Opening Session at ESRI Conference--Day One - By Susan Smith
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Opening Session at ESRI Conference--Day One - By Susan Smith

The plenary session of the ESRI Conference 2004 kicked off with a familiar message from Jack Dangermond. He charged attendees with getting to know one another, as the week would focus on sharing knowledge. This year's theme, "The Language Of Geography" was used to denote that we use languages to describe our world, and geography is being seen as a new language. ESRI is 35 years old this week, and is still debt-free and profitable, with 1,000,000+ seats of software and 4400+ employees worldwide.

For those who are perhaps new to the advantages and uses for GIS, he listed a number of uses for the technology: fire departments using GIS for incident mapping and service area mapping; AAA using GIS for triptiks to help people plan vacations, crime mapping online, property value analysis; electrical utilities mapping distribution systems; transmission routing using GIS and much more.

GIS is also moving into some new areas such as "planetary geography" (an oxymoron since geography is about the earth, noted Dangermond) with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena using it to studying Mars and the moon.

According to Dangermond, GIS abstracts geography into five basic elements:

ArcGIS 9.0
ArcGIS 9.0 has been released recently, characterized as a "complete system for GIS professionals." The product architecture includes servers, clients and mobile clients. Many of the new features, which include cartography, visualization, data interoperability, and geoprocessing, brought rounds of applause from the audience. "This component architecture is how we were able to build these three product families," said Dangermond. "with thick clients and thick servers, for mobile, and desktop."

Geoprocessing implements a comprehensive environment for spatial analysis. ModelBuilder allows you to build models and data tools and share them. 9.0 supports a complete system for raster data. Data interoperability is improved with this version as per standards adopted by the OGC, and consequently, CAD data is now integrated more closely with GIS. ArcGIS extensions enrich many specialities. 3D Analyst has many tools for advanced surface modeling and spatial analysis.

ArcGIS Publisher has a free embeddable map that you can put inside another application and zip up data in a high performance environment. Business analyst offers business focused applications and data sets. The Data Interoperability extension, designed in concert with Safe Software, supports complex data transformation.

For GIS networks to work, everyone uses same software, or they use interoperability procedures, Dangermond explained. Geoprocessing models can transform data automatically using the Interoperability Toolkit.

Network Analyst extension will be released in a few months which will include tools and applications for advanced network analysis. The example of how advanced network analysis would be beneficial was this demo: In Washington D.C., seniors' locations were collected and their distance to a nearest hospital. It was revealed that the city needed a new hospital to serve some of the seniors. The analysis tells you how many seniors are in each area and identifies where it would be good to build another hospital.

ArcPad 7.0 will be out in a few months, promising to be much faster, for field based geography.

9.0 Server Products
ArcSDE is a gateway to multiple DBMS systems. SDE has always been fast but scalability and performance has been added, and an XML version of the GML database has also been added. ArcIMS is a compete solution for map publishing, catalogs, and the Geo Portal Toolkit.

ArcIMS data download extension has enhanced server based interoperability, and a Mapquest routing extension. With the ArcIMS GIS Portal Toolkit, built with the support of the Geospatial One-Stop Program, you can build your own metadata catalog.

ArcGIS Server is GIS components for server developers. It has a powerful web developer kit in a simple web implementation. It can integrate with other systems at the application level, not the data level.

ArcGIS Engine is basically ArcObjects for developers, and has thousands of GIS functions and tools. It lets you build your own tools. There is a table which we will hear more about, where you can run the engine and building tools.

ArcGIS desktop development projects. ESRI is slowing down in this area, but adding more quality, more scalability, and performance - multiple layouts, data frames, layers, north arrows, easier editing with fewer clicks, faster drawing and printing, multiple viewer windows, and batch geoprocessing.

Intelligent cartography--a single environment for cartographic production, is provided with ArcMap. The ArcMap application is being extended for cartographic editing, extending geodatabase to support cartographic layers (persist geodatabase)

3D Analyst provides new tools for creating visualizing and serving, and can support 100 million points in LIDAR, with improved ArcScan, improved conversion tools, extended geoprocessing, additions to basic framework so it can deal with large datasets. It will work on the server, adding to spatial analysis tools, and also they have added temporal modeling and server based geoprocessing.

This was accomplished by managing multidimensional geographic data sets, which required extending the Data Model and extending ModelBuilder to do time building, that also will support simulation.

ArcGIS Server projects are being grown with scalability and quality. The new news here is the Personal server, which supports peer to peer, globe server, and distributed catalogs.

The vision is a scalable family of servers, that will enhance ArcIMS in the next release. "The personal server means that on my desktop I can connect to the internet and serve what I have," explained Dangermond. "I can let others access my metadata catalog, maps, download data and models, and it will support the notion of peer to peer GIS."

ESRI will also support distributed data management which will be replicated geodatabases, periodically updated, administration tools, history archiving, and will support an application at 9.1 (the stuff is there to build on your own in 9.0).

Catalogs will be accessed with a new web application for searching and using GIS resources. ArcGIS servers will support this. A new web application called Catalog Explorer will allow you to search catalogs and find what you need.

GIS Smart Clients are designed to extend GIS services to browser and mobile clients, allowing many emerging devices to flow information back and forth.

