URISA - Conference Snapshot of the 41st Annual Meeting

By Joe Francica

The 41st Annual Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) Conference opened in Atlanta with a welcome by Martha Lombard, URISA president, and Tom Conroy, Conference Chairman.

Mr.Conroy announced an expanded program, emphasizing a "reconnection with health issues" and a desire to revitalize Special Interest Groups (SIG).Bert Veenendahl, past president of AURISA, the Australasian counterpart, was invited to provide an overview of the new Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI), an amalgamation of five organizations (surveyors, remote sensing scientists, engineers & miners, spatial information, and cartographers) that focused on geospatial information applications.The establishment of SSI brings together a group of spatial scientists that completes a trio along with government (ANZLIC) and business (ASIBA) organizations that have a particular need for using geographically-referenced information.

The keynote address was delivered by Michael Schiffer (pictured at left), vice president of Planning and Development for the Chicago Transit Authority, and on loan from the University of Illinois, Chicago, on Reshaping Mass Transit with Technology.The presentation was an excellent example of how good information leads to better decision-making.Mr.Schiffer provided numerous examples of how basic, stepwise geospatial information investigating such as demographic analysis of growth trends integrated with train and busline route pattern analysis can help planners convince the political powers in Chicago's aldermanic districts that altering bus routes and stops will indeed improve public service.However, Mr.Schiffer's most convincing argument was how mass transit is much more efficient at moving travelers in and around the downtown area, even with an overhead rail system that contains some segments that were built about 100 years ago.

Among the awards and presentations that are standard fare for the opening session at URISA, a group of candidates were introduced that were the first to receive GIS Professional Certification.The development of GIS certification guidelines has been a long standing goal of URISA. Dr.William Huxhold of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee led the certification standards working group and helped make the awards to the pilot program members.

Though not a keynote speaker, Jack Dangermond, president of ESRI, spoke to an audience about a "knowledge-based" approach for spatial information. The GIS "abstracts," as he puts it, include maps and globes, geodata sets, workflows, data models, and metadata.Taken together, these elements provide the foundation for "Geographic knowledge." To get to this point, however, he feels that the technology has evolved from simply using GIS tools (professional productivity with desktop systems), to Client/Server information management (databases), to Distributed Networks, with web services providing a "glue" between them all.He specifically mentioned that the technology is moving from a strict database management approach (essentially putting data in tables) to a "knowledge" approach, whereby information is abstracted and "served," taking components or web services and creating solutions, thus having major "implications for redeploying business logic throughout the enterprise."

Published Thursday, October 16th, 2003

Written by Joe Francica

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