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gerd buziek_esriEsri Deutschland has long been involved in geographic information systems (GIS), providing software, consulting and training throughout Germany.  Jeff Thurston, editor at V1 Magazine interviewed Gerd Buziek, Director Communications & Public Affairs at Esri Deutschland to learn about the company and some of the ongoing work across the country as INTERGEO 2011 took place in Nuremburg. 

V1 Magazine: I do read your arcAKTUELL magazine for Deutsch language readers and find it interesting. Some of our English readers may not be aware of what Esri Deutschland is involved in though. Can you briefly explain what your primary markets are within Germany?

GB: In Germany, like in every other country in the world, GIS is used in nearly every discipline. More than 60% of our revenue comes from the public sector, with markets like land management, security, agriculture and forestry, and education. In the private sector we focus on insurance, real estate, facility management and traffic infrastructure. The city of Hamburg for instance, decided to select Esri to implement their spatial data infrastructure, and the Hamburg Port Authority uses ArcGIS for various aspects of harbor management. In Bavaria, the state environmental agency uses ArcGIS for management of environmental information. In the private sector insurance companies like Munich Re use enterprise GIS for underwriting and risk assessment. Furthermore, we have customers in the manufacturing, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, using GIS mainly for plant- and facility management by modeling plant infrastructure: water, wastewater, power, pipelines, storage tanks, as well as streets to optimize transportation and logistics inside the plants.

In order to give our customers best support in their markets, we have adapted our organizational structure. Esri Deutschland, Esri Schweiz, Geocom GmbH (D)/Geocom AG (CH) and con terra GmbH are the pillars of Esri Deutschland. Esri Deutschland and Esri Schweiz are highly experienced working with our core GIS technology ArcGIS, while Geocom GmbH (D)/Geocom AG (CH), through its GEONIS solutions framework, concentrateson utilities, industrial plants, infrastructure and logistic. Con terra GmbH focuses on telecommunications, engineering- and planning bureaus, as well as land management projects at all administrative levels.    

V1 Magazine: Can you explain how Esri Germany connects with open source initiatives?

GB: Esri is involved in the open source initiative 52°North. Together with  shareholders Esri Inc. and the ITC in the Netherlands, 52N serves as a research and development network. New technologies, such as sensor web enablement, web processing and linked open data, are applied to GIS projects. Results are published as open source software, if those components are developed together with users. Examples are the OSM editor and the portal toolkit. For a couple of years now we have had a presenceat the FOSS4G conference to remain in contact with the open source community.  

V1 Magazine: The European Union has passed the INSPIRE Directive some time ago. How has Esri Germany been involved in that process and how are you meeting the challenges of implementing the Directive – any new products to announce?

GB: Con terra GmbH – the professional service specialist of Esri Deutschland – is actively involved in the definition and implementation of INSPIRE Network Services, having staff members working in the INSPIRE Metadata core team, the Network Services core team and the Network Services interface team. As such, con terra GmbH is involved at the coal face, but the involvement does not stop there. Con terra GmbH is active in designing and building technical solutions to deliver INSPIRE services in the form of the sdi.suite product set and solutions based on Esri’s ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS for INSPIRE technology.

ArcGIS for INSPIRE covers the core INSPIRE requirements, by adding INSPIRE view services, download services, discovery services and INSPIRE data models to the ArcGIS base technology. ArcGIS for INSPIRE supports the rapid and timely construction of INSPIRE-compliant services, without having to abandon established workflows.

However, in many cases, fulfilling the INSPIRE guideline necessitates performing data transformations and schema mapping from existing datasets or databases into INSPIRE data models. For this purpose, con terra GmbH has developed the INSPIRE Solution Pack for FME, to simplify the generally very complex process of schema mapping. This adds INSPIRE-specific logic and functions to FME technology, which supports and considerably simplifies the mapping process. 

V1 Magazine: INTERGEO is coming shortly and I understand Esri Germany is involved there. Can you explain the relationship of GIS to surveying? How is GIS being used within Germany related to survey applications, can you explain a few examples?

GB: Some good examples of GIS solutions in that field can be found by looking at our partner solutions. To name only a few, AED Sicad, Arc GREENLAB GmbH, IP SYSCON GmbH, or GeoData+ GmbH have designed and developed comprehensive software based on Esri technologies, which help surveying engineers and people working in the cadastral field to collect, visualize, analyze, and archive their data. The focus here is on providing land surveyors and mappers with highly sophisticated solutions to meet their requirements and needs.

In closest cooperation with our platinum partner AED Sicad, sdi components for the official real estate and cadastre information system ALKIS are implemented. For instance the ALKIS data management component (DHK) and the ALKIS component for data quality assurance (EQK).   

V1 Magazine: Do you think surveyors and GIS personnel work together closely today, or are there challenges that still need to be met? Where can improvements in this relationship be made and how can they be overcome?

