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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 Morning Plenary Session Covers Geoenlightenment, Web GIS, Story Maps, ArcGIS Earth and Much More

July 21st, 2015 by Susan Smith

With the theme, “Applying geography everywhere,” Jack Dangermond, president of Esri, definitely covered all the pertinent topics of the day. The Esri User Conference held annually in San Diego, kicked off Monday with approximately 16,000 in attendance, which could be amply felt in the halls and the morning plenary session.


Dangermond began with the customary review of how GIS is being used by users and in people’s lives, spanning precision agriculture to health to buildings.

What is “geo-enlightenment?” asked Dangermond. It is the “understanding of the interconnectedness of things,” he said.

A lot of attention was paid to the Web GIS as a “transformational architecture, opening, integrating and simplifying everything. It creates a system of engagement.” Esri is moving to real-time GIS and connected GIS. Dangermond said that it empowers everyone with geographic advantage, creates shared information and facilitates collaboration.

He talked about the traditional GIS set up which was hierarchical with stovepiped data and compared it today’s networked, shared geographic understanding.

A diagram of ArcGIS, the “centerpiece of how we describe our work,” was shown on the big screen. ArcGIS is supported by ArcGIS Server. In the last few years Esri has added security and an entire group of open technologies that are now available on the web and on premises.

The geoinformation model is another concept brought up concurrently with ArcGIS and Web GIS. The geoinformation model is a way to abstract different types of geoinformation and organize it into simple layers, rendered into 3D web maps and scenes. It makes GIS simple; as it is easy to work with web maps. This data can be abstracted from all over the organization, or the web, and made into simple web maps.

Bernie Szukalski, chief technology advocate and product strategist at Esri, talked about “trending in Web GIS.”

What is “trending” includes portals both private and public, on premises or on the web, said Szukalski.

The trend in analysis is that now it is cloud based for everyone, and is now available to anyone in an organization and easy to use. Smart mapping is data driven web cartography and data exploration that is also a trend. Data exploration tools also let you learn more about your data, providing valuable insight to share with others.

Story maps have really taken off for Esri and now there is what is called a “story map cascade,” an immersive experience to scroll through. An example of this is “A River Reborn.”

Innovation in GIS – Platform Themes

Esri has a “Living Atlas” of the world containing thousands of maps and layers, a large living library of geoinformation.

At the center of ArcGIS is data management, focused on workflows and tools, with new tools to do conflation, utility modeling, SmartGrid implementations, and expanded support into new database areas.

Mapping and Visualization – Advanced Tools for 2D and 3D

Nate Bennett and Chris Andrews spoke about vector tiles and ArcGIS Earth, new releases for the fall.

Nate Bennett talked about vector tiles, an intriguing new announcement of technology to allow data to be pre-rendered at various scales. Labels dynamically orient, and all basemap features are compressed and stored. The styling for them is handled through a separate style and you can make small focused changes and create a completely new style. You can also choose the cache format that suits your needs and be able to mashup vector and raster files. This announcement brought great applause from the audience.

Chris Andrews introduced the idea of ArcGIS Earth, a lightweight immersive experience that can use your data coming from ArcGIS Server in a Pictometry file offering full KML support. It is similar to the Google Earth Visualization tool in user experience. The KML file depicted showed job density in downtown San Francisco, and can show rent control housing in a neighborhood. There is the capability to drag and drop KML files and use ArcGIS Web maps and services. This was another tool that garnered great applause from the audience.

Imagery is increasingly becoming a central part of what Esri is working on. Advanced analytics can now be done on a single image. There are over 100 integrated analysis, image processing tools. Workflow templates allow you to make image processing simple. There is also additional sensor support for drones.

On the desktop Esri adds Bayesian regression, (EBK), which can facilitate the prediction of where something may do better or happen.

Integrating GIS with or R users will be able to reach into ArcGIS and directly do analysis on ArcGIS databases. Users will be able to reach into R and integrate them as geoprocessing functions and get 200% geocoding.

As we might imagine, GIS became central to the Boston Marathon security events.

A Big Data project in the works for Esri is the combination of geoanalytics and visualization of massive amounts of data. The GeoAnalytics Server is a new product to be launched next year for dealing with very large datasets. It will make it possible for users to analyze huge numbers of images very quickly using scalable architecture done by parallelizing computation. It will be an extension to ArcGIS and will greatly speed up the computation of big data sets.

Esri supports an Open Platform that ensures data and system operability with other standards, industry formats, and open software.

“The ArcGIS product is an integrated system made up of a lot of components but it is one integrated system,” said Dangermond. “The desktop professional GIS now embodies two main applications, ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro (64 bit environment for visualization.) ArcMap will be supported in the future with new and improved geoprocessing, space time modeling, image processing and LAS tools. More analytics and 3D will also be coming.”

An interesting study was done on the trees of the District of Columbia. ArcGIS Pro was used to help solve a local problem where street trees had decreased in parts of the district in 2014. Because the tool allows you to leverage 2D and 3D simultaneously, it was used to create urban tree canopy studies that regulate privately owned as well as city trees. With data added from the cloud, an accurate picture of what was going on was formed, and they were able to identify and fine those people who were cutting trees illegally.


Apps are a big part of the future, with field to office public apps, build your own capabilities, crowdsourcing apps that get above the voice of the crowd. Web app templates and a web app builder are now available. This fall Esri will introduce AppStudio which will enable the creation of native apps for every organization to have their own to build and deploy to various platforms.

