Hexagon Geospatial embarked on a transition to port its desktop geospatial platform to the cloud with the creation of the Hexagon Smart M.App ecosystem. The focus is on dynamic maps that combine fresh geospatial content to deliver an interactive experience. V1 Editorial Director Matt Ball spoke with Mladen Stojic, president of Hexagon Geospatial, about this transition and the IGNITE contest with significant prize money to spur developers to create applications using the platform.
EIJ: Where are you headed with Smart M.App ecosystem?
Stojic: Last year, starting in June , we announced the concept associated with our Smart M.App ecosytem. This whole idea of fusing design with analytics and information services and geospatial analysis all coming together on the cloud to support the development, marketing and ultimately sales of Smart M.Apps.
A Smart M.App is an online dynamic information experience. It doesn’t use the words “geospatial,” “GIS,” “remote sensing” or even “map.” The idea behind a Smart M.App is to deliver information about things that change on Earth’s surface.
Change is still very important to us. It’s not about delivering a map of what was or what is; it starts there, but goes beyond to deliver dynamic information services about things that change. These can be changes in green space or changes in the average response time by police officers for a specific district over a specific timespan and how agencies can better deploy resources for improved safety.
Smart M.Apps don’t have to be maps, but certainly a map in our traditional understanding is a fabric upon which someone can visualize change. It’s just one of the ways to convey a dynamic experience about change.
EIJ: How are Smart M.Apps delivered, and what information do they draw from?
Stojic: It’s online in the cloud, so you can access it anytime and anywhere. It’s dynamic in the sense that all the necessary capabilities are related—whether it’s a chart, a map, a feature on the map or a statistic. They’re all dynamically connected, and it’s alive. If a new data feed supports the Smart M.App, it is dynamically updated. You don’t have to create a new map or run a new model every time or update the statistical recipe used to calculate your findings. These things are baked into the Smart M.App, and it updates itself, meaning that it’s always dynamically changing as the information becomes available, and it remains fresh.
The information experience relates to a phenomenon, feature or event. It could be what’s happening on a border crossing; it could be about an administrative unit in Holland and monitoring real-estate transactions; or it could be the assessment of the quality of a road network based on the financial investments made by a municipality.
Information is the broadest piece, because it involves everything on Earth’s surface, whether manmade or physical. We want to be able to track and understand how that information changes and convey that change through an experience that makes sense.
EIJ: Can you describe the user experience with a Smart M.App?
Stojic: Everyone’s experience of a Smart M.App will be different, because we each have our roles. Urban planners are different than farmers, and engineers are different than warfighters. They all have a need for a different experience, because they each need different information.
The idea behind the Smart M.App is to deliver an information experience that tailors to the specific needs of the end user. It’s not “four square sides of a map with some pins and overlays.” It might not even be a map. It could just be the ratio between two numbers presented as a service that makes sense to a decision maker.
Everyone’s experience is varied, and it’s flexible enough to deliver a Smart M.App related to an individual’s experience and aligned to the workflows of various industries.
EIJ: There’s movement in the transportation sector where municipalities are providing real-time information, for example, on the location of their snowplows. How might that dynamic information be supplied for dealing with an event such as a large snowstorm?
Stojic: I’ve been monitoring some of the maps coming out about such events in the mainstream media, and they’re all static. They show details about snow levels and snow routes, but they aren’t alive.
To realize our vision and strategy, we need more than data collected as snapshots on the hour. We’re starting with police officers, because they all have GPS receivers, and their locations are being tagged along with what they’re doing at the time and how they’re replying to events.
We haven’t specifically addressed the snow problem, but most snowplows have a GPS signal. That information gets logged, updated in a spreadsheet, and the spreadsheet feeds a static map. What we want to be able to do with our spatial modeling and analytics platform is to take the data feeds and connect them to a Smart M.App.
As opposed to having a static map of where the snowplow was, you can get a dynamic map of where the snowplow is and then a plan (if they decide to release this information) of where the snowplow is going and when it will get there.
Dynamic maps come down to having a data connection that’s marshalled through our Smart M.App platform that is visualized not just with a map but with statistics and calculated values such as the average response time. Individuals could define a geofence of areas of interest to trigger an alert when the plow is on their street or has cleared a route to their business. Our way of addressing this is through dynamic data links or data feeds that customers or our partners can set up when they configure their Smart M.App.
EIJ: Are you working on partnerships with data providers and helping them move toward predictive analytics?
Stojic: We are starting with “what was” or “what is.” A lot of people don’t know the dynamic nature of their data. When we show them the capabilities with the data they have, then they can take it to the next level and do the predictive analysis.
It’s shocking to see that many organizations haven’t mined the huge volumes of data they have or haven’t gained any insight from that data. The first thing we’re doing when we engage with customers is to get a “data dump” from them. We then go through and show them what they have to provide them with insights. Oftentimes, they don’t even know the information they currently collect.
Next, they start to ask “what if” questions to test ideas against potential outcomes. That’s where the market is going, but what we’ve seen as we engage with key accounts is that few understand “what is” and “what was.” After we open their eyes, they start to ask about “what can be.”
EIJ: What is the process and interface for setting up and creating a Smart M.App?
Stojic: It’s all scalable, flexible and configurable. We took some things from different online dashboards to present information in an interactive way. We have various business intelligence (BI) widgets, and you can build your own if there’s a visualization tool you want to see. The idea behind a Smart M.App is that they can be tailored to whatever experience you want, depending on what you want to track.
After you add data layers, you can then add statistical models and spatial analysis. Users can adjust various variables and levers to modify the behavior of a given event and subsequently look at management changes in order to achieve desired results. Users can configure their own Smart M.App or engage with one of our partners to do that for them.
EIJ: What are your plans with the IGNITE application-development contest?
Stojic: With IGNITE, we will open up the platform to developers so they can build applications. The submission of ideas are due by May 1, 2016, and then they are open to community voting throughout the month of May. The 20 finalists will be announced at the HxGN LIVE event in Anaheim (June 13-16). The finalists have until the end of August to build their Smart M.App, and then winners will be announced on Dec. 15. The winning applications then will be shared through our Map Exchange, and we have a revenue-sharing model, so they will continue to receive revenue from what they’ve created.
With $100,000 as the top prize, $50,000 for second place, $10,000 for third place and $5,000 for the remaining 17 finalists, it’s our way of fueling money to startups. What we’re doing within Hexagon Geospatial is also considered a startup. Ola Rollén, president and CEO of Hexagon, wants us to be a startup, and we have the flexibility to work toward a vision and a strategy that goes beyond the status quo.