GB: GIS software solutions in the field of surveying and mapping have grown up in the last couple of years. Accuracy, the integration of knowledge and special functionalities, as well as the adjustment of the software with the surveying workflows did help to get the surveying stakeholders on board. Of course there are still some challenges, but our partners and we are able to face them. Hence, we are sure to strengthen the alignment between us (Esri) and the surveyors.

One of the main challenges is to disseminate the various, mainly topographic data coming from ALIKIS into different GIS applications outside of the surveying and mapping institutions. We have to implement and to support user friendly services to find, identify and to use data. Last but not least we need to overcome the federal structure by homogeneous pricing and homogeneous official content.     

V1 Magazine: The move toward GIS services is underway. Has this change meant differences in the kinds of data that users wish to access and what people wish to do? Has it allowed improved capabilities and expanded the horizons for organizations?

GB: GIS services are reality now, and will become even more reality in near future. Initiatives like INSPIRE and GMES are based on services. This has helped to bring the idea of more flexibility of IT-infrastructure through services into the minds of the public and private “Geo”-Community. First benefits are already visible: a number of geo portals and base map services are available to provide data from governmental bodies in Germany.  Catalog services of data will be continuously maintained and serve as a “phone book”  for Geoinformation.

This makes it easier to have access to data. Despite the success of INSPIRE, there is also an increasing demand for digital data themselves. A lot of GIS users are asking for “free data” or “open data” to publish own web services, or to create and share own maps within a community. Side by side with innovative online data services the conventional commercial geodata business will still be growing, at least in cases where massive data volumes are needed. This will establish more and new base data service suppliers to serve consumers in private as well as in public clouds. The new transparency has definitely expand the horizons.  

V1 Magazine: 3D is growing and expanding in the GIS market. At the same time we see integration with aerial and satellite imaging, lidar and the like. How can people bring all of this information together? Isn’t data storage becoming a growing issue as well as performance when it comes to processing the information?

GB: Yes, you are right! Storage, as well as performance are issues becoming more and more important. On one hand side, the internet users don’t want to wait too long for answers. This means, GIS today has to serve maps just within a couple seconds, including analysis and visualization operations. On the other hand, in Europe a huge investment has been made to development new remote sensing satellites. GMES data will be available soon for global monitoring for the environment and security.

Together with INSPIRE services we will have data sources being precise and specific (INSPIRE) and up to date (GMES), as well. Due to this, new challenges for data preprocessing, data integration and data dissemination appear. In Germany, we are involved in research projects to identify the bottlenecks of combined INSPIRE/GMES data processing.  Our new release is running on 64-bit processing systems. This gives much more power to overcome the time consuming processing of mass data (raster, vector).    

V1 Magazine: Is Esri Germany involved in training and education? Do you work together with institutions and educational agencies involved in the surveying professions?

GB: Esri Deutschland is cooperating with various educational institutions in the German states. We are providing adequate license models for schools and support educators through trainings and consultings. In connection with the vocational education reform GIS play now a central role in the curriculum of the Geomatiker and the Vermessungstechniker. 
We are regularly sponsoring events of associations like EGEA, ARGOS or GeoMundus for students from Geography, Surveying, Geoinformatics, Geosciences and other disciplines. Often Esri is presenting or supporting workshops at the events, so students get some insights to the newest GIS technology and also receive a workshop certificate.

In the Esri Development Center (EDC) program Esri is working closely with Universities to provide training in ArcGIS but also to cooperate in research. The EDC Developer Forum is a yearly event that connects GIS developers from academia with Esri developers to foster knowledge transfer and innovation. It includes hands-on workshops and presentations from students and instructors.

For institutions from higher education Esri Deutschland offers a special pricing for training. Diverse faculties book it every year and offer Esri Summer Schools to their students to prepare them for their future jobs where a professionality in ArcGIS and also the proof of it through the relevant certificates is often mandatory.  

V1 Magazine: Organisations often ask, “what is the benefit of GIS?” What is it in your mind? Can any size organisation experience it successfully?

GB: From a study on the use of public sector information in Europe, we know, that more than 80% of any data are related somehow to space. The most efficient way to communicate spatial information is to use maps. Today, maps are usually generated by GIS. This means, that the benefit of GIS for any organization is better communication of space related information. Any size of organization can make use of it! ArcGIS is available in the cloud, on desktops, scalable on server platforms or just providing services for web clients. Nevertheless, ArcGIS online is available on the web for everybody to generate and to share maps. Hence, anybody can figure out the benefits for his own purposes.      

V1 Magazine: Why should a surveyor consider to work with ArcGIS software?

GB: The answer is short: ArcGIS is the most popular GIS software around the globe and perfect to build spatial data infrastructures. It is leading edge technology and makes data management, data dissemination and visualization very easy. Furthermore ArcGIS can be connected with various sensors to get data in and to do the data modeling, especially for official information systems of the public sector like ALKIS. The ability to be one system for a wide range of platforms, sensors, from desktops, cloud environments to smartphones, makes the data running, and not the users!    

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