The list of new stuff in the enterprise Web GIS is somewhat daunting – Big Data geoanalytics, new utility network, GeoJSON, Google Cloud, distributed portals.

Online what’s on the horizon include improved search, advanced analysis, enhanced OGC support, and BING map support.

Lots of new themes will be realized this winter with version 10.4 of ArcGIS, said Dangermond. He also asks, where will all this lead? “Why are we working our butts off?”

In answer to that somewhat quizzical question, he reminded the audience that it’s only been 50 years since people started putting maps into the computer. He talked about the nervous system for the planet being created by GIS and “already there”, but it will be a system for understanding and better decision making, leading to a more sustainable future.

Water, fire, air and earth are the great forces we must deal with on the planet. An example of GIS used with each of these important elements was provided by customers.


The Southwest Florida Water Management System represented by Steve Dicks, Leigh Vershowske and Kris Kaufman talked about understanding hydrological systems and how to apply GIS.

Water is a defining feature in Florida. There is 30% more flood insurance sold in Florida than anywhere else in the country. In 1997 they created a classic strategy GIS enterprise, and since have had to rebuild their strategy.

Because the state is so flat, they must include surface and subsurface information. “Developers can use our models to know where to build homes,” said Vershowske.

By developing an environmental resource permit pre app viewer, they have been able to reduce flooding hazards.

Welcome to the R – ArcGIS Community

How this was accomplished was by collecting conductivity samples of the water quality effect on seagrass. “We want to understand water quality and predict values along the river – statistical values in R called SSM,” explained Dicks. “R users can directly access all their organization’s GIS data. ArcGIS users can directly integrate R into their geoprocessing workflows.”

Visit the community website where R went live Monday morning for more details.

Tony Mason talked about the new ArcGIS mapping app for drones. The data from drones is affordable, and this app works with a wide range of commercial drones. In the imagery shown of Oatlands Historical House and Gardens, drone data was added to the base map, which made it possible to see individual plants in the garden. By classifying a point cloud, the user could remove a tree and see what the garden may look like it without it.


Hartsfield-Jackson Altanta International Airport analysis

Hartsfield-Jackson Altanta International Airport analysis

The world’s busiest airport, Atlanta International (Hartsfield-Jackson) Airport, handles more than 250,000 passengers every day. David Wright and Anthony Vazquez talked about what they use to ensure safety. They use a safety critical app to make sure there are no runway problems and to share real time data across other GIS apps. They also use Explorer for ArcGIS to manage grass cutting on airport grounds, and Web Map to manage other aspects such as wildlife on the airfield and concrete slabs.

The GIS team uses indoor GIS, 3D web and mobile GIS, and with ArcGIS Pro can run scenes in real time.

They are using the new apps Dispatcher, Workforce and Navigator, which with Collector can improve efficiency. Vazquez said he has Workforce Mobile running on his iPhone. He uses Navigator from Workforce, in order to find the safest and quickest route to the airport on roadways. Workforce Dispatch is used for coordinating dispatches, monitoring workers’ status as well as work and inspections. Mobile inspectors are needed to collection information and ultimately they need an efficient fueling system at airports.


Beck’s Hybrids farms is using GIS with goals to maximize yield, keep costs low and be a good steward of the land. Brad Fruth, Brooke Gajownick and Craig Rogers spoke about their “responsibility to feed the world.”

Farming has historically been fraught with unpredictable outcomes, but with precision agriculture and breaking fields into zones, they can use real time GIS data from weather, soil, yield and last year’s crop NDVI to get a better outcome. FARMserver, a complete GIS farm management system, is what they use to bring farming and GIS together. FARMserver includes Geodesign tools and customers have access to all the data anytime with this solution.

Customers have access to all data anytime anywhere with FARMserver.

Beck’s has their Geospatial Service to support the sales team, and uses ArcGIS Pro to show high and low sales over time, hot spot analysis, and see spatial and temporal trends. Emerging hot spot analysis is accomplished using Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS.


Australia provided the locale for the example of how GIS is used in fire management with the country’s worst bush fire catastrophe. In 2009, the province of Victoria, experienced massive wildfires grown out of control. From the State of Victoria Government, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Anthony Griffiths and Anthony Burgon, eMap architect, talked about the severe weather events leading up to that devastating fire season. The temperature was 115 degrees F, creating its own weather. There were lightning strikes, the wind changed and the flank of the fire became the front.

Although every agency responded to the event named “Black Saturday,” the result was catastrophic losses – 2,000 homes lost, 1 million acres burned, 173 fatalities and 5,000 displaced. From this disaster, the eMap emergency map platform was born to provide users with timely information that can work on any device, and is scalable at any time. It also includes predictive services to help predict what may happen in the future and uses the cloud to ensure rapid emergency response.

Additional Esri User Conference 2015 coverage:

Afternoon Plenary Esri User Conference 2015: The Importance of Location

Categories: 3D designs, analytics, ArcGIS, ArcGIS Online, Big Data, cloud, cloud network analytics, conversion, crowd source, data, drones, emergency response, Exelis, field GIS, geocoding, geospatial, GIS, location intelligence, mapping, mobile, satellite imagery, sensors, spatial data, UAS, UAV

One Response to “Esri User Conference Morning Plenary Session Covers Geoenlightenment, Web GIS, Story Maps, ArcGIS Earth and Much More”

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