Future of GIS- Esri Federal GIS Conference

On Monday I attended Esri’s annual Federal GIS Conference. This conference brings together over 2,700 GIS professionals, managers, and government executives for three days of intensive learning and sharing. In the morning plenary session, Jack Dangermond, Esri President, discussed how GIS technology and mapping are helping government employees do their job better and more efficiently like never before. From understanding human health to emergency management and facility planning, GIS as a platform is transforming our world, and specifically how federal agencies are meeting their missions and improving services.

Across the country, organizations are using GIS technology to improve communication and collaboration and increase efficiency. One organization that was highlighted was Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery is leveraging technology to provide visitors with more up-to-date information about grave sites, memorials and special events. The ANC Explorer, which is available online and via smartphones, uses images, maps and digital records of the cemetery’s grave sites. This enables people to search the grave sites by name, location, and date of birth, which makes planning visits and navigating the National Cemetery much easier. In addition, it helps employees improve operations by interfacing with its business systems and providing a source of data that staff can access. This is a great example of leveraging GIS technology to improve internal processes and the end-users experience, especially when you consider ANC was using a type-writer to map their grave sites 2 years ago (not a typo).

Jack’s keynote focused on GIS as a platform, which is a technology expression that connects and leverages all of our enterprise systems- desktop and servers- in real-time. As he noted, geography is a common platform that connects the world and GIS technology enables organizations to integrate geospatial information so you can “see the whole and not just the separate parts.” Technology advancements and trends, such as big data, cloud computing, and mobility are changing the way we view data and because of this, GIS is at a turning point. The cloud enables us to bring together all of our information into one easy to access resource that is available anytime, anywhere and on any device. Big data allows organizations to analyze large amounts of diverse data sources, such as social media, so they can be more efficient, reduce waste, and put their resources where it matters most.

So what does this mean? GIS as a platform connects GIS professionals with colleagues all across the organization. Instead of having data go into one database, organizations can have all of their data (apps, imagery, maps, social media etc.) in a new medium: a web map. These web maps, or graphic expressions, provide a window into your information and allow organizations to have an “agile and interoperable technology which connects everybody.” In the end, these advancements makes things easier for government. Through shared services and easy to use, accessible GIS, organizations are able to drive efficiencies, and perhaps most importantly, create a culture of collaboration within government and outside government.

Vision and future of ArcGIS:

ArcGIS is meant to be a complete geospatial platform. You get integrated and centralized management of all your services for mapping, imagery, geocoding, etc. Although ArcGIS technology has come a long way, there are still plenty of areas to improve and develop. So where is ArcGIS going in the coming years?

  • Landscape Data- Suzanne Foss, Esri, discussed how landscape services will now be a feature service included in ArcGIS online. This means organizations can use lanscape data (with an impressive amount of content) for mapping and analysis.
  • Web Apps & 3D Visualization- Thomas Oaks, Esri, shared how City Engine’s 3D web scenes are used to plan, model, review and present the current state of a facility. It also allows you to design a new project and model how it would affect roads, water, flow of people etc. Then, you can easily share this with your entire organization.
  • GeoEvent Server- Sean Gorman, Esri, discussed GeoEvent Server, which incorporates real-time, streaming data as a normal part of everyday GIS applications, workflows, and analysis. This is especially helpful with social media as it enables organizations to perform continuous analysis against all of the tweets and posts. For example during Superstorm Sandy, organizations could monitor the veolcity of tweets, analyze the conversation, and set up alerts.
  • Integrating Cloud Computing- ArcGIS will integrate with leading enterprise systems such as, sharepoint, SAD, microstrategy and IBM Cognis, to provide location analytics.
  • Solution Templates- Free, open-sourced templates that allow people to build solutions off of them, saving time and money.

Jack ended his keynote by re-emphasizing Esri’s vision to create a GIS platform that addresses serious problem in the government space, increases efficiencies, and improves collaboration. To realize this vision and transform how government uses GIS, GIS professionals will need to work across government. As he said, it is not enough to know or understand, we must do.

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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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