Tuesday, June 19, 2007

ESRI User Conference, Day 1

The Conference is now in full swing. There is over 13 000 people coming from 113 countries. That’s a big crowd. The conference centre is superb venue with enough room to accommodate everyone. And everything works. Technical setup of the stage is nothing less than impressive, 3 huge wide screens and excellent sound system.

As usual, it begins with plenary session. First speaker is Jack Dangermond himself. Presentation is very neat with feature rich slides in the style of latest Microsoft Expression applications – reflections, animations etc.

Back to the Jack. If you’ve been at the Conference before you know Jack’s passion for GIS and this year’s opening is no exception. Here are some of the points from his speech.

The theme of this conference is geographic approach. Strong emphasis is on us – users of the GIS and what are we doing with it.

Jack has presented Enterprise Application Award to Saudi Aramco, world’s largest organization. This was followed by President’s Award that was given to The Nature Conservancy.

In his address Jack stated that we “need to fundamentally change”, the way we work, make decision and act. He also gave us his definition of GIS as “a framework for understanding and managing our Earth”. This definition clearly shows his idea of GIS as the basic technology that will link other systems.

Over few last years we have witnessed emergence of the web as platform for implementation of GIS. Now we have GeoWeb with consumer visualization segment (Google Earth, Virtual Earth from Microsoft) and other (ESRI) with distribution of rich content like data, models, services, etc. as integrating process of GIS and everything in web.

We also got the taste or ArcGIS 9.3. It will be delivered as series of service packs and focus is on improving quality and addition of new tools and features. For example in desktop there will be new option for labeling polygons, specialized labeling options for contours and rivers, new street numbering style. On the editing side representations will be modified in “WYSIWYG” environment. Some other new options are textured 3D building models, support for time series, addition of the progress bar to geoprocessing tools, display of schematic diagrams over map data, etc.

Clint Brown showed us Survey Analyst extension at work and how it can get CAD data in local circuit and create point, line and polygon feature classes with ease.

As expected ArcGIS Server was hot topic. At 9.3 release focus is on the improvements in documentation is improved (much better), scalability and performance. Of course, there are new options like addition of image services from Image Server, addition of role based security model and support for mashups via JavaScript.

At 9.3 some new databases are supported like Postgress SQL, Oracle Express and DB2 z/OS.

ArcGIS Explorer will support REST (standard for web development), SOAP XML, JavaScript, KML, V.E. and whole range of OGS services.

As a part of new development ESRI has demonstrated ArcGIS Online web site that provides GIS content and services for GIS users. You can choose to use map documents, ArcGIS Explorer documents or layer files. Also, ESRI is adding 2.5 m SpaceGlobe satellite imagery as a free data/service. If you prefer to have data locally you can buy an appliance that has all data ESRI is hosting, kind of the “World to go”.

There are some interesting things happening in the support area. Support staff in ESRI is part of the development process, not only guys that take calls and pass it to the team. Due to large volume of the support calls with 9.2 release ESRI is increasing support staff by 30% so we should not wait long before issues get resolved. The biggest changes are addition of diagnostic reporting (for 9.3, I guess it is similar to Miscorsoft’s error reporting) and providing access to ESRI’s internal knowledge base.

In the second part of the morning David McGuire presented new features in Desktop, Server and cool new inventions.

In Desktop new features include suspension of all labeling with single click, introduction of zones for labeling of polygons similar to points, disperse marker symbol tool. The later one will be very useful for very dense (urban) areas and alike.

Next demonstration was JTX or Job Tracking extension. Standalone application GUI has a striking resemblance to Outlook 2003. New in this release is introduction of the job workflows that are represented as diagrams. In side window user can see step descriptions for any step in the diagram.

For analytically orientated users there is a great news. In 9.3 ESRI is introducing Geographically Weighted Regression tool. This tool includes spatial component in weighted regression model. There is also a new type of graph – Matrix scatter graph where user can choose one from pairs of variables from predefined set of graphs.

In 9.3 new functionality is dynamic display and it was demonstrated quite effectively in an ArcEngine application.

For the end, David showed some really cool innovations. First one (and most attractive one) was “digital pen”. Using this pen one can write on the paper map of any size, or multiple maps and his sketches and notes are transferred into the geodatabase by docking the pen to a computer. The trick is in the watermarks that are created on paper map and digital pen is reading.

Next demo was MetaLens from National Geographic that is a mashup of digital media and GIS data.

Linux fans were delighted to see use of the 8 GB flash drive that will boot up RedHat Linux, start ArcEngine application written in Java as a single step operation. This is great example of simplification and streamlining of processing.

For all educators OmniGlobe is very nice tool. In essence it is projector that uses inner surface of the globe as the screen. It is controlled by computer and can be very powerful tool.

You can find lot of details (and very up to date) on User Conference blog.

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