‘Maps are alive’: Highlights from the Esri UC plenary

July 10, 2017  - By

GIS provides the means for users to apply “the Science of Where” everywhere, according to Esri President Jack Dangermond. (Photo: Esri)

“Maps are alive,” declared Jack Dangermond, Esri founder and president, on the plenary stage at the world’s largest GIS event. The 38th annual Esri User Conference is taking place July 10–14 at the San Diego Convention Center.

We are on the cusp of a data and information explosion, Dangermond explained while introducing the conference theme “The Science of Where.”

Esri President Jack Dangermond describes the value of GIS at the plenary session of the Esri UC. (Photo: GPS World)

“We are about to launch in to a different scale,” he predicted. GIS is changing rapidly with numerous new information streams and advances in real-time data, and maps are central to understanding our changing world. GIS provides a platform for managing, analyzing and applying that data and information, he said.

His advice? “Share, collaborate. Communicate so we collectively can learn all bout world. Let’s take our work collectively to scale.”

GIS is vital to understanding developments in numerous areas: population growth, climate change, social changes, natural disasters and political polarization, to name a few. “We have to do everything we can to better understand and form collaborations to address these areas,” he said.

“Today’s businesses and governments require new ways of thinking,” said Dangermond. “Our users are leading the charge, using mapping and analytics to empower digital transformation, accelerate understanding of big data, and democratize technology. It is an inspiration to see how so many different organizations are applying the science of geography and the technology of GIS to gain insight into their data and reveal hidden patterns and spatial relationships.”

Dangermond presented numerous examples of organizations using GIS in new ways. For instance, Oak Ridge National Laboratory has created an “energyshed” map similar to a watershed map. An orchard is using GIS and GPS tracking to collect data on cherry picking. The Democratic Republic of Congo is making use of crowdsourcing to generate maps.

Story Maps are aiding what Dangermond calls “geo-journalism,” telling stories about new developments in virtually every field.

A screenshot of “Washington's Ice Age Floods” story map from the Washington Geological Survey.

A screenshot of “Washington’s Ice Age Floods” story map from the Washington Geological Survey.

Dangermond also presented the following awards:

  • Ice Age Floods, by the Washington Geological Survey, won Best Story Map.
  • The GIS Digital Transformation Award went to Abu Dhabi, which “has taken GIS to new frontiers” in every government agency with every citizen, Dangermond said.
  • The Enterprise GIS Award went to the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency for maintaining the largest GIS database in the world, with daily updates and a user-friendly portal.
  • The President’s Award, chosen personally by Dangermond, was given to the United Parcel Service (UPS), which saves up to $400 million a year with its location-enabled Orion system. It puts the ability to update maps in the hands of supervisors, who constantly are optimizing routes. Now deployed in the U.S., the Orion system is going worldwide.

UPS took home the President’s Award for innovative use of GIS. (Photo: Esri)

Other speakers and their topics at the first-day plenary included:

  • Renowned author and theoretical physicist Geoffrey West — His book Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies, explores dynamic growth and the challenges of achieving that growth sustainably.
  • Walt Disney Animation Studios — Behind the scenes of Zootopia. (Read more here.)
  • Oakland County, Michigan — Making government services more cost-effective
  • Chesapeake Conservancy — Analyzing imagery and sensor data to protect watershed areas
  • Taylor Shellfish Farms — Transforming the family-run business by implementing cloud GIS solutions so staff can perform spatial data collection in the field
  • Severe Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS), Calgary, Canada — Powering real-time decision support systems to improve emergency services
  • Smart Dubai — Empowering one of the smart cities of the future with citizen engagement and smart growth.

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About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.