The Big DevSummit Draw

The Big DevSummit Draw
The DevSummit drew an attentive audience interested in learning how to use ArcGIS technology to build useful apps.

Once a year, Palm Springs, California, becomes the center of the geospatial technology universe.

Esri hosts its annual Esri Partner Conference in the city’s convention center, immediately followed by the wildly popular Esri Developer Summit (DevSummit).

In March, 2,035 geospatial app developers, information technology (IT) managers, Esri partners, and others packed workshops and the Plenary Session. They also watched a keynote address about artificial intelligence (AI) given by Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of the Artificial Intelligence and Research Group at Microsoft.

Esri’s ArcGIS program manager Jim McKinney said this year’s event attracted a record setting crowd. One of the attendees had a theory as to why.

“I think what you are seeing is that Esri’s technology is maturing rapidly and becoming more accessible,” said Stu Rich, chief technology officer (CTO) of PenBay Solutions, an Esri partner. “And there is a rapidly growing group of developers that understand the value they can drive on top of that set of Esri’s capabilities. Their ability to enhance, configure, and deploy really compelling solutions based on Esri’s technology is exciting. It’s amazing what can be done today, and that is certainly driving the [summit’s] growth.”

Rich said that DevSummit workshops now delve into technology that integrates with GIS, going far beyond a narrow focus on traditional GIS.

“You’ve got sessions here on remote sensing, raster analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI),” Rich said. “You’ve got such breadth [of session topics] that it attracts a very wide and diverse group of developers from across many, many business domains.”

A group of attendees shared their thoughts as to what drew them to Palm Springs this year and what they learned that piqued their interest. Some of their comments were edited for clarity and brevity.

Kasia Fedyk

GIS Consultant, Cyient Europe Ltd.
Cheddar, United Kingdom

The reason(s) you’re here in Palm Springs

To see what is new and what is coming [in Esri technology], gain some new development experience, and learn about the products and offerings.

The cool thing(s) that caught your attention this year

Virtual reality [VR] and mixed reality [combined with GIS]. I think that is a cool thing. Our company in Cheddar is very data-acquisition based and product-creation based. We can see already that some of our products that we create [for utilities and transportation] are useful in VR environments.

Steve Way

Software Developer, Cyient Europe Ltd.
London, United Kingdom

The reason(s) you’re here in Palm Springs

This is my fourth time [attending DevSummit]. I just need to keep up-to-date with what is happening. I am very Esri focused. I work mainly around the [product] architecture, so it’s good for me to understand where Esri is heading with certain product lines. The whole change in patterns, like Web GIS, is a quite crucial one.

The cool thing(s) that caught your attention this year

The augmented reality [AR] stuff is cool. In the UK, we have a lot of underground networks, and I could see a use case for using AR in the field to understand where your assets are underneath your feet. Also, the 3D [GIS] evolution is an important one. We live in a 3D world.

The Big DevSummit Draw
Xin Chen was interested in learning about Esri’s suite of mobile apps such as Collector for ArcGIS.

Xin Chen

Systems and Programming Supervisor, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD)
Diamond Bar, California

The reason(s) you’re here in Palm Springs

SCAQMD assistant deputy executive officer Ron Moskowitz has placed a high priority on a project to increase our GIS capabilities.

Our number one objective is to present air quality information to the public in a meaningful way. We monitor and calculate hourly air quality for the region, so that data has to get out.

During the last year, we have increased our presence on ArcGIS Online. For example, we migrated our air quality map to the cloud-based mapping platform. By leveraging the Esri cloud, we no longer have to worry about server capabilities. Esri takes care of everything such as scaling during periods of high demand. We have also completed the initial installation of our on-premises ArcGIS Enterprise system.

At the SCAQMD, we want to continue to leverage Esri’s capabilities. We are here to learn in depth about the application architecture and the development tools available. Esri also offers a whole suite of very powerful, ready-to-use applications such as Workforce for ArcGISCollector for ArcGIS, and Survey123 for ArcGIS. We are here to learn about how to use these apps for field force automation, as well as public engagement.

Currently we are trying to build a mobile application, and we are here to explore Esri’s mobile capabilities. It’s great to see that this year’s DevSummit has a special focus on mobile [technologies]—it’s exactly what we wanted to learn. Three of our staff are splitting up sessions, trying to figure out what’s the best approach. We were also able to have an in-depth meeting with Eric Bader from Esri’s ArcGIS Runtime team, who helped a lot in that regard.

