Esri Ireland’s Eamonn Doyle: ‘Big data is creating a new era for mapping’

15 Mar 2019

Eamonn Doyle. Image: Leonard Photography

Esri Ireland’s Eamonn Doyle believes that a combination of big data and IoT means organisations can sense things in a way that was hitherto impossible.

Eamonn Doyle is CTO of Esri Ireland, which is part of the Esri Global Network, a $1bn privately held software company with about 10,000 employees worldwide.

Esri Ireland specialises in the application of geographic information systems (GIS), helping customers record where things happen and analyse why, with the aim of providing insight and helping them to make better decisions.

‘Digital transformation has been occurring in our industry since people realised that it was easier to keep a digital map up to date than a paper one’

Prior to joining ESRI Ireland, Doyle was principal consultant with Fujitsu Consulting where he was involved in several major GIS projects, including the Dublin Regional Water Network GIS, the Department of Marine and Natural Resources Enterprise GIS and the analysis phase of the Marine Institute Data Repository project.

Since establishing in Ireland and Northern Ireland in 2002, Esri has partnered with public and private sectors to help them understand the impact of geography on their business.

Tell me about your own role and responsibilities in driving tech strategy.

As CTO for Esri Ireland, my role is to keep our team, customers and market up to date with developments, and make them aware of the business benefits of our GIS and digital mapping platform, ArcGIS. In addition, I work with senior executives locally to help with their digital transformations across the private and public sectors.

I also sit on the Esri Ireland and UK Design Authority, which provides technical governance and drives the technical architecture strategy on all of Esri’s project implementations in Ireland and the UK. For my role, I also need to stay closely informed as to what is happening in other related industries and with other technologies such as IoT, big data and cloud computing.

Are you spearheading any major product/IT initiatives you can tell us about?

Yes. As a product-orientated company, we are always enhancing our existing platform and releasing new applications and capabilities. Currently, we are in the process of bringing a new indoor digital mapping product to the market – an exciting new product that will enable interactive indoor mapping of airports, hospitals, event venues, universities and other locations. This marks our first step into indoor mapping and tracking.

We are also adding major upgrades to our field mobility apps on iOS and Android, and intend to bring new location-tracking capabilities to our platform. This will enable employees to share current and previous locations while going about their work, enhancing safety and efficiency and helping with coordinating activities.

How big is your team? Do you outsource where possible?

Esri is a global organisation with 49 offices worldwide. Here in Ireland, over 50 team members work in our Dublin and Belfast offices. We don’t outsource ourselves, but our customers do outsource to us.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation and how are you addressing it?

Frankly, digital transformation has been occurring in our industry since people realised that it was easier to keep a digital map up to date than a paper one. But of course, the story doesn’t end there. We are now seeing customers from all sectors embrace digital across many different types of transactions and activities.

In our experience, these usually involve some element of digital mapping or location analysis. As a company, Esri facilitates digital transformation by helping our customers find and address those processes that can be location-enabled in a way that leads to efficiency gain.

For example, in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, eligibility for free school bus transport is now assessed using an ArcGIS-based route network evaluator. Prior to this, all applications were submitted in writing – an extremely time-consuming process. By moving to a web-based alternative, parents can quickly and easily find out if their children are eligible for transport assistance. The evaluator is used hundreds of thousands of times each year and greatly reduces the time taken to review applications for education authorities.

In another example, we helped a large ferry company to replace a paper-based process for finding and loading trailers at their Irish Sea ports with a completely digital process that’s shaving minutes off each trailer load operation. Cumulatively, this is leading to massive time and cost savings for the company.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

Big data, IoT and mobile devices are creating a new era in digital mapping and GIS. We can now build systems that can sense what is going on in any domain at a scale and speed never before possible. Data sources from mobile apps and IoT sensors can now reveal demand and consumption of everything from taxis to take-out food, to utilities like water, gas and electricity.

What do all these data sources have in common? Well, each has both a time and space component. Geographic information systems can exploit these components to analyse patterns and detect anomalies or trends that can help providers optimise their supply systems for greater efficiency and subsequent cost savings. We are only beginning to fully understand and act upon the transformative potential of IoT and big data.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

I think it’s incumbent on software providers like ourselves to adhere to the latest standards and best practice in the field of security. Implementing robust measures that seek to protect customers’ data should be standard practice when developing new applications or products.

At Esri, we work hard to adhere to the very highest security standards and use tools such as SAML, TLS and multifactor authentication technology across our entire stack.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years