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Tales from the ESRI UC – Plenary Edition

Joe Peters

A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend my first Esri International User Conference (UC). Each year, on the first day of the UC, Esri hosts a plenary session to highlight new innovations and key advancements in the geospatial realm. Everyone back at the office told me that I should try to catch at least part of the plenary. I’m glad I made the effort because this was truly a sight to see. I'll just say, it seems like Esri spends a lot of time crafting this event to make it feel special, and for this first-time attendee, I certainly felt like they delivered.

There were a lot of interesting topics discussed throughout the plenary, but two things caught my attention. First off, there was a great demonstration of soon-to-be-released geoprocessing tools within ArcGIS Online. I think that the addition of fully-functional geoprocessing tools to ArcGIS Online is going to impress a lot of people and make the move to web-based mapping (a.k.a. the cloud) a lot more enticing. Esri has taken many steps in the last couple of years to make ArcGIS Online much more than a map-sharing platform. It looks like all of this development will soon be at a point where it begins to pay dividends for ArcGIS users. Imagine a fully-functional GIS package that can be accessed from any web-enabled device. This will eliminate the need to be at your desktop computer or in front of your laptop. You can simply log in from any machine and pick up where you left off with your project. Esri’s president and co-founder, Jack Dangermond, also announced that they will soon be introducing a marketplace to ArcGIS Online. This will enable access to third-party tools and applications, such as imagery analysis tools from Exelis Visual Information Solutions, which can be used directly in the ArcGIS Online environment.

The other topic that caught my attention at the plenary was the introduction of Premium Services, which enables access to very recently captured multispectral imagery from companies such as DigitalGlobe and RapidEye. This is in addition to the Landsat image services that have been accessible through ArcGIS for the past several years. What this is about to me is a new level of convenience for users of imagery.  Anyone who works with imagery has likely experienced the painful process of waiting minutes, hours, maybe even days to download a large image file. I would bet I’m also not the only one who has waited out the download process only to find that the image I have downloaded is not what I needed or that my area of interest is concealed by clouds. By making multispectral imagery available as an image service, users can quickly view and access the portions of scenes that they need to perform their analysis. It will be interesting to see what long-term effects this will have on the field of remote sensing and GIS as a whole.

Watch videos of the plenary at the 2013 Esri UC

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