Does GIS have a future in monitoring?

The industry’s mobile trajectory could make Geographic Information Systems into a broader trend, industry watcher says
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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

LONGMONT, Colo.—A main effect of the digital transformation sweeping the industry has been to make companies think differently about how to use and organize information. On the central station side, effective and timely use of information can make the difference between a better or worse outcome.

It’s within this discussion that a tool like Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, can look like a difference maker, both for central stations and subscribers, Tim Auen, director of mobility products at Intrado, a provider of emergency communications infrastructure, told Security Systems News.

In simplest terms, GIS is a software- and computer-powered system that allows users to manage, use and analyze geographic data. With the mobile movement well under way in security, Auen, who last week featured in a CSAA webinar on GIS technology, believes geolocation and mapping tools can become a major opportunity for monitoring companies looking to enhance their services.  

“If you want to operate a mobile security service then you’re definitely going to want to leverage GIS capabilities,” Auer said, noting that the technology can provide coherent visual displays for key pieces of data, including phone numbers for authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), subscriber service information, and compliance requirements by boundary. “There are all sorts of things you can do with GIS once you get going on it,” he said.

For most of their history, central stations, like many companies, have relied on tabular data—think spreadsheets—to manage data flow. GIS location software does not eliminate tabular data; rather, it translates tabular data into spatial data, giving companies faster and more intuitive access to troves of information.

“The key thing to remember is you’re gaining a map, not losing tabular data,” Auen said.

Part of the industry’s increasingly mobile direction includes the rise of mobile PERS devices, another area where GIS could be a differentiator, helping central stations not just locate individuals quickly, but do so in such a way that the information is visually oriented and easy to analyze, Auen noted.

The aging population, and the subsequent rise in demand for PERS, is a “big driver” behind why mapped information could become important for monitoring companies.

“Everything that you could imagine that you’d be thinking about when you’re mobile, you’d want to have information for,” he told SSN. “If someone is mobile, they’re going to want to know where they’re at and what resources they have available.” Auen noted that some public safety services—the example he used was a text to 9-1-1 option—are available “on one side of the street but not the other.” Subscribers on the go would find value in being able to glean that information visually, he said.  

The possibilities within the related arena of visual analytics, with its many different means of communicating information visually, could also change the way monitoring companies manage and use information during a dispatch. During the webinar, Auen said GIS may mean more satisfied customers, as visually mapped information allows for faster response and service, both with fewer snags.