Esri Developer Summit Day 3 Recap

[You can read about the Esri International Developer Summit Day 1 recap here and the Day 2 recap here]

Below you will find a recap of the third full day of the 2013 Esri International Developer Summit put together by the developers in attendance from GISi.

Learning About Esri UI Process

by Chris Bupp, Senior Application Developer

I learned a surprising amount from the presentation that discussed Esri’s UI design process.  When they showed the video of how a user interacted with a prototype of a Esri product…I was impressed by the sheer amount of information gleaned from that process!  Using a process of interview and interrogation, Esri was able to make very simple and significant changes to their “Community Maps” application.  The recorded videos captured where volunteers clicked and thought information should be provided.  The final result was surprisingly powerful compared to the very similar previous versions.

Read Chris’s entire recap of Day 3

Software Testing in an Agile World

by Caleb Carter, Application Developer

From there I was off to my second session, “Software Testing in an Agile World”. What a great transition!  There wasn’t a whole lot of content here that applied to my current project load, but there were some tips and tools I took away from the session.  One really important item that I had sort of suspected, but was good to get some validation on, was that every development team should have a dedicated testing team working in parallel to ensure that bugs are found as early as possible while code is being developed.  The presenter also recommended that teams start to skip writing a formal specification in favor of a comprehensive set of acceptance tests which serve as a spec.  Finally, the presenter pointed to a couple of tools to assist in “pairwise” testing.  This is a new term to me, but the idea is that when there are a large number of combinations of inputs to a given method, the number of tests to provide full coverage is simply impractical to write.  In this case, using a tool like AETG or PICT will assist in selecting a subset of input combinations to maximize coverage with a practical number of tests.

Read Caleb’s entire recap of Day 3

Big Data

by Christopher Fricke, Solutions Engineer

Long ago we entered a world where everything you, the buildings we are in, and the world around is monitored and logged in a database.  Having all of this information is pretty cool, but collecting data for data’s sake is nothing without compiling information out of it.

Back in the Winter I worked on downloading and aggregating daily weather station data (1932 – 2013) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  This resulted in hundreds of millions of spatial records.  This was a really cool use case for something that is only going to get larger.

I am glad to see that Esri is taking this new movement in information technology to heart.  Esri just released on GitHub a toolkit for analyzing geographic datasets in Apache Hadoop.  This gives GIS analysts in ArcMap the capabilities to spatially query billions of records as though they were working with a 100 record shape file.

Read Christopher’s entire recap of Day 3

Look Ahead at ArcMap XI

by Don Parkison, Senior Software Developer

The first session of the day was a look ahead into the new world of Esri technologies and a pleasant surprise was the appearance of ArcMap Desktop, something that has been conspicuously absent. I have been an ArcObjects developer and a power user of ArcGIS Desktop since its release in 1999. Sure, I have been trying to advance my skills and make my way into the web and mobile worlds more but I will always have a place in my heart for ArcMap. So it was nice to see that ArcMap is continuing to move forward as Esri Architects gave us the first sneak peek into the new experience of ArcMap XI (11). The most important facts regarding ArcGIS desktop in version XI are these. (I will type them in bold because they are that important).

Read Don’s entire recap of Day 3

Building 3D Apps with ArcGIS

by Ryan Taylor, Application Developer

Unsurprisingly the underlying technology behind 3D in the browser was WebGL. However, Esri will be abstracting this away from developers by adding 3D capabilities to the core Esri JavaScript API. The same classes you are familiar with now will be 3D enabled including new 3D symbology to support the added dimension. The intent is to make the 3D WebGL core and rendering process transparent to developers. It was touted that the only skill a web developer would need to create these 3D applications would be in using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript however I suspect that having a working knowledge of WebGL and advanced 3D preparation, rendering, and optimization techniques will be helpful if not required for any non-trivial real world applications. To provide 3D data to your 3D web application ArcGIS for Server will be enhanced with 3D capable services and ultimately geoprocessing tasks.

The demonstration was pretty cool. The presentation took place in a 3D city where billboards around the city replaced the traditional MS PowerPoint slides. Moving from “slide” to “slide” was accompanied by a smooth panning animation across the city. Also shown in the demo was the ability to show terrain elevation in 3D and to drape a drive time analysis on the 3D map. While seemingly simplistic in nature two use cases came to mind. My first thought was in performing 3D geoprocessing to analyze how sun and shadow impact the energy usage of a building. The other was to visualize the impact of a flood on an area.

