More Than 9,000 Gather|
to Share Geographic Knowledge
In its third year in San Diego, the Esri International User Conference was once again the largest gathering of GIS professionals in the world. Users representing 20 industry sectors gathered together to explore new technology, share knowledge, and enjoy themselves.
The conference, now in its 19th year, was a tremendous opportunity for users to network. Nearly 80 user group meetings were held. These special interest groups illustrate the ever-increasing uses of GIS. These groups represented users from specific states or regions or those interested in a particular software program. Users from industries such as agriculture or petroleum or who work for particular organizations such as the Bureau of Land Management got together to exchange ideas and experiences. And there were group meetings for users who share a passion like the Caves and Karst Users Group.
"Sharing Geographic Knowledge" was the theme for the conference. Users from 91 countries shared their knowledge and expertise through the more than 600 paper presentations that were made in both moderated sessions and individual presentations. Technical workshops for all levels of experience were held. From introductory sessions on all of Esri's GIS software to workshops that provided specific information on customizing applications and managing enterprisewide GIS installations, there was something for every user.
Some of the most heavily attended technical sessions dealt with the new GIS technology from Esri. ArcInfo 8, GIS software for the next millennium, debuted at the user conference. ArcInfo 8 consolidates the power of several previous applications into one and includes such features as geostatistical capabilities, projection on the fly, and smart CAD tools. Wizard-driven functionality makes new users quickly productive while the new geodatabase data model allows a very high degree of customization and sophisticated object creation. Technical sessions on the various aspects of this revolutionary new GIS technology were packed.
The GeoChallenge Contest gave conference attendees some idea of the types of applications that can be developed using ArcInfo 8 and ArcIMS, Esri's latest Internet mapping and distributed GIS software solution that was also unveiled at the conference. This contest was open to Esri business partners and developers participating in beta programs for ArcInfo 8 and ArcIMS. Winners displayed the applications they developed in a special section of the GIS Solutions EXPO.
A special exhibit by the National Geographic Society and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), together with many other worldwide organizations concerned with oceans and sustainable seas, described the innovative uses of GIS technology to chart, research, and manage the marine environment. This impressive exhibit in the Sail Area included a deepwater submersible vehicle supplied by the conference's keynote speaker, Dr. Sylvia Earle. A renowned researcher of marine ecosystems, Earle described the importance of GIS to her current work researching and exploring the National Marine Sanctuaries in her address during the plenary session.
At the conference, Esri recognized the achievements of some of the special individuals who have contributed so much to the development of GIS. Dr. Tobler, research professor emeritus of geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement award. Richard Allen of MAGIC and Ann Hale Miglarese, chief of Coastal Information Services for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coastal Services Center received the Distinguished Service in GIS Award. Larry Sugarbaker, assistant division manager at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, was recognized with the Making a Difference Award. The Presidential Award went to Liza Casey of the Mayor's Office of Information Services for the City of Philadelphia. This year 122 users, out of the more than 200,000 organizations using GIS worldwide, received Special Achievement in GIS awards.
As in previous years, this year's conference attendees had plenty of opportunities for fun during the week. In addition to area attractions, they could participate in golf and tennis tournaments and a 5K Run/Walk. The children of conference goers could attend the GIS Kids Camp, a hands-on course on GIS. "A Taste of India" was the theme for this year's conference party. Party goers enjoyed traditional Indian cuisine, music, and dancing as well as Indian entertainers and re-created marketplaces from Old Delhi and Calcutta.
The user conference, an event know for both fun and learning, has been part of Esri's long-standing goal to support its software users in successful GIS implementation. As Esri President Jack Dangermond said in his address during the opening session, "We continue to focus on our users and doing the right thing. Due to the nature of our technology, GIS professionals have evolved a special culture of sharing and cooperation. Ultimately, I believe that through our combined efforts, our technology will help make a difference in the world."
Next year GIS professionals will have an opportunity to come together again in the same place but one month earlier. The Twentieth Annual Esri International User Conference will be held June 26-30, 2000. Visit the Esri Web site for information on the upcoming conference.