GeoSpark Analytics uses 6.8 million data sources to track global threats every 15 minutes


ArcGIS partners use Esri’s marketplace to sell data, services and a mashup of both.

Image: Esri

Location data used to be a nice-to-have feature of an app or service. Now location drives numerous daily decisions from where to find a COVID-19 vaccination shot to which office or store is at at full or half capacity.

Esri launched the ArcGIS Platform in January to provide data and services to all the businesses and researchers interested in location information. The company’s 2021 Esri Developer Summit runs through Thursday, April 8, and sessions can be viewed on demand as well. 

GeoSpark Analytics is an Esri partner that illustrates one of the many new products powered by location data. The company uses deep learning, natural language processing, data analysis and statistical models to analyze everything from global security threats and to hyperlocal COVID-19 risk.

“Our system picked up a hot spot in Wuhan in 2019 and we sent an alert in December that noted unusual health information in this place no one has ever heard of,” Geospark Analytics COO John Goolgasian said.

Goolgasian said the company’s models use 6.8 million unique sources—news, social media, economic indicators—to track short- and long-term information in real time. GeoSpark sets new baselines daily for every city and region and runs models every 15 minutes which encompasses 1.5 million calculations across the globe. The platform categorizes each piece of data info into an event class, such as disease outbreak, transportation disruptions or terrorism events, and looks for changes to the baseline in a particular city or region. This analysis generates a risk report for 1,100 cities as well as countries and regions. 

SEE: Report: SMB’s unprepared to tackle data privacy (TechRepublic Premium)

GeoSpark uses the ArcGIS Platform as part of its services and is a speciality provider in the ArcGIS Marketplace. 

GeoSpark’s clients include risk and security officers at Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies, as well as non-governmental organizations and government agencies, including NATO.

Goolgasian estimates that 80% of the company’s customers use out-of-the-box capabilities of the platform while 20% want custom configurations for more specialized discovery. These unique risk assessments and event models range from organized crime to executive protection to natural disasters.

GeoSpark’s algorithms consider all sources of information from traditional news outlets to state-run media to social media. Goolgasian said this wide scope helps to avoid bias that could come from using a smaller set of sources.

“What we’ve seen from that is we have a better more accurate view of risk and stability, based on taking all those factors in,” he said.

Goolgasian said that synthesizing this information into an overall risk assessment is more helpful than just sending an alert about an event. He spent 23 years in the intelligence community and much analysis is based on reporting of fact based on what’s happening, which means it’s too late to take preventive action.

“If you wait for something to happen, you’re already behind, so we’re trying to show here’s where things are trending and identifying precursors so you can do something about it,” he said.

This could take the form of changing daily work schedules for employees or taking diplomatic action. 

He said that FEMA contacted the company last year to create a risk model for COVID-19. 

GeoSpark built a model that incorporated 3,000 sources to track cases, death rates and hospitalizations. 

“The risk model also assessed the risk potential to the underlying hospital system on a county-by-county basis,” he said. Organizations across the country used the tool, which has had 5 million visits since launch.  

ArcGIS Platform connects data and services

GeoSpark added this COVID risk model to the ArcGIS marketplace so that other ArcGIS customers could use the service. 

David Cardella, group product manager for developer technologies, said that the marketplace is a complement to the ArcGIS Platform. 

“We wanted a place where customers could participate and sell their services or solutions as well as data,” he said.

Cardella said location data has become more consumer oriented and now many more organizations understand the value of location intelligence in general and as a complement to existing solutions

“ArcGIS Platform allows developers to access services that have been powering ArcGIS for years,” Cardella said.

Euan Cameron, chief technology officer for developer technology at Esri, said that this approach supports the new approach to using data as a resource.

“It’s about connecting to services and pulling services together while the data stays in one place,” he said. 

Cameron also said that Esri has realized over the last few years there’s a huge business opportunity for non-GIS use cases and that Esri’s platform-as-a-service offering is part of the overall democratization of software development.

“Now any developer can build an app or web site but can’t necessarily afford all the required technology so that’s why they look to these services,” he said. “Companies focus on the special thing that they bring to the table and then look to the service for everything else.”

Euan said that Esri works with big and small companies ranging from Salesforce that uses Esri’s data and services to enhance its existing products to Airspace Link, a startup that builds drone software. The company wanted reliable maps to plot flight paths, which are submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval.

“Their service talks to the FAA’s service and within 30 minutes they have approval to fly their drone,” he said.

Airspace Link uses Esri’s maps to do risk assessments of a particular flight path and to avoid certain spaces such as parks or schools. 

Cardella said that the company could then use the approved flight plans as a new data product.  

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