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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Esri User Conference Plenary Session 2013

July 9th, 2013 by Susan Smith

The  Esri User Conference 2013 Plenary Session kicked off yesterday morning with CEO Jack Dangermond recounting the various ways in which GIS is permeating the lives of people across the globe, and commending those GIS professionals in the audience who are instrumental in spreading that message.

According to Jack, there is more citizen involvement in the areas of disaster reporting, voting, and utility concerns. Story maps have proliferated in the past year and there is a new narrative for the Tour de France this week. Organizational portals, citizen data access, open data, government infrastructure, internal are just some of the areas that are growing in their use of GIS.

This year the “Making A Difference Award” was awarded to Jack (John) Wennberg, MD for looking at healthcare practices in terms of cost, outcomes, etc. based on location, in his book, “The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care.”

The Enterprise GIS Award was presented to the Lands Department of the government of Hong Kong, accepted by Dominic Wai Ching Su,JP

The President’s Award was presented to Direct Relief, with Dorothy Largay, Board Member and Andrew Schroeder, Director of Research and Analysis. They invested in GIS four years ago and have impacted “millions of people” since. Direct Relief International used Esri technology to create an interactive online mapping application for Haiti relief efforts.

Jack said that “nobody needs to be lost any more.” He talked about the transformative power of GIS and how it is being transformed, into a Web GIS, big data, the cloud, also integrating all the new measurement data, remote sensing, and 3D.

There is a pattern of  maps emerging to provide analytics, and we can now integrate sensor networks and real time information. Through WebGIS, we can integrate through web services and web apps.  “WebGIS lets you integrate anything through dynamic linking, overlays, bringing content in from multiple places, developing relationships and patterns and understanding processes,” said Mr. Dangermond.

ArcGIS 10.2 Release

ArcGIS supports the enterprise and as the support mechanism changes in organizations, it transforms how GIS is used and changes the roles of people in organizations.

ArcGIS is now a web GIS,  as it makes maps, analyzes information,  manages GIS, is open, and accessible from any client.

ArcGIS Content includes The Living Atlas which is a growing collection of content that has world imagery coverage, a diverse selection of imagery, and interactive maps.

ArcGIS now “dramatically improves” 3D GIS.

The 3D Cities team addresses users’ questions as how to make their cities 3D.  What they want is a 3D city in a web browser. With 3D Cities the process is made easier. Step 1 is to import data into a data model. Bring in CityGML, map attributes. Step 2 Convert 2D building footprints into 3D textured facades. Point to the building footprints, and specify your output. It reads the attributes of building footprints, applies texture, and the same procedural can be used for other city data. Step 3 – Open an ArcGIS document, add trees, etc. and that’s your basemap.

You now have 3D city and can share it.

David Shepherd talked about the future of 3D Cities online. The next generation of Webscenes connects streaming services with no plugins and no installs. The services stream into the browser and you can have webscenes of any size. You can go to a geocoding service, and zoom back out to global and switch out a basemap to see which cities and which international flights may be impacted by a hurricane, for example.

ArcGIS is also a strong imagery platform that introduces intelligent imagery on the web.

Many products were talked about, such as GeoEvent Processor that exploits real time data, ArcGIS apps, ArcGIS Online that allows users to run GIS in the cloud, providing GIS as an SaaS, and Esri Maps for Office.

Over the last year ArcGIS Online has transformed to a true web GIS. An example given was the Conservation NGO that wanted to know how close a proposed pipeline would come to a critical habitat. They used the new ability to analyze layers of maps. They found 612 miles of critical habitat that might be impacted.

Solutions templates are designed for different vertical areas, like state and local governments, and are free to users and easily configured, open sourced and fully configured.

In two weeks, version 10.2 of ArcGIS will be released. It will have 64-bit, multiple windows in the desktop world, fluid display, Geodesign in 3D, analytics, clean UX and much more.