The one downside to the demo? It was written using Esri’s 3D plugin and not using the 3D enabled ArcGIS API for JavaScript as the latter is currently a work in progress. We might see something by November though Esri still needs to work out the timeline.

Read Ryan’s entire recap of Day 3

Road Ahead – Runtime

by Michael Doolen

As previously stated, the ArcGIS Runtime team is investing heavily in the base architecture.  This architecture is built with C++ and will be the core of the iOS, Android and Windows Phones SDKs.  Three new platforms will be supported (beta) in the 10.2 release as well:  OSX, Windows Store and QT.  The beta releases will be available to download on

Read Michael’s entire recap of Day 3

Steve Mulberry, Sr. Enterprise Architect

Today we got a sneak peak at what the ArcGIS Platform will bring in the future.  From 10.2 which will be released around UC and beyond. More recent will bring:

  • Big Data Support (Netezza, Teradata, Hadoop)
  • Single Sign On Security
  • Live GDB Schema Changes
  • Parallel Processing for some key GP Tools
  • City Engine Directly inside Desktop
  • Enhanced Management Tools for Disconnected Editing

Read Steve’s entire recap of Day 3

Developing Map Applications for the Windows Store

by Tommy Bramble, Senior Application Developer

The first of my two morning sessions was titled ‘Developing Mapping Applications for the Windows Store’.  The presenters, Rex Hansen and Morten Nielsen (two of my favorite Esri presenters over the years) did an excellent job reviewing their beta runtime for the Windows Store SDK.  Rex kicked the session off with a brief overview and Morten gave us a solid hour of live development.  That’s right, no canned samples, live coding!  Morten started the coding demo by creating a new blank windows store project type from Visual Studio 2012 on a Windows 8 device (creating Windows 8 Store apps is only supported on Windows 8 OS).  Of course, the ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Windows Store was already installed so Morten got busy adding some relatively simple XAML markup to the front-end; a grid layout with a title bar, map, and scale bar.  Morten also coded up some event handlers to catch mouse clicks and screen taps.  His demo was able to capture the events, draw markup graphics to the map, and buffer those graphics.  He also wired up a simple map service query and demo’d the .NET async/await framework.  Esri has really been pushing Github, so of course this runtime SDK is available and they encouraged us to check it out and contribute.

Read Tommy’s entire recap of Day 3

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Esri Developer Summit Day 2 Recap

[You can read about the first day of the Esri International Developer Summit here]

Below you will find a recap of the second full day of the 2013 Esri International Developer Summit put together by the developers in attendance from GISi.

Plenary Recap

by Ryan Taylor, Application Developer

The second day at the Esri Developer Summit kicked off very strong with an excellent, thought-provoking, and humorous presentation on “The Anatomy of a Design Decision” by keynote speaker Jared Spool. The question of how design decisions are made is an important one and was the focus of the presentation. There are no non-decisions we learned, just a spectrum of five design decision styles. Jared introduced us to new terminology specially crafted to explain these five styles of design decisions and when each “works great”.

Unintentional Design – Unintentional Design is risky and will usually only work if users “put up with” the design…and also if the designer doesn’t care about potential support costs caused by users’ inability to properly utilize the poor design.

Self Design – Self design is when you design for you. This works when your users are just like you and you use the software just like your users every day. Otherwise known as “eating your own dog food”.

Genius Design – Genius design is design based on previously learned knowledge. This works when you already know the previous experiences and context and you are solving the same problems repeatedly.

Activity Focused Design – Activity focused design is when you design for new activities that are unfamiliar to you. This works when you can identify the users’ needs and activities and you can go beyond your own previous experiences.

Experience Focused Design – Experience focused design is when you are designing for the complete experience rather than discreet activities. This works when you can craft that experience, you want to fill in the cracks between activities and you can be proactive about design.

Jared described that each level within this spectrum is another step up on the design ladder. The more advanced the style the more effort is spent and money is spent on design. However the more advanced the style the better the design.

With this lexicon in place we were asked what kind of design do we do. This is something everyone on every team should ask themselves. It will differ from team to team and project to project. But it is important to know what design style you are using so that you can be aware of the hidden and not so hidden costs, trade-offs, and paths of improvement. Jared stated that every style has its purpose. Is your design style leading to an application that meets the needs of the user?

I highly recommend that anyone that is doing design, intentionally or not, watch Jared’s presentation. Fortunately, you can already see it on Esri’s website here.

