By: Jessica Wyland
Powerful, inspiring, magnificent, and forward-thinking are just some of the words to describe the work being done by GIS users around the world. The energy and enthusiasm of the GIS community was on display at the 2016 Esri User Conference in San Diego. The 37th annual conference was attended by some 15,000 GIS professionals, and followed online by many thousands more. “The Future of Smart” set the stage for showcasing how people use the Esri ArcGIS platform for Web GIS mapping, location apps, and open data sharing to make their organizations and communities stronger, vibrant, sustainable.
The Esri User Conference also showcased a deep-dive into all aspects of the ArcGIS platform, with the latest information on Esri apps, initiatives, and amazing array of resources and training opportunities for Esri GIS users. Solutions from hundreds of business partners were also on display to help organizations extend their GIS efforts in facilities management, indoor mapping, 3D mapping, imagery, conservation, transportation planning, land management, public health, and citizen services.
In the weeks to come Esri will share the incredible array of work, knowledge, and announcements featured at the conference. To kick things off, here’s a quick look at the Top Ten ArcGIS moments of the Esri UC.
1. Free Training
Esri president Jack Dangermond told conference attendees at the opening Plenary this week that he believes in the value of lifelong learning. So, Esri will now offer complimentary, unlimited access to self-paced web courses, seminars, videos, and resources on the new Esri Training website. The site will launch in August and training is available to all customers with a qualifying Esri product that has a current maintenance subscription. Free training is meant to help ArcGIS users keep their skillsets current so they can get every bit of value from the technology.
2. Open Data from LA and Beyond
Lilian Coral, chief data officer for the City of Los Angeles, shared the city’s GeoHub, a new public platform for exploring, visualizing, and downloading location-based open data. The site uses maps and data to engage citizens on issues such as clean streets and traffic safety. It offers a way to find and share information about health, education, parks, business, and city services. The Los Angeles GeoHub models a user-friendly approach local governments can take to interact with citizens. “Simplicity,” Coral said, “is a very powerful way to communicate.” Through ArcGIS Open Data more governments will be able to enact this simple, powerful communication.
3. Symphony of Apps
In the style of Peter and the Wolf, Esri product marketing manager Jean Gea presented a “Symphony of Apps.” While ArcGIS has been around for decades, many users are still getting the hang of apps for the office, the field, and the community. Gea showed how each app is like an instrument: mighty and significant on its own. But when you use more of the apps together—to collect or sync data from the office and the field, to make sure everyone can see and understand the same information, to route and manage operations in a way that saves valuable time and cost, to build interactive web maps—then it’s magical, like a symphony.
4. Putting Drones to Work
Tiny planes that take photos … they’re a lot of fun. Now they can be put to work for environmental monitoring, emergency management, land analysis, infrastructure inspection, and more. Esri UC marked the launch of Drone2Map for ArcGIS, a desktop app that turns drone-captured still imagery into professional 2D and 3D imagery products such as web maps in ArcGIS in minutes. Typically image processing would take days. Drone2Map is part of ArcGIS Online so users can start trying it out right away.
5. Start Me Up, I’ll Never Stop
Esri is a big, stable company that, because of its engineering focus and innovative energy, often acts like a startup. And, Esri devotes support to other startups. On the Esri UC showcase floor there was an entire zone devoted to startups, many that like Esri, use technology for good. Among them was Upstream Research, an interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and dreamers focused on the geography of wellness. They built a spatial health analytics platform to measure and forecast diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and asthma. The objective is to help communities reshape their focus from treating disease to preventing it, which will save lives and lower healthcare costs. Upstream Research is one of many companies that’s part of the Esri Startup Program.
6. Hometown Heroes
Sometimes ArcGIS gets a reputation for being difficult to use, and high-tech talk can become so esoteric it feels exclusive. But, when three students from San Andreas High School in San Bernardino, California took the stage at the Esri UC Plenary a few truths emerged. ArcGIS can be learned, it can open viable career paths, and the future really does depend on the youth. Through its ConnectEd Initiative, Esri offers free software to every K-12 school in the United States. San Andreas High School teachers used it to teach their students to collect data and make maps to address problems such as underage drinking and neighborhood blight.
7. Insights Revealed
One ArcGIS product demo stood out from the rest at Esri UC. It’s a new way of working with ArcGIS to perform interactive and exploratory analytics. It’s what one tweet called, “Pretty dang cool.” This cool thing, Insights for ArcGIS, offers drag-and-drop tools to map, chart and do other immediate and amazing analytics in one interface using all sorts of data: big, spatial, nonspatial, from spreadsheets, from databases. Along the way, it records your workflows so they can be rerun and shared. The best part, it’s free to all Esri users that have an enterprise license agreement.
8. Living Atlas, Living Content
Esri and ArcGIS users build and maintain the Living Atlas of the World, the foremost collection of authoritative, ready-to-use global geographic information ever assembled. The Living Atlas hosts maps and data on thousands of topics. It includes imagery, world basemaps, historical maps, demographic and lifestyle data, landscapes, oceans, earth observations, real-time weather, traffic maps, elevation data, and live data feeds. At Esri UC, Jack Dangermond announced a partnership with Digital Globe that will make the Living Atlas even more rich by providing all ArcGIS users access to a steady stream of updated imagery worldwide.
9. Green is the New Black
One big announcement at Esri UC was Esri’s vision of Green Infrastructure for the US, maps and apps that connect the most valuable landscapes in the nation—open spaces, watersheds, wildlife habitats, parks, etc. Here’s the logic: These days it’s difficult to determine how, where, and what to develop. We need cities and towns of course. But we also need quality of life, a sense of place, and the life-sustaining resources afforded only by natural landscapes. A network of these critical landscapes—a green infrastructure—will help communities prioritize and protect the places and resources so necessary for people, wildlife, and the economy.
10. Everything is Connected
A recurring theme at Esri UC, and a sentiment underlying most conversations at the event, is that the work we do is very much part of everything else. At the Plenary, Jack Dangermond shared one of his favorite quotes from John Muir, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” Therein lies the importance of ArcGIS. It shows us how interconnected everything is so we can approach problems with a holistic mindset. In this way, the community of ArcGIS users and their colleagues can keep reaching for the goal of creating a smarter, more sustainable planet.