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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 Federal User Conference 2016 Kicks Off

February 25th, 2016 by Susan Smith

It would seem from the presentations at the Esri Federal User Conference 2016 held in Washington D. C. this week, that the federal government is becoming more “open” on the subject of data, while at the same time protecting the nation’s security perhaps more fiercely than ever.

JackDangermondPart of the “open” is due to the fact that there is a lot of data to be mined from sources outside the government, and that the need for agencies to work together to solve critical problems has become greater than ever.


President and CEO Jack Dangermond kicked off the 19th Esri Federal User Conference plenary with a tribute to those that use GIS for government work, with every level of government represented at the conference.

Dr. John Brockhaus, director of the geospatial program at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was awarded the “Making a Difference Award.” Dr. Brockhaus said that “Our product is a cohort of second lieutenants who are experts in the development and application of geospatial technologies. It is my distinct privilege to be in the classroom with these bright, motivated young women and men, who will be proponents for the utilization of these technologies………they inspire me, challenge me, and leave me confident that the future of our military and our country are, indeed, in good hands.”

The implementation of GIS is more agile these days, said Jack. WebGIS is transforming GIS – as it has evolved from systems of record to system of engagement.

Systems of record are about updating the database.

Systems of engagement have more to do with social media type systems, connectedness, the ability to get content in real time, sharing and allowing others to share what was shared.

GIS has gone from segmented to shared networked geographic understanding. “It means integration, collaboration, opening up access.”

The geoinformation model abstracts and represents data as a webmap without copying or integrating it into one big database. This is done with REST, instead of as a database centric approach. “I can access the weather service, or internet of things, access imagery data, enterprise data. What this means is we can bring data in from many agencies and access and work with it,” said Jack.

Jo Fraley spoke of ArcGIS Earth, a new desktop app that integrates functionality and replicates Google Earth. “We expect to drag KML files over and explore,” Fraley said. “Since it’s part of the ArcGIS platform, you can have access to additional information from our database. Since you can connect to your portal you have access to all your base maps.”

For the last seven years, Esri has been building thousands of layers of information in the cloud, many of which are from the government. There are now billions of views per week. Over 2 million people subscribe to this information. Those who are building datasets are influencing users around the world.

In the desktop world, and R are integrating more analysis tools. The desktop analytic tools overlaying from distributed datasets is now possible off the desktop.


A new app called Insights is demonstrated at this conference. Insights introduces a new way to visualize data on cards or maps. Between visualizations everything else interacts, and you can gain new discoveries on your data. Fraley demonstrated seeing discrepancies in what people are reporting by using a model that showed an increase in burglaries, while other data showed there was a decrease. She found that in certain areas there was an increase in burglaries, while in others there were fewer (this study run with 2014 data). “Everything I’ve done has been recorded. I can share information with other people, they can share it and rerun my analysis,” she said, and it is totally integrated with ArcGIS.”


A lot of base tools in GIS are built right into desktop and server technologies. Esri released Drones2Map for ArcGIS, which turns raw still imagery from drones into professional 2D and 3D imagery products. This is an affordable desktop app that provides an inexpensive way to do persistent surveillance for land analysis, infrastructure inspection, and monitoring events such as environmental changes and natural disasters. “This way we’re doing image processing on demand,” said Jack. “This is different than the linear sequence. As I move in on the image, it is dynamically doing the processing on the fly.”

Esri entered into a partnership with Vricon, a provider of photorealistic 3D mapping products and digital elevation models for the defense and security industries. This partnership will allow ArcGIS users to access Vricon’s 3D and digital elevation model products.

Big Data

Geoanalytics and visualization of massive data can be processed in Hadoop or Elastic Search, allowing spatial operators to handle billions of observations, an aggregated layer of a million records.

Geoanalytics will be a new spatial analytics extension that allows you to run aggregations to explore patterns. You can run bigger jobs than ever before.

In addition, geoanalytics lets you ask space time questions that you’ve not been able to do before in multi-dimensional real time spatial analysis.

Suzanne Foss talked about integrating sensor networks and IoT and bringing it into a GIS frame.

