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A Look at GIS Applications in Different Industries

Last week I attended the GIS Colorado’s winter meeting. During this daylong event, a number of organizations presented on a wide variety of GIS software applications. The Colorado Department of Transportation presented on tracking and analyzing snow plow performance, a topic that hits close to home as we are currently buried in over a foot of snow here in Golden, Colorado. Another presenting government agency was the US Census Bureau as they prepare for the upcoming 2020 US Census. From the private sector, Astadia gave a demonstration on their augmented reality tool for locating assets, AECOM described their use of Hazus to prevent dam breaks, and Critigen showed how they visualize fish habitats. We also heard from the Colorado Geographic Alliance who is working to bring a Giant Traveling Map of Colorado to kids here in our home state

GIS has such a wide range of applications. As such, it has become a key component within any organization. GIS allows us to visualize and analyze our data to better understand trends and relationships. Where should a transmitter be constructed with the least visible impact to the surrounding community? What is the best way to evacuate a town in case of an emergency? What will happen to the river biology if a kayak park is constructed upstream? These are a few of the many questions GIS can help answer.

It’s exciting to see so many industries embrace GIS and turn it into a critical component of their organization. How do you incorporate GIS software in your organization?



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24 November 2015

When you installed Surfer 13, you might have noticed the request to be part of our customer tracking program. What is this? This isn’t where we track your personal data or use any personal information from your computer. What this entails is Golden Software checking to see what commands you use in Surfer. That’s all. We want to see what you click and how many times you click it. 

Why is this important? This tells us which features are used the most, and which features are used the least. The more times a feature is used, the more weight it carries when the time comes for us to discuss which new improvements to include in the next upgrade. For example, if the results show that most people create contour maps and very few people use vector maps, we may favor new features and enhancements for contour maps over vector maps. 

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Customer tracking helps us determine the most popular commands and map types used in the program so we can focus our upgrades on features that matter to you the most.

I recently reviewed the customer tracking results for Surfer 13, from its release date in July 2015 until now. I was looking at all the commands and their numbers and thinking to myself that there must be a good way to graph this, so I can visualize the separation of the popular features from the not-as-popular ones.  It is much easier to draw trends from a graph than by simply looking at a table of raw data.  I realized I just recently read an excellent newsletter article about solving this exact problem using a Pareto plot! The Pareto plot was just what I was looking for. The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) can be applied to say 80% of requests can be solved by “fixing” (or enhancing) 20% of the features.  The newsletter is available to read here: Use the 80/20 Rule to Make Difficult Decisions Easier with Grapher

So what features in Surfer are used 80% of the time?  By massaging the data, I created two Pareto plots in Grapher: one showing the most commonly used commands (not including delete, copy, paste, and zoom commands), and a second showing the most commonly created map types.   

The first graph of the command usage shows that the Grid | Grid Data command is miles ahead of any other command used in Surfer. Of course I could see that from the raw data, but the discrepancy really hits home when plotted and viewed on a graph.  The Grid Data command was clicked over 28,000 times, while the next most popular command (File | Export) was clicked on only 13,000 times.

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The most commonly used command by far is Grid Data, represented by the tall bar at the far left, with over 28,000 clicks!

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The most popular command is Grid Data, followed by File | Export. The first 31 commands in red above are the commands used 80% of the time.

I used the same graph type to determine what map types are created 80% of the time in Surfer 13. The image below shows that contour, base, and post maps were the most commonly created map types. After years on technical support, I know that these map types are what users create most often and so this was not surprising to me.

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The usage tracking data shows that contour, base, post and 3D surfaces are the most commonly created map types created in Surfer.

What was surprising (at least to me) was that very few users create classed post maps. I create classed post maps often. Classed post maps are an excellent way to depict classes of data points, whether they are well types, sample types, or the name of the individual taking the sample, and they are also a great tool to use for quality control when checking grid results. Another recent blog article discussed using classed post maps for visually verifying grid results (see: Visually Verifying Grid Results).

Create post maps to display different classes of points.

Overlay a classed post map of the original data over generated contours to assess accuracy.

Now using these tracking results is not an exact science, and creating plots like the one above certainly doesn’t mean we are only going to add improvements to only the most popular features, especially since it only shows the usage of existing functions and cannot account for new functionality that doesn’t exist yet. However, the tracking data is another tool for us to use to see what current functions our customers actually use.  This information is used in conjunction with growing trends in the industry, customer requests on our suggestion file, and the time a request takes to implement to create our feature lists for an upgrade.

So what does this mean for you? It means that if you want the features you use most to be enhanced, please enable customer tracking! We want to see how you use Surfer and what features you use. The more numbers we get, the better we can design new features and improvements that help your workflow. You can enable (or disable) customer tracking within Surfer by:

  1. Clicking Tools | Options.
  2. On the General page, checking the Track usage option.
  3. Clicking OK.  

Again, no personal information is sent about you, only about the commands you use. If you have a specific request for something you’d like to see in Surfer, please email it to!



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20 November 2015

Users often combine Golden Software's mapping and griding software products to produce their final project. In the summer of 2007, a study was conducted by Dr. Richard Crawford of the Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC) in conjunction with the Valdez Fisheries Development Association to develop a tool to enhance the evaluation of fish abundance with their commercial-grade echo sounders. The goal was to maximize the harvesting of brood stock at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery. For their analysis, PWSSC used a combination of Surfer, Voxler, and Grapher to complete the study of Enhancing in-house assessment of pink salmon returns at Solomon Gulch Hatchery in Alaska. See the full report for additional information.

Prince William Science Center, located in Cordova, Alaska.

As Richard describes, “We explored the use of three-dimensional modeling for studying fish distribution and behavior at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery in Prince William Sound by combining traditional fisheries acoustics techniques with the novel use of Geographic Information System (GIS) modeling and graphical visualization. The goal was to gather information to help optimize escapement for brood stock while maximizing the opportunity for harvesting the surplus for cost recovery and the open fishery. Golden Software products Surfer, Voxler and Grapher were perfect for the task.”

Isosurfaces were created in Voxler to display the
volume visualization for the schools of fish. This allows the true
shape of the fish schools to be displayed.

A Voxler image reflecting the fish
distribution along a bathymetric feature.

A 3D surface in Surfer, displaying the study area showing
the East and West schools of fish concentrated along the
shelf break (light and dark blue patches).



Surfer contour and base map overlays showing the main bodies of fish
at the West School (left) and East School (right).


A Grapher bar chart and line graphs display a
modeled distribution of the schools of fish.

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