Category Archives: Vision
Atlases have long been used by people to help navigate and understand our world. A traditional atlas consists of a collection of static maps portraying various aspects of geography, bound together in book form and updated with new information at long intervals. The geography covered, in terms of both themes and extent, is set in stone for any given atlas, and the thematic information is typically created and authored by a select few authoritative sources.
These traditional atlases have served us well for many hundreds of years. But today, the world is changing rapidly, and it’s difficult for traditional atlases to keep up with the pace of that change. To help us keep pace with our evolving planet, our concept of what exactly constitutes an atlas must also evolve. Continue reading
We’re fortunate to be engaged as GIS professionals today. Never before has there been so much potential to transform the work we do and the organizations we serve geospatially. What do we need for this transformation? We need authoritative data at … Continue reading
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
Thus spoke President Barack Obama in his 2nd inaugural address, to the delight of many, if not most in the scientific community. Indeed, there are many societal problems across the world that increasingly revolve around science. These include pollution and waste management, pandemics and biosecurity, access to clean air and clean drinking water, response to and recovery from natural disasters, choices among energy resources (oil and gas versus nuclear versus “alternative”), and the loss of open space in urban areas, as well as biodiversity in rural areas. And yet, there is a tension between the world of science, which is focused on discovery, and the world of policy making, which is focused on decisions.
Ferren, the chief creative officer of Applied Minds LLC, returned to Esri in January to keynote at the fourth Geodesign Summit and reiterate his first call to action and deliver another: Develop a 250-year plan for the planet enabled by geodesign to create a vision of the future.
“Geodesign combines geography and data with modeling, simulation, and visualization to tell stories and (show) the consequences of your actions,” Ferren told more than 260 architects, urban and transportation planners, GIS and design professionals, educators, and others at the most well-attended Geodesign Summit to date. He sees great potential for geodesign to ultimately help find solutions to complex problems. “It is still in the shiny object stage but it will be very important,” he said.
At the foundation of Esri’s work are the belief and vision that geography is a science that creates a better understanding of our world. Using GIS, geography has also become a unifying framework for integrating many forms of digital information. GIS has now become an important technology in almost every field, improving efficiency, communication, and decision making. Our users have made GIS come alive in countless applications across thousands of organizations. I would like to both acknowledge and thank our users and partners for supporting Esri’s mission of evolving our GIS technology.
Over the last four decades, Esri has evolved both its business model and technology offerings through four distinct phases always focused on GIS software services and support.
GIS users had lots to cheer about in 2012, with major releases of software with important new capabilities. These deliveries have also set the course ahead for what’s to come in 2013. Here’s a quick look back on the past year, with a glimpse at the year ahead.
Clearly a significant release, and one of the best and most comprehensive updates in many years, the big milestone for Esri professional GIS users this year was ArcGIS 10.1, fulfilling many initiatives introduced in 2010 with ArcGIS 10.0. Beyond the new features and functions it delivered, ArcGIS was transformed, becoming a complete and unified system, with integrated online and mobile capabilities to support a variety of workflows and needs. Continue reading
“So many of the world’s current issues—at a global scale and locally—boil down to geography, and need the geographers of the future to help us understand them.”
“What is the capital of Madagascar?”
Unfortunately, that’s what most people think of when they hear the term geography.
“It’s boring,” they say. “It’s the study of useless information. It has no practical relevance to my life.”
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Geography is one of the most interesting, vibrant, and dynamic fields of study today. It’s also one of the most vital.
A great map often starts with a great basemap. It’s the canvas upon which we paint our operational layers, providing context and bringing them to life. Esri has published many different kinds of basemaps, including Streets, Imagery, Topographic, and more. These basemaps are continually updated as new information becomes available.
One of the most popular basemaps (and the default ArcGIS Online basemap) is the World Topographic basemap, also known as the “Community Basemap.” It’s a GIS crowd-sourced basemap that compiles data from many GIS users that participate in Esri’s Community Maps Program.
The basemap is compiled from the best available sources, and includes boundaries, cities, water features, physiographic features, parks, landmarks, transportation, and buildings. Updates are published monthly, and you can find more details on ArcGIS Online.
Researchers today need to deal with an avalanche of data—from environmental sensor networks (both on land and at sea), social media feeds, LiDAR, and outputs from global- and regional-scale atmospheric circulation and general climate models and simulations. Because of this, “big data” is emerging as a major research theme for the academic community.
I recently had the opportunity to attend GIScience 2012, which is convened every two years and brings together leading researchers from around the world to reflect on a wide spectrum of geographic information science research areas. Attendees are normally university academics and graduate students working in the areas of geography, computer science, information science, cognitive science, mathematics, philosophy, psychology, social science, environmental sciences, and spatial statistics.
Following are a few notes from my talk at the 2012 Esri User Conference. You can watch the complete video here.
Geography is our platform for understanding the world. GIS is making geography come alive. GIS condenses down all of our data, our information, our knowledge, and our science into a kind of language that we can easily understand: maps.
Maps help us integrate and apply our knowledge. Maps also tell stories—stories about almost everything in our world. We need to harness the power of maps to design the future and create better outcomes.
I’m very confident that we can do this. One reason is that GIS itself is advancing; it’s getting more powerful and it’s getting easier to use. It’s evolving with lots of new capabilities. It’s moving to the cloud and becoming more pervasive. GIS has evolved mapping to a new level, creating geography as a platform.