Tapestry is demographic segmentation life style segments. National Geographic used Tapestry to run an overlay of their subscribers to see what their readership is.

You can buy ArcWeb Services and host your own data with them. ESRI also has ArcWeb Location Services. Many solution partners are using this already.

Training and Support
ESRI now has curriculum packages, where you can earn a certificate of completion, and has one-half million virtual training students.

Twice a month they have a free one hour session called live training seminars, also downloadable after training occurs.

In the area of technical support, ESRI has added to the knowledge of their staff, and improved workflow for faster incident response, also improved call tracking.

There is big improvement in the Online Support Center.

Fighting Cholera
The afternoon keynote speaker, Dr. Rita Colwell, has spent a lifetime focused on global infectious diseases, water and health. She is chairman of the Canon U.S. Life Sciences, Inc. and a distinguished professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Currently, she is developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world.

Historically, Dr. Colwell noted that cholera first appeared in 1854 in London. An enterprising Dr. Snow noticed a pattern of occurrence of the disease by putting dots on a map. The incidents centered around a well. Once they isolated this well the incidents abated. This was the first known example of how spatial handling leads to discovery. Colwell displayed Snow's map displayed in a GIS format. What would it have been like if Snow had been able to use ArcGIS? The use of advanced spatial data also places the center of the outbreak adjacent to the water source.

Cholera occurs worldwide and is a major health problem. It has been significantly prevalent in countries like Peru and Bangladesh, and also in the U.S. but not so prevalent.

Most of Dr. Colwell's research has taken place in Bangladesh. She zoomed in on an image, and said, notice the Himalayas and the amount of surface water in the delta region. "Much of Bangladesh is flooded, Daka has been flooded this year, the worst flooding since 1998 and there are 700 victims per day," said Dr. Colwell. She has collected cholera data from the last 40 years in that one city. There are extensive rivers and ponds in the region. "You can see how close the ponds are to where the houses are located. Houses are built right on the edge of the ponds, and many people are taking their drinking water from these ponds. They collect water in steel pots early in the morning, and families drink the water from those containers during the day."

"We began our work about 25 years ago using gene probes and molecular biology," said Dr. Colwell. "We've known since 1880 that cholera is caused by the water - we think that it's ancestral home was the sea. We discovered that the estuary was the home of the bacteria."

In the aquatic environment in Chesapeake Bay that same bacteria was discovered residing in relatives of shrimp. It is in estuaries and coastal waters of the worlds, so it can never be eradicated. It's like the intestinal bacteria of humans. This may help it attach itself to the human gut. The toxin the bacteria produces gives the human diarrhea.

The first thing we look at is sea surface temperature, said Dr. Colwell, and the heating of some waters in some tropical waters. We may see change and using Spatial Analyst, the model will average sea surface temperatures.

We can determine what to expect on the ground for cholera in Bangladesh, said Dr. Colwell.

Our quality of life will depend on the health of our planet," Dr. Colwell said in closing. "Opportunities for enlightenment and science let us pursue the future with wisdom and compassion."

The Making a Difference Award went to Mayor Jeffrey Harrison of Honolulu who took a scientific approach to managing his city. "I think we are in a critical juncture in human civilization," said Harrison. "I think the actions we take will determine the fates of the future, 1/2 of world's population lives in cities, we are not sustainable as cities."

Lifetime Achievement Award winners -
David Rhind, of the City University of London, also holds many other titles and honorary degrees, and was former director of the Ordnance Survey was presented with one award. He was one of the founders of GIS at the UK Digital Experimental Cartographic Laboratory.

Allan Schmidt, who joined the Harvard Computer Graphics Lab in 1967 as one of the pioneers, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work spearheading the then virtually unknown science of GIS.

A display of the Harvard Computer Graphics Lab is in the Map Gallery in the Sail Room at the Conference for those who are interested in hearing more about the beginnings of GIS research.

In Dallas, Texas a group of students from Bishop Dunne Catholic School have been making history with their GIS work. They have been featured in the book GIS in Schools and with the help of their GIS and Geography teacher, Brad Baker, this year they won the GIS in Schools Award. In 1995 the school had 200 students and no computers. Now they have 300 computers, 5 labs, high speed internet access throughout the school and have won the 20th Century School of Distinction Award. IBM awarded them a laptop PC.

Map Gallery
The evening event, a Map Gallery, is an annual institution at ESRI Conference and this year there were numerous special displays. An unusual display of ancient maps from around the world, "Los Murales de la Luz - Mapas Antiguos" is remarkable in that these are hand painted on large wall murals made of hundreds of ceramic tiles, using a technique developed in the small village of Puebla, Mexico. This technique of ceramic murals had been lost for many years, only to be rediscovered by Mr. Carlos Salman Gonzalez, authorized distributor for ESRI in Mexico.

The National Park Service presented a display for their book Mapping the Future of America's National Parks.

The Association of Zoo Horticulture is dedicated to the advancement of zoo horticulture in zoological parks, gardens and aquariums. A key element to natural habitat exhibits, made popular in the 1960s and 1970s, is a holistic approach to exhibit design. There is a display of butterflies and unique plants and animals to be found in this exhibit.

Project Homeland: Enabling Critical Decision Making through Spatial Information showcases the importance of spatial information and GIS in Homeland Security and Homeland Defense.