From the Lord of the Rings to Building Experiential GIS Solutions

Ever since I followed Frodo Baggins’ adventures through Middle Earth using the maps in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I understood the power of maps to communicate visually where words alone fail.
— Justin Schneider

Justin Schneider began his career building websites for a marketing agency, telling the stories of how each client’s product could improve their target demographic’s life. Wanting to get more experience with application development, Justin secured a position with GeoDecisions, the geospatial division of Gannett Fleming, in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, in 2015. It was here that he was finally able to explore his lifelong passion for communicating data spatially in a way that words alone cannot accomplish.

Transforming Community Engagement

As part of a team of like-minded co-workers at GeoDecisions, Justin helped develop CityScout, a community engagement application where citizens can report issues to their local authorities. Differentiating this application from others already available is the ability for retailers and other organizations to set up events launching campaigns that encourage people to check in at different locations, prompting engagement with their brand. The concept included creating a progression system, where users would acquire points for participating in activities, including organized communitywide challenges. After the idea for CityScout was selected as a finalist during Gannett Fleming’s annual innovation challenge, the project was provided additional resources for implementation. Justin was chosen to utilize his user experience and game development background to build the front-end design of the application with engaging graphics and “gamification” elements.

Revolutionizing Infrastructure Design

The following year, the team reassembled to plan their next entry to the innovation challenge – urging Gannett Fleming to create a GIS-enhanced virtual reality (VR) division to support the engineering business lines. At first, Justin was a detractor, thinking VR was a fad that would come and go out of fashion. After being shown some of the projects that were possible with VR, he was blown away and anxious to assist the team in developing its next idea.

Justin and the team worked with one of the engineers from the Geotechnical, Dams, Hydraulics business line to create a better way to interact with hydrology simulations. The engineer was able to create videos, but these were static. The team was able to bring together GIS-based topography models, hydrology models, and a BIM model to create a virtual environment to improve the understanding of the intricacies involved with the dam’s design. By presenting projects in this interactive environment, engineers and designers can provide an enhanced experience providing clients with the ability to immerse themselves in the solution and visually interact with all the data layers.

Outside of gaming, VR is not known as a mainstream solution for business challenges. There is a vast market that is ready to grow exponentially. GeoDecisions is excited to be at the forefront with GeoInnovators like Justin. Learn more about our AR/VR technology services.


GeoInnovator is a new blog feature where you will find our amazing staff highlighted throughout the year. Everyone is important, but the staff in this spotlight exhibit a contagious enthusiasm for producing innovative geospatial solutions. They are GeoInnovators, and we want you to get to know them.