Esri Acquires ClearTerra To Expand Location-Based Support For Unstructured Data

When you then add the ability to geo-enrich that unstructured data for artificial intelligence with a GIS, "the applications can be endless," says Esri Partner Exec Jeff Wilson.

Mapping analytics platform Esri has bought technology from ClearTerra, a provider in geospatial and “activity-based intelligence” tools designed to enhance the location tech company’s ability to manage unstructured data .

Specifically, Esri’s acquisition will give its ArcGIS platform clients the ability to easily discover and extract geographic coordinates from unstructured textual data like emails, briefings, and reports, instantly generating intelligent map-based information.

While the geospatial capabilities are primarily aimed at defense, intelligence, and public safety organizations, which tend to have massive volumes of unstructured data, it also has increasingly become important to industries such as petroleum, utilities, and maritime, “where locating information on the earth is not as easy as searching for a street address,” says Jeff Wilson, partner executive, Defense & Intelligence for Esri.

“We have been close partners with Esri for a number of years,” said Jeff Wilson, former vice president of sales for ClearTerra, now an executive for defense and intelligence with Esri. “Esri has the platform and resources to provide a solid path going forward for our technology, allowing us to expand this capability to the global market.”

Understanding Unstructured Data

As the wider use of artificial intelligence and Connected Intelligence have been used to power voice activation and real-time marketing programs, the role of location technology has been central to making the fullest use of these tools.

And understanding unstructured data is also a central part of those efforts around AI for marketing purposes.

To further explain unstructured data Margaret Rouse, writing for Search Business Analytics, “textual unstructured data is generated in media like email messages, PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, collaboration software and instant messages. Non-textual unstructured data is generated in media like JPEG images, MP3 audio files and Flash video files.” It also increasingly includes voice, as intelligent assistants proliferate.

ClearTerra LocateXT technology allows analysts to rapidly scan through documents without having to spend hours reading, copying, pasting, and running spreadsheet formulas, placing the results instantly into geospatial features, Esri says.

We turned to Esri’s Wilson for the details on what the integration of ClearTerra’s tech into the company means for its capabilities and clients, particularly as Esri’s efforts into powering programs like Smart Cities and transportation expand.

GeoMarketing: Does this acquisition add something completely new to existing Esri software or does it complement and enhance Esri’s current capabilities?

Jeff Wilson: The ClearTerra acquisition adds something completely new to the Esri platform. It opens up the ability to make use of unstructured data. Right now, Esri works with its partners, like ClearTerra, to provide this ability. With the acquisition, Esri can now expand the use case across a different class of users, specifically non-GIS users.

As alluded to in the release, looking beyond defense industries, what are the potential marketing/advertising applications for the addition of ClearTerra’s offerings for Esri clients?

In many industries, people capture spatial information in documents because they are not always comfortable using modern technology to capture data, like GIS for example. Instead they write location data in emails, documents and spreadsheets. Especially in industries such as energy or maritime, there are not a lot of addresses that are readily available to describe where things are located. Being able to identify something by its location, like a reef, for example, can be very powerful.

Unstructured data appears to be much more important as artificial intelligence and voice activated devices become more mainstream. How does ClearTerra help Esri manage unstructured data for location?

I think unstructured data and Artificial Intelligence go hand-in-hand. In many cases, people deal with unstructured data by using AI algorithms. This can speed up processes used to find data that is relevant.

These algorithms can be trained to subparse data and then ClearTerra technology is used to extract what is needed. Leveraging AI to reduce massive amounts of data to more manageable amounts of data allows us to be more tactical. When you then add the ability to geo-enrich that data with a GIS, the applications can be endless.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.