in the appropriate detail.”
TMI wanted to offer a service which would help their clients with a reporting process that was very time-consuming and not easy to comprehend: “In the past, clients have had to review report outputs as large Excel or comma delimited text files. The review process is cumbersome. And frankly, it is difficult to understand service areas from a list of counties, tracts and blocks.”
So, what was the challenge?
TMI considered sending spatial data such as tracts and blocks with telecommunication services boundaries in shapefiles to each client for review as a possibility to make the reporting process easier and more efficient for them. But, this option required clients to already have GIS software and the knowledge to use it. They have found out that was often not the case.
The main challenge was to find a solution which wouldn’t require for their clients to have established expensive desktop GIS installations and staff trained to use it. At the same time, it was important to find a software which could handle a large amount of data and display it at fast loading speed so that their clients could have an efficient workflow with this data visualisation solution.
Technologies Management Inc. wanted to find a GIS solution that would enable them to host a large amount of census data and share it easily with their clients on a web map.
The answer was cloud based solution.
TMI looked at a number of hosting alternatives for their new GIS services.
Our decision to host through GIS Cloud was due to the ease of use of the service, both for us and our clients.
The best solution was an online option that allowed TMI to post maps for review by individual clients and allowed them to access maps on any device without special software or expertise. “We felt the GIS Cloud platform best suited our plans and made this option possible.” Building maps populated with census data with many layers was easily achievable through GIS Cloud Map Editor.
TMI is now using private maps hosted on GIS Cloud as a way for clients to visualize the tract and blocks they serve and are reporting. In addition, TMI clients can subscribe to one or more standard maps showing US Census Geography, local phone company boundaries, and other telecommunications related data. In some cases, they would make parts of these standard maps available to the general public via GIS Cloud Map Portal as well.
By converting this data into online maps, our clients can review report results much faster and have a better method for confirming that the geography described in the report is accurate.
This video shows an overview of the way Technologies Management Inc. will use GIS Cloud hosted maps in the coming Form 477 season.
Jennifer Durst-Jarell from Technologies Management Inc. summarized key features for recommending GIS Cloud:
1. User, Application and Layer Management – The ability for TMI to create and manage private user accounts was very important. It allows us to manage maps and data for multiple clients through one interface. GIS Cloud also makes it possible to customize the user interface for our clients through separate apps and portal domains. GIS Cloud’s system allows us to build custom maps made from client proprietary data as well as shared layers, thus eliminating the need to duplicate the same public layers for each client.
2. Display Speed – Maps viewed in GIS Cloud are rendered quickly. Many of TMI’s maps include layers with over 11 million US Census Blocks. Normally, this number of vectors (features) would slow down display of any map considerably. GIS Cloud handles this amount of data just fine.
3. Ability to Handle Large Datasets – Many of our map layers have over 500,000 vectors/features, the largest being over 11,000,000. The ability to upload, store and display very large datasets was key to our selection of GIS Cloud as a hosting company.
To conclude, Jennifer Durst-Jarell highlights the benefits of using GIS Cloud for TMI in their area of expertise, telecommunications industry:
TMI has been a leader in processing FCC Form 477 data. GIS Cloud lets us offer our clients a new and exciting visualization tool to better understand the data they report. In addition, it provides clients of our other GIS services a new method for viewing and sharing data both with TMI and other departments within their companies.
Read more on GIS Cloud blog.