Federal GIS Conference Notes

Notes from a student who attended ESRI’s Federal User’s conference:

Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, gave a talk.  She discussed “wicked problems”, environmental problems for which there seems to be no easy solution.  At the rate of present growth in consumption and population, we will need two planet Earth’s by 2030.  She mentioned Eye on Earth, a ‘global public information network for creating and sharing environmentally relevant data and information online through interactive map-based visualizations’, and INSPIRE, an infrastructure for spatial information in Europe to support Community environmental policies. 

Jack Dangermond, founder of ESRI, talked about how GIS is moving to the cloud and how Web Maps serve not just as a digital map display also as an interface through which users can access the original data. 

 The link below takes you to a demonstration of a Web Map being used to track social media in real time in Manhattan.  The dots that appear represent the locations of tweets. 

 http://socialdemo.rdcwdc.esri.com/fedgis/#newyork   (link not working, but you can watch the video of the 1st day of the conference to see the demonstration: http://www.esri.com/events/federal/videos)

 Click on a dot and you see the actual textual content of the tweet!

 Another demonstrator showed how Search and Rescue (SAR) teams can use GIS to predict the most likely places that a lost person might be found.  For example, past experience shows that most people give up walking after three hours (simple buffer).  In addition about 52% walk uphill, 32% walk downhill, and 16% walk along the same elevation.  Patterns like this enable GIS analysts to create overlapping layers that help narrow down search areas for rescuers. 

 One of the highlights of the federal GIS conference was showcasing the access provided by the following link:  http://esrifederal.maps.arcgis.com/home/.  This link is a gateway to a variety of thematic maps that cover topics ranging from obesity by county to USGS’s plotting of recent earthquakes.  You can also click on button, “Map”, access layers and create your own map on the spot, but you must be registered for ArcGIS Online. 

The December 2013 release of ArcGIS (10.2?) comes with the ‘World Geocoding Service’.  With this service, one can drag and drop an address to a map and it will be geocoded; or, one can right-click an address in a spreadsheet.  This service will provide for worldwide Geocoding as well as worldwide traffic data!

The US Marine Corps now has a portable GIS system.  Marines deploy with devices that are completely pre-loaded with all necessary regional data and software, so the system is not dependent on the cloud. 

In June 2013 there will updates to cloud security that will allow users to authenticate themselves with a CAC card when accessing ArcGIS Online. 

There was a presentation about Big Data.  There are new ways to somehow send software to where the data is rather than downloading data to where the software is.  This allows for processing 3.5 billion records in a few minutes!

The grand finale for day-one of the conference was the demo of ESRI’s new App, the Operation Dashboard.  This App allows an organization to deploy personnel to collect GIS data and upload it while a person in the rear can track the progress of the data collection in real time.  The demo was called ‘Operation Gold’.  About twenty or so people were sent out on a scavenger hunt to record any instance of gold that they come across in the area in DC surrounding the conference site.  One of the most common sightings of gold was actually brass plated doors.  A person on stage was able to watch the team members fan out on a map displayed on a monitor as well as see what comments team members recorded about each sighting of ‘gold’.

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