Technology

Mapping a Better Presentation

Today's GIS Software Offers Greater Usability.

Today’s desktop mapping software goes far beyond the simple programs that produce directional maps to guide potential buyers to property sites. In fact, if that’s all you’re looking for in a mapping program, use one of the free on-line sources like Yahoo Maps (http://maps.yahoo.com/) or Mapquest (http://www.mapquest.com/) to do the job.

But if you use desktop mapping programs for trade-area analysis or site selection, you’ve entered the world of geographic information systems (GIS), and the recent spurt of powerful but easier-to-use programs may help you chart a course for successful transactions.

Also known as business geographics, GIS programs portray demographic and market data on a map to aid decisions such as where to expand a retail franchise, build an apartment complex, or locate a new office building.

Users complained that the first programs introduced about seven years ago were complex, confusing, and difficult to use. Software companies soon realized that most business users didn’t want to become mapping experts—they just wanted to produce ring studies or thematic maps. So recently, vendors have released scaled-down versions or add-on programs that focus on limited applications such as site selection or trade-area analysis. They also have increased programs’ connectivity so users can access their own data.

The result is a new generation of programs that combine query-and-analysis power with out-of-the-box usability. In some cases, the prices have dropped while the range of what’s available has increased.

Because price alone should not be the deciding factor, what else should you look for in a GIS desktop program?

  • Usability. For ease of use, you want a program that offers short-cut wizards or step-by-step help or one that follows the familiar Windows format.
  • Data. Look for a fair amount of preloaded data and open database connectivity (ODBC), which allows you to access other databases, including your own.
  • Features. Address matching and geocoding (viewing address files as points on a map) are primary functions of any mapping program. Query-and-analysis features help find patterns and create "what if" scenarios. Typical analysis capabilities include trade area (such as ring studies), proximity (how close your franchise is to others) and drive-time. You also may want to export maps into other documents and presentations or use them on Web sites or in promotional materials. Some programs allow you to produce the information in other forms, such as charts or spreadsheets.

The following programs offer many or all of these capabilities. Learning curve times are estimated by the software companies. While inclusion here does not constitute a recommendation, the information should point you in the right direction to explore GIS possibilities for your business.

Any Site LE
Integration Technologies, Inc., 1201 Dove St., Suite 200, Newport Beach, California 92660; (877) 752-1440; info@integtech.com; http://www.integtech.com/

Features: You can buy this add-on program separately or with MapInfo.

It produces trade-area, proximity, and drive-time analysis; address matching and geocoding; five preformatted demographic reports; and labels, spreadsheets, and thematic (shaded) maps. The analysis wizard produces reports and site maps in three steps. You can export maps as Windows meta files, bitmap files, or object linking and embedding (OLE) links for use in Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, and Excel; you also can use the maps on Web sites or in promotional materials.

Data: It includes national streets, major roads and highways, and water features; national county, state, and block group boundaries; 500 variables from the 1990 census; and current-year and five-year projected demographics and consumer expenditure estimates for a specified region. It imports users’ data.

Learning Curve: It takes a few minutes to learn to use the analysis wizard; help includes a manual, along with on-line, on-screen, and phone support.

System Requirements: Pentium PC; 16 to 32 MB RAM; 300 MB hard disk space for an average state file, 5 GB for entire U.S. file; Windows 95 or NT.

Price: Starts at $695

ArcView Business Analyst
ESRI, Inc., 380 New York St., Redlands, California 92373; (800) 447-9778; info@esri.com; http://www.esri.com/

Features: Based on the ARCView GIS program, this business application provides trade-area, proximity, and drive-time analysis; transportation routing; address matching and geocoding; and facility and customer mining. It uses a wizard-driven interface. The program exports maps into Word, Excel, and Power

Point, which also can be used on Web sites or in promotional materials. It also produces pie charts, reports, and labels.

Data: The program includes a nationwide database of business locations with Standard Industrial Classification codes; sales and employee data from Dun & Bradstreet; national household-level consumer information; a nationwide street database; and demographic data with 240 variables for the current year with five- and 10-year projections by state, county, zip code, and block group. Purchase other data separately or use your own data.

Learning Curve: It takes about one day to learn. Support includes training, manual, and on-line, on-screen, and phone help.

System Requirements: 486 PC; 32 MB RAM; Windows 95, 98, or NT.

Price: $11,995

GeoMedia
Integraph Corporation, 1 Madison Industrial Park, Huntsville, Alabama 35894-0001; (256) 730-2000; jrfranci@ingr.com; http://www.integraph.com/

Features: This Windows-based software offers trade-area and proximity analysis, address matching and geocoding (in version 2.1), and advanced spatial operators; transportation routing and drive-time analysis are available as a separate module. It uses the standard Windows toolbar and wizard operations and exports maps into PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and other OLE applications. You can use maps on Web sites and in promotional materials, or create pie charts, reports, labels, and spreadsheets.

