Top tech takeaways from the Esri UC

Fresh back from the Esri UC in San Diego, I would like to take this opportunity to share my findings:

The platform

Despite the fact GIS is rapidly evolving – driven by a prevalence of Big, 3D and real-time data, amongst other things – the Web GIS story still holds true. However, there have been some tweaks to the way it’s being told.

The traditional siloed system configurations of ArcGIS for Desktop and geodatabases have been labelled as ‘systems of record’ – i.e. they are used to create and update data which is vital to organisations making better decisions. Web GIS sits on top of these potentially distributed systems of record and makes authoritative data available to everyone who needs it – anywhere, any time and on any device.

Essentially, Web GIS provides us with a ‘system of engagement’ that sits on top of the systems of record.

Jack Dangermond - Esri UC plenaryAfter speaking with users from across the globe at the conference, it was clear most understood the value of making Web GIS central to an organisation’s operations. As Esri Founder and President Jack Dangermond said, “We are now entering a period of geographic enlightenment – or geo-enlightenment.”

However, the challenge is making this vision a reality. After all, successfully transforming an organisation could require major changes to data access, operational workflows and/or changes to the responsibilities of individuals – all of which could result in significant barriers to adoption.

The organisations which were successful in overcoming such obstacles typically had three characteristics:

  • They understood and prioritised their business needs.
  • They had a GIS champion at the executive level who drove/enforced change throughout the organisation.
  • They rapidly deployed the Esri solution templates to achieve initial operational capability and configured a portal to manage and secure their content, before customising and integrating with external systems if required. This sped up the process of user adoption and achieving an ROI.

White House Utilities DistrictThe White House Utility District are an international example of this, and these guys picked up a SAG Award for their efforts. Check out this video to see what a best practice GIS implementation looks like.

ArcGIS for Server

At the UC, Esri unveiled plans to bring vector map tiles to the ArcGIS platform. Vector tiles are a popular way of efficiently streaming high quality content to the web, and to mobile and desktop devices. They offer a vector-based alternative to cached raster tiles with the following advantages:

  • Improved performance
  • Dynamic labelling
  • Dynamic map restyling
  • Smaller cache sizes
  • Faster cache generation times

Have a look at the functionality by viewing the global vector tile basemaps from Esri as an ArcGIS Online service. You can consume them using beta JavaScript API 4.0. However, if you want to create and publish your own vector tiles to ArcGIS for Server and ArcGIS Online you will need to wait for the release of ArcGIS Pro 1.2.


For the many ArcMap users out there – the good news is the foundational application will be supported until 2022! In the meantime, Esri have been busy adding new tools, updating the architecture, improving performance and getting it ready to run on Windows 10. So don’t worry – ArcMap will remain a powerhouse in the GIS world for a while yet.

ArcGIS Pro

Saying that, on top of building vector tiles, there are a number of new capabilities being channelled through future releases of ArcGIS Pro (1.1 onwards), including:

  • The ability to create your own mobile map packages for deployment on all your devices. You can use mobile map packages to easily package maps, layers and their data to use in apps developed with an ArcGIS Runtime SDK (including, of course, Navigator for ArcGIS). Once on your device, you can use the packages offline to identify, query, analyse, route and geocode.
  • The ability to publish 3D scene services that contain points, lines and polygons.

Esri User ConferenceOf even more significance – at version 1.2 the licensing for Pro will change for the better. At 1.1, access to ArcGIS Pro is granted via the assigning of a named user. The issue being that if an organisation’s maintenance were to expire, they would lose the named user and, as a result, lose access to ArcGIS Pro – and all their work.

At 1.2, there’ll be a mechanism in place to enable a licence file to be assigned to a single machine to get around this. There will also be support for concurrent usage of ArcGIS Pro licences via the licence manager application – meaning you will be able to pool your licences.


You can’t talk platform without talking apps. There are many of them – but you can break them down into field apps, office apps and citizen engagement apps.

The biggest deal for me in this space is AppStudio for ArcGIS. This tool lets you create apps from configurable templates or custom code, then generates the installation files for Android/iOS/Windows/OS X/Linux before automatically publishing them to the appropriate app store for download. That’s one app running on many native devices!

A great example of an AppStudio app is Survey123 for ArcGIS (pre beta). This app enables you to design surveys in a spreadsheet and is compatible with the XLSForm specification. What this means is you can create forms with advanced logic and branching, and embedded audio and images. Users can then access the Survey123 app to collect data in the field and update ArcGIS feature services. The amount of configuration you can do in Excel, and the speed and ease of deployment, makes this an extremely powerful app.

And this is really just the tip of the iceberg! The scale of developments across the platform is truly immense.

If you’d like to find out more, or receive help and advice for your organisation – I encourage you to come to Ozri. Here, you will be able to connect with our technical specialists, and learn firsthand from the White House Utility District team and more.

Best regards,

John Hasthorpe – Ozri Technical Director

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