GeoEvent Server deals with hundreds of thousands of observations per second. Because data comes at us constantly from different sources, GeoEvent was redesigned from ArcGIS Event Manager. Using a cluster of 5 machines in the Amazon Cloud with GeoEvent running in Amazon, in the given example, GeoEvent captured almost 200 million flight patterns. You can configure your own GeoEvent maps to work with data on the fly, for example, everywhere a plane has flown in the last two weeks. Configuring statistics opens opportunities for forensics. By combining flight data with weather data, you can see how pilots changed flight patterns to fly around storm cells.

ArcGIS Platform Components

ArcGIS is a single integrated platform, but from an engineering perspective it is a single open platform, that can be extended, embedded and built on top of.

Esri has about 40 people building open source solutions in GitHub for users and developers who wish to extend their basic tools, and they will do more this year. These are fully supported apps that you can configure and load and go with.

The desktop is going through transformation and will focus on two basic apps: ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro.

James Sullivan talked about ArcGIS Pro 1.2, which allows multi dimensioning mapping for your 2D and 3D data.

ArcGIS Server can be federated, and when this happens, layers, maps scenes will rise up to a higher portal. This will be in the next version.

ArcGIS Online provides cloud based GIS and improved search and additional analytics that will be coming this summer.

Flood Event Viewer: FloodView

During Hurricane Sandy, data was collected along the east coast. For Hurricane Joaquin, sensors collected crucial information about real time flooding information – showing locations, sensor types and data. The USGS partnered with FEMA that assists in flood response. They were able to get data and the story behind the science by using Story Maps.

Homeland Security – Homeland Infrastructure Foundation Level Data – (HIFLD)

With the HIFLD, Homeland Security is now delivering open and secure data. HIFLD has 250 datasets, and up to date, downloadable files available to the public. “This is a significant change if you can see how Homeland Security has changed over the past 15 years since 9/11,” said special guest presenter, David Alexander from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

This mission requires a whole national approach, navigating between open and secure information, querying, which of our critical infrastructure data can we make open? And what must remain secure and not open?

“We cannot protect everything ourselves,” said Alexander.

The Boston Marathon Bombing made the agency recognize their approach requires new types of engagement.

“We used to ship DVDs. Now we use dynamic webs services that are updated from the source,” said Alexander. “This Provides national foundation level geospatial data, we need to pre-position supplies and equipment.”

How do I access it and share this data? Through services, so developers can use it and make sure their apps are up to date. Another core mission is infrastructure protection. HFLID has collected fuel station data for the entire country.

“Using the charting capability I can see the most prevalent fuel type in the country,” said Alexander. “Electric fuel stations are useful at the national level.”

DHS private sector partners can use this data for resiliency and economics. Providing open trust on authoritative data is fundamental, said Alexander.

HIFLD data is discoverable and accessible from anywhere. “We can empower citizens and communities to support local law enforcement and private sector and homeland security, building a transparent and collaborative ecosystem for sharing across the nation,” said Alexander.

Esri Technology Announcements

Other technology announcements made around the conference included Esri’s release of World Geocoder for ArcGIS, which enables users to securely map global addresses behind a firewall so that sensitive data is not exposed.

Fire Globe is part of NFC's GIS Fire Enterprise Geospatial Portal (Fire EGP)

Fire Globe is part of NFC’s GIS Fire Enterprise Geospatial Portal (Fire EGP)

The web GIS application Fire Globe, from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) has been transferred to the Esri platform. Fire Globe is part of NIFC’s GIS, Fire Enterprise Geospatial Portal (fire EGP), which also operates on the Esri platform.



Lastly, more partner news: what3words announced that it will provide its 3 word address and location reference system to ArcGIS Marketplace. The Marketplace allows ArcGIS users to search, get apps and discover content from qualified providers. what3words is based on a global grid of 57 trillion squares of 3mx3m; each square has a unique pre-assigned 3 word address, making addressing infinitely easier. The product is being used in over 170 countries and within the ArcGIS platforms of Esri partners Tensing, York County, Emu Analytics, OBB and Meteom911.

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Categories: analytics, ArcGIS, ArcGIS Earth, ArcGIS Online, climate change, cloud, data, disaster relief, drones, emergency response, Esri, field GIS, geospatial, GIS, Google Earth Enterprise, location intelligence, mapping, mobile, NASA, OpenGeo, public safety, remote sensing, satellite imagery, sensors, UAS, UAVs, USGS

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