•  September 17, 2021

    How AppGeo is Navigating the Shift to Cloud-based Mapping Platforms, and Why You Should Too

    This article was originally published by Applied Geographics Inc. (AppGeo), a company acquired by The Sanborn Map Company Inc in September 2022.

    By Thomas Harrington, Chief Marketing Officer

    When the Mapping Platform Trend Got Started

    Earlier this year, GIS software provider Esri, and late last year, cloud provider Amazon, each launched a mapping “platform as a service.” The entrance of these corporations into the mapping platform marketplace marks a significant milestone in a trend that has been shaping the GIS industry for over a decade. (See also AppGeo’s blog “How Mapping Platforms are changing the GIS Landscape.”)

    In February 2005, Google launched both Google Maps – which provided a ridiculously simple way to get point to point directions through an online application – and the Google Maps API (aka Google Maps Platform) – which allowed developers to embed Google Maps into third party websites and overlay data on Google’s base map layers. 

    In the years that followed, and in recognition of the power and possibilities of cloud-native mapping platforms, many large companies and start ups alike followed suit. Where Google Maps distinguished itself from online and automotive mapping systems of the time was building a platform that made it possible for others to leverage the underlying data and spatial functions. Today, developers are using powerful cloud-based mapping platforms’ APIs from providers as diverse in size and brand name recognition as Google, HERE, MapBox, MapLarge, Carto, Esri, Amazon, and more.

    Some Mapping Platforms launch years:

    Google Maps Platform (2005)
    MapLarge (2008)
    MapBox (2010)
    Carto (2012)
    Amazon Location Service (2020)
    Esri ArcGIS Platform (2021)

    Interpreting the Significance of Esri’s and Amazon’s Launch of Mapping Platforms

    Esri and Amazon are the most recent arrivals to the ‘mapping platform’ party, but their respective market share and brand recognition make them instant contenders in the competitive marketplace, and may well disrupt it. The arrival of these two giants tells me a lot about the future of mapping platforms. And I think each provides a slightly different message. 

    The “meta” message of Esri’s entry into the Mapping Platform arena, in my opinion, is the recognition that a cloud-native mapping platform model will dominate the delivery of geospatial data and functions for application creation going forward. The “meta” message of Amazon’s entry is acknowledgement of the importance of location-based solutions as a driver of demand for and indispensable component of cloud-based computing and storage systems. 

    How AppGeo is Navigating the Shift to Mapping Platforms

    Part of our work here at AppGeo is staying on top of these trends in our industry. Our strategic investments and partnerships at AppGeo over the last decade have positioned us at the front of this trend to deliver spatial data and build location-based solutions by leveraging the power of the cloud. 

    Since the founding of our company 30 years ago, we’ve been active users of Esri technology, and still are today. In 2011, AppGeo began experimenting in earnest with Google Maps, OpenLayers, Geoserver, and Leaflet. These explorations resulted in the development of our own mapping platform, MapGeo. MapGeo is designed for local and state governments. It allows them to combine spatial data and base maps with their locally authoritative data for easy access to property, utility, safety, and other information by the public and staff. MapGeo is built on a combination of Google and Carto technology. What we learned from developing MapGeo whetted our appetite for more knowledge and bigger projects.

    Strategic Partnership with Google

    In 2014, AppGeo became a Google Platinum Partner in order to deepen its expertise with Google Maps and Cloud platforms, and to bring this cloud-native mapping technology and the Google Cloud Platform to our customer base. This decision was fully in line with our corporate philosophy of exploring all technologies and applying the best ones that we can find in the combinations that generate the most value for our customers.

    Hundreds of customers and custom applications later, and our technical, services and sales teams have developed a detailed knowledge of how best to deploy the Google Maps Platform APIs in third party apps. Today, our customers are leveraging our knowledge and expertise to optimize their use of these powerful mapping APIs within the terms of service and with maximum cost control. In keeping with our corporate philosophy, this includes applications that utilize a hybrid cloud approach – some combination of Amazon, Google, or Microsoft – and we often combine multiple mapping products – such as Esri, Google, MapLarge, Carto, Mapbox, or Open Source mapping technology. In all cases, our customers benefit from cloud-native, high performance, scalable mapping solutions. 

    Expanding Our Strategic Commitment to Cloud-based Data and Mapping Platforms

    In the last four years, and in recognition of the staying power of these trends, AppGeo has deepened and broadened its commitment to cloud-based data and mapping services. 

    In 2017, AppGeo partnered with Carto to allow us to widen our exploration of mapping platform technologies and bring new functionality to our customers. Carto technology’s spatial analysis functions, dashboard controls, and data handling opened up new opportunities for our development team. 

    In 2019, AppGeo partnered with Hexagon to help bring Hexagon’s subscription-based imagery content program to market. Working with Hexagon, we’ve helped states’ GIOs and Departments of Transportation to make the shift from traditional imagery custom collection  models to a more cost-effective data-as-a-service subscription model. By providing the vision, tools (our Giza streaming tool), and technical support they need, we have helped states make these trail blazing programs extremely successful.  

    In 2020, AppGeo partnered with HERE Technologies to promote HERE’s rich array of data and location services. We’re actively helping customers find the right combinations of detailed transportation data and apply HERE Location Services for their use cases in fleet management, routing, logistics, and beyond.

    Mapping Platforms Are Shaping Our Geospatial Future

    We’ve set a high bar for ourselves. But why not? These technologies and others are fundamentally reshaping our geospatial industry. Today, these strategic partnerships – Google, Carto, HERE, and Hexagon – are supported fully by our sales, services, and technical staff whose expertise and daily work also includes Esri, MapLarge, open source tech stacks, and many other technologies.

    At AppGeo, we believe that the long tail of disruption and transformation that started more than 15 years ago with the rollout of the Google Maps Platform will continue to shape our geospatial future for some time to come. Everything we do today at AppGeo is focused on bringing that “purely digital”, cloud-based future of data modernization and location-based systems transformation into practice for the benefit of our customers.

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