The Esri® Federal GIS Conference kicked off with another inspiring video calling to arms those of us in the spatial IT industry to become even more engaged in making a difference in the global struggle against poverty, lack of education, social justice, ethnic conflict, deforestation, and climate change. I would say that the more than 4,000-member audience consumed this opening video and Esri President Jack Dangermond’s initial presentation segment with rapt attention. I especially loved his annual “GIS Heroes” awards presentation to individuals making significant contributions to the field, including John Brockhaus. For the past 22 years John has been educating our young command staff at the United States Military Academy at West Point on how to leverage geospatial technologies.
Jack’s presentation laid out Esri’s vision of geospatial technology using the terms ‘Data-Analytics-Action.” Accordingly, GIS professionals and everyday citizens alike have the unprecedented opportunity to apply geography everywhere. GIS provides the framework and supports the processes to realize that vision.
System of Engagement
Jack reiterated a message that we have seen recently at other Esri conferences, in Esri News, and in publications such as ArcUser that a whole new pattern of GIS is evolving- one they term "Web GIS." While GIS has historically supported systems of record within organizations, it now extends as a system of engagement that is usable by those organizations for enhanced integration and collaboration. Services-driven, GIS is a system of engagement that connects, manages identity, offers real-time data, and can be accessed anywhere from any device. It expands the impact of technology across the organization in unique ways.
Other emerging trends presented during the opening session demonstrated how Esri software offerings support and may also accelerate global technological evolution and the democratization of information. For example, the GIS Hub concept referred to the current open data platform trend supporting accessibility between and among government, businesses, and citizens. The Geo-Information Model acted as an abstracted intermediate data construct connecting authoritative enterprise databases, imagery, maps, and real-time sensor content. It served up maps, layers, and scenes to consumers of that data on their various devices.
As usual, the plenary showcased emerging Esri technology such as ArcGIS Earth, positioned to replace the soon-to-be-deprecated Google Earth. Beyond simply visualizing data in 3-D, ArcGIS Earth spatially analyzes that data. Enhanced imagery content served up for ready use by maps and apps also was highlighted along with new spatial analytical tools like Bayesian Regression (as my inner map geek calls out - finally!). This tool allows analysts to determine the statistical correlation between an independent variable and multiple dependent variables.
Enhanced Problem Solving
Big data and geoanalytics were a particular focus, and Esri is not disappointing those of us who support larger clients with massive data holdings. The intriguing Insights software product, for example, was demonstrated for the first time at a conference. Esri revealed to us an innovative user interface to explore and apply interactive analyses to tables, charts, and maps simultaneously in a user-friendly workspace. Their big data offerings enable analysis of real-time events versus historic data and normal behavior so as to identify exceptions and abnormal behavior.
As is often the case, I left the plenary presentation energized and excited about the new tools we will soon have at our disposal as GIS professionals. These technology resources enhance and extend our ability to solve today’s difficult problems and the future’s promised complexity.