Data: Included are U.S. state and county boundaries and county demographics. You also can buy U.S. demographics for all census geographies, international data, U.S. street centerline data, European roads and highways, Canadian demographics, and streets and enumeration areas. It accesses your own data or data from ArchInfo, MapInfo, ArcView, and computer-aided drafting formats.

Learning Curve: It takes one or two days, depending on your familiarity with Windows. Manual is included; on-line help and training sessions also are available.

System Requirements: Pentium PC; 32 MB RAM; 100 MB hard disk space; and Windows 95, 98, or NT.

Price: $1,500

iSite
Geonomics, Inc., 44 Bromfield St., Suite 408, Boston, Massachusetts 02108; (617) 451-2520; isite@geonomicsinc.com; http://www.geonomicsinc.com/

Features: The program offers trade-area, proximity, and drive-time analysis and address matching and geocoding. You can create a map and generate a demographic report in four steps or use the included Maptitude GIS software for advanced spatial analysis. You can export maps into PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and other OLE 2.0 applications and create pie charts, reports, thematic maps, and spreadsheets.

Data: The program supplies geographic data for the entire United States, including states, counties, metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), zip codes, census tracts, and block groups; 1998 demographics; consumer expenditures; and shopping center locations. Also available are consumer expenditure details, business data, zip code boundaries, and a drive-time database—or you can access your own data.

Learning Curve: It takes less than a day to learn. Step-by-step help guides you through each process. Manual, training, on-line, and on-screen support are available.

System Requirements: Pentium PC, 16 MB RAM, 500 MB hard disk space, Windows 95 or NT.

Price: $1,595

MapInfo Professional 5.0
MapInfo Corporation, 1 Global View, Troy, New York 12180; (800) 327-8627; sales@mapinfo.com; http://www.mapinfo.com/

Features: Using a Windows-based interface, this program produces trade-area, proximity, and drive-time analysis. Time-saving tools include a query-save option and thematic map templates, along with step-by-step dialog boxes, extensive drawing tools, and automatic map labeling. You can export maps into PowerPoint, Word, and Excel or use them on Web sites or in promotional materials. You also can create reports and spreadsheets.

Data: Included are more than 350 MB of worldwide maps and data, along with U.S. business statistics and demographic data. A large selection of data is available separately; many other vendors produce data in MapInfo format. ODBC connectivity provides import/export access to other databases, as well as your own data. Included universal translators import geographic data from other formats without an add-on program.

Learning Curve: It takes about one day to learn; manual, training, on-line, on-screen, and phone support are available.

System Requirements: 486 PC, 16 MB RAM, 20 MB hard disk space, Windows 95 or NT.

Price : $1,295

Maptitude 4.0
Caliper Corporation, 1172 Beacon St., Newton, Massachusetts 02461-9926; (617) 527-4700; info@caliper.com; http://www.caliper.com/

Features: This program produces trade-area and proximity analysis, address matching and geocoding, and transportation routing. Helpful start-ups include a tutorial and a map wizard. The wizard also helps in creating 3-D prism maps, thematic maps, and maps with integrated bar and pie charts. You can create labels, spreadsheets, and reports from data and export maps into PowerPoint, Excel, Word, or other OLE applications. Saved as bitmap, JPEG, or Windows meta files, maps can be used on Web sites or in promotional materials.

Data: Included are nationwide streets, states, counties, places, census tracts, and zip codes, with 600 variables from the 1990 census. Layers of data include railroads, water features, landmarks, and elevation contours. World maps also are included. You can purchase separately current zip code boundaries, block groups, and 1997 demographic estimates with 2002 and 2007 projections. The program works with your data in dBase/FoxPro, ASCII, and fixed-format binary database files. It opens databases and spreadsheets via ODBC and imports 16 and exports eight geographic file formats.

Learning Curve: You can learn to use the product at a two-day course. Other support includes on-line, on-screen, and phone help and an included manual.

System Requirements: 486 PC; 16 MB RAM; 22 MB hard disk space; Windows 95, 98, or NT (32 MB RAM required).

Price: $395

PC Census
Tetrad Computer Applications, 3873 Airport Way, Box 9754, Bellingham, Washington, 98227-9754; (800) 663-1334; info@tetrad.com; http://www.tetrad.com/

Features: Designed to be used with MapInfo Professional, this program provides geocoding, trade-area and drive-time analysis, and lifestyle targeting for any area in the United States or Canada. It displays demographic data in predefined census or postal areas or in user-defined concentric circles, polygon areas, or drive-time contours. For lifestyle targeting, users define groups based on demographics, and the program finds and ranks counties, census tracts, block groups, or zip codes whose populations match the profiles. The program creates pie charts, reports, and spreadsheets, as well as thematic maps. Data can be exported to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

Data: It includes 1990 census data. Users can use their own data or purchase National Decision Systems demographics separately.

