Thought leader Q&A with Jack Dangermond

January 2012 » Columns » GIS SOLUTIONS
Jeffrey Yoders

Jack Dangermond, president, Esri
A landscape architect by training, Jack Dangermond founded GIS software developer Esri in 1969 with a vision that a mapping and analysis framework could provide a deeper understanding of our world and help us design a better future. Dangermond's leadership and vision stimulates the ongoing innovation of GIS technologies that enable people to make insightful decisions and improve the quality of life everywhere. Dangermond has won several awards from international cartographic associations, including the Alexander Graham Bell Medal of the National Geographic Society (with Roger Tomlinson in 2010).

Q: You've described GeoDesign as a design framework and supporting technology for professionals to leverage geographic information, resulting in designs that more closely follow natural systems. Now that we can create a framework to take many different pieces of past and future information and merge it into a single system, is that whole-project analysis framework finally here?

A: We're getting there. At Esri we've been working to add new functionality to our software that supports GeoDesign. Some of this is being done through software engineering, and some of it is done by identifying existing technologies out there that can be integrated with GIS, such as our recent acquisition of Procedural and its CityEngine technology. We've made a lot of progress, but we have a way to go. But GeoDesign is bigger than Esri; a number of people in academia, business, and government are working on moving various aspects of GeoDesign forward. Many of these people get together once a year at the GeoDesign Summit to share their successes and to brainstorm and identify what we need to do to keep up the momentum. I'm very excited about the 2012 GeoDesign Summit, Jan. 5-6; the theme is GeoDesign in Action, which illustrates how this is starting to move from abstract concept to something real that people are using to accomplish tasks in their daily work.

Q: Computer hardware is getting cheaper and faster, particularly in mobile devices. How is Esri taking advantage of advances in both hardware and software technology to give engineers more power in the office and more connectivity in their mobile devices?

A: ArcGIS is a system that has server, desktop, and mobile components. Mobile components include tools for the iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile operating systems. These components are part of an integrated information system that leverage the computing power and data management capabilities of the server and desktop delivered to lightweight devices – like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab – that give engineers access to data and tools in the field.

Q: Taking Esri's software tools and information and putting them into the cloud has allowed your users to access information in any platform and share or keep it in a proprietary environment as they see fit. How important do you think cloud computing will be when it comes to opening up government map information and making it transparent to actual city and town service users?

A: The cloud will become very important to government in a couple of ways. First, it provides access to large amounts of data, which can help departments eliminate duplicated data collection efforts. Second, governments can leverage computing power on an as-needed basis to reduce IT costs. ArcGIS is available in the cloud, so government can take full advantage of these benefits. Another area where we see great opportunity is through the Community Maps Program. This allows users to freely share their authoritative basemap with others while maintaining ownership and control of the data. This sharing of maps through the cloud with open standards will continue to grow and benefit everyone.

Read the complete interview with Jack Dangermond at

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