Directions 2014 stopped in Melbourne last week at the Langham. More than 200 users attended the event to network, learn and sharpen their GIS skills – as well as hear about what is in store for the future of the ArcGIS Platform.
Attendees were welcomed by Lisa Dykes, Esri Australia’s new Business Development Manager for Victoria and Tasmania. It was great to see so many new people with a show of hands revealing more than half of the users in the crowd were attending Directions for the first time. Lisa discussed the importance of the ArcGIS Platform for Victorian users and I was surprised to learn that only 20 percent of organisations have activated their free ArcGIS Online Subscription Accounts offered as part of ArcGIS Desktop entitlements at 10.2. If you believe your organisation may be entitled to a free ArcGIS Online Subscription Account make sure you check out our recent blog post that outlines how to request your free user credentials here.
I spent the rest of the day as a roving reporter and the remainder of this post is dedicated to highlights from the Melbourne stop on Esri Australia’s Tour de Force, Directions 2014.
Using the ArcGIS Platform as a Launch Pad for Success
Josh Venman started off the morning session by navigating attendees through the entire ArcGIS Platform, from our traditional authoring solution of ArcGIS Desktop and how we can bring these key components to share via ArcGIS for Server, as well as using content in a portal such as ArcGIS Online. The increasing demand for web mapping, mobile applications and configurable templates now sees WebGIS as a common thread across the ArcGIS Platform. With this in mind, Josh highlighted that the platform can be tailored to our organisation’s needs, workflows and infrastructure based on four different use case scenarios:
1. ArcGIS without the Box – Everything on ArcGIS Online
2. ArcGIS Hybrid – Maps and Apps from ArcGIS Online with services and data retained onsite
3. Mostly inside the Box – Maps, Apps and Data retained onsite with ArcGIS Online basemaps
4. ArcGIS in a Box – Everything deployed behind a firewall (e.g. Defence)
Josh then demonstrated one of the new application templates made available in the March update of ArcGIS Online known as the Summary Viewer. One of the properties I am excited about with the new Summary Viewer template is the ability to dynamically cluster point features at each web map scale and extent without any knowledge of coding. This resolves a question I often get asked, “why can’t I display more than 1000 features in a web map?” While I can increase the maximum number of features that can be drawn in the web map using ArcGIS Desktop or ArcGIS for Server, Esri enforce this behavior to ensure you are producing fast and focused applications. By sharing our web map to this new Summary Viewer template you can allow ArcGIS Online to handle your features and display clusters at smaller scales such as state or national extents.
Real-time GIS was then brought to life on stage with Josh interacting with a sensor, a listener and a live dashboard. Using his smartphone as a sensor the crowd was treated to a showcase of real-time GIS using the GeoEvent Processor extension for ArcGIS Server to listen to the compass and accelerometer built into his iPhone device. Onlookers could see the orientation of the sensor in real-time via a user friendly interface known as Operations Dashboard. A quick swing of the arm displayed live g-force information via widget displays much to the delight of attendees. I would have to agree with my Brisbane colleague that the application of real-time GIS in sport could not only give player specific analysis but more importantly provide the public with new ways of understanding the workload of their favorite AFL player, for example, in real-time.
Curating Content: Tips for Collating, Managing and Sharing
Ebony Wickramanayake then took to the stage to explain how the role of a GIS data manager continues to evolve from a traditional focus on managing data to more of a data curator and publisher:
“Whenever I picture a data manager I think about a museum curator who looks after artefacts by day and joins Indiana Jones by night”
– Ebony Wickramanayake
While GIS users may understand data stored in a geodatabase, Ebony illustrated how this structure may not be as intuitive to non-GIS professionals. As GIS increasingly becomes integral to all business operations, the role of data curators and publishers will be to ensure non-GIS professionals can use and understand the location intelligence of their business operations in familiar applications such as Excel – made possible with Esri Maps for Office. Ebony used Adelaide Airport data to demonstrate how we can use ArcGIS Online as a data repository to edit as well as sync and consume our hosted services across the ArcGIS platform from desktop to field collection via a smart device.
