State Spotlight: Utah

Matt Peters
Automated Geographic Reference Center Director

Interviewed by Tim Bohn | November 28, 2018


For Utah GIO Matt Peters, successful statewide GIS coordination is all about communicating a vision and helping everyone speak the same language. It takes strategy and finesse, he said, to “make sure the tide raises all boats.”

Helping stakeholders embrace that vision means focusing on the data rather than getting caught up in the technology. “Data is the foundation and is fundamental to analysis,” he said. “For example, address ranges affect geocoding, so if the quality is not there, nothing moves forward. Today … improved, polished data [is available] for use in web services. Point-in-polygon matching is also more accurate.”

In fact, said Peters, the goal is that “the map is an afterthought [because] it’s all about the data. Used data gets better.”

Coordination and collaboration is a theme for Utah GIS. Peters named his office’s work with counties and overall data gathering as a success story for the state. Data for roads, addresses, and parcels, for example, are used by multiple entities and have become a community effort. That data feeds so many more uses: 9-1-1, elections, and analysis of public and charter schools for funding purposes, to name just a few.

His team keeps gis.utah.gov up-to-date and offers visitors a way to edit the page on GitHub. The Automated Geographic Reference Center has a newsletter and a guest blog. (Subscribe to learn more, he invited.)

Utah’s State Geographic Information Database predates Peters’ involvement in state GIS, having been established in 1984. Data goes in, then is exported out and put in different areas for people to use as downloads and services. While the structure is solidly in place, they need to bring along state agencies that have enterprise data. Utah, he said, “needs a data maturity assessment to identify needed improvements.”

Lidar is in progress, with questions now about how to expand coverage and keep it consistent. The populated areas are or will soon be covered, but with so many federal lands in Utah, there are holes. While Google currently provides Utah’s imagery, things change over time, Peters said, and there is no guarantee where it will go.

Peters is keeping a watch on how behemoths like Google and Amazon are entering the geospatial marketplace. “They are now invested, but what will they do? Who will rule the world of GIS?” he mused.

In 25 years, Peters has progressed from part-time worker to supervisor to director of the GIS office. He’s been in his current position for about six months and sees real value in participating in NSGIC, which provides “camaraderie and the security blanket to remind you that you are not alone.”

Peters’ extracurricular interests tend to be of the liquid variety. He enjoys coffee, he said, along with cocktails, ales, porters, and stouts. He’s also an avid bike rider; he has ridden his bike to work every day since he ditched his car for the greener alternative six years ago.