Esri UC reflections and the GIS tech headed our way

Fresh from my trip to the US, I thought it would be valuable to share my UC highlights with you all – particularly as we’ll be showcasing the technology featured there at Ozri this October.

Surrounded by 15,000 other spatial professionals from 132 countries around the world, the conference provided a great opportunity to share, collaborate and learn.

Just as important, was the sense of community the event generated. The multinational, multidisciplinary crowd descended upon San Diego to celebrate the value, versatility and beauty of maps. Adding to the community vibe the UC Selfie, limited edition pin badges and Map Man T-shirts.

In addition to witnessing the visually stunning and truly inspirational UC plenary, I had the opportunity to talk with many of Esri’s technical specialists (and superstars) to get a feel for where the ArcGIS platform is going – and how users in Australia stand to benefit.

Of course the focus of the conference was the ArcGIS platform.

As readers of this blog will know, the ArcGIS platform uses geography to dynamically integrate data (as web services) from a range of sources and in a range of formats – Jack Dangermond calls this concept Web GIS. It makes these spatially integrated services accessible ‘anywhere’, on ‘any device’ at ‘any time’.

We have the Portal for ArcGIS application to curate, document, promote and find services (as well as maps and apps) and a growing number of focussed apps (running on Desktop, Mobile and Web devices) to leverage them.

JH blog image 1

Of course the platform is only as valuable as the content it hosts. From a technology perspective our ArcGIS for Desktop and ArcGIS for Server form part of this interconnected platform; empowering users to create and host valuable content. The most important part of the equation of course is individuals, groups and organisations continually creating and sharing community content.

Considering the above, let’s take a look at the key conference take always.

Spatial Analysis

Spatial analysis helps us create valuable and insightful content, and is one of our differentiating skills as GIS professionals. Esri has been working on advancements across the range of ArcGIS for Desktop tools, but highlights include support for:

  • Space/time pattern analysis
  • Multi-dimensional data
  • Flow visualisation

Esri are also migrating more of the analytic tools to the online environment. This is great news for all app users out there.

Real-time

A growing number of our users are bringing real-time data feeds into their maps and dashboards. For GEP (ArcGIS Geoevent Extension for Server) Esri have added to the number of in-stream analytics functions available, in addition to providing support for more sensors – and better integration with big data. In the near future we will also see support for a new stream service. This removes the need for constantly refreshing applications to see data updates and makes for leaner apps.

3D

There is plenty coming in the 3D space. But of greatest significance is the support for 3D visualisation and analysis across the whole platform, i.e. desktop, browser and mobile device. In line with this, we will see the introduction of 3D services (scene and basemap); enabling users to offload resource intensive 3D processing to servers.

Imagery

Imagery continues to play a major role in our platform, i.e. the management, analysis and serving of intelligent imagery. Here Esri have introduced new image processing tools, and new tools for advanced visualisation. On top of this they have added more support for scientific formats. Users can now work natively with the likes of NetCDF – with no conversion tools required – and view potentially hundreds of thousands of image scenes at the same time.

Desktop

For ArcGIS for Desktop users, there were a couple of big announcements. The first was the 10.3 release of ArcGIS (ETA Q4). This will include improvements to the platform’s quality and performance; the addition of new cartographic and analytic tools; and, enhancements to image processing. The second announcement was that ArcGIS for Desktop 10.3 will include the ArcGIS Pro application.

Essentially ArcGIS Pro is ArcMap’s cooler, younger brother. It will run parallel to ArcMap, and provide:

  • A modern intuitive interface
  • 64-bit support
  • Support for multiple map layouts
  • An integrated 2D and 3D environment
  • Ability to turn desktop maps into web maps automatically.
  • Tasks (workflow manager tasks will be integrated into the GUI)
  • Projects (you will be able to save projects containing mxds, data, models etc).