Working with New Types of Data: Real-Time, Mobile and 3D
The final presentation during the plenary session focused on tackling new types of data – from real-time GIS, to collecting data out in the field – from Melbourne’s own John Hasthorpe and Simon Jackson.
John explained the real-time workflow using a scenario of fishing vessels entering a permitted area and how we can create geo-fences to send location based alerts to appropriate authorities based on a vessel having the correct permit. Geo-fences can be thought of as an invisible button that GeoEvent Processor uses to check the vessel name against permits and if necessary generate alerts if the permit did not match. John explained the workflow for creating attribute alerts based on a geo-fence within the GeoEvent Processor Service Designer interface, allowing users to connect the flow of alerts in a similar look and feel to the ModelBuilder window from ArcGIS Desktop. Attendees witnessed real-time fishing vessel alerts during a simulated scenario via Operations Dahsboard that John mentioned will not require a download and support tablet devices in the 10.2.2 release which will allow you to launch Operations Dashboard from your browser.
John then demonstrated the new offline editing workflow using the Collector App from Esri, available on iOS and Android at version 10.2.2. The latest version of Collector supports editing in a disconnected environment which was well received by Melbourne end users. Victoria shares many of the same patchy 3G and 4G network coverage issues experienced throughout Australia, so the ability to take maps offline using a smartphone or tablet device saw the ArcBar abuzz during the break. John provided some useful tips for taking Esri basemaps offline and the release of ArcGIS for Server 10.2.2 will allow users to take their own on-premise basemaps offline and stored ‘on device’. For more information about this workflow be sure to check out the Esri Documents portal which includes a step-by-step guide to offline editing with Collector.
Simon showcased the latest tools to work with 3D data in ArcGIS Desktop, and how we can easily share 3D content on the web using our ArcGIS Online Subscription Account. Simon’s demonstration of how to easily export a 3D model from ArcScene using the new Export to 3D Web Scene (3D Analyst) geoprocessing tool at 10.2 was a huge hit. The tool creates an output 3D Web Scene file that we can add as an item to our ArcGIS Online account and a CityEngine Web Viewer will be published with your ArcScene data using HTML5 and WebGL technology to render 3D scenes in a web browser.
Simple, Fast and Focused: Configurable Resources
After morning tea I was tasked with discussing how we can Create Compelling Story Maps to kick off the first Geofocus session. One of the key take home messages here was that ArcGIS Online provides ready-to-use configurable templates that we can get started with today using our Subscription or Public Account that require no coding. During this presentation I outlined some useful tips and resources to create simple, fast and focused web mapping applications known as story maps.
Story maps are essentially narration in the context of a dynamic map. We can use story maps to communicate with clients and educate communities about events or stories as they unfold. I mentioned how there are more than a dozen out-of-the-box configurable application templates available on ArcGIS Online that allow us to convey place based narratives, curated points of interest lists, engaging comparison swipe and spyglass maps as well as custom creations by downloading the template and hosting it on our own web server infrastructure.
During the presentation I mentioned that there are literally hundreds of great story map examples that we can view for ideas and inspiration on the new storymaps.arcgis.com page. Australian ArcGIS Online users have created story maps that both engage and educate communities about diverse issues covering agriculture, business, construction, communities and conservation – and every sector in between. Melbourne is world renowned for its laneways that, if not lined with street art, are filled with the aroma of coffee, so be sure to check out the Melbourne Coffee and Melbourne Street Art story maps. Across the strait and Cradle Coast NRM as well as Launceston City Council are leading the way with engaging story maps that you may have seen on ABC News recently. For a global perspective be sure to have a look at the Story Map Locator application that showcases compelling story maps from around the world including several from here in Australia.
