University of California
Informatics and GIS Program

ESRI User Conference 2018 wrap-up

As always, the Plenary session was an immersive and emotional showcase of the power of mapping. Running through Monday’s talks was a sense of urgency for we GIS people to save the world. This is what JD calls “societal GIS”, or “embracing the digital transformation and leverage the science of where”. Shane and I had a great time. Some key news from the Plenary:

  • ESRI is in every K-12 school in the US; JD announced it will be offered to every K-12 school in the world.

  • The work of Thomas Crowther, Professor of Global Ecosystem Ecology at ETH Zürich (@crowthelab) is inspirational. They estimate 3T trees globally, with room for 1T more. (See paper here.)  Gonna be checking out his tree data on the Living Atlas (global maps of tree density, diversity, carbon uptake, and reflectance).

  • A great demo from JD Irving, a private Canadian forestry, transportation and products company heavy into sustainability and GIS. All there properties are managed using ArcGIS + R. 

  • ESRI is showcasing some key "Solution Configurations" that are bundled software products focused on high-priority areas such as: 1) community engagement ("Hub"); 2) interior spaces ("Indoors") and 3) smart cities ("Urban"). The highlighted snazzy urban planning 3D vis tools will be giving UrbanSim a run for their money. Might we work RUCS2.0 into a "Solution Configuration" for working landscape planning? 

Plus some highlights of what I learned overall: 

Data updates

  • Wow. ESRI's Living Atlas of the World has some amazing resources. Living Atlas is ESRI’s curated web data portal that links seamlessly with Pro. It has tons of data on environment and imagery. Want Sentinel-2 imagery, NAIP, or MODIS thermal? Want global climate and weather data? Want to easily play with Open Street Map or other vector tiles within your GIS project? It is all in the Living Atlas. This will be a game changer for class. Plus TC’s tree data. Gonna be checking this out.

  • Unstructured data can be added to your workflow now, this is text, etc. This is big. 

  • Offering access to Open Street Map within Pro. 

Software updates (mostly about Pro)

  • Pro is the way to go, but ESRI will continue to support ArcMap “for years to come

  • New stuff in ArcGIS Pro related to Image Analysis:

    • Sensor support has been expanded; plus new formats supported, eg. netcdf. Pro supports mosaic datasets, they call mosaics the optimum data model for image management. 

    • ESRI is now supporting “oriented” imagery - StreetView Imagery, oblique imagery, etc. Easily integrate things like iPhone photos within your Pro project. They call this working in “image space” rather than “map space”.

    • Ortho Mapping within ESRI has 3 solutions: Drone2Map (stand-alone software), within ArcGIS Pro (using the Image Server license), and OrthoMaker (web interface).

    • New release of Pro has full motion video support. (Upcoming releases will have more deep learning algorithms, multi-patch editing in stereo, and pixel editing.)

    • There are so many cool things going on on the imagery front in Pro, makes me excited.

  • New stuff in ArcGIS Pro in general:

    • Adding an unstructured data format - e.g. text!

    • 3D editing and 3D voxel support.

    • Machine Learning is increasingly embedded in ESRI workflows, and when that is not enough, ML is also possible via linkages with external resources (via R, TensorFlow, MXNET, AWS tools, etc.).

    • ESRI increasingly recognizing that people work in and outside of ESRI software: R-Bridge, Python API, Jupyter Notebooks makes external linkages super easy. 

    • ESRI is working to support cloud-based storage and computing via:

    • Support via AWS and Azure; Optimizing raster storage and caching in multiple formats; and the ability to point to existing cloud storage

  • Plus, for your GPS needs: 

    • Trimble Catalyst antenna + ESRI Collector might be the way to go, but it is windows/android specific for now. iOS compatibility is "on a horizon" as of now.

  • A quick note about ArcGIS online (ESRI's complete mapping and location intelligence platform). It has 6M subscribers (!), making 1B maps a day (!!). (Did I get those numbers correctly?)

Notes for classes/workshops

    • GIS-stat-analysis-py-tutor on GitHub

  • ESRI provides many Learning templates for us who are dreading converting all our ArcMap labs to Pro: https://www.esri.com/training/ and

  • ESRI is also working on providing templated best practice workflows to help teach concepts. They call them, at least in Image Analyst "Imagery workflows". Might be useful in class/workshops. 

As always a great conference! The new ESRI terminology might be a useful organizing structure for class: A GIS is a system of: 

  • Record: storing spatially indexed information
  • Insights: via analysis
  • Engagement: through mapping and visualization
Posted on Thursday, July 12, 2018 at 4:21 PM
Tags: conferences (39)

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