Esri User Conference Impressions

Some members of the Evari GIS Consulting team were fortunate enough to attend the Esri User Conference (July 9-13th),  and this blog is going to detail some of their insights.

What is the Esri User Conference?

Esri User Conference 2018

Taking place right in our backyard at the San Diego Convention Center every year is one of the most exciting events of the year! I'm not talking about Comic-Con, though that does happen the week after. I'm talking about the Esri User Conference. The Esri UC is a jam-packed week full of inspiring keynote speeches, fun opportunities to bond with fellow GIS users, and seemingly endless training opportunities (there are over 1,000 sessions to choose from!!). We all thoroughly enjoyed this conference, and felt reinvirograted to get back to work and implement some of the awesome new tools and tricks that we learned about. Now for a few words from the Evari Team:


Jessica Sanchez, GIS Analyst

Jessica Sanchez, GIS Analyst

Machine Learning in ArcGIS was one of my coolest sessions this week. The panelist demonstrated how you could combine the capabilities of machine learning with the data exploration tools of operations dashboard in ArcGIS and make an awesome tool to analyze video. In the demo, they had a video capturing activity at a busy intersection (everything from walkers, bikers, buses, and vehicles). They then plugged this into a dashboard where you could follow the video with data analytics (pedestrian counts, bus counts, vehicle count. etc).

This hits close to home at Evari since we have been working with GE and the City to install similar camera sensors, City IQ Nodes, throughout the City of San Diego. These City IQ Nodes are supposed to monitor air quality, detect gunshots, analyze traffic, help parking enforcement, and provide the public with real-time parking availability data. Assuming the sensor works as it should, we could probably do something similar and create a tool to analyze the video, get accurate information, and identify problematic areas of the City and see what can be done to improve the quality of life for those citizens.

Other sessions I attended include: Insights for ArcGIS, GeoAI Use Cases, Spatial Statistics, Integrating R in ArcGIS, Spatial Data Mining, Spatial Analytical Thinking, Women in GIS lunch, & the Cartography special interest group lunch  

Kristie Ashby, Evari GIS Consulting Esri User Conference 2018

Kristie Ashby, Business Development/GIS Analyst

Esri is charging ahead on many fronts, from developing machine learning and deep learning to process and characterize aerial imagery, to providing tailored functionality that supports and streamlines specific workflows (like those associated with utility operations, water management, and local government). One point that I’ll focus on, though, is Esri’s major effort toward providing a more functional and beautiful user design/experience. Gone are the days, it seems, that GIS is accessible to only those die-hard, willing-to-pardon-the-interface, tech-savvy enthusiasts. The goal now seems to be to put GIS in everyone’s hands—from K-12 students to the general public. This makes sense if you side with the many geospatial enthusiasts who argue that GIS is the right tool to chart and hopefully improve the world’s future: from conservation mapping to natural resource management, to connected smart city solutions. The common denominator with many of the issues we face is a spatial data one, and Esri’s technology is providing the robust processing power to analyze, draw insights from, and communicate critical challenges and solutions. As someone whose job essentially involves selling the value of geospatial technology to improve processes for cities, utilities, and AEC folks alike, I think this move toward an enhanced UX is the right one.

One example of a major UX improvement is with the advent of Enterprise Sites. This functionality provides an entity (like a fire department or municipality) with a custom portal to their most crucial maps, dashboards, links, and insights. One plenary talk featured a fire department’s use of one of these sites. There is a clear safety case for fire departments having access to service area maps, dispatch times, and personnel locations at their fingertips.

Example of Enterprise Site for City of Redlands, CA.    Image source

Example of Enterprise Site for City of Redlands, CA. Image source

I’ll close with one other example of Esri’s efforts to expand their visual communication toolbox: Story Mapping. I’ll be honest, I always saw the value in them, but I was never keen on the look or feel of story maps. I often found them somewhat clumsy to navigate. But at the UC, I learned about some great techniques and app templates that opened up what seems like a world of possibility for communicating insights, and well, stories. The Cascade Story Map isn't brand new (it's been around since 2016), but after learning some tips and tricks about using it effectively, it became a fast favorite for me. With its full-screen, scrolling design that can be enhanced with multimedia content, 3D scenes, and maps it’s a very engaging tool that I think has the potential to bring real value in any firm’s marketing efforts. This style of story map immerses its reader, eliminating the need for him or her to figure out which elements of the map are “important,” and where to navigate. It essentially puts the viewer “on rails,” as Esri Product Engineer John Nelson put it, guiding them through an experience that more closely resembles a blog or slick website than anything else. With its responsive design, autoplay feature, and embedding capability, I see it as great marketing collateral to be used during interviews, at trade show booths, and on our website. Kudos to Esri for always improving on many fronts!

Now enjoy this story map that maps out our nations drinking preferences!

Josh Edge, Evari GIS Esri User Conference 2018

Josh Edge, Project Manager/GIS Analyst

First off, I had an incredible experience at my first ESRI User Conference learning about all the new capabilities that the ArcGIS platform has to offer. My main focus while attending was on the AEC industry, primarily on the integration between BIM and GIS. With the announced partnership between ESRI and Autodesk, the integration between BIM and GIS data is crucial for engineering firms to finally utilize a CDE (Common Data Environment) to store, edit and share their data within the project’s organization. This allows for easier workflows between the numerous firms that potentially work on a sizeable project.

During the BIM/GIS sessions, many presenters (mainly outside of the US) displayed some impressive projects that applied this CDE to keep track of all project requirements, such as cost, planning, design, etc.). This allows for better collaboration, improved workflows, strategic partnerships that help build more successful projects between all involved parties.

One of the biggest takeaways I got from the BIM/GIS sessions was the concept of the digital twin. A digital twin is a digital representation of what is going to be built. With the integration between Autodesk and ESRI, creating a digital twin model has never been easier by being able to use the same revit model between both platforms. This is integral in the planning and design phase that engineers need, while also storing environmental and spatial data that GIS analysts need.

Lastly, Evari GIS can benefit from this integration between BIM and GIS, especially on our environmental projects. Being able to take CAD data and utilize that within our GIS system will make our jobs even easier and much more efficient. Other takeaways I learned from other sessions I took while at ESRI UC were the new ArcGIS Pro tools such as an enhanced Model Builder, which will support two-way modifying of parameters and variable values. Model Builder will also allow for more chart types, which will be useful in running processes and visualizing the data from a much unique perspective.

Python also has some awesome new capabilities, such as the new Notebook, which has a new interactive scripting interface that can be run in the desktop or in the cloud. Also, the new and improved Python API is going to fully support Machine Learning, which is very exciting! Can’t thank Evari GIS enough for giving me the opportunity to attend this conference, looking forward to hopefully returning next year as well!


Did you attend the Esri UC? Have any takeaways that you'd like to share? Leave a comment below, or reach out!