Changing the GIS Conversation in Government through the Future of Smart

Esri Users Share and Explore Smart Communities Trends, Use Cases, and Solutions at the 2016 User Conference

By: Samantha Mac Donald

What do smart communities mean to you? For GIS professionals working in government, it’s a well-known concept that is transforming the dialogue about geospatial technology within their organizations.

“While GIS may not be perceived as a top priority in government, it is the technology that enables communities to become smarter,” said Christopher Thomas, director of government markets at Esri. “GIS is evolving and getting smarter—and GIS professionals are more important than ever.”

GIS professionals attending the Esri User Conference in San Diego this week shared how the smart communities movement is enabling them to engage with decision makers in new ways and demonstrate the power of GIS.

“Smart communities is an initiative that is banding together everyone in government—and one that today’s savvy GIS professionals are leveraging to improve collaboration and increase GIS adoption within their organizations,” Thomas said.

The conversation is changing from “Do you want to be a part of my GIS committee?” to “Do you want to become a smarter community?”

The resounding answer is “yes.”

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The US Forest Service Receives the Esri 3D Excellence Award

By Barbara Shields, Esri

Esri honored the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) with its 3D Excellence Award. The Forest Service uses 3D GIS to communicate wildfire information to a very large group of wildfire fighting teams. James Hubbard, deputy chief of the Forest Service, accepted the award during the Esri 3D Imaging and Mapping Forum, June 26, 2016.

“We are paying a lot of attention to reducing fire fighters’ unnecessary exposure to risk,” Hubbard said. “We don’t want to put firefighters into situations where they can’t succeed or have a low probability of succeeding. 3D mapping gives us a better idea of where they should go or not go. It also helps them be more effective firefighters.”

The Forest Service received the award because Esri considers it as a major contributor to the advancement of 3D GIS technology.  Its user requirements have helped Esri’s 3D development team set its priorities. The Forest Service uses 3D GIS to substantially communicate wildfire information to a very large group of its users. In one week, it trained 2,000 people to use a 3D wildfire management web application.

Staff easily accesses essential data provided by the National Interagency Fire Center, layers it onto a 3D base map, and has a multidimensional perspective of a wildfire’s progress.

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Top Ten ArcGIS Moments of Esri UC

By: Jessica Wyland

Powerful, inspiring, magnificent, and forward-thinking are just some of the words to describe the work being done by GIS users around the world. The energy and enthusiasm of the GIS community was on display at the 2016 Esri User Conference in San Diego. The 37th annual conference was attended by some 15,000 GIS professionals, and followed online by many thousands more. “The Future of Smart” set the stage for showcasing how people use the Esri ArcGIS platform for Web GIS mapping, location apps, and open data sharing to make their organizations and communities stronger, vibrant, sustainable.

The Esri User Conference also showcased a deep-dive into all aspects of the ArcGIS platform, with the latest information on Esri apps, initiatives, and amazing array of resources and training opportunities for Esri GIS users. Solutions from hundreds of business partners were also on display to help organizations extend their GIS efforts in facilities management, indoor mapping, 3D mapping, imagery, conservation, transportation planning, land management, public health, and citizen services.

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Esri UC Sees Location in 3D

By Barbara Shields, Esri

Among the most exciting maps shown at the Esri UC were those that were in 3D. People were talking about using Esri 3D models to solve problems and see the big picture of the world around them.

Global Visualization: At the plenary, Joe Fraley’s presentation “3D Global Visualization” explained how ArcGIS Pro combines an organization’s 2D maps with lidar point clouds to quickly extrude a digital 3D building city scape.  Video runtime 05:13.

Smart 3D Cities: On the same stage, Brooks Patrick presented “Smart 3D Cities” to highlight cities that are doing amazing work. He demonstrated ways four cities are using 3D modeling to plan, design, and update city development, infrastructure, and services. Video runtime 03:17.

3D Content: In the Esri EXPO, the Esri 3D team members were on hand to demonstrate 3D modeling at the Product Themes Pavilion. They talked one-on-one with users and answered their questions.  Video runtime 01:06.

3D Excellence Award. Esri presented its 3D Excellence Award to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) for using 3D maps as a strategic planning tool to fight wildfires. James Hubbard, deputy chief of the Forest Service, accepted the award.

