“The Science of Where”: 2018 Esri Partner Conference Highlights

My colleague Natasha Hartley and I recently attended the 2018 Esri Partner Conference in Palm Springs with the goal of learning more about Esri’s 2018 focus and priorities. Esri coined the phrase “The Science of Where” to describe its vision for the future of GIS. As both a framework and a process for creating location intelligence, “The Science of Where” makes it easier to understand and manage our world. Esri’s framework is, of course, ArcGIS, and the process supplied by Esri and its partners leverages this framework to help customers harness the power of location for faster, better decision-making.

During the plenary session, Esri highlighted the following “megatrends” experiencing rapid growth in the application of GIS technology:

  • Analyzing and visualizing real-time data with the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Facilitating innovation and creativity through digital transformation
  • Connecting and sharing location intelligence within smart communities

Internet of Things
The IoT is the network of sensor-equipped physical devices in homes, vehicles and facilities. The real-time data transmitted from the sensors can be integrated with GIS to provide a holistic view in four dimensions (3D plus time) of the physical world. Further refining this model gets us closer to the concept of a digital twin, a near-perfect digital model of our environment which enables precise management and control.

Digital Transformation
Digital transformation integrates digital technology into all areas of an organization to generate fundamental changes to operations and value delivery methods. Jay Theodore, CTO of the ArcGIS Enterprise Group at Esri, described three stages of digital transformation:

  • Collect needed support data (i.e. a digital twin)
  • Develop and perform analytical processes
  • Make predictions based on data and processes

Smart Communities
Smart communities use data and technology to improve planning, governance, health, infrastructure, resources, citizenship and housing. By integrating IoT with digital transformation concepts, GIS is uniquely positioned to supply the analytical and data dissemination capabilities needed to make communities smart.

ArcGIS Capabilities
ArcGIS is at the core of the Esri technology stack. At the Partner Conference, Esri focused on five key ArcGIS capabilities:

  • Mapping: John Nelson demonstrated ArcGIS Pro’s enhanced cartographic capabilities and discussed a free Cartography MOOC coming up in April.
  • 3D: In ArcGIS Pro, you can simultaneously view 2D and 3D representations of your data. The 4.x JavaScript API supports 3D web scenes and can be used in mobile devices and on desktops. ArcGIS Indoor is an emerging platform for “micro GIS” to manage resources and route people within facilities and campuses. Finally, a new partnership with Autodesk is poised to improve integration between BIM and GIS.
  • Hub: The new ArcGIS Hub provides a platform for connecting governments with citizens. Maps and data can be combined to provide information on projects, events and surveys while satisfying citizen demand for open data.
  • Automation: Esri highlighted ArcGIS Chef “cookbooks” for automating enterprise implementations. With the ArcGIS API for Python library, powered by web GIS, users can manage their ArcGIS Enterprise, perform complex spatial analyses (using crated online data sources) and share their analyses with Jupyter Notebooks.
  • Machine Learning: ArcGIS has built-in machine learning capabilities including classification, clustering and prediction. These tools integrate with external frameworks such as IBM Watson, scikit-learn and TensorFlow.

Other Highlights
Esri featured numerous other platform improvements and new tools for extending the ArcGIS platform.

  • ArcGIS Monitor: ArcGIS Monitor helps users monitor the health of their enterprise GIS implementations, configure alerts and notifications and generate resource planning reports.
  • ArcGIS Utility Network Management: This extension for ArcGIS Pro provides location-based data and asset management in addition to network modeling, editing and analysis. Users can model entire utility networks in ArcGIS at levels of detail never before possible.
  • Drone2Map: While Drone2Map has been around for several years, the increased use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) keeps it relevant. Esri features Drone2Map in UAS use cases on private property, such as wastewater treatment facilities, military bases and mining.
  • Pro: Although Jack Dangermond stated unequivocally that ArcMap will be supported for the foreseeable future, is was emphasized repeatedly that all new tools, extensions and functionality will be built on the ArcGIS Pro platform.

The transformative nature of location intelligence consistently generates new opportunities for Esri partners and customers to improve decision-making. The ArcGIS platform is rapidly expanding to leverage new technologies and address new business requirements. Both challenges and opportunities abound!

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