GIS firm maps out Irish growth plans
Geographical information systems (GIS) firm ESRI Ireland is to expand its Irish operations, employing an additional 10 software engineers over the next 12 months. On top of the 15 people hired over the past year, the expansion will, it claims, make it the largest GIS company in Ireland with 36 staff.
The Environmental Systems Research Institute or ESRI (pronounced 'Esree' to avoid confusion with a well known government agency) recently moved to a new 5,500 sq ft corporate headquarters at Ashtown Gate beside the Phoenix Park.
Speaking recently at the official opening the offices, Peter Lyon, managing director, ESRI Ireland, said the company's rapid expansion in Ireland was being driven by several factors such as changes in EU regulations which requires public sector organisations including government departments to be more accountable and to manage and report on their assets more effectively.
But the applicability of GIS was not limited to the public sector, he added. "The public sector in Ireland has been a pioneer in the use of GIS but it is being increasingly used by the private sector such as insurance companies to help analyse risk based on geography."
ESRI Ireland also has an office in Belfast to serve the fast-growing NI market for GIS systems. In an interview with siliconrepublic.com, Lyon revealed that the company was shortly due to sign a major contract with the Planning Service of Northern Ireland, as part of a Hewlett-Packard-led consortium to build a GIS system for the agency.
This follows the recent completion of a €1m six-month project on behalf of the Valuation and Land Agency in the North, which will allow the agency to factor a property's location into the rates charged to houseowners. Another Northern client is the Rivers Agency, which uses an ESRI-based system to record flood reports ensuring that the exact location is recorded to enable more precise predictions to be made.
Commenting on the Northern opportunity, Lyon said: "The North has a GIS strategy in place and guiding principles to take them forward and there is a tremendous amount of funding available."
He added that British PM Tony Blair's drive to put all UK public services online by March 2005 was giving significant impetus to GIS projects in the North. "GIS has entered the psyche of some of the permanent secretaries in the North because they have heard about it from their colleagues in other parts of the UK," he said.
He noted that although the Republic had yet to implement a GIS strategy, a group within the Department of the Environment was drawing up a set of guiding principles known as Irish Spatial Data Infrastructure (ISDI) that would provide a framework for progress in the area.
ESRI customers in the Republic include South Dublin County Council which provides a facility on its website allowing voters to view a map with the location of their polling station. The company has also signed deals this year with the Irish Defence Forces and the National Roads Authority. The former is using ESRI technology to create high quality customised maps for soldiers, while the NRA has gone live with a web-based GIS that provides information on more than 5,500km of Irish roads.
ESRI Ireland is a subsidiary of ESRI UK and part of the US-owned ESRI group, which holds a claimed 72pc share of the global GIS market.
Lyon said ESRI Ireland was on course for revenues of €4.5m this year, out of a total market he estimated to be worth €25m annually.
By Brian Skelly
Pictured from left are Peter Coyle, cathaoirleach, Fingal County Council; Peter Lyon, director, ESRI Ireland; and Eamonn Doyle, principal consultant, ESRI Ireland.