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The ArcGIS 9.2 Release Is the Focus of the Conference Opening Session
Esri User Conference Promotes Communication
The 26th Annual Esri International User Conference got under way with a message about this year's theme from Jack Dangermond. "Our world needs better understanding, and GIS is the medium that helps us understand and communicate our world," he told attendees at the opening session. He described his vision for using the Web to create a shared geographic knowledge environment to the audience members who came from 112 countries to participate in the conference whose theme was Geography and GISCommunicating Our World. In addition, Bob Kerrey, former Nebraska senator, presented the keynote address (see cover story; see also the complete keynote address).
Registration exceeded 13,000 this year for the August 711 event in San Diego, California. The conference included 300 technical workshops, 1,100 paper presentations, more than 150 special interest group meetings, and more than 30 regional user group meetings. In the Exhibit Hall, more than 300 companies provided software demonstrations, and their representatives were on hand to answer users' questions. The Esri Showcase provided attendees with direct access to Esri staff who were available with information about software developments, professional services, education, sales, and marketing. More than 800 maps were on display throughout the week at the Map Gallery, and more than 30 GIS displays dotted the convention.
Special GIS displays included National Geographic's My Wonderful World. This program is working to bring tools to U.S. students to help them become more informed global citizens. Another exhibit highlighted the role of GIS in the response, rescue, relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts during and after Hurricane Katrina. One of the earliest Esri software users, the U.S. Department of the Interior, also had a display of its work that included demonstrations.
Building a Common Understanding
During the plenary session, Dangermond talked about the role of GIS in providing a systematic and integrative framework for modeling, visualizing, and sharing geographic data. He said that GIS responds to both the cognitive and intuitive sides of what individuals understand. "This is creating order and meaning for us on the planet. It's helping us to define the interconnections and interdependencies and provides a broad understanding of nature and human ecology. GIS is a new medium that is building a common understanding and creating an immediate sense of engagement."
The Web, Dangermond said, is introducing new, dynamic ways for interacting with geographic information. GIS on the Web, or the "GeoWeb," is providing many additional possibilities for GIS professionals to leverage the full stack of geographic knowledge. New enabling technologies, including faster machines, mobile devices, increased bandwidth, and more storage capacity, will provide a new way of thinking about GIS (one that is open, interoperable, and distributed).
Introducing Esri's new software developments, Dangermond said, "Esri's development focus is primarily on making our users more productive. The new 9.2 release is easier to use and more reliable and contains many new capabilities (see cover story). It promises to be our biggest and most productive release." Members of the audience saw presentations that showed the many ways the new software will make their everyday tasks easier. Users will find better quality and productivity, including keyboard shortcuts for map navigation, new Identify tool capabilities, and table improvements. In the area of increased performance, ArcGIS Desktop offers upgrades in geodatabase filing, geocoding, terrain building, charting, and animation.
For improved interoperability, Esri development focused on supporting different categories of standards, making ArcGIS Server a truly open platform and first in the technology area with strong support for IT and Web services. ArcGIS Server supports a family of open APIs including CAD and KML. Features stored in the geodatabase are accessible in a variety of software platforms, such as AutoCAD, GeoMedia, and Google Earth.
"With ArcGIS Server, we're introducing a complete system for authoring, serving, and using technology," said Dangermond. "It's open, interoperable, and standards based so that it will integrate well with other kinds of geospatial technology." Several demonstrations highlighted open accessibility using ArcGIS Server, as well as its easy-to-use clients, powerful GIS functionality, and options for integrating seamlessly with other enterprise information systems.
The ArcGIS Server Web mapping application is an out-of-the-box client that uses the latest AJAX technology, enabling the user to do multiple tasks at the same time, such as integrate multiple services with different formats, do on-the-fly projections, and show transparency to see one service on top of another. This Web mapping application is also included in ArcIMS 9.2.
The ArcGIS Image Server discussion showed how it integrates and serves fresh imagery quickly and efficiently, saving processing time. The exciting ArcGIS Explorer was also introduced during the product demonstrations. Another out-of-the-box client of ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Explorer is an excellent visualization tool with spatial analysis capabilities.
ArcGIS Mobile is a developer toolkit for building smart client applications that can connect mobile devices for real-time access to data in the field. Immediate data retrieval is critical in emergency situations. ArcGIS Mobile can be used in a variety of other applications, including forestry, transportation, and defense venues. Dangermond also discussed a number of Esri's solution software products.
The Customer Care portal uses service-oriented architecture and Web portal technology to help Esri's users get what they need efficiently. Nick Frunzi of Esri Education and Training demonstrated how users can view their account activity, get training, and view information about licenses and agreements.
Acknowledging GIS Accomplishments
This year, Making a Difference awards went to two recipients for their distinguished service in GIS. Drs. N. Vijayaditya and Vandana Sharma were recognized for their work with the National Informatics Centre of India where they have built a national infrastructure of geospatial information, which focuses on improving rural development in India.
A Making a Difference award was also presented to Lt. General James R. Clapper, Jr., U.S. Air Force (retired) and former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He was recognized for his leadership at the agency and for his massive contributions during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
Director general and chief executive officer of the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, Dr. Vanessa Lawrence, accepted the President's award. Under her direction, this organization has implemented "one of the largest and most successful GIS systems," said Dangermond.
Dr. Larry Smarr, director of the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology at the University of California, San Diego, received the Lifetime Achievement award. Dangermond described Smarr as someone who was able to see the content and context of science and technology. Dangermond said that Smarr, as a principal in the supercomputer movement and leader in the early days of the Internet, influenced future generations of Esri's software design.
This year, Esri selected 175 winners as recipients of its Special Achievement in GIS award. They represented more than 85 countries. The award celebrates the accomplishments of GIS innovators and the benefits they bring to their communities.
Esri Focuses on GIS Education
During the plenary session, Dangermond acknowledged the work of 4-H clubs around the United States that have been using GIS to make a difference in their communities (see "4-H and GISA Combination to Spark Imaginations"). More than 25,000 K–12 schools in 73 countries have Esri software, and he invited the conference attendees to get involved in GIS education and the Society for Conservation GIS, both of which he said are among several of Esri's undertakings.
For more 2006 International User Conference highlights, visit www.esri.com/uc.