Learning Curve: It takes two hours to learn. A tutorial and manual are included. Other help includes training and online and phone support.

System Requirements: Pentium PC; 16 MB RAM; 20 MB hard disk space; Windows 95 or NT.

Price : $590 plus the cost of data for a specific region

Scan/US
Scan/US, Inc., 2032 Armacost Ave., Los Angeles, California 90025; (800) 272-2687; sales@scanus.com; http://www.scanus.com/

Features: This program produces trade-area, proximity, drive-time, site, territory, and target-mail analysis; address matching and geocoding; customer profiling; and Huff gravity models. Easy-to-use features include Find Address for street-level geocoding, QuickLook for viewing data for any location, and Site Express for producing demographic site reports. It exports maps into PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and Windows applications that can open bitmap files, and it produces pie charts, reports, labels, spreadsheets, and thematic maps. You can use maps on Web sites and in promotional materials.

Data: Included are 1990 nationwide census data and several nationwide street-level maps. Daytime populations, business data, demographic updates, consumer spending figures, lifestyle clusters, and crime-risk data are available separately. Access your own data in dBase, Excel, or ASCII formats.

Learning Curve: It takes a few minutes to map a site and produce a report. Most tasks require only a few mouse clicks. A manual is included; other available support is training and on-line, on-screen, and phone help.

System Requirements: 486 PC; 16 MB RAM; 50 MB hard disk space; Windows 3.1, 95, or NT.

Price: Starts at $495

Street Atlas USA 5.0
Delorme, 2 Delorme Drive, Yarmouth, Maine 04096; (800) 511-2459; info@delorme.com; http://www.delorme.com/

Features: This basic directional program performs address-to-address routing and address matching and geocoding. Download data from the program to a Palm Pilot palmtop computer or any laptop to track your position through a global positioning system (GPS) receiver. When connected to a GPS by a portable computer, the program provides verbal directions using GPS Voice Navigation. It also exports maps into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other applications that accept bitmap files.

Data: This program comes with street-level detail of the entire country, zip code demographic data, and a link to Phone Search USA to show locations of 98 million business and residential phone listings. Links to Internet connections provide other directional and travel data.

Learning Curve: The product takes a few minutes to learn. Support includes a manual and on-screen, on-line, and phone help.

System Requirements: 486 PC; 8 MB RAM; 30 MB hard disk space; and Windows 95, 98, or NT. A Macintosh version is available.

Price: $45

Tactician Site Targeter
Tactician Corporation, 305 N. Main St., Andover, Massachusetts 01810; (800) 927-7666; info@tactician.com; http://www.tactician.com/

Features : Create trade-area, proximity, and drive-time analysis; address matching and geocoding; promotion planning, and customer-profiling analysis. Although not Windows-based, the program provides a tutorial and step-by-step guides for each operation. It produces pie charts, reports, labels, and spreadsheets and can export maps into PowerPoint, Excel, Word, and graphic software programs. You can use maps on Web sites and in promotional materials.

Data: Map data covers the United States down to the street level. States, counties, MSAs, zip codes, and census blocks are included, along with nationwide features such as airports, military bases, and parks. It has 1990 demographic data and 1998 and 2003 projections. Add-ons include crime risk, weather risk, shopping centers, restaurants, lifestyle clusters, and expenditures. Import your own data from dBase, Lotus, and other standard formats.

Learning Curve: The program takes a few hours to learn. Support includes manual, training, and on-line, on-screen, and phone help.

System Requirements: 486 PC; 16 MB RAM; 55 MB hard disk space; and Windows 3.1, 95, or NT.

Price: $1,995 for entire United States; $995 per region

TargetPro
MapInfo Corporation, 1 Global View, Troy, New York 12180; (800) 531-9399; data@mapinfo.com; http://www.mapinfo.com/

Features: Designed as a complement to MapInfo Professional, this program produces demographic reports for standard or custom-defined areas and must be used with a mapping program to create actual maps. Aimed at users who want a quick market analysis, it exports information into Word, PowerPoint, and Excel and produces spreadsheets. You can use maps on a Web site and in promotional materials.

Data: Includes 1990 and current-year demographic estimates. Purchase additional current-year and 2002 projections, including market potential data and estimated retail sales for various products. It works with your data in MapInfo Professional as well as data in Access, Excel, and other databases.

Learning Curve: It takes less than an hour to learn; manual, training, on-line, on-screen, and phone help are available.

System Requirements: 486 PC, 16 MB RAM, 10 MB hard disk space, Windows 95 or NT.

Price: From $995 to $7,995 depending on size of area

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