The Esri User Conference in San Diego each summer is the largest GIS event of the year and there was certainly no disappointment this week as the biggest crowd ever gathered for the first day plenary sessions. According to Jack Dangermond, founder and president, the plenary held over 14,000 people with more than 15,000 expected in the final total by the end of the week. There were plenty of announcements made by Esri which were enthusiastically received even though many had been “leaked” during the weeks before. Jack’s own famous (and lengthy) pre-conference Q&A provided hours of early study material as did The Road Ahead for ArcGIS article in the summer issue of ArcNews for those who wanted a preview of what we would hear today.
While it would be a monumental task to cover everything presented, the highlights I think that are appropriate for public safety agencies to consider are more manageable and most significantly are not necessarily technology based. A major thought Jack drove hard was a discussion of “understanding understanding” or the role that GIS plays in making information understood. It wasn’t all about new cloud-based services, but extending a practical concept of “one map”. That is the creation and authoring of data, mashed together into “intelligent web maps” and disseminated for collaboration. After all, GIS is not just about visualization, but powerful analytics and even the value of business management. The focus of the morning was clearly functional – from an operational perspective rather than just pandering to the technologists. While there was plenty of demonstration of specific new tools coming in version 10.1, the driving factor was definitely value and productivity. Another interesting concept that was clear was the co-evolution of GIS with related technologies like 3D (specifically LiDAR or even “indoors” and visualization rendering), imagery, and social media (“crowdsourcing”) forming a practical platform for analysis, problem-solving, and prediction.
Most surprisingly was that the word “cloud” was not used much at all, however the evidence of the platform was clear in new managed service options coming available through ArcGIS Online which has become a true platform to simplify and help manage the elastic demand for “intelligent web maps” during disasters. These Esri subscription services will soon be available through ArcGIS Online. While some critics bristle at security concerns or a perceived lack of control, this option is increasingly interesting to many emergency managers especially as bandwidth-intensive GIS maps take a bigger role in sharing situational information in crisis management without administration hassles. ArcGIS Explorer is also growing up with new capabilities to read services like KML and WMS as well as produce Microsoft PowerPoint-style presentations with even more interactive geographic story telling capabilities. Additionally, ArcGIS Online is becoming time-enabled and even more timely in its ability to share layers from many diverse sources represented uniformly. ArcGIS Online also is getting significant new basemap options such as oceans for marine studies and publication quality National Geographic cartography.
The Community Analyst is another little known secret application from Esri providing flexible tools for searching and summarizing demographic data. A free 14-day trial of the application is available for evaluation. Imagery will add many new powerful tools at 10.1 making it faster and more useful with options to measure 3D qualities similar to Pictometry. And functionality from MapIt is now being repackaged as ArcGIS Server templates to integrate Microsoft SharePoint or IBM COGNOS. Another popular announcement was native 64-bit support for ArcGIS Server.
Several application examples from the “Special Achievement in GIS” (SAG) award winners were quickly displayed and more lengthy reviews of applications from the City of Boston were also provided as examples of “footprints for us to follow.” You can watch recorded videos of the plenary sessions and more online.
If you were there yourself, what was your favorite memory?