Best Geographic Information Systems in 2023

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An integral component of Location Intelligence — how do the primary options stack up?

A critical component of modern location intelligence is visualizing, analyzing, and mapping location data and other datasets. Traditionally this has been accomplished with a geographic information system (GIS). These tools were originally developed and used in academic or scientific communities. They typically required advanced training, were difficult to use or integrate into broader workflows, and focused on analyzing historical data.

With the rise of location intelligence across business sectors, the needs of GIS platforms have expanded. They need to be accessible to a broader range of users, integrate seamlessly with additional systems and data, and support new analysis methods and modeling.

Needed features for modern geographic intelligence systems

It should be obvious that a GIS software will need to include deep, complex mapping and data visualization features in order to provide value. Outside of that there are three main considerations when determining if a GIS platform will work for your location intelligence efforts: it’s ability to integrate with a broader tech stack, the use of a wide range of user-provided data, and whether or not it can process, analyze, and display additional, non-historical analysis methods.

The Top 10 Geographic Information Systems in 2023

With this understanding of how GIS platforms need to evolve to fit into modern location intelligence usage, let’s look at the top 10 GIS providers and see how they compare to each other.

ArcGIS

Developed and maintained by Esri, and available in several different varieties, ArcGIS is possibly the most well known GIS platform and has seen heavy use in both the government and scientific sectors. With the rise of location intelligence, Esri has focused on developing broad integration tools and features — enabling ArcGIS to power location intelligence efforts in companies across industries.

Systems Integrations?

Yes — with multiple integration tools and partnerships with several enterprise software providers.

Third-party Data?

Yes — ArcGIS supplies a robust dataset called the Living Atlas and provides the capability for linking/importing additional datasets.

Modern Analysis?

Yes — ArcGIS Insights helps connect, visualize, and analyze datasets using modern location intelligence methodologies.

Mapbox

Mapbox is a developer-friendly GIS platform that has taken the opposite approach as Esri — they provide API- and SDK-based mapping solutions so you can add map visualizations to any existing system. This enables a company to develop the custom connections they need to use Mapbox’s offerings in their existing tech stack.

Systems Integrations?

Yes — their API-based offering is built for integration into your existing workflow.

Third-party Data?

Yes — as their solution is designed to add visualization and mapping to your existing system, connections are built by developers.

Modern Analysis?

No — with a focus on providing easily integrated mapping and visualization, they do not provide this type of data analysis.

MapInfo Pro

Billed as Precisely’s all-in-one GIS solution, MapInfo Pro boasts a large, engaged community of GIS users who help develop and expand the offerings capabilities.

Systems Integrations?

Yes — via plugins available on their community MapInfo Marketplace.

Third-party Data?

Yes — utilizing the MapXtreme SDK to build .NET plugins.

Modern Analysis?

Yes

QGIS

As an open source GIS platform, QGIS relies on the developer community to build new features — either through core functionality or plugins.

Systems Integrations?

Yes — via custom apps and community developed plugins.

Third-party Data?

Yes — connects with Open Data compatible sources.

Modern Analysis?

No

Carto

Designed for modern tech stacks, Carto is a cloud-native GIS product that was designed to work within a company’s modern location intelligence effort.

Systems Integrations?

Yes — designed to integrate with modern big data and cloud-based workflows.

Third-party Data?

Yes — in addition to the 12,000 available datasets in the Data Observatory, Carto indicates that the solution integrates with user-provided data as well.

Modern Analysis?

Yes — Carto boasts no-code Workflows as well as an Analytics Toolbox that provide modern location intelligence methodologies

Maptitude

While not the most robust solution on this list — Maptitude boasts that they are the most affordable solution for mapping and geospatial visualization.

Systems Integrations?

Yes — the provided GISDK enables integration with C#, .NET, or Python-based applications.

Third-party Data?

Yes — the “Create a Map” wizard enables custom maps to be built from your datasets.

Modern Analysis?

Yes — Maptitude provides over a dozen types of various analyses including heat mapping and market share analysis.

Bentley Map

With three tiers of offerings, functionality and interoperability with Bentley will vary, but in general Bentley offers a broad range of needed GIS features with some caveats.

Systems Integrations?

Qualified yes — while Bentley does boast broad interoperability, the primary usage requires use of their software interface, though an SDK is available for custom integrations, it does not seem to be a primary development focus.

Third-party Data?

Yes — Bentley’s offerings can import a wide range of datasets and types and even offer the ability to transform incompatible data types to ones usable by the system.

Modern Analysis?

Unclear — Bentley’s primary focus appears to be map visualization with limited analysis available.

eSpatial

With a focus on ease-of-use for marketing and sales end users, eSpatial provides mapping visualization and data integration with limited analysis options.

Systems Integrations?

Qualified yes — designed as a standalone service for non-technical end users it offers limited integration — mostly surrounding connecting to external data systems, though a limited Rest API is available.

Third-party Data?

Yes — it can directly import many types of data files or be connected to Salesforce and other CRM, ERP, or data warehouse services.

Modern Analysis?

Limited — in addition to their mapping solution they offer route optimization and sales territory mapping functionality through related products.

Salesforce Maps

While not a full-fledged, traditional GIS solution, Salesforce does offer a mapping product that tightly integrates with their suite of tools and makes use of a company’s existing customer data in Salesforce.

Systems Integrations?

Only within the existing Salesforce suite of tools.

Third-party Data?

Limited to CSV uploads within the software.

Modern Analysis?

Yes — while tailored to specific use cases, there is modeling and forecasting available.

CartoVista

CartoVista offers a cloud-based solution for mapping and data visualization with limited data analysis targeted to non-technical users with little to no GIS experience.

Systems Integrations?

Yes — CartoVista offers a Rest API as well as several specific integration connections, including ArcGIS.

Third-party Data?

Yes — as a visualization tool, CartoVista is dependent on the data you bring to the tool.

Modern Analysis?

No — with a focus on easy mapping and visualization, CartoVista does not offer data analysis tools.

So which geographic information system is the best?

Honestly the right GIS solution for your company will depend on several factors — your existing tech stack, personnel, and goals for your location intelligence efforts chief among them.

By prioritizing your feature needs and ensuring you’ve accurately planned on how you will use a GIS platform, you should be able to narrow your search considerably.

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