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Latest on SAP BI and Geospatial Analytics

80% of all data contains some reference to geography (1). Spurred by exponential growth of geospatially-enabled devices, much of the new wealth of location data is generated passively by mobile applications and services. As a result, organizations are demanding solutions that can seamlessly enrich business data with geographic context, help visualize trends and patterns, and leverage location intelligence in everyday decision making.

Relying on libraries of static maps no longer satisfies the needs of data-driven enterprises. Users expect to overlay business data on maps and interact with the content, to drill, filter, analyze and generate location insights. The ability to overlay metrics from multiple sources of business data on high fidelity maps is key to generating new insights that are not visible when data is presented in charts and tables. Furthermore, enriching maps with layers from external data sources, like social media, demographics, lifestyle and weather data, is becoming more important.

A key challenge to effective location analytics solutions resides in disconnected information systems. Users benefit the most when geographic information systems (GIS) and business systems are bi-directionally integrated. While maps, topologies and geographical data are maintained in GIS, business data is managed in operational applications and business intelligence systems. As the leader in enterprise software, SAP is a unique position to bridge the gap, geographically enable its applications and provide unprecedented solutions for location analytics.

Going beyond 2D geo maps, similar needs exist when users interact with a 3D object like a building, or plant, or complex product like an airplane as a visual index into information systems. Today customers can display analytic results and business data related to a 3D object using the SAP 3D Visual Enterprise Viewer in a Dashboard or in a viewer embedded in a HTML5 web page.

New SAP Partnership with ESRI and Geospatial Initiative

For the first time, SAP sponsored the annual ESRI user conference, which took place in San Diego in the week of July 8th, 2013. ESRI is the leading provider of GIS software and geo mapping solutions. As a privately-held company, ESRI has been offering mapping solutions for more than 40 years and has built a business that generates close to a $ billion a year in software and services. SAP announced at the conference that it has joined forces with ESRI to more deeply integrate ESRI’s GIS solutions into SAP BusinessObjects and SAP HANA.

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SAP Lumira leveraging SAP HANA’s new geospatial capabilities

The plan is to embed the ESRI ArcGIS Javascript API into the SAP HTML5 visualization platform and SDK (CVOM). Most of the SAP BusinessObjects clients and numerous other SAP products already use this visualization platform. The first client to consume the ESRI API and enable customers to leverage their licensed ESRI map assets and services will be SAP Lumira. The integration will enable Lumira users to select an ESRI map, display geo markers, color code regions and overlay basic charts using business data from a Universe and any other supported data source in Lumira.

SAP also plans to expand the SAP HANA platform with the introduction of optimized storage of location data and spatial processing capabilities. ESRI and SAP intend to optimize connectivity between the ESRI ArcGIS platform and SAP HANA via Query Layers, which will allow ESRI ArcGIS users to push spatial processing into SAP HANA, unleashing high-performing and real-time capabilities. Furthermore, the SAP HTML5 visualization platform and SDK (CVOM) is planning to leverage the new geospatial capabilities in HANA.

New ESRI Location Analytics Solutions

ESRI is making a strong push to broaden its own set of location analytics solutions. The San Diego Convention Center featured the “Location Analytics Island,” a new exhibit at the ESRI user conference this year. Desktop machines loaded with ESRI, SAP Business Objects, Microstrategy and IBM Cognos software, were set up to showcase a new generation of location analytics applications. ESRI unveiled plans at the conference to embed its mapping software in SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards. A preview of a new ESRI Map Designer for Dashboards showed how a user is able to query data from a Universe and simulate the process of examining customer demographics, such as household incomes, within a 10-minute drive of a retail store.

Current Solutions for Spatial Analytics

The good news is that customers will soon have a choice between several new solutions for location analytics using SAP BusinessObjects. Until the new solutions from SAP and ESRI hit the market, customers that currently wish to integrate ESRI and SAP BusinessObjects can rely on third party solutions from SAP software solution partners APOS and Galigeo. For customers that use Google Maps instead of ESRI, Centigon Solutions provides integration options for the SAP BusinessObjects.

Finally, SAP plans to link its 3D visualization capability to both HANA and to 3D objects now available in the ESRI ArcGIS system. Discussions are underway for expanding the 3D already available in ESRI to use the high performance viewing capability of SAP.

(1) Franklin, Carl and Paula Hane, “An introduction to GIS: linking maps to databases,” Database. 15 (2) April, 1992, 17-22

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