I rounded off the presentation with a demonstration of my ‘6 essential steps for story map success’ using the Brinkworth Cattle Drive as the foundation for this story map. It is not often that a story captures the heart of a nation and warrants international attention. Recently you may have heard about the Brinkworth Cattle Drive, 18,000 cattle driven 2,500 kilometres south from drought stricken Queensland to greener pastures in New South Wales in the largest cattle drive for 100 years. There were hundreds of media stories about this once-in-a-lifetime journey but I found myself struggling to grasp the scale of this historic event. During the demonstration I explained how a story map could have weaved together these diverse stories from a range of sources to tell a truly memorable story of both the journey and destination. By doing so I illustrated how quickly and easily we can combine diverse elements including hosted feature services published from ArcGIS Desktop as well rich media content such as YouTube videos, Photos and entire webpages. Make sure you see the Brinkworth Cattle Drive Story Map produced from this 6 step workflow for yourself.
Esri’s Fast and Configurable Apps and Templates
Walter Simonazzi highlighted findings from the recent Esri Austrlia and SSSI 2013 GIS in Local Government Benchmark Study, in which 85 per cent of local governments stated GIS was used across all departments, with asset management and planning units using the vast majority to support business operations. During his talk, Walter showcased the application templates and data models made available on the ArcGIS Solutions for Local Government page. He demonstrated how the local government initiative, as well as other industry specific maps and apps, can be downloaded and deployed to communicate department workflows such as Planning, Public Safety and Works, as well as Land Records and Elections. In essence, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel; we can use the freely available maps and apps that Esri worked hard to compile on our behalf.
Josh returned to the stage after this to demystify location analytics by demonstrating how we can integrate and visualize business data contained within SAP, SharePoint, Excel and other business systems natively, using the ‘Esri maps for’ solutions to support business operations.
A Crash Course in Crisis Mapping (Red Bluff Spatial)
The first of our client presentations came from Mark Garvey of Red Bluff Spatial with an engaging account of the role of GIS in disasters. Mark looked at how to recognize a crisis situation presenting the Black Saturday Bush Fires, the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and an example closer to home, the Christchurch Earthquakes, as case studies. Being in my home town of Christchurch amidst the earthquakes was when I personally realized the importance of GIS for decision-making in disaster zones. This sentiment was also shared by Mark, who stressed the importance of how we behave with GIS in crisis situations in order to provide decision makers with informed analysis and recommendations on what to do next. Mark explained how carrier pigeons were used in Afghanistan during a period where telecommunication infrastructure had been destroyed. The pigeons carried data and information using USB backpacks, redefining the term downloading data from the cloud.
Spatial Analysis: Exploring the Core of GIS
After lunch Ebony was joined on stage by Melbourne’s own Richard Stokes for an hour long session that took a closer look into spatial analysis and how we can use more than 600 tools available in ArcGIS Desktop to solve complex spatial problems and produce easy to understand outputs. This dynamic duo showcased some of the latest tools and workflows using 6 essential analysis steps and four scenarios, each using a different type of analytical technique:
1. In the first scenario Richard demonstrated how the new Optimized Hot Spot Analysis (Spatial Statistics) tool can be used to identify pest species distribution that the Queensland Government spends about $4 billion on managing per year. Richard explained how the outputs from this tool can be used to inform local governments about statistically significant weed clustering within their management area. One of the great aspects of spatial analysis is the ability to connect multiple tools in the ModelBuilder interface. A useful tip I took away from Richard’s demonstration was to use ‘iterators’ as well as ‘in-line-variables’ to create outputs for each pest species and avoid overwriting output features.
3. It was back to Richard to look at how we can use image change analysis to identify areas of change after a natural disaster as Mark mentioned earlier in the day, or perhaps a local government using image analysis to detect changes in building heights over time. Richard mentioned that while visual image analysis can be a useful first glance, the subjective nature of change detection can provide false indications of change based on the image viewer. With this in mind Richard demonstrated how we can import LiDAR data in the form of LAS Datasets to quantify change detection. He also discussed how we can add our LAS Datasets to a Mosaic Dataset and use the Difference function within the Image Analysis to display and calculate volumetric difference between LAS Datasets over time.