The cool thing(s) that caught your attention this year

The point clustering capabilities in ArcGIS API for JavaScript [that were] demonstrated at the Plenary Session. Clustering helps to improve the visualization of large point datasets—common at SCAQMD. You can have a richer and more meaningful map with a faster response time. Immediately, we picked that up and said, “That’s something that helps us.”

The Big DevSummit Draw
Stu Rich likes to know what’s on Esri’s technology roadmap.

Stu Rich

CTO, PenBay Solutions
Topsham, Maine

The reason(s) you’re here in Palm Springs

I’ve been coming to the Developer Summit since it started [in 2006]. I usually come to the Esri Partner Conference first and stay on for the Developer Summit. I come here to try to keep current on Esri’s technology and direction and try to maximize its value for our business. PenBay Solutions is in the facilities GIS space, so we build software products on top of the ArcGIS platform that focus on the business problems of owners and operators of large facilities. The DevSummit is much more technology focused [than the Esri Partner Conference], but it really helps us understand the technical direction that Esri is headed. What we want to avoid is developing something that Esri is going to develop next year. And we want to maximize the value of the Esri platform in our product.

The cool thing(s) that caught your attention this year

Building information modeling [BIM] is important to us in our market, and this relationship between Esri and Autodesk [with the intent to bridge BIM and GIS] is going to be very impactful to our business and to our customers. For customers, particularly in the design/build phase of facilities and infrastructure, there has been, for a very long time, a need for customers to use both Esri and Autodesk products side by side. It’s often been very difficult to share data and workflows between those toolsets. Just as a [pure] productivity enhancement for those customers that need to use data and authoring workflows both with GIS and CAD and BIM data, it represents tremendous opportunity. I think it remains to be seen how that opportunity will translate into the operations phase, but certainly for design and construction, it’s a tremendous advance.

The Big DevSummit Draw
Jean-Yves Lauture always appreciates the warm welcome he receives in Palm Springs.

Jean-Yves Lauture

President and CTO, Eos Positioning Systems
Terrebonne, Quebec, Canada

The reason(s) you’re here in Palm Springs

Can I say “the weather” first? The friendliness of all the Esri staff. You always feel good coming to an Esri event. Everybody feels welcome.

Eos Positioning Systems manufactures high-accuracy GNSS [Global Navigation Satellite System] receivers compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows [devices] and compatible with all Esri mobile products like Collector for ArcGIS and Survey123 for ArcGIS. Esri is avant-garde—innovating always in the market—and [Esri staff] listen to their users. The testing, development, and support teams are extremely responsive to the public.

The cool thing(s) that caught your attention this year

The Esri/Autodesk partnership to integrate BIM and GIS. There was a big gap [between the two technologies] to be bridged, and that’s happening now.

Frank McClean

Information Technology (IT) Manager, NatureServe
Arlington, Virginia

The reason(s) you’re here in Palm Springs

This is the most information-rich conference I’ve been to as far as the information technology world. I come to get the big [tech] picture. It’s an idea generator.

The cool thing(s) that caught your attention this year

The application of AI. We [NatureServe staff] might be able to apply AI to predict/model the locations of threatened and endangered species.

The Big DevSummit Draw
Cody Barrett thinks ArcGIS API for Python will be helpful in his work for the Iowa DOT.

Cody Barrett

Senior Design/Developer, HNTB Corporation/Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT)
Ames, Iowa

The reason(s) you’re here in Palm Springs


I’m an embedded consultant [from the infrastructure solution firm HNTB] for the Iowa DOT GIS group. This is my first year at the Developer Summit. I currently assist in developing custom applications for internal clients. I’m interested in new functionality that is coming out, especially ArcGIS API for Python. I think the [API] will be helpful for not only maintaining your ArcGIS Online organization [and] publishing content but also for data analytics and GIS analysis. At the Iowa DOT, we are always striving to improve processes and create dynamic solutions that fit the business needs of our internal customers.

The cool thing(s) that caught your attention this year

One cool thing that came from [Esri Web GIS/mapping product engineer] Kristian Ekenes: at the Plenary Session, he demonstrated clustering using ArcGIS Arcade. [Arcade is a lightweight and secure expression or scripting language written for use in the ArcGIS platform to customize visualization and labeling.] I like how it summarizes the cluster in the pop-up, and you can browse through the features within each individual cluster. It’s a simple yet effective way to visualize data in a readable format.

About the author

Carla Wheeler is a former technology writer and editor at Esri and a former newspaper journalist. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and political science. She was the previous editor of ArcWatch and worked with ArcGIS StoryMaps apps. Follow her on Twitter @gisjourno.