USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute

Top Companies Using GIS Technology

Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) can be used by businesses large and small for a variety of applications. Companies that use GIS technology today are those in industries ranging from supply chain management to insurance to urban planning, banking, and health – and much more.

Climbing the Charts Using GIS

When discussing top companies that use GIS technology, we need some way to qualify “top.” So, let’s focus on the companies that land among the Fortune 500 list.
top gis companies
Before exploring the top companies using GIS, however, it’s important to talk about GIS software and services. Esri, is one well-known GIS company, having existed for roughly 50 years, that has risen to the top of the field. In recent years, Esri was seen as the dominant player in the GIS market, with a 43% share, according to a 2015 report from ARC Advisory Group. Its technology is used by more than 350,000 organizations around the globe, including more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500.

“Executives are waking up to realize that they can do a lot better, save money, make better decisions if they optimize and start thinking geographically and have a location strategy,” as Esri founder Jack Dangermond said in a recent interview.

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Companies Using GIS: The Obvious

Technology companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) are all companies that use GIS. And, any smartphone user who checks weather radar or uses Google Maps is a GIS user themselves. In fact, mobile technology and the “app revolution,” as Dangermond calls it, is a major driver of the rising number of organizations that use GIS.

Online retail giant Amazon is another prominent GIS-centric company, making use of the technology to devise offerings and marketing campaigns that meet the unique needs of customer groups around the world. And of course, it’s easy to imagine how telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon might use GIS to better serve their customer bases — such as by identifying locations where new cell towers or better communications infrastructure may be needed — as well as expand into new geographies that may be underrepresented when it comes to Internet and cellular connectivity.

Insurance companies like UnitedHealth Group, Anthem, Express Scripts Holding, and State Farm Insurance Cos. – all of which are in the top 40 of the Fortune 500 – are using GIS to predict risk and help determine premiums. For example, a customer who lives in an area that is more prone to earthquakes or perhaps has a greater propensity toward crime, would land in a higher risk group and pay premiums accordingly. Conversely, a customer living in a low-crime area with minimal risk from natural disasters could benefit from lower rates.

Companies Using GIS: The Not-So-Obvious

While you might not necessarily think of Walmart as a GIS company, anytime the multi-hundred-billion-dollar company wants to expand into a new area, it overlays spatial information with its other market research to determine optimal locations for placing a store or buying land.

And for managing its supply chain, Walmart uses GIS to track the distance and number of steps between the dock and the store, according to this infographic. “This allows the company to optimize routes to the shipping dock and track the number of times a product gets touched along the way to the customer,” the infographic says. Further, Walmart uses geospatial data to analyze transportation routes for its fleets of trucks, helping it keep transportation costs down and best schedule driver times.

And really, any business can derive the same benefits from using GIS, helping them remain competitive with other top companies. When businesses like Home Depot or Johnson & Johnson expand into a new area, using GIS becomes a necessity for maximizing their investments.

Using GIS: The ‘Geographic Advantage’

More and more organizations are leveraging GIS as mapping and location analytics become democratized. In particular, one of the biggest growth areas for GIS applications in the commercial sector, which Esri sees growing 30% year-over-year within its business.

“It takes a while for executives to understand that every company is a spatial company, fundamentally: where are our assets, where are our customers, where are our sales,” Esri’s Dangermond said. “But when they get it, they light up and say, ‘I want to get the geographic advantage.’”

With the evolution of trends like the Internet of Things (IoT), there will be even more spatial data to leverage. As a result, there will be few businesses left in the coming years that aren’t using GIS. Regardless of whether we’re talking small or large retailers, transportation, logistics optimization, wholesalers, or supply chain logistics, to remain competitive, almost any business must become a GIS company.

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