ESRI User Conference 2009 Report

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ESRI User Conference 2009 Report

By Susan Smith

The ESRI User Conference 2009 held in San Diego last week drew a large crowd of attendees, down possibly 2-3,000 from previous years (Those figures were not in at press time). Nonetheless, attendees filled the Plenary Session on Monday, leaving few seats empty.

By GeoDesign

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
Jack Dangermond
Each year the ESRI message evolves, grows more towards an all encompassing whole. This year’s theme “Designing Our Future,” speaks to the truth that we are all designers, in Jack Dangermond’s words, of Software, Systems, and Geography.

Designers create for a purpose and geography is the science of the world, design being about purpose and seeing the future. GIS integrates these two worlds.

GeoDesign considers all geographic questions:

  • How can we describe geography? (Data inventory)
  • How does geography operate (process models)
  • How can we alter geography (capability/sustainability models)
  • What are the alternative scenarios? (designing/sketching)
  • What are the consequences of change? (evaluation/analysis)
  • How should geography be changed? (Decisions/values)

Dangermond said that we are now bringing science into the way we come about making decisions. Maps and GIS are changing, becoming richer and smarter, with new media opportunities such as mashups and user generated content extending geographic knowledge pervasively.

Those issues influencing mapping and GIS today include faster computers, bandwidth, storage, mobile, cloud resources, which are increasingly integrated with the web. GIS servers power enterprise and web applications.

The web is a powerful platform for GIS, and more authoritative data is being built such as high quality maps, visualizations, spatial analysis and models plus applications.


The center point of all this computing power is the geodatabase, according to Dangermond, a comprehensive information model that “encompasses any type of data and enables it to be stored in a scalable way, shapefiles, etc.”

In ArcGIS 9.3.1 features were talked about, such as the dynamic map service which has subsecond refresh rates of serving out data, rendering the results and passing it back to the original application. ArcGIS Server is behind the faster, cached map service.

Those rich internet applications (RIAs) are going to be free for educational non-commercial users as part of ArcGIS Server – JavaScript, Flex API and Silverlight, which enable users to access different servers and services.

Content is a key component of ArcGIS, and ESRI spends “millions” on content that goes in the box with ArcGIS. More content for ArcGIS Desktop 9.3.1 users is being made available such as Bing Maps, World Street Maps, World Imagery Maps. Content can be mashed up with the maps. All this content is free to Desktop 9.3.1 users and more is being added all the time.

“Think of it like cloud resources available for ingestion into your Desktop or Server environment, which means ArcGIS Server in the Cloud,” said Dangermond.

ArcGIS Explorer

According to Bernie Szukalski, another way to access this information is through ArcGIS Explorer – a free, easy, geovisualization tool, which will have a new version out in a couple of weeks.

In the new release, users can use Bing maps in the background as basemaps that can be accessed from the Explorer basemap gallery. Users can also add their own base maps. The product has a new integrated 2D and 3D display. Explorer supports all projection and transformations as ArcGIS Desktop. Users can see populations of the world (if you should choose a world base map) extruded. It is designed to work with GIS.

Support for layer packages is new in this release. Users can share layer packages, the same as in Desktop. ArcGIS Explorer is customizable without programming. Szukalski said that ArcGIS Server in this case does the “heavy lifting” and returns the result.

Live ArcGIS Explorer can look on the surface like a PowerPoint, yet users can access live data such as live webcams to look at traffic conditions and live previews.

ArcGIS creates layer packages which are easily created, have multiple dissemination methods, are directly usable. Users can choose who to share with, can share in free online storage site.

ArcGIS Online is a collaboration tool designed to easily find, share and create content. “Sort of like Flickr…a GeoFlickr.”

ArcGIS Application Templates will be contained in resource centers. Users will be able to download content to these templates and configure them for their organizations. “When you download it you’ll get a sample from geodatabase, an application, tax parcel viewer, a sample html page, and a “get started guide,” said Clint Brown.

New is the Tax Parcel Viewer, a web application that provides text maps and property information. It comes with two base maps, a public access map and secondly a tax map. It’s configured so it can be shared with others. Also the Tax Parcel Editing template for ArcGIS Desktop has the same editing database, and toolbar and custom editing tools.

“We also publish templates for water and public safety user community. Templates are not meant to be the whole solution but they will get you going,” said Brown.

ESRI template based solution products include ArcLogistics, Business Analyst, and MapIt, a simple database mapping product (jointly developed by ESRI and Microsoft).

MapIt is apparently “not a GIS product,” but it uses an SQL Server spatial extension, integrates with SharePoint and works with Silverlight.

ArcGIS 9.4 Technical Vision

Scott Morehouse provided a description of what comes next in ArcGIS innovation: the next big step – dramatic improvement in usability, performance and functionality.

This release make GIS a lot easier and also extends the reach and impact of users’ work.

Features in ArcGIS Desktop 9.4:

  • Will be easier to use and more productive
  • Very fast map display
  • Time visualization,
  • Integrated search, dynamic table of contents
  • Direct access (SQL query layers)
  • Multiple installs – be able to have previous version loaded at same time
  • Integrated catalog
  • Better tables/report/graphs
  • license checkout

Countdown of the first 9 innovations with ArcGIS 9.4:
9. Dockable windows that automatically hide, leave more real estate on screen for your map, and the map doesn’t have to redraw every time. New catalog window can be docked or hidden.
8. Attribute tables now displayed in a dockable window that hides, can open multiple tables.
7. New search tool that allows you to go in and find data you need using keywords. Also can use to search for geoprocessing tools and analysis.
6. Reporting –select 44 locations to make a report, select fields you want, predefined templates, you can save report and reexecute with a different selected set.
5. Geoprocessing and Model Builder – Use GIS for search and rescue, they can use geoprocessing models to find out where they have gone, Model Builder has a popup for each tool without having to open the tool. The Auto tool can reverse action. Enhanced customization capability so you have access to all the tools. New geoprocessing allows you to enable background processing so you can continue to work.

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