The Esri 3D Suite is Sweet. Esri provides a full suite of 3D capabilities. This includes 3D desktop applications that allow you to create, maintain, and analyze 3D content, new apps such as ArcGIS Earth, and more.

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Panama Canal Expansion Opening Day Security Relies on Esri ArcGIS

By: Barbara Shields, Esri

The Panama Canal Expansion (PCE) project opened for business on June 26, 2016, the same day that the Esri National Security and Public Safety Summit convened in San Diego, California.  Carlos Contreras, the GIS manager at the Panama Canal Authority, presented a live demonstration of the first ships passing through the canal on a real-time map. The project’s GIS team used the Esri ArcGIS platform to support operations throughout the project phase as well as the security during the opening day events.

The world watched the PCE grand opening, which was attended by 15 heads of state. The event required tight security. Contreras’ GIS team coordinated with the police, special forces, national security, and the Red Cross to provide the geographic intelligence for monitoring the event.

As ships traveled through the canal starting at the Atlantic side of the canal, 20,000 attendees were also on the move in 280 buses. The busses traveled along the Canal’s banks stopping at towns and locks along the route. Security managers had a common operational view of the entire event via Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS. This allowed security teams to keep track of the entourage as well as the location of specific VIP.

Volunteers for the PCE event downloaded the Collector for ArcGIS app to their phones and provided on-the-ground information to the event command center. Esri’s new app Survey 123 for ArcGIS allowed security forces and health providers to track the locations and number of health incidents along the way as well as the patient care centers where they were being treated.

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Maricopa County Uses Esri to Better Inform its Citizens

By: Dave Grenley

Maricopa County’s Office of Enterprise Technology (OET) uses Esri to improve how it provides information to its 4 million citizens.

“The passion, vision and collaboration with the developer community is what makes Esri such a special company. The products they provide are feature-rich, intuitive and efficient. And that also describes the product development team,” said Tapas Das, GIS programmer and analyst for the OET.

As the county’s central service enterprise technology provider, OET serves over 30 county departments.

The stated vision of OET is to be recognized as a first-class technology organization by the citizens they serve. A factor in achieving that vision for many departments is the ability to share information on the web and mobile devices with the public. The solution lies in engaging, easy-to-use web maps.

“GIS has become a powerful tool for Maricopa County to leverage in creating new avenues for citizen interaction, communication and search functionality,” said Das.

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What is orthorectified imagery?

Using elevation to enable accurate image georeferencing

Imagery has an amazing amount of information, but raw aerial or satellite imagery cannot be used in a GIS until it has been processed such that all pixels are in an accurate (x,y) position on the ground. Photogrammetry is a discipline, developed over many decades, for processing imagery to generate accurately georeferenced images, referred to as orthorectified images (or sometimes simply orthoimages). Orthorectified images have been processed to apply corrections for optical distortions from the sensor system, and apparent changes in the position of ground objects caused by the perspective of the sensor view angle and ground terrain.

A view captured from an oblique angle (for example, 25°, left) must be corrected for relief displacement caused by terrain to generate the orthorectified view (looking straight down, right). Orthoimagery is produced by calculating the nadir view for every pixel.

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From Raptors to Butterflies, Esri Map Gallery Wows Attendees

They came to mingle, learn a thing or two, and see good maps. 

By: Ian Bramlett

After the Esri User Conference plenary on Monday, attendees flocked to the San Diego Convention Center Sails Pavilion to witness the marriage of science and aesthetics at the Map Gallery Opening and Evening Reception. Geographers and GIS professionals strolled the gallery with drinks and finger food, examining hundreds of maps created by Esri users with ArcGIS. Some were made by seasoned professionals while others were the handiwork of university and high school students—a testament to the broad use of GIS in academia. All of the individual pieces added up to a stunning collection that resembled a fine art show.

Entries from the younger map authors were on prominent display in the pavilion. Winners of the Esri Young Scholars Award showed why they were recognized for cartographic excellence; their maps told the stories of urban energy consumption in Italy, trajectories of accident patterns in Malaysia, and the need for GIS deployment in United Kingdom classrooms. The contributions of these budding cartographers were a melting pot of topics that truly spanned the globe.

