To ESRI’s Thompson, GIS Mapping Innovations Are The ‘Canvas On Which We Draw the Story of Analysis’

I met Simon Thompson at the center of the GIS world, which was set at least for several days this week at 32.7090 degrees North, 117.1644 degrees West. Those are the coordinates for the main exhibit hall of the San Diego Convention Center, where more than 12,000 people interested in GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, gathered to attend the 2009 ESRI International User Conference. The annual convention organized by ESRI, the Redlands, CA-based leader in GIS systems is the largest of its kind.

As I reported a few weeks ago, GIS modeling and mapping software is becoming an increasingly hot segment of the IT industry—and Thompson is doing everything he can to push adoption as ESRI’s director of commercial marketing. Thompson tells me that he was living in Sydney, Australia, when ESRI president Jack Dangermond began recruiting him in 2006. “I actually used ESRI tools to evaluate the move,” he said.

Comparing ESRI’s GIS databases for Sydney with Redlands, CA, a city of more than 64,000 in San Bernardino County, Thompson says he could see that he would be trading Sydney’s cosmopolitan city life, theaters, and soccer, rugby, and cricket matches for easy access to Southern California’s mountains and U.S. National Parks. When I mentioned that San Bernardino also is the unhappy recepient of air pollution blown inland from Los Angeles, Thompson says, “That’s why I chose to live in Yucaipa, which is at an elevation of 3,000 feet above sea level. I get to look down on the bad air.”

tiger_smThompson says big corporate retailers such as Walgreens, Petco, Starbucks, and Target use GIS technology to make similar assessments every time they consider locating another store. “One of the reasons I came to ESRI was that I’d seen ESRI tools and technologies mature to the point of reaching the enterprise,” Thompson says. (He worked for an unnamed competitor in Europe and Australia before joining ESRI) What it comes down to, he adds, is taking “geographic thinking and applying it to the business needs that different people have.”

The ability to apply GIS technologies to business problems has improved steadily over the past decade, Thompson says. In early 2000, ESRI launched an online product intended to help business users do market analytics and … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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