4. For the last scenario Ebony demonstrated how we can download and use the water utility application templates and data model from the ArcGIS Solutions for Water Utilities page. This provides ready-to-use Geometric Network tools for water and utility organisations in order to analyse flow, and manage maintenance workflows for field crews. Ebony described Geometric Networks as “synergistic data that connects disparate datasets” and showed how we can use the ‘valve isolation trace’ tool to identify and isolate parts of a network that may be impacted by an outage or emergency situation. This example was familiar for Melbourne attendees after a water main burst in Glen Waverley a couple of years ago, creating a geyser sending water more than 100 metres into the air.
ComQAT – An Airborne LiDAR QA Tool (CRC for Spatial Information)
The second client presentation for the day came from SSSI Victoria’s Young Professional of the Year Nathan Quadros from CRC for Spatial information (CRCSI). His talk entitled “ComQAT – An Airborne LiDAR QA tool” discussed how the Compliance and Quality Assurance Tool (ComQAT) developed by CRCSI is streamlining the elevation data acquisition process. Nathan mentioned some common data quality errors include incorrect flight line classification, wrong coordinate systems and symbology classification methods. The ComQAT tool provides a user friendly template for LiDAR data acquisition requests and a second form post-flight as a data quality assurance matched to the initial request using ArcGIS quality assurance processes. As we saw in the previous spatial analysis presentation, LiDAR data can provide valuable insights in the form of change detection and the ComQAT tool ensures this data is accurately captured by LiDAR service providers.
Current State of Play – Esri Technology at VicRoads
The final client talk for the day came from Hossein Parsa and Deepak Gupta who discussed the current state and future prospects for Esri technology at VicRoads using a compelling Prezi presentation. Hossein explained how location is the glue at the heart of all VicRoads operations. Operations that include maintaining tram and bus route web services, managing tiled caching of imagery for maintenance workflows, through to creating a custom Band of Interest (BOI) application that allows end users to identify VicRoads properties during a site selection proposal. Deepak shared how VicRoads uses spatial analysis in the form of python scripts to assess the impact of road treatments on reducing road crash incidents in Victoria. I also found results of a transport study along Swanston Street interesting as the modes of transport we use change and diversify.
It was clear from this great talk that location is important to VicRoads operations. Deepak explained how Esri Australia’s instructor-led courses, as well as Professional Services engagements, have been integral to supporting Capability Development Plans for VicRoads staff, which has enabled more in-house knowledge transfer to further upskill employees. I was impressed with the range of Esri technology currently implemented at VicRoads, including ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS for Server and Image Server extension, ArcIMS, ArcSDE, ArcGIS SDK’s, ArcPad, Dekho and ArcGIS Online. It was great to hear plans for the future of Esri technology at VicRoads, with WebGIS seen as an important part of operations. Deepak mentioned how recent ArcGIS Online testing resulted in several successful web mapping applications, and that the future of GIS at VicRoads will likely see services hosted in the cloud as well as via custom applications. Exciting times ahead for GIS at VicRoads!
The Future of GIS: Esri’s Road Map
It was fitting to finish the day with a sneak peek into the future of Esri technology from Kellie Persson and Josh. Josh outlined the road map for Dekho since the long awaited release of Dekho 4.1 last month. The Melbourne based product development group at Esri Australia are working hard on further updates with support for OneSearch and Bookmarks due soon, and ArcFM support released a fortnight ago. The 5.1 release of ENVI provides additional support for new satellite sensors as well as advanced services added to the ArcGIS Image Server extension. Josh also mentioned the latest 10.2.2 release of the ArcGIS Platform will go live soon for Australian users. The update includes support for users to take custom basemaps published from your own ArcGIS for Server into a disconnected environment using offline editing with the Collector App.
The Melbourne Directions stop was well received by all with many clients asking about ArcGIS Online, and the latest in disconnected editing via the Collector App, and all appreciative of the opportunity to sharpen their core GIS skills during the GeoFocus sessions.
I hope you took away some useful tips and resources from Directions 2014, be sure to stay tuned on our website for all of the presentations and I look forward to seeing you all in Adelaide come October, for Ozri 2014.