Thoughts on ESRI UC 2010 Plenary Session Video

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Thoughts on ESRI UC 2010 Plenary Session Video

The world has changed since last year. In previous years, the Esri UC Plenary Session held in San Diego at the ESRI User Conference would preview features from upcoming versions of ArcGIS, ones that were in the more distant future. This year, it would seem that the future has arrived, or has already happened, as many users are already using the latest version of the software, ArcGIS 10, which was not even mentioned in last year's plenary.

Perhaps this is as a result of social networking, which may close the gap between the promised and the attainable. I think this shows that some layers of the vision has been realized, and will continue to be realized, through a quieter reflection rather than the “Gee Whiz” or “Wow” of previous years' messages.

Hot Topics

President and CEO of ESRI Jack Dangermond listed some hot topics - crowdsourcing, Community Base Maps, 311 systems, web based geospatial platform, faster computing, proliferation of smartphones and applications, ArcGIS 10, government open data policies and last but certainly not least, the Cloud. All these topics fit together into one big picture.

Although a lot was said about crowdsourcing and how it was employed during the Haitian earthquake, there is little information on how the data was used in those situations, only the fact that it was gathered.

Dangermond mentioned that computing is now faster, which has led to more measurement, smart phones, crowdsourcing, GIS software, open data policies for governments. As a result there is more sharing of data, applications, and serving citizens.

The “web based geospatial platform” that is emerging makes it possible to have information from citizens brought into the geodatabase. A company called CitySourced connects citizens to agencies, and any citizen with a GPS device can become a sensor. This information feeds directly into the geodatabase, for routing, geospatial analysis. You can take a photo with a description which is sent to a cloud based platform, and routed to the right agency. The creators of CitySourced are from a social media background and see their application as “a huge opportunity to fill geospatial databases.”

311 systems are employed by local and state agencies to handle non-emergency calls from citizenry with regard to road closures, potholes, complaints, non-working traffic signals and other useful information.

Dangermond asks, will geospatial consciousness be global? He says the answer is yes, as he sees ArcGIS 10 as the enabling technology for that.

ArcGIS 10

ArcGIS 10 is a complete GIS system, according to Dangermond, it can be employed via the Cloud, enterprise, smartphones, desktop or locally. Intelligent maps in V 10 are used to encapsulate geospatial knowledge. He said the product is now “simplified” meaning that data can be shared with those who do not use a GIS system. The other big factor that opens it up to “everyone” is the fact that it can be used on the Cloud, in on-demand computing.

Some features include fast display, automatic map books, template based editing, online content, parcel management system. Users can download an online template which makes a strong scientific platform, with time awareness, fuzzy logic tools and Python scientific language, which is open source.

ArcGIS 10 offers a full 3D environment with many new enhancements including the virtual city. The product has open support and full standard support from the various consortiums. It has an open API for full geodatabase and custom toolkits, plus other open APIs such as Silverlight and Java, and Sharepoint.

ArcGIS 10 integrates imagery and supports all rich visualization, analysis, management and dissemination. It also has a dynamic mosaic king tool, near real time imagery, on the fly processing embedded in the server and on the desktop. In the next couple of months users are to look forward to the inclusion of global elevation and imagery for free, with color mosaicking of the world from Landsat and elevation services.


Jack Dangermond talked about the “millions of smartphones on the horizon.” In response to that ESRI announced on Tuesday (before the conference) their iPhone app which now has over 30,000 downloads, some of which are not ESRI users. The app also includes a photo capture feature.

Community Base Map

Community Base Map is an interesting concept that seems to take the best of crowdsourcing or “volunteer geographic information,” so to speak, by taking the “best available data sources” from the professional GIS community - “another view of crowdsourcing.” Community Base Map will allow users to move some assets to the cloud.

It appears that Community Base Map might be a stepping stone between authoritatively approved data and crowdsourced data - in that it is not just being collected from anyone out there who has a geo-enabled smartphone and wants to send in information, which would then need to be verified. Community Base Map may help to upgrade the view of crowdsourced data for those who are in need of data during a crisis, for example, but at this point in history there are no guidelines for integrating crowdsourced data, no metadata or standards for it.

So far, Community Base Map has a World Topographical Base Map, which many countries, states and local municipalities are checking out. It is template based, so that users can download data into a template using a free cloud based service. Users will get the free base map served back to them, which helps create a global map. Contributors to this map so far are the NRC, National Park Service, USGS, state and local governments, among others.

Other base maps are part of ArcGIS Online, such as the World Imagery Basemap, World Streets Basemap, Terrain Base Map.

The next big step Dangermond refers to is providing a cloud resource to everyone in a cloud-based geospatial platform. ArcGIS Online is a portal where users can discover content that is shared by the ESRI user community. Cloud hosting is something to look for in the future, where a network of distributed services can be discovered as apps or maps. ArcGIS Online is part of ArcGIS 10, as is, which is available to those outside the ESRI community.

Esri builds geodatabases which are built into Business Analyst. This fall the company intends to release Social and Community Analysis.


The new rebranding of ESRI, as Esri, is interesting, and Jack Dangermond doesn't care whether you call it “E ES AR I” or “Esri” now. When at first I saw press releases coming through with the spelling of Esri, I thought there was some mistake, but since there were so many I figured something was going on in marketing. Still the ESRI User Conference, but I supposed referring to the company by itself, it is Esri.

Esri has always been a people based company, with interest in having people meet each other at its events and share information. The new climate of social media, the cloud, and smartphones helps to promulgate a perspective that has always been there for ESRI, long before there were actual ways of sharing data and making it accessible to those outside the ESRI user community.

To view the Plenary Session and other videos (including more details on the ArcGIS 10 release), see the website

Top News of the Week

The new, free BAO for iOS app, available for download from the Apple app store, provides access to 2010 demographic and business data and analysis from Esri Business Analyst Online (BAO) on the go.

BAO delivers market analyses through a Web browser. Users generate on-demand reports and maps to get a detailed, comprehensive view of the demographic makeup of various populations and their lifestyles and buying behaviors. This revealing information allows users to find their best locations, customers, and products/services. With the BAO for iOS app, they can now get this valuable information through an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

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