Location services system

A location services system is used to deliver ready-to-use, location-based services for enterprise-wide and/or public use. This pattern can support a variety of location-based capabilities including basemaps, places, geocoding, routing, and spatial analytics, and deliver an organization’s own location-based foundational data services to the enterprise. The location services system is a foundational system, often delivering capabilities to other systems within the enterprise.

A location services system pattern delivers value to an organization through various characteristics, such as:

  • Delivering authoritative, foundational geospatial content and capabilities to all the maps, applications, systems, and workflows within an organization.
  • Centralizing the operations and management of the core location services that are powering an organization.
  • Exposing standards-based service application programming interfaces (APIs) that work directly with your mapping and location-based applications and can be integrated into just about any system or workflow using your software development kit (SDK) of choice.

It is common for organizations to leverage a combination of services that are hosted and managed by Esri (as SaaS or PaaS), such as a global satellite basemap, in addition to services hosted and managed by the organization in their own location services system, such as assets or customer locations.

If you’re new to ArcGIS system patterns, review the introduction first.

User personas and workflows

Location services systems support a wide range of user personas and workflows; however, users typically interact with location services indirectly via other systems, and the applications provided by those systems. These systems include, but are not limited to, self-service mapping, analysis, and sharing systems as well as enterprise application hosting and management systems. Learn more about related system patterns.

Note that content creators and application developers may interact directly with location services systems when designing and building applications.


Location services systems are used by almost every application, as they are foundational to most workflows and use of ArcGIS. However, applications that use location services are typically provided by other systems.

One application that is commonly provided by a location services system, specifically in support of content creators and application developers, is an experience for publishing, managing, and exploring location services. Most deployment patterns include the portal website, serving as a discovery portal, where content creators and application developers can find, explore, and interact with location services such as basemaps, geocoding, and spatial analysis. The PaaS deployment pattern is a bit unique, and includes a management console known as the ArcGIS Developer dashboard.

Custom applications built with mapping APIs and SDKs are also common, though these are typically hosted and managed through a related system pattern.

For more information on the full spectrum of applications provided by ArcGIS, see application architecture in the ArcGIS overview.


The primary capabilities supported by the location services system pattern are introduced below.


Not all capabilities described below are available in all deployment patterns. See selecting a deployment pattern and the deployment pattern pages for more information on how these capabilities apply (or don’t apply) in various deployment contexts.

  • Mapping and visualization allow users to create as well as interact with 2D maps and 3D scenes. This includes data-driven visualization, 3D visualization, as well as basemap styling. Learn more about maps and visualization.
  • Basemaps are web-based layers that provide overall visual context for maps and scenes. There are different types of basemaps, including vector tile basemaps, image tile basemaps, and multi-layer basemaps. Learn more about basemap layers.
  • Reference data layers are web-based layers of data that provide additional visual and analytical context for maps, scenes, and other geospatial workflows. The reference data layers provided through a location services system tend to be commonly used layers by a wide variety of use cases across an organization. There are different types of data layers, including ArcGIS data layers and OGC data layers. Learn more about data layers.
  • Place search enables searching for places (also known as places of interest, or POIs) near a location or within a bounding box. Places also contain valuable details (attributes) such as name, category, street address, marketing district, contact information, website, social links, hours of operations, price ratings, and user ratings. Learn more about places.
  • Geocoding is the process of converting text to an address and a location. Geocoding enables searching for an address (geocode), reverse geocoding, finding candidate matches, getting suggestions, and batch geocoding. Learn more about geocoding.
  • Route and directions involves finding the best path from an origin to a destination for an individual or single vehicle. Also known as simple routing, this capability takes into consideration many different data parameters in the street network such as speed limit, number of lanes, and time of day. This capability can also generate driving directions. Learn more about route and directions.
  • Data enrichment, also known as GeoEnrichment, is the process of finding demographic data and local facts data for locations around the world. Data enrichment allows you to gain location-based insight about the people and places in an area. Data enrichment includes thousands of data variables available at global and local scales. Learn more about data enrichment.
  • Network analysis helps solve complex network problems (typically on street networks) such as creating an optimized route to visit many destinations, finding the closest facility, identifying a service area around a location, or servicing a set of orders with a fleet of vehicles. It can also create a travel cost matrix and find the best place to locate a new facility. Learn more about routing and network analysis capabilities.
  • Geometry analysis is the process of using a client-side API to perform one or more operations on a point, polyline, or polygon to solve a geometric problem. Types of geometry analysis include spatial relationships, geometric calculations, measurement operations, and projection of data to new spatial references. Learn more about geometry analysis and how geometry analysis compares to feature analysis.

The location services system does not include data hosting in its scope, despite data hosting is sometimes considered a location services. Data hosting capabilities are provided by other system patterns, including self-service mapping, analysis, and sharing systems and enterprise application hosting and management systems. See related system patterns for more information.

Architecture considerations

Location services systems are built using ArcGIS. This section describes in more detail how location services systems align with and focus on specific aspects of the ArcGIS architecture.

For more detailed architecture considerations, see selecting a deployment pattern.

Data (persistence)

Location services system data architecture considerations

Location services systems work primarily with relational or imagery data stored in file, object, databases, and cloud data warehouse stores. The ArcGIS data models and rules are employed to support rich mapping, visualization, and analysis capabilities provided by location services. Industry-specific data models may be applied in some situations for reference data layers. NoSQL data stores such as document stores and graph databases are not typically used in support of location services systems.

