ArcNews Online

Fall 2010

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GIS for Everyone—A Dream Coming True

New Era of Geographic Information Sharing Highlights at the 2010 Esri UC

The 30th Esri International User Conference (Esri UC) was the largest gathering of the GIS community ever. People from 134 countries representing 6,000 organizations learned how GIS is changing collaboration for doing work and managing the enterprise. Experts described how technological advancements in GIS have changed the global geospatial landscape. During the weeklong event held in San Diego, California, in July, more than 13,000 attendees participated in talks, watched software demonstrations, and attended paper sessions describing the ways that geospatial information and analysis are becoming available to everyone.

photo of 2010 User Conference

Geospatial professionals from 134 countries representing 6,000 organizations gathered in San Diego for the 2010 Esri UC.

Esri president Jack Dangermond's plenary address described the role of GIS in a new era of information sharing. "Converging forces of advancements in computers, the Web, mobile devices, real-time measurement, and GIS software are making a high level of collaboration possible," Dangermond said. "A Web-based geospatial platform with a distributed network of data and services is changing the way we work together."

Esri technology experts demonstrated how ArcGIS 10 is a system that can be used to collaborate in an enterprise environment that is connected to everyone else. They demonstrated Community Maps, ArcGIS Online,, ArcGIS for iOS, productivity in ArcGIS 10, the integration of Python scripting, imagery, ArcGIS Network Analyst, and analysis using 3D and new space and time enhancements.

Cloud technology is driving a different class of Web apps. The recently formed business City Sourced showed mobile apps that allow people with location devices to see and report geodatabase information. This means they can become involved in their communities and that cities can better interact with their citizens. The team at City Sourced represents a new league of developers who start from the base of geoinformation and move directly to creating Web-based geoapplications. "We don't see ourselves as GIS programmers; we are consumers of the services," said City Sourced CEO Kyle Brinkman.

Bigfork High School students Tia Bakker and Ernie Cottle from Montana took the stage wearing caver helmets. They explained their GIS analysis of cave natural resources inside Glacier National Park. Their teacher and GIS mentor Hans Bodenhamer encouraged the many GIS professionals in the audience to volunteer as GIS mentors to the youth in their communities.

Author of more than 80 books and founder of the renowned Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) conferences, Richard Saul Wurman gave the keynote presentation. He and Jon Kamen, CEO of, described the project 19.20.21 that studies the 19 cities in the world with populations of more than 20 million people in the 21st century. Wurman discussed the necessity of standards for sharing and comparing urban information (see "Measuring Super Cities").

The success of GIS is community based. Esri acknowledged 200 organizations for outstanding work in their organizations and industries by giving them the Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Award.

The Abu Dhabi Systems and Information Centre, United Arab Emirates, received the Making a Difference Award for its use of GIS to manage cities, utilities, health, response, and science. Abu Dhabi has also provided technology and expertise to the global community. His Excellency Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi, secretary-general executive council, Abu Dhabi, accepted the award. More than 60 delegates from the emirate attended the Esri UC. During the week, they showed several enterprise GIS applications that provide insight for decision making.

Dangermond acknowledged the work of the United Nations and especially its cartographic and statistical unit that has diligently worked to bring standards and templates to build a foundation for GIS users throughout the world.

The City of Frisco, Texas, received the President's Award (see "High Tech Leads to Higher School Safety"). Frisco has embedded GIS throughout the community from the school district to health care to incident response. Paul Siebert, the city's assistant fire chief, came onstage to the sound of flashing lights and alarms. Dressed in firefighter gear, he showed all the ways GIS is used in responding to an early morning smoke alarm from the high school: routing, water system, real-time camera feed, and facilities plan. City of Frisco information services and GIS manager Susan Olson accepted the award.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Carlos Salmán Gonzalez, the president and CEO of Sistemas de Informacíon Geográfica, S.A. (SIGSA), Esri's distributor in Mexico. He brought modern mapping tools to Mexico. He also purchased a nursery and led a movement that has planted millions of trees in that country. After working for the Mexican government, Gonzalez opened his own mapping company, which today is the largest mapping company in South America.

National Geographic Society's board chairman Gil Grosvenor awarded the society's highest honor, the Alexander Graham Bell Award, to Jack Dangermond for his innovations that are transforming the world of geography, bringing the use of geographic information to every part of the globe. Grosvenor also presented the Alexander Graham Bell Award to Roger Tomlinson, the "father of GIS." "The award honors Tomlinson's qualities of great innovation," said Grosvenor. "His efforts have made geographers out of people who didn't even know they were geographers."

Throughout the week, conference attendees had the opportunity to talk with experts in their fields, geospatial technology vendors, and consultants; mingle with groups during Special Interest Group sessions; share their GIS maps in the poster and digital map galleries; attend ArcGIS software technical sessions; participate in lightning talks for fast application synopses; see demonstrations of software applications, tools, and solutions; and sit in on session and panel discussions provided by fellow users.

Next year's Esri UC will be held July 11–15 at the San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California. Highlights and presentations from the Esri UC are available on the conference Web site at

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