Esri Plenary In Review: 7 Emerging Themes for GIS Professionals

Today Esri’s User Conference kicked off in San Diego, California. Along with nearly 15,000 GIS professionals, I’ll be spending the week out in San Diego covering the event and learning the latest developments from Esri. The Plenary session this AM included:

  • Esri president Jack Dangermond and Esri experts show how GIS is transforming our world.
  • Philadelphia Police Department, showing how they leverage GIS and crime data (brief overview below)
  • Case study how Horry County, South Carolina has implemented GIS (brief overview below)
  • Preview of James Fallows’ new “American Futures” project (video here)
  • Presentation by Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations with a rank of Cabinet minister, and telling the story how GIS has been used in India (remarkable story –video here)

You can view all the sessions and videos on the Esri website. At GovLoop we have written quite a bit about the Promise of GIS for the Public Sector, and today, that vision was clearly articulated by Esri staff and users. Dangermond’s opening statements about the need to do more, make better decisions and leverage information. My earlier post highlights some of Dangermond’s opening comments, and an overview of the variety of GIS applications.

Yet, one quote is worth repeating from Dangermond, “Our world is facing serious challenges, and it’s clear to me that we fundamentally and collectively need to create a better future.” Dangermond’s quote is just another reminder of the essential role that GIS will play in transforming government, as GIS can assist in showing new trends, identify previously unknown relationships and help to visualize the complexity of public sector data.

Although the Plenary offered many fantastic presentations – including a great discussion with Will.i.am, two case studies really hit home for the power of GIS for the public sector. These were the use cases from the City of Philadelphia and Horry County, South Carolina.

City of Philadelphia

Grant Ervin Public Safety Officer GIS, City of Philadelphia states, “The City of Philadelphia has been able to transform how the police department works and thinks, by enabling everyone to be a GIS user.” With GIS, the entire department has instant access to real and reliable GIS systems. In real-time, administrators can look at activity of field staff, investigators, active warrants, prison releases, and visualize the various kinds of crime data that the police department collects. With GIS, the “The department managed to change workflows that led to more effective and efficient police policing,” states Ervin.

Justin Frank, Detective, City of Philadelphia continued to tell the story of how GIS has transformed public safety operations in Philadelphia. “GIS has become a real game changer for Philadelphia Police Department,” states Frank. Frank continued to tell a story how he was able to use GIS to detect patterns of criminals and use the patterns as part of the investigation process. The use of GIS in real-time has led to closing many cases and help stop criminals trends. As Frank states, “Thanks to GIS, case closed. ”

Horry County

­­Horry County is a remarkable case studies how a local government can integrate all the necessary components of GIS. Horry County has brought everything together in a mission critical system. “In local government there are only two kinds of data, spatial and financial, and even those two come together” states Tim Oliver GIS Officer, Horry County, SC.

“In Horry County we consider GIS to be mission critical. Our call to action is that it has to work, everything that we do is defined by geography, public safety, 911 dispatch, the assessment process, building permits, the economic and financial future is maintained and understood by the spatial connection,” Oliver states.

To me, one of the most compelling parts of Oliver’s presentation was the review of the executive dashboard solutions template. The template allows Horry County to view all their business lines in one single location. Through this dashboard, Horry County can access analyze and understand county information from one central entry point. Additionally, Oliver provided some insights how the fire department has leveraged GIS. Horry County Fire Chief, Fred Crosby, is responsible for:

  • Managing over 1200 square miles in Horry County
  • 43 fire stations
  • 400+ career and volunteer fire fighters.

To start, Crosby ordered 43 iPads for each station and requested that all fire fighters download an Esri app and receive access to ArcGIS account, so they can view active 911 calls and preplanned information. Through the app, first responders gain valuable information to help them be prepared for when they arrive on scene. They can be provided with additional situational awareness by knowing the layout of a building, hazard materials and operational risks they may encounter.

I took sometime to review my notes and collect my thoughts, and after day one – here are the 7 themes I see emerging from Esri’s User Conference:

  1. GIS is expanding to new business units as executives are looking for new ways to make improved decisions and visualize data
  2. Real-time and GIS is quickly evolving, potential for rapid transformation in the public sector (transportation/disaster relief/public safety impacts)
  3. 3D and GIS is absolutely amazing. Again, transformational impact for public sector (urban planning, facilities management, economic development)
  4. Those who have implemented GIS have excelled at managing expectations, and worked closely with end users to deliver on business needs
  5. GIS is part of the solution to solve large scale public sector challenges – creates a new way of thinking, new insights, improved decisions
  6. Desperately need to improve STEM skills, GIS and coding is a new communication tool and language that must be taught. Will.i.am referred to this trend as a new kind of illiteracy our society is facing.
  7. GIS as a foundation, integration with related IT systems – Horry County is a great example

I’ve got a couple interviews lined up for this week and plan on sitting in a handful of sessions – if you’re at the conference and stumble upon this post, would love to meet up and hear your story. Twitter (@pjfiorenza) or email ([email protected]) is the easiest way to contact me.

Check out the GIS resources available on GovLoop:

Esri was founded in 1969, it realized even then that geographic information system (GIS) technology could make a difference in society. GIS helps people to solve problems at local, regional, national, and global scales. Access maps and apps at ArcGIS.com. Be sure to check out all the
 GIS resources produced by Esri and GovLoop.

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