Other maps showed concentrations of water main leaks for utility asset maintenance; flight paths of raptors to improve endangered bird species conservation; parcel values in Maui, Hawaii; the influx of luxury car brands in Tokyo, Japan; traffic data from highways in Turkey; population growth in Louisiana; and the dispersal of Bay checkerspot butterflies throughout San Rafael, California.

The point wasn’t lost on gallery visitors: name any topic, and a map can tell that subject’s story better than any other medium.

The 90,000 square-foot exhibit space was not only the perfect venue for hundreds of large-format maps but also a meet and greet with UC keynote speaker and author Andrea Wulf. Signing copies of her critically acclaimed book The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, Wulf shook attendees’ hands and expounded on her scientific expeditions.

Whether you’re a UC attendee this year or plan to attend next year, consider submitting a map to next year’s Map Gallery. You might already have a map in the works that will earn its spot in the Show of Cartographic Shows.

Explore photos of the Map Gallery Opening and Reception on Esri Flickr.

 

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San Bernardino Teens on the Plenary Stage

By: Jessica Wyland

Three students from San Andreas High School in San Bernardino, California took the Esri UC Plenary stage in San Diego Monday to present their impressive GIS work. They shared how, in just one school year, they learned to make story maps and use Survey123 for ArcGIS to collect public works data.

As part of the school’s Career Technology Academy, students work with the nearby City of Highland to record information about street sign reflectivity, graffiti and other blight. Using the Survey123 app, students input data and photos that be shared, mapped, and analyzed by city staff.

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Scientists Journey of Collaboration and Communication

Perspectives from This Point in the Journey

By John Steffenson

Charles “Hobie” Perry is a Research Soils Scientist for the US Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program and based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Christopher Oswalt is a Research Forester located in Knoxville, Tennessee. Neither scientist imagined the journey that would lead to their presentation in the Esri User Conference plenary session or the incredible effort it would take to boil down a very rich presentation into a compact ten minute presentation

Several years ago, Hobie was asked to lead an effort to deliver content from the Forest Service Forest Atlas to a digital environment. The idea was to build a compelling information product to engage a broader community of interest. The Forest Atlas was originally designed as a print document accompanied by associated data download capability but along this journey the FIA scientists realized that by building a platform consisting of web services, web maps and applications, they could build a dynamic portfolio that became the National Forest Atlas and an almost limitless array of compelling and accessible information products.

According to Hobie, “I finally shed my academic perspective and started thinking of an enterprise approach, the ability to share once became share everywhere, reaching the largest possible audience. I also started seeing that the Enterprise License Agreement was more, much more than just ArcMap and started asking, what is possible with these tools? Pressure from leadership started growing quickly once they saw examples being passed around and fueled a desire to make it easy for EVERYONE in the org to build apps…not just programmers.”

Hobie and Chris were first asked to present at the Esri Federal GIS Conference earlier this year. Their presentation was their first experience presenting in the plenary session of an Esri event. They did such an impressive job, we asked them to continue the journey and give an updated one. As much as you try, there’s really no way to prepare someone for how intense the experience of presenting in an Esri plenary can be. When I asked Chris about the experience of presenting, he said, “Preparing for an Esri event is unlike anything I have ever done. Preparations seemingly consume your life for months. The experience, however, leaves you with new friends (those who went through with the struggle with you), new opportunities, and lifelong memories. It is kind of like a punch to the gut… but, for some reason you end up enjoying the experience after it is all over. And somehow, it makes you better at what you do.”

Hobie was reflecting, “I was on the faculty at Humboldt State University for 6 years before joining the Forest Service, so I had a reasonable comfort level with public speaking. But the UC, it’s a whole different experience. The scripting, the pacing with other presentations, working with an acting coach, the pressure of such a large audience, the expectations of our peers at the Forest Service and Esri, and so on. It is the singularly most stressful thing I have ever done, and this includes defending my Ph.D. But I can honestly say I would do it all again. It is an amazing experience.”

Now that they have started creating some great web services, web maps and applications, they are starting to turn their attention to other aspects of modernizing their information architecture, building capacity and envisioning the next steps in this journey. FIA is working closely with the agency CIO and GIO to develop the next generation information architecture based on web services, cloud deployments, configurable apps and mobile enablement.

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