In many ways, geographic information systems—GIS for short—is one of the biggest markets you’ve never heard of.
GIS is, literally, all around you: It’s over your head in things like streetlights and telephone lines, and underfoot in fiber networks, sewage systems and electrical wires. The technology—used heavily by governmental entities, utilities and energy providers, among others, to manage daily workflows—allows these users to collect, maintain, store, and manage critical information that has inherent geographic and spatial elements. A company might use GIS to plan where to put a new underground pipe or scout out a new energy field; a local government might rely on it to issue a permit to build a new house on a certain land parcel or monitor a sewage system. Or, more recently, governments have used GIS to figure out the best site for a Covid vaccination site, based on a specific, local clustering of cases.
Today, we’re excited to announce that our Battery portfolio company VertiGIS*, which operates several software businesses that harness the power of GIS and location intelligence for customers all over the world, has acquired another business to further extend its reach.
EDP Consult AB is a Staffanstorp, Sweden-based software business providing technology to help municipal governments better manage their waste and water networks. The company also provides various case-management tools to municipal departments.
The acquisition highlights VertiGIS’s international reach as a provider of best-of-breed solutions for public-sector customers.
Overall, the stakeholders that consume data from GIS systems are vast: They include everyone from government officials, like those served by EDP, to construction companies to lawyers to scientists to regular citizens. GIS technology often integrates with other mission-critical technology systems, such as ERP, CRM, SCADA, EAM and BIM tools. In this way the technology bridges the physical world and the digital world.
The increasing ubiquity of cloud computing is also expanding the reach of GIS technology as it helps make GIS data accessible to more people. At the same time, trends like internet sensors and artificial intelligence are expanding the breadth of GIS data and customers’ ability to leverage it. Our experience with VertiGIS and more broadly in the GIS sector highlights three important use cases for the technology that will likely become more prevalent in the future:
- Deepening the relationship between citizens and government. Local, state, and federal governments have been using GIS tools to manage urban planning and zoning; land use and conservation; cadastre and property ownership; and public works for many decades. But as “Smart Cities” become a reality and governments become more digitized—offering more data online for public consumption—GIS technology will enable citizens and their elected officials to engage more frequently and easily on everything from large infrastructure projects to the placement of local street signs, the fixing of potholes, and collection of waste.
- Increasing the reliability of utility and energy networks as demand for power increases. Public and private utility operators rely on GIS tools now to manage their complex network infrastructures. This includes activities that optimize energy distribution from the grid all the way into the home. Network planning, construction, documentation, maintenance, and renewal are all facilitated by GIS software, and as power networks become increasingly taxed in the future—both from climate change and societal trends like work-from-home—GIS’s role will become even more important.
- Expanding telecommunications capabilities globally. Telco operators depend on GIS tools to deploy 5G and fiber networks in major cities and remote rural communities alike. Going forward, as 5G becomes more ubiquitous, GIS software will help telco providers plan, simulate, document, analyze and deploy mobile-workforce resources to their networks no matter where they are.
For these reasons and others we remain very enthusiastic about the future of GIS. Despite its low profile, it is one of the biggest vertical markets we’re currently investing in, and we remain on the lookout for promising companies creating ever-more innovative GIS applications.
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*Denotes a Battery portfolio company. For a full list of all Battery investments, please click here.