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Learning At “A Mile A Minute” At Esri FedGIS

It’s finally February, the month of the Esri Federal GIS Conference. Taking place on February 24th and 25th in Washington, D.C., the conference is the perfect opportunity for federal employees to learn about new developments in GIS technology and see how other agencies are using GIS to achieve mission goals. A plenary session on the first day of the conference will kick off the event, giving attendees a concise, high-level overview of GIS innovation and applications across the Federal Government. There will also be a second keynote session on Thursday, February 25th. To learn more about the plenary sessions, we spoke with John Calkins, a GIS analyst and event executive producer for Esri, about what attendees can expect from the plenary sessions and overall conference.

Jack Dangermond, Esri’s president, will start off the plenary session, focusing on this year’s theme, “GIS – Integrating Data, Analysis & Action.” Calkins said the theme reflects the key functions and strengths of GIS over the past decades, noting, “We’ve always talked about how geography is that unique common denominator that allows us to integrate so much information across our world.” Building off that information, users can analyze their GIS data to solve problems and then employ those solutions to create actionable change.

Also of note: This year’s conference will feature more user speakers in the plenary than ever before. The University of Denver will discuss how to optimize field collections of scientific data and perform predictive analysis. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will talk about their work with open data and the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data (HIFLD). HIFLD supports four mission areas, including homeland security and homeland defense, and provides partners with access to common infrastructure geospatial data sources and established standards for geospatial data collection, processing, and sharing. The USDA Forest Service, a forest inventory and analysis group based in St. Paul, MN, will present how they use GIS in their tracking, sampling, and monitoring our nation’s forests and their status. Other guest speakers include the National Park Service, the United States Department of Transportation, and the United States Geologic Survey.

Continuing in the vein of showing how GIS helps people every day, Esri speakers will also showcase exciting new updates and products. Attendees can see the latest advances in the ArcGIS 10.4 platform, including recent enhancements to ArcGIS Pro. ArcGIS Earth, a new 3D global visualization application, will also be shown. These products, and more, will help attendees explore key geospatial themes such as real-time, big data, analysis, 3D, cloud, and delivering open data.

Wednesday’s plenary session is intended to be an overview of what is possible with GIS within the federal government. This overview will help guide attendees as they participate in the rest of the conference by attending the professional development workshops, immersion summits, and the EXPO. Calkins succinctly described the three things he hopes attendees get out of the plenary session as they go into the rest of the conference: “Number one is education followed by training in the workshops. Number two is inspiration. And number three is a sense of accomplishment that our national government is doing amazing work. It’s a continuous cycle that we’re always working to modernize.”

Thursday’s keynote session builds off Wednesday’s education and training with a keynote presentation by Susan Gordon, the deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

So how can attendees make sure they’re getting the most out of the plenary sessions? Calkins advised coming “wired, wide awake, excited, and ready to move at a mile a minute.” The plenary is packed with information and will move quickly from Dangermond’s talk, to the technology announcements, to the special user presentations and demonstrations on Wednesday, and the keynote presentation from Gordon on Thursday; this will all help inform attendees’ experiences for the rest of the conference. So get ready to learn, be inspired, and become part of the federal GIS community at Esri’s Federal GIS Conference. Register now—it’s complimentary for federal employees!

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