UC Tech News 2010

This year the Esri User Conference celebrated its 30th year. As big an achievement as that is, the real celebration for Esri and its community was the release of ArcGIS 10. ArcGIS is described as a system. Not just a single application or one piece of a large puzzle, ArcGIS is a complete system for geographical knowledge management, analysis, planning, awareness, and mobility.

Out of the many things to see at the event, I managed to get along and see where technology is changing the application of GIS. Notably, two areas that stood out for me were in smart devices (like the iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Android devices etc) and the cloud. 

Smart Devices

Mobile devices have been an area of IT that have been promising to “take off” for the past decade. While GIS applications have been prevalent on these devices for some time, the usage was designed for mobile GIS users. They were designed for those that know GIS and what it means to capture accurate, timely information. What we are seeing in today’s environment is not a change, but rather a rapid expansion to include everybody in the mobile GIS user space. These new devices and the applications created for them, are not designed for GIS professionals, but rather the everyday user. I see this providing a means for immediate data capture. Just think, when a member of the public sees a fault in infrastructure… the old mechanism involved making a phone call that would lead to series of questions to locate the fault and describe it in detail. Now people could simply open an app on their mobile (whatever flavour they use), take a photo and write a short description. The app can take care of the rest such as the location (from the onboard GPS, it may even show where you are on a map), and send (via the internet) a message to the appropriate authority. This new method has potential to greatly improve an organisation’s bottom line through a more accurate positioning of faults.

This is just one example of a “new” mobile application. There are many more. I’d love to here from any of you with ideas around these new apps.

The Cloud

Much has been spoken about the use of the cloud. Esri has invested heavily in making sure that Esri technology is “cloud ready”. The investment exists on two levels.

The first is ArcGIS.com. This new website allows users to create maps online and share them amongst peers. These maps also plug straight into the mobile apps I spoke about earlier. This is really cool stuff. I can now author content using professional GIS software and share it with internet users not only through the traditional browser, but also on the mobile devices they use. This currently works with the iPhone and iPad app that you can download from the Apple App Store. If you have an iPhone or iPad I encourage you to check it out. I’ll demo this at the next round of Technology Directions. One of the maps to check out is Esri’s Community Base Map. I’ll post more on this later.

The second, is to make sure that Esri’s server technologies can work with infrastructure cloud environments such as Amazon’s EC2. To this effect, you can now use ArcGIS Server in the Amazon cloud in a completely supported environment. Esri have even created the virtual machines (or AMIs) for you. All you need to do is have a valid ArcGIS Server license and you are ready to start deploying your ArcGIS Server in the cloud.

I really enjoyed this year’s conference. San Diego is a lovely place and there is much to see and do in southern California. If you work with Esri technology, attending this conference is something you should do. No mater what level you work at, this conference has you covered for content. Whether you are an executive and want to share ideas with other organisations, or an end user of ArcGIS Desktop, you will find entire streams within the conference built specifcally for you. Finally, we had some Australians present at this year’s event, and a couple of others received a Special Achievement in GIS Award. Congratulations! It is recognition that in some areas, Australians are leading the way in spatial science. I encourage you all to submit papers next year and if you need help… I’ll carry your bags:)

Ben S

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