Don’t think of ArcGIS Pro as a replacement for ArcMap. It does not have the full functionality of ArcMap just yet – but there are a number of things it can do better. I see people gradually moving over where, for example, they want access to superior processing/rendering when working in 3D, or where they need to access something like symbol transparency (this helps produce truly stunning maps).

Apps

I hope that many of you are aware of the range of configurable applications that come with ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS for Server, and ArcGIS for Desktop. There are a few – but essentially they can be categorised into data collectors, dashboards and viewers.

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There have been many developments of significance in this area.

Collector for ArcGIS (IOS and Android) now supports offline data capture, searching for features and the ability to capture multiple features with the same attribute values (this is very much ArcGIS for Windows Mobile territory).

There has been the release of a number of new apps/templates. Take a look at the following links for just a selection of them:

Explorer:                http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/explorer
Web AppBuilder:  http://www.esri.com/software/web-appbuilder
Open Data:            http://doc.arcgis.com/en/open-data/
Briefing Book:       http://storymaps.arcgis.com/en/app-list/map-journal

I would like to highlight the Open Data application, which can be enabled on any Organisational Online account. This application provides a slick interface that enables users to find, access and download key datasets. It will be of great value to those public/government bodies in Australia wanting to share their data. Speaking at the conference, US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker presented on the economic benefits of open data policies – and made a compelling case for sharing.

The number of apps are still growing. I managed to get into the road-ahead session for Esri’s apps they are currently working on. On the cards is a Navigator app – this will give us an in-vehicle navigation-styled application that will integrate with the likes of Collector for ArcGIS. The great thing about this (over existing mass mapping apps) is you can optionally use your own network and basemaps, and take them all offline.

Also keep an eye out for the Field Assistant app – this will enable managers to assign tasks to their field workers and keep track on progress.

Online

The functionality of ArcGIS Online is continually and rapidly advancing. This year, we’ve had a number of releases resulting in improvements in user experience, functionality and security. Of note are the following:

  • A new management console showing individual usage relative to credits
  • Custom roles for users
  • Support of related tables
  • The ability to create presentations in Map Viewer
  • ArcGIS Online has gained FISMA certification.

Additionally, users now have access to new spatial analysis services, including: Calculate Density; Interpolate Points; Plan Routes; Enrich Layers; and, Create Drive-Time Areas, and new templates have been added:

  • GeoForm template: This is a configurable web app template, allowing you to edit feature data in a form instead of a pop-up window. This template is great for crowd sourcing as no organisation login is required.
  • Map Journal template: This is a configurable story map template, allowing you to present a map-based narrative organised into a set of journal entries – great for creating compelling multimedia stories (combing text, graphics, and maps), and is very responsive.

Licensing

Here is where things are working out well for us. ArcGIS for Desktop users will have access to ArcGIS Pro, and already have access to ArcGIS Online (and unlimited web mapping). Now Portal for ArcGIS will be included as part of their ArcGIS for Server (Standard) Licence. This means users will be able to utilise ArcGIS Online within their firewall, for content management, and creating web maps and apps.

Community

So to wrap up my ‘highlights’ of the UC let’s finish with Community. As a GIS professional, we are part of an active and innovative community. When we share ideas and data, and work together, we can (and do) make a positive difference to our businesses, our environment and even to mankind. To help facilitate our GIS community, Esri have released GeoNet. This is a social network for Esri users, and will become the new home for all existing forums. It has already proven itself a great platform for keeping the conversation going beyond the actual conference and we’ll be using it for Ozri.

Speaking of Ozri – we will be incorporating the above highlights into our program for this year’s national user conference. However, our aim is to make our content relevant for you. As such, we have developed a program that accommodates the industries you work in; and, the versions of the technology you are using.

You will have the opportunity to see the latest technology in action; learn best practice workflows; and, talk to Esri superstars from the US and Australia. Just as importantly you will meet with your peers from across Australia to share ideas, experiences, and contribute to your GIS community.

I hope to see you there.

John H

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