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.
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.
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.
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.
As an open source GIS platform, QGIS relies on the developer community to build new features — either through core functionality or plugins.
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.
While not the most robust solution on this list — Maptitude boasts that they are the most affordable solution for mapping and geospatial visualization.
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.
With a focus on ease-of-use for marketing and sales end users, eSpatial provides mapping visualization and data integration with limited analysis options.
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.
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.
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.