Wow, Thursday morning’s plenary was jam-packed with great speakers and demos, complete whirlwind of information. I took enough bullet-point notes on my iPhone to write a 15-page essay but I’ll try to distill it down…
The show was kicked off by recorded video from Jack, welcoming everyone to the event and addressing this year’s theme – “GIS Generations”. Our industry has gone through a few “generations” now – from the Arc/Info and AML days, to ArcView 3.x, to ArcGIS Desktop and Server, and we’re rapidly entering the new era of Web GIS. We’re hitting new industries, new users, and Jack’s prediction is of an upcoming “geoenlightenment” where GIS will be ubiquitous.
Gary Johnson was our first speaker and he reinforced that theme, stressing that we’re not talking about a new version of ArcGIS here, but a new vision for GIS. With GPS in everyone’s hands we’ve got things like Uber and Tinder now, and indoors GIS is on the cusp (we saw several cool demos of this later in the morning). On a surprising note he also revealed that this will be the final Ozri event of this type, but no word yet on what will be replacing it.
Derek Law from Esri Inc. and our own Ebony Wicks took the stage next, with Derek going into the real details behind what a shift to Web GIS means – he hoisted up architecture diagrams showing how ArcGIS Online and Portal hook up with the existing stack while stressing that they don’t replace the old stack.
Ebony gave us a demo that showed how a group here in Melbourne, “Experience Melbourne”, is using a public-facing Portal deployment to engage the public, while Desktop GIS users could perform complex analyses, share their results, and market analysts could consume their output without requiring knowledge of the underlying processes. All done while giving hipsters the (good-natured) business. It bounced back to Derek who gave us a set of slides with a deluge of what’s new and what’s in the pipeline for 10.4 and beyond – new apps like ArcGIS Earth, tools for building apps like Web AppBuilder and AppStudio, new 3D capabilities for Portal/Server, Big Data, a new utility network dataset, improved GeoJSON support, OGC support from ArcGIS Online, and a whole slew of other things.
Mark Wise from the Hobart council was next up to discuss how GIS could make a real impact in a workplace where it may be secondary. A huge obstacle he identified was a divide between people with IT/GIS skills and decision makers, but all of the trends he identified were positive – using ArcGIS Online to make data more accessible, web services and open data. (It’s only a quarter way through Ozri and open data has already come in multiple conversations I’ve had.) He then described some of the ways GIS is making the council’s operations more efficient, such as using Collector for parking operations (a four-to-five times improvement over paper) and how graffiti was being tracked by individual tagger.
One of the audience’s unanimous highlights of the morning was Kenneth Field, the self-described map-making Pom. He came out of the gate with smart mapping in ArcGIS Online, but what really stole the show in my opinion were vector tile caching, coming soon to ArcGIS Pro. To understand what a big deal they are, he gave us stats on how long it took to cache the same data using traditional raster tiling and using the soon-to-be-here vector tiling: three weeks of processing and 20 TB output for raster, eight hours and 13 GB for vector. I think this is a serious gamechanger. He also showed the Terrain Mapping toolbox (in beta), making some fantastic looking basemaps, some advanced cartographic techniques in Pro, and some historical 3-D cartography showing how General Winter laid the smack-down on Napoleon and a diorama of the JFK assassination.
Josh Venman from our Sydney office was next, demonstrating the use of different types of sensors for use with indoors GIS. In the first demo he had a Bluetooth sensor embedded in a pink flamingo (a plastic one, don’t worry) and showed how a customer in a store, identified by their mobile phone, could have their interaction with products analysed. He followed that up with a demo where two app users were notified of each other’s presence with a Max Headroom-style shout out – but their location wasn’t detected using GPS, but rather by an a priori mapping of the site’s magnetic fields. Whaaaat. I didn’t even know that was possible.
After morning tea Josh was back up, accompanied by Simon Jackson for a Lightning Round of new technology, the ArcGIS equivalent of Dueling Banjos. Here’s the rundown:
Simon: Survey123 – Grab location, validated fields, photos and post to feature service. And cross-platform.
Josh: ArcGIS for Utilities – Outage maps, identifying breaks in water mains.
Simon: AGOL Admin Tools – Copying bookmarks between apps, updating webmap URLs en masse.
Josh: ArcGIS Earth – Desktop app that consumes 3D services and KML/KMZ, basemaps and image services.
Simon: ArcMap – R Integration, a Tracking Analyst demo and an assurance that ArcMap isn’t going anywhere.
Josh: Hosted Feature Layer Templates in AGOL – Canned schema so you don’t need to use Desktop.
Simon: AppStudio template overview, cross-platform dev w/o coding, White Night map tour.
Josh: Web AppBuilder – Insurance portfolio app created in two minutes from a webmap and the Summary widget.
Phew. Dr. Michael Goodchild took the stage after that flurry of action and it was a privilege to hear the history of GIScience, going back as far as 1965 and identifying the major turning points and eras in GIS and GIScience, with social media currently playing the role of revolutionary. No longer is GIS exclusive to the realm of specialists, it’s in everyone’s hands, it’s been consumerised, and that means a major shift in thinking. Most folks don’t know their lat & long, but they know the place they’re in – this means a shift from spatial to “placial”. He then identified seven themes that have kept our field fresh for him:
- There’s constant novelty, often coming from other disciplines
- An emotional dimension – maps “clean up” the complexity of the real world
- A Newtonian perspective of the world – No quantum geography
- It’s a practical discipline with real-world uses
- Elegant algorithms
- It’s a real science with principles and theories
- For our era of unprecedented mobility, it engages with the real world – even augmenting it
Pat Harrell and Carl Alexander from the White House Utility District in Tennessee were our next guests and they discussed how they’ve used ArcGIS to take on challenges like outages due to main breaks and water loss due to old infrastructure. They didn’t take any half-measures, rolling out the whole stack from Desktop to Server to Portal to Pro to GEP to Collector and within eighteen months they had over three hundred maps, apps and dashboards providing information to everyone in their outfit and the public. They walked through the specific steps they took to isolate water loss to sub-districts and plan asset inspection in those areas, and how they send data from leak loggers back to the stack via Collector. They also showed a valve isolation trace using a Web AppBuilder widget, how outage information is sent to the public through webmaps, and how 3-D was used to predict water pressure issues. Perhaps just as impressive was a slide near the end that got down to brass tacks – $250,000 saved on water loss, $100,000 saved on optimisations and a capital improvement savings of $32.5 million.
Before we broke for lunch Josh came back on stage to show a tracking app that allowed our delegates to track Esri Australia folks by our phones using the GeoEvent Extension for Server.
He also showed some analytics, like a heat map, that were derived from our movements.
It was a lot to take in but a fantastic start to the event and there’s no question that everyone was stoked for the afternoon presentations, the excitement was palpable as food was served and we headed to Sofi’s to check out the exhibits…