ESRI User Conference News You Might Have Missed

By Adena Schutzberg

Service at Sea
Service at Sea's planned route. (Courtesy Service@Sea) (Click for larger image)
Service at Sea, a program from the non-profit GIS Institute, based in Boulder, Colorado, will literally set sail to bring GIS to parts of the world. The group will also serve K-12 teachers and students as they virtually "come along for the ride." The plan is to leave San Diego in June, 2007 and head out for a four year "circumnavigation of the Southern Hemisphere." At this point, it appears the group does not yet have a boat, though it hopes to purchase one. It's a non-profit group and is looking for sponsors and other types of contributions.

Drew Stephens of AllPoints GIS, Inc. (no relation to our blog) founded the GIS Institute in October, 2005. The website describes it as "an environmental and educational organization dedicated to putting mapping technologies into action for people trying to make the world a better place." Sponsors include Newman's Own, AllPoints GIS and the Society for Conservation GIS.

ESRI is working with the Organization of American States to grow GIS use in Latin America. "In the initial phase of the agreement, ESRI will support two critical [secretary for integral development] SEDI projects: the Municipal Development Program (MuNet) and the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN) project." ESRI will provide software and online training while OAS finds long-term funding. That combination is important; it's easy to provide software of any type to those who might be able to use it. The tricky part is ensuring sustainable support and training for the future. This could be a great model.

The OAS "brings together the countries of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation and advance common interests. It is the region's premier forum for multilateral dialogue and concerted action. At the core of the OAS mission is an unequivocal commitment to democracy…"

GlobeXplorer and ArcWeb Services
ESRI's ArcWeb Explorer features GlobeXplorer high resolution aerial and satellite imagery. (Courtesy GlobeXplorer) (Click for larger image)

As I've noted for some time, those who hold the geospatial data hold the cards. And, GlobeXplorer is taking the bold step of offering some of its imagery for free via ESRI's ArcWeb Explorer (the client for ArcWeb Services/ArcIMS) and ArcGIS Explorer (the client for ArcGIS Server applications, among other services). But, there's an upgrade path, too. "Both products feature free access to select portions of GlobeXplorer's global content with an upgrade path to using ArcWeb Services with GlobeXplorer's Premium imagery, which includes the 'latest and greatest' of its industry leading online image library."

This model is the answer to the "free" model used by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. The data is not really free; those companies pay to use it and make it available for free in end user apps and APIs. ArcWeb Services (and GlobeXplorer's own services) allow the company to pass costs directly to users. I think that's a more appropriate model for many in the professional marketplace. I expect to see more for-fee offerings, especially as ArcGIS Explorer proliferates.

Tele Atlas and Smart Data Compression
At the User Conference, Tele Atlas announced "the availability of StreetMap Premium Europe, a database containing compressed digital map data of more than 20 European countries built to ESRI's Smart Data Compression (SDC) specifications." So what is ESRI's Smart Data Compression? It's a compression scheme used in ESRI's StreetMap Pro and Premium "which reduces the size of the source data significantly." The data can be used in this form for cartographic representations and geocoding within ArcGIS and other ESRI products.

ESRI's RouteServer IMS FAQ notes that only ESRI can create data in this form. "This requires custom data preparation in Smart Data Compression (SDC) format by ESRI Professional Services at additional cost." The technology was developed (as were other parts of ESRI technology) by Data East, LLC, in Russia. To create SDC data, one uses the Data Development Kit Pro (DDK Pro).

Sue McCowan, GIS market account manager at Tele Atlas, explained how that company created the SDC data. "Tele Atlas does license the ESRI DDK; however, the DDK is not generally available - it is available only to select vendors, and through Tele Atlas' longstanding relationship with ESRI this was made possible."

Barbaree Ash Duke writes a blog about Curriculum Integration and GIS in Education and provided her take on the Education User Conference. The highlight for her was the Curriculum Developers SIG where attendees explored: "What's in place? What are you doing? What's needed?" Those are valuable questions and the answers will help guide other curriculum efforts.

ESRI on Google Earth
Per GeoBlogger, Jack Dangermond "addressed Google Earth in a surprising light. He said it was good because it helped open the World's eyes to geographic information. Although he was clear to point out that it is not GIS and that Explorer will have that ability."

The Potential of ArcGIS Server
James Fee unveils the potential of ArcGIS Server (AGS) with these key points:
  • The default web mapping client looks great (AJAX, caching). You can work with multiple services at once. WMS, ArcIMS, ArcGIS Server can all be integrated (projection the fly and transparency) as well as ArcWeb Services.
  • The real power of AGS is the cartographic capabilities. The maps that get generated are just visually impressive.
  • The online editing tools are great. Using AJAX you can digitize right on the web client and they get added to your Geodatabase. (You can even snap to existing data layers.) Oh, and all this can be done with zero programming on the server side.
  • Just as easy as ArcMap documents, you can publish models to the Internet right out of ArcCatalog. So from inside ArcGIS Explorer you can connect to these model services and use them. So agencies can share these models and allow others to use them.
Survey Summit
_Jeff Thurston covered the Survey Summit, including ESRI Survey Industry Manager Brent Jones' surveying manager's introduction.

"Interestingly, Jones suggested that accuracy is not the 'key' issue for surveyors, instead, he determined that 4 other factors determine when surveying begins.
  1. reliability
  2. confidence
  3. repeatability
  4. trust
Of the four factors, the first three are notable by their 'geostatistical' nature."

Thurston concludes, "I am not sure that the 'gap' between surveyors and GIS is as wide as some might suggest; in fact, I would suggest that the two are much closer together than at any other time - a view supported by many I questioned during breaks."

On Interoperability
Ed Parsons noted the clear theme of the server focus and noted something that's needed for it to play out: interoperability.

"…to make this vision work [server vision] you need interoperability between systems and data, not everybody after all is going to be using ESRI software.

"For a number of years ESRI has offered I believe only lukewarm support of the OGC, and OGC standards, quite rightly in some cases being critical of some elements of them… recently things have changed, you hear the OGC mentioned much more by ESRI staff and ESRI is much more active in the OGC helping to fix the things they think are wrong."

The President's Award went to Vanessa Lawrence and her crew at Ordnance Survey. One Making a Difference Award went to Lt. General James Clapper, Jr., US Air Force Ret., former NGA Director. The second went to the National Informatics Center of India, and Dr. N. Vijayaditya, Director General and Dr. Vandana Sharma, Sr. Technical Director. Since most of us in the U.S. know of Lawrence and General Clapper, I wanted to know more about the National Informatics Centre of India. It's under the Department of Information Technology of the country and provides "network backbone and e-Governance support to Central Government, State Governments, UT Administrations, Districts and other Government bodies." The GIS section under NIC is involved with software development and Web GIS and these two are guiding and encouraging GIS growth.

Published Friday, August 11th, 2006

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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