Redlands, California―At the eighth annual ESRI Federal User Conference (FedUC), held February 20–22, 2008, in Washington, D.C., more than 2,100 attendees gathered to discuss geographic information system (GIS) technology; share implementation strategies; and get answers to questions from ESRI staff, business partners, and government colleagues.
ESRI president Jack Dangermond opened the event and pointed out the vast collective knowledge housed in the conference center. The purpose of the event, he said, was to share that knowledge with one another so all of those gathered could learn from real-world experiences.
“Clearly, our world needs a new approach, an approach that changes how we see and do things, an approach that allows us to get more knowledge about and awareness of all of the problems we are facing,” Dangermond said, in reference to worldwide challenges such as growing population, global warming, and resource shortages. “We need a new approach that allows us to apply what we know to all the decisions we are collectively going to carry out, and so the notion of a geographic approach is emerging.”
ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Server Improvements at 9.3
During the Plenary Session, Dangermond and other ESRI staff showcased improvements users can expect with the 9.3 version of ArcGIS software, which is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2008.
ArcGIS Desktop 9.3 enhancements include
- Enhanced cartography through improved support for curved graticules and what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editing
- More refined iterative modeling, improved contouring, scatterplot graphics, and geographically weighted regression
- Improved 3D visualization through better support of KML and Microsoft environments, time series animation, and rendering for Collaborative Design Activity (COLLADA) texturing
- Enhanced usability with easier access to bookmarks, a new Pause Labels option and Convert Graphics to Features function, a new option to simulate layer transparency in all legends, advanced sorting options, and the ability to more easily change symbology
ArcGIS Server at 9.3 enhancements include
- New role-based security options in Manager
- New image services that reduce the latency between image acquisition and accessibility
- Full integration of ArcGIS Image Server with ArcGIS Server
- Major additions to ArcGIS Server online help and software developer kit (SDK) documentation
- Additional support for Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC), and industry standards such as Web Coverage Service (WCS), Transactional Web Feature Service (WFS-T), and KML 2.1
- PostgreSQL, PostGIS and DB2 (mainframe) support that expands spatial information storage and management capabilities
- A new ArcGIS Mobile application that is integrated with ArcGIS Server
Dangermond asserted to the plenary audience that one of the key concepts to understand about the geodatabase is replication. “This is important for realizing the vision of NSDI [National Spatial Data Infrastructure],” he said. “This suggests that we can have multiple servers at different locations with copies of the same data, like a central database for the whole country, a regional database, or a database for a state or city where each is being updated independently with replication services that update each other at a certain set time, be that a specific day, week, or hour.
“Suddenly,” he continued, “I can have the same data in multiple locations being updated in a distributed environment with replication services. All that infrastructure has been built into ArcGIS Server.”
Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Dirk Kempthorne addressed the audience at the Plenary Session via video. Kempthorne discussed the remarkable technological advances in geospatial technology that allow us to see the world in a new way and provide tools for addressing sustainability and managing disasters. “The possibilities—indeed, the promises—of this technological revolution are literally beyond imagining for both this generation and future generations.”
Following Kempthorne was the associate deputy secretary of DOI, James Cason. “The challenge for decision makers is to organize the government so it can collect and coordinate geospatial information across agencies in a strategic way,” he said. “We need to provide tools so can-do people can perform their work more efficiently and more cost-effectively. We need to be more strategic; that is our frontier. That frontier is huge, literally of global proportions.”
Cason then explained the steps the government is taking to be more strategic with geospatial technology including improving cross-agency collaboration, capabilities, and accountability. He also noted that another good indicator of progress is the establishment of senior agency officials for geospatial information who have agency-wide responsibility, accountability, and authority for geographic information initiatives.
The Heart of the Conference
During the second and third days of the conference, attendees and ESRI staff gathered at paper sessions, technical workshops, and user group meetings to learn from one another. Topics ranged from What Is GIS and How Can It Help Me? to Working with the Geodatabase, Managing Department of Defense Assets, and Facilities Management Solutions—User Applications. Tracks included Concepts of GIS; Health; Homeland Security; Installations, Asset, and Facilities Management; Land and Environment; and System Architecture.
Thursday evening, attendees gathered for a reception at the National Geographic Society. The following morning, the conference closed with an address from Dave McKinley, lead operational picture engineer, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), and a Q&A session with Dangermond.
“I think GIS professionals working together, collaborating, becoming friends, seeing the power of [GIS] in a collaborative environment is what can create a sustainable world,” Dangermond related. That vision was alive each day of FedUC.