Services (logic)

Location services system services architecture considerations

The services or logic tier delivers the location services. This includes interactive mapping and visualization, support for basemaps and reference data layers, as well as data querying, access, enrichment, and analytics. The services tier also makes available spatial enablement capabilities through geocoding and geometry services. More advanced or specialized data, visualization, and analysis services are typically not provided through location services systems, but are instead provided by related system patterns. In some cases those advanced analytic capabilities are supported by location services provided by this pattern, such as routing, directions, and network analysis services.

The portal services participating in location services systems include user and access management, typically required for managing access to private or secured location services, as well as search, cataloging, and management of location services. Location services systems typically do not provide content creation, sharing, and collaboration capabilities. See related system patterns to learn more about how these capabilities are typically provided by complementary system patterns.

The ArcGIS REST API is used as the main endpoint into the system for application access, though some applications may leverage other services-based APIs.

Applications (presentation)

Location services system application architecture considerations

Location services systems are used by almost every GIS-powered application, as they are foundational to most workflows and use of ArcGIS. However, applications that use location services are typically provided by other systems. It is common for application developers to make direct use of the location services system through mapping APIs and SDKs.

For more information, see the applications section above.


Location services systems are commonly used to provide mission or business critical location services and capabilities to a broad spectrum of users, workflows, and systems across an organization’s enterprise. For this reason, location services systems are typically designed and operated with high levels of reliability, security, observability, performance, and scalability. Strong governance practices and standards can also help ensure that the location services system is able to mature, expand, and evolve according to the needs of the business while at the same time adhering to non-functional, IT requirements.

Location services systems are typically integrated into many systems across an organization’s enterprise, and therefore may also support business operations that are unknown or unavailable to systems administrators. This typically demands use of metadata, monitoring, and service-level agreements (SLAs).

For general support and architecture considerations, see architecture practices as well as the architecture pillars of the ArcGIS Well-Architected Framework.

Location services are foundational to many geospatial use cases. As a result, location services systems are commonly integrated or combined with other ArcGIS system patterns. Some common examples include:

For more information on integrating or composing system patterns, see using system patterns


A premier example of a location services system is ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World provided by Esri. ArcGIS Living Atlas is the foremost collection of geographic information from around the globe, including basemaps and other data layers such as imagery, boundaries, and infrastructure, and designed to support a wide variety of workflows and use cases. The location services provided by ArcGIS Living Atlas are discoverable through ArcGIS Living Atlas web portal, and come wired into software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software based deployments of ArcGIS.

Industry-specific examples of location services systems include:

  • Commercial. Organizations in commercial real estate, financial services, and retail sectors can utilize a location services system pattern to offer geocoding and custom basemap services for internal audiences. Commercial organizations use Location Services to share custom basemaps and industry penetration reports. These Location Services might become part of other offerings, but in this pattern, they are static reference guides for employees.
  • Health and human services. The risk of diseases and other health issues can vary greatly by location. Researchers in health care and public health organizations can utilize a location services system pattern to efficiently share epidemiology data with vast audiences in the form of REST web services. Location services such as routing and geocoding can be used to share public service information like vaccination locations and other health related services. Health and Human Services agencies might also use Location Services to create custom endpoints for their staff and users accessible to their internal networks. Particularly for staff tasked with running spatial analysis of PHI data in a network disconnected from the internet.
  • Insurance. Insurers use spatial data to help manage risk and appropriately price their insurance policies. They can utilize a Location services System Pattern to share information publicly related to disasters and support efforts. Insurance companies might leverage Location Services System Patterns to optimize claims processing and catastrophe response.
  • National government. National agencies often collect large amounts of data about social, economic, and environmental activity. Using a location services system pattern, they can share data widely with users and evaluate policy outcomes. They can offer basemaps and endpoints including points of interest, weather, hydrology, routing, geocoding and geoenrichment. National Government Location Services include large imagery offerings, land assessments and land records, both current and historical.
  • Natural resources. With a location services system pattern, oil and gas companies can share geoenrichment services and basemaps for increased situational awareness. Natural resources organizations might also host regulatory indicators and imagery services enabling their users and employees to make more informed decisions. Natural Resource extraction organizations might offer custom basemaps and imagery to gain competitive insight and streamline daily workflows.
  • State and local government. State and local agencies rely on data to help them provide effective services to citizens. With a location services system pattern, they can share local basemaps with branded symbology and routing. State and Local Government Organizations often host read-only information products, like access to the parcel layer REST web services. State and Local organizations support a variety of agencies such as elections airports, and public safety, each of these agencies benefits from shared location services like basemaps, geocoding, and geoenrichment. They can offer geoenrichment to their citizens as well as read only maps related to ongoing workorders, construction projects, traffic services and more.
  • Telecommunications. With a location services system pattern, telecommunication organizations can alert users and customers to outages, work orders, service areas and contact information. They can use Location Services to reach many hundreds of users at once and keep them apprised of issues which might affect their services.
  • Transportation. Transportation agencies can use a Location Service Pattern to provide up to date traffic and network disruptions. These location services can be used for planning and public safety agencies.
  • Utilities. Utilities can use a location services system pattern to review historical usage and outage information, then correlate that data with weather patterns and other local conditions to understand which factors drive higher usage and increase outage risk. These services help Utility Users improve usage forecasting, prioritize preventative maintenance, and predict customer service needs.