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Opening Our World to a Better Future

Esri International User Conference Overview

Esri at the San Diego Convention Center

An international community of scientists, technologists, and decision and policy makers gathered at the largest GIS conference in the world, the Esri International User Conference (Esri UC), which convened July 23–27, 2012, in San Diego, California. People came to learn, discover, and share ways geospatial technologies are helping them design a better future. This year's conference theme was "GIS—Opening Our World."

Jack Dangermond, president of Esri, opened the conference by welcoming nearly 15,000 attendees who represented 126 countries. In his presentation, Dangermond noted how quickly the world is changing. He described the roles data, analysis, and sharing play in understanding conditions and events and creating common operating pictures that help people plan and respond rapidly. He explained that this is best done on cloud platforms where people can work together to solve problems. Esri is moving its technologies to the cloud so that users can integrate and share all types of geospatial data, maps, models, and applications [see "Geography: A Platform for Understanding" by Jack Dangermond].

"GIS today is at a major turning point because it is now capable of broadening its reach and enabling pervasive adoption," explained Dangermond. This said, he described geography as a platform, a system for the entire organization that delivers enabling technology to anyone, anywhere, on any type of device. Dangermond announced that Esri has made ArcGIS Online, Esri's hosted map service, a fundamental part of ArcGIS enterprise integration, thereby opening interoperability with core systems. ArcGIS Online is agile and flexible and can be configured to meet an organization's specific needs [see "ArcGIS Online: What's New?"].

Dangermond also talked about ways Esri's location analytics are improving business practice [see "Location Analytics: The Next Big Step in Business Analysis"]. Esri provides Software as a Service as a business model that works in the ArcGIS Online environment wherein users can find content and ready-to-use workflows. Business systems, such as IBM Cognos and Microsoft Office, are now geoenabled to provide geographic insight within various types of business intelligence.

Dignitaries and CEOs attended the Esri UC, including the keynote speaker for the Plenary Session, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director-general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) [see "Threatened-Species Authority—Esri User Conference Keynote Speaker"]. She addressed the problem of species loss and talked about the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species map portal that accesses a vast dataset of more than 30,000 georeferenced species. Peter Carlisle, mayor of Honolulu, Hawaii, shared how his city has used ArcGIS to create a geodesign for its rail transportation project. Bruce Wong, manager of network analytics at General Motors, shared how successful location analytics helped transform the company. More than 800 senior executives attended the conference.

Esri chief scientist Dawn Wright presented Esri's new Ocean GIS initiative: "GIS technology, which has long provided effective solutions to the integration, visualization, and analysis of information about land, is now being similarly applied to oceans," she said [see "Esri's Ocean GIS Initiative"].

Every year, Esri highlights students who use GIS in the classroom. This year, four students and their teacher from the GIS and environment class at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, presented their senior projects. Students took real problems, defined them, and created GIS solutions from beginning to end and from analysis to creating maps with ArcGIS Online to a mobile application. These projects included the design of a web application for labeling storm outlets; the use of lidar to analyze the impact of the Washington, DC, Metro on population and surfaces; and the identification of wetlands using automated infrared processing and an image classification tool.

The Esri UC had something for everyone, from the professional to the novice. The GIS Managers' Open Summit provided a setting for GIS managers, business administrators, and technology strategists to meet and engage in conversation with their peers. GIS experts had an opportunity to share their work at the User Software Applications Fair, the Map Gallery, Lightning Talks, and paper sessions. This year, 35 percent of the attendees were new to the conference. At the GIS Solutions EXPO, many of them joined the Hands-on Learning Lab, watched product and application demonstrations, and spoke with members of Esri's technical support team.

GIS developers participated in events new to the conference. Esri set up the Hackers Sandbox, in which developers played with new developer tools and built their professional GIS developer network.

At the UX Design Summit, Esri professionals explained ways to improve application usability. The Speed Geeking event was a platform for developers to give five-minute Lightning Talks about topics of interest. A Dev Meet Up, part of a nationwide event series, was also held at the Esri UC.

During the technology workshops, Esri showed the capabilities of ArcGIS 10.1, as well as new tools, workflows, and applications. The overriding benefit of Esri product developments is that they create an interactive, common operating picture, which incorporates web applications created on ArcGIS for Server, and Software/Data as a Service provided by ArcGIS Online.

Esri recognized special people and organizations by presenting its annual awards. The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to renowned landscape architect Stephen Ervin [see "Ahead of His Time"], the President's Award acknowledged the US Environmental Protection Agency, and two Making a Difference Awards were presented: one to the Trust for Public Lands and the other to Carlisle. The US Geological Survey was given a special mention for its 40-year-old Landsat program and thanked for making this data available for free [see "Understanding Earth Changes with Landsat Viewers"]. In addition, Esri celebrated the outstanding work of more than 160 businesses, governments, and organizations around the world at the Special Achievement in GIS Award ceremony. During the closing session, mapping awards were presented.

Although the conference is concluded, you can still learn about the latest trends and technologies. Esri.com/uc is a valuable resource for viewing the plenary talks; listening to technical session podcasts; and reading conference proceedings, such as user presentations.

The next Esri International User Conference will be held at the San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California, July 8–12, 2013.

 
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