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13,000 GIS Professionals Pack the San Diego Convention Center
Esri's 25th User Conference Continues Tradition of Innovation
From more than 135 countries, nearly 13,000 users packed Esri's 25th consecutive International User Conference. The conference, which was held July 2529, 2005, at the San Diego Convention Center, included approximately 1,150 paper sessions and panel discussions, more than 400 technical workshops, 112 special interest group meetings, and 23 special displays. In addition, Esri presented four concurrent conferences: the Senior Executive Seminar, Telecommunications and Location-Based Services Summit, Survey and GIS Summit, and the Education User Conference (EdUC), which had a combined attendance of approximately 1,300, as well as 38 preconference seminars that attracted more than 1,400 attendees.
Elaborating on this year's conference theme, "GISHelping Manage Our World," Esri President Jack Dangermond said, "GIS provides a particularly valuable framework for managing both human and natural activities because it facilitates the integration and analysis of complex data, making it readily accessible to scientists, planners, and the general public. The GIS framework brings physical measurements, analytical methods, and computer models into a uniform system that facilitates the analysis and maintenance of workflows and perpetuates sustainable development. Taken as a whole, GIS is improving our understanding of the natural processes of our planet at both the micro and macro levels. GIS increases efficiency, reduces costs, and promotes better decision making. Because it is presented in the context of a visual language, it stimulates communication, collaboration, and coordination. And, while GIS provides enormous benefit in this context, I believe that it can be of even greater value at the global level." (See also the related cover article by Jack Dangermond.)
Product announcements are always eagerly anticipated at the conference, and this year was no exception. The big news was the new capabilities for spatial analysis and modeling that will be available in ArcGIS 9.2, scheduled for release during the first half of 2006. David Maguire, Esri director of Products and International, and Esri's Ismael Chivite demonstrated the software. Commented Maguire, "Beyond making maps is the ability to answer complex questions through spatial analysis and modeling. As we manage our world, we quickly learn that everything changes in space and time. Nothing remains the same."
First Maguire and Chivite demonstrated the ability to take a simulation in NetCDF file format and use the new geoprocessing tools to create a raster layer to incorporate the data into the GIS. Using the new scientific charting tools, the same data was presented in tabular format, then as a wide variety of graphed displays. Using the new animation tools, simulations can be managed in real time to examine different variables and conditions. The new geoprocessing capabilities of ModelBuilder were equally impressive. The geoprocessing layer was introduced, which allows presymbolizing the results of a model in the table of contents. In addition, every time the model is run, it appears as the same layer, and the model can actually be attached to that layer.
Commented Clint Brown, Esri director of Software Products, "At 9.2, we'll see the addition of COGO construction tools and improved attribute editing and raster-to-vector conversion. In ArcGIS Survey Analyst, we'll be implementing a complete workflow so that cadastral data measurements can be integrated inside a GIS and improve support for CAD data with better annotation support, native rendering, and support for georeferencing. We will also continue to heavily support interoperability: through continued support for some of the new standards coming from the Open Geospatial Consortium, on both the server and the client, and the addition of new data sources in the Data Interoperability extension. At 9.2, we're going to be introducing a sketching tool for geographic information." (See also the cover article by Jack Dangermond.)
Peter Becker, the chief architect of the technology, discussed Esri's new Image Server, which stores images as raw scans and processes them on the fly, including radiometric balancing, pan-sharpening, and the creation of mosaics. Esri Image Server stores the raw image so that compression, color, and viewpoint can be easily changed. (See "Introducing Esri Image Server.")
Eminent primate researcher and conservation activist Jane Goodall delivered the keynote address, describing more than 40 years of studying chimpanzee communities and behavior. (See the articles about Dr. Jane Goodall.)
Recognition for outstanding achievement in GIS is a time-honored tradition at the International User Conference. This year, the Presidential Award went to NESA, the Danish energy company and longtime user of Esri software. Accepting the award was Rene Vedo, executive vice president of Information Technology and Customer Service at the company. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. David Cowen of the University of South Carolina. The university became Esri customer number 7 in 1976 and was the first university to use Esri software. Chuck Johnson, chief of the Land Resources Branch of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation received the Distinguished Service in GIS Award. Students at the Waterville Elementary School in Waterville, Washington, won the Youth GIS/GIS in Education Award for their NatureMapping Project, which tracked the environment and mobility of small-horned lizards. In addition, nearly 150 Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) awards were presented by Dangermond with winners coming from throughout the world. The awards highlighted a great diversity in GIS applications but were all similar in the high quality demonstrated in their work. Winners from the ArcWeb Services Challenge included Argo Navigation (first); Ecology and Environment, Inc. (second); and Sportsim (third). (See ArcWeb Services Challenge article.)
The fifth annual EdUC attracted more than 500 educators. New data products introduced included the 2005 Community Information for Education and the 2005 SourcebookoAmerica. Other useful resources discussed included the lesson plans and ideas for incorporating GIS technology into classroom lessons found at www.esri.com/arclessons. David Rumsey, whose Rumsey Collection of historical maps is one of the largest and most complete of its kind, presented the keynote address and discussed historical and contemporary methods of teaching geography. "I'm particularly focused on gaming technology now," Rumsey said. "Flying through maps, zooming init's what kids know."
The 2005 Survey and GIS Summit opened with the emphasis on GIS as the framework for integrating surveying, engineering, and GIS processes. Surveyors locate and create the data, engineers build on top of it, and GIS professionals create maps for analysis. Technical demos at the summit illustrated the new developments in Esri software for surveyors, including the advanced capabilities in ArcGIS 9 for the integration of CAD and GIS.
A Retrospective: 25 Years of Esri International User Conferences was one of a number of popular special displays at the conference. The exhibition featured facts, photos, and user conference paraphernalia from the past 25 years. Commenting on the first Esri user conference, Dangermond said, "We formulated a series of principles for how we should work together and agreed on a business model of licensing and technical support that was sustainable and worked for everyone. These principles are conceptually the same today. This started an adaptive process in which Esri works on user needs, is guided by technology advancements, and creates solutions and innovations."
Concluded Dangermond, "I experienced and observed so much during that first conference that I realized once again the significance of all of our cumulative efforts as reflected in our users' applications and systems. The conference clearly showed we are helping many people, and our willingness to listen and strive to do better in making users successful is an important part of our success."