Jim McKinney, head of the Esri Desktop Development Team, talked about the 10.2 version, citing the following “top ten favorite new features:”

  1. Improved Excel tools. Creating an Excel spreadsheet is as easy as opening the Excel spreadsheet.
  2. JSON- saving a JSON file is the same as saving an Excel spreadsheet. You can bring it into a web app where you see both the attributes and the data.
  3. New simplified tools – an example is an optimized hotspot workflow.
  4. Ready to use services that enhance your analysis!
  5. PK security an improvement for IT managers. ArcGIS Professional is the next generation of ArcGIS Desktop.
  6. Sharing maps within the organization.
  7.  ArcGIS Online is portal for GIS within your own network.
  8. Solutions that make your jobs easier.
  9. A public safety planning template, containing maps and data with best practices.
  10.  Access ArcGIS in business systems, including MicroStrategy and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Urban Observatory

The Urban Observatory is a project designed by Richard Saul Wurman that compares cities around the world, in terms of traffic, p0pulation, roadspeed, open spaces, youth population, elderly population, etc. “Only ten cities at at a time are displayed,” said Wurman. “The purpose of this is, only 50% of the world’s population live in cities now, and in years to come it will be 100%. We want to see what we can do to design our cities.”

In a later press conference, Wurman said the project is a test run with Esri having one-third investment in the project. Wurman began the project because no one had developed anything to compare cities using these criteria. He hopes to add smaller cities in the future. He said the Smithsonian, Singapore and Hamburg would like to have one of these urban observatories.

GIS for Philadelphia’s Finest

The City of Philadelphia Police Department empowers more than 6,000 officers and detectives.

Grant Ervin, Public Safety GIS Program Manager, City of Philadelphia, Deputy Mayor’s Office of Public Safety, said that GIS had been a “maybe next year” initiative for the Police Department, but once it was in place, the benefits showcased themselves. “A district commander can now see the activities of his group as well as the highway group, prison releases,etc.,” said Ervin. “It took us a little over three years to implement and now we can do the summary account of what happened in the day, and on-the-fly hot spot analysis, among other things.”

Detective Justin Frank uses GIS to solve crimes. He gave the example of a robbery at St. Gabriels’ Convent the night before Christmas when all the kids toys were stolen. The thief, Hagins, was caught using the GIS system at another  address across town, which he was also burglarizing. The thief said he got a new iPhone and tattoo with the money he stole from the convent.

Predictive analysis is also used to identify burglary patterns and place officers in the right place at the right time, according to Frank. They have also developed a Gang Activity application using situational awareness. “A zone can go from hot to cold really fast,” said Frank. “We need to get information out to the street to keep the gangs alive.”

He also said the GIS has helped them be able to deal with a smaller police force. “50 cops retire this month, and this doesn’t mean we are going to replace all of them. We are using less human resources.”

GIS for the Inner City

Working for the good of inner city youth is musician, entrepreneur and philanthropist, who founded the organization to provide educational scholarships for underserved students.

As a musician, producer, director and advocate for education, he is an enthusiastic technology user. In recognition of his ability to harness technology to enhance entertainment, creativity and communication, Intel Corporation appointed will as Director of Creative Innovation in 2011.

With a commitment to inspire kids to stay in school and go to college , advocates regarding the importance and power of a good education through his angel foundation. The scholarship provides future leaders and innovators with comprehensive financial assistance to complete post-secondary education. The Foundation has also created (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), an elementary and middle school initiative to provide underserved students with learning and interaction opportunities beyond the classroom in collaboration with Discovery Education.

He pointed out that gang members are recruiting children as young as 9 to be members, as companies recruit employees. These children in poor districts desperately need other options. is planning to attend MIT in the fall.

Theodore Roosevelt High School English teacher and mentor Roxana Ayala, students Alexander Cosio, Uriel Gonzales and Stephany Ortiz; Teacher Alice Im and Enrique Legaspi of the organization all spoke on their experience with mapping, researching, and writing. “When the students feel supported by their school communities, and feel success in academic achievements, they can accomplish what they want,” said Im. Esri has been able to help these students reach their goals.


In summary, the plenary session was more about people this year than a technical overview. The special sessions will provide a look under the hood at the new technologies and 10.2 release. The people and what they are doing with GIS to make a better world, and what they bring from their experiences and backgrounds, will populate follow-up reports from this conference over the next days.

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Categories: Esri, remote sensing, satellite imagery, spatial data

2 Responses to “Esri User Conference Plenary Session 2013”

  1. Babjan says:

    Do you have any experience exrtnctiag data from a query layer? I am relatively new to GIS and fell in love with query layer also. I am now in a position of having to extract data from a query layer into a shape file and it doesn’t play nice!

  2. Susan Smith says:

    You would do best to contact Esri or another GIS company such as Pitney Bowes MapInfo or Intergraph to help you with query layers.

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