Read Ryan’s entire recap of Day 2

Caching Capabilities in ArcGIS 10.1 

by Caleb Carter, Application Developer

Caching capabilities are enhanced at 10.1, notably in that the process of creating the cache has been decoupled from the map service itself. It can be done in the background without locking up the map service…just great for up-time! Also some great techniques were demonstrated for using non-production server resources to update cache consumed by production services.

Read Caleb’s entire recap of Day 2

Steve Mulberry Enjoying Another Great Presentation (image courtesy of Esri)

Web Mapping Application Interface Design

by Tommy Bramble, Senior Application Developer

After lunch, my first session of the afternoon was ‘Web Mapping Application Interface Design: Best Practices and Tools’. Being very weak in this area, this session presented me with a lot of new information. The session presented a strategy and methodology for UX/UI design and the presenter reviewed his overall design pattern before diving into UI design specifics. The main points I took away from the presentation were:

  • Client feedback is critical to the process.
  • Use workflow diagrams, flowcharts, and wireframes to diagram all processes
  • Properly diagramming and documenting the design will save money by working out the details before development starts. Not to mention it builds solid client relationships by making them part of the design process.

Read Tommy’s entire recap of Day 2

SharePoint and ArcGIS Online

by Dan Levine, CTO

In another user presentation, a New Zealand company demonstrated some pretty cool work integrating SharePoint with ArcGIS Online. They demonstrated a solution for the National Fire Responders of New Zealand that incorporated a GIS QA/QC process into a SharePoint Workflow that allowed review of both the spatial data as well as documents and images that were stored in SharePoint lists.  With some modest effort they had created a really clean and useful interface using the Esri Map for SharePoint web part.  Then they demonstrated how the entire workflow could be moved to a completely cloud based system using Hosted SharePoint 2013 and ArcGIS Online. They described some tips and tricks that were needed to allow the two hosted systems to talk and exchange information but the coolest thing was that they were able to use the editable feature service in ArcGIS Online and create new polygons which actually were updated into a SharePoint list that was serving back the source feature service.

Read Dan’s entire recap of Day 2

Bigger and More Extreme Technology Uses

by Chris Bupp, Senior Application Developer

Today I focused on supporting my roles as an Emerging Technology Developer and as the leader of the Best Practices Exploration Team. Sajit and Mansour always like to push the boundaries using bigger and more extreme technologies.

Mansour and Sajit’s highlights (

  1. Big Data
  2. “Huge Data” front-end ideas for big data back ends.
  3. Sticky Maps: sexy and simple UIs that encourage users to spend time to explore and come back
  4. Face Recognition

Read Chris’s entire recap of Day 2

Python and AGOL

by Christopher Fricke, Solutions Engineer

I am really impressed at the work the Python team over at Esri has put into the 10.x releases.  It has come a long way since 9.3.1.  The new data module and python toolboxes are going to help me tremendously with the ETL processing I have been doing as of late.  Also, their blog,, should be the first stop for new developers learning arcpy/python.  I look forward to seeing which direction they are moving in the future.

Read Christopher’s entire recap of Day 2

Disconnected Editing with ArcGIS Runtime

by Michael Doolen

Some additional comments on disconnected editing

  • Synchronization
    • Support coming at 10.2
  • Routing
    • Support coming at 10.2
    • Esri will not have products (data) to purchase at 10.2.  Therefore, customer need to purchase licensed data.
  • Will be able to build Geocoder to device at 10.2
    • Can use owned Locators
    • Esri Locators will not be available
  • Attribute queries
    • Support at 10.2 with Query Task
  • Can use ArcGIS data for basemaps, but not for Locator nor Routing

Read Michael’s entire recap of Day 2

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Esri Developer Summit Day 1 Recap

Below you will find a recap of the first full day of the 2013 Esri International Developer Summit put together by the developers in attendance from GISi.

Plenary Session Solves A Big Problem

by Caleb Carter, Application Developer

In an effort to make the most of this year’s developer summit, I came well prepared with specific questions to get answered while I’m here. I expected that Esri’s folks would be helpful. I expected that I could walk up to any red-tagged person here and describe my issue, and within a few minutes I would be face to face with the person who could help me out. What I did not expect was that I would see my exact issue demonstrated at the plenary session, before I ever had a chance to attend a session. In the middle of a long string of speakers discussing and demonstrating how each technological corner of the ArcGIS ecosystem represents “ArcGIS as a Platform”, was a demo of how to take a CSV file of addresses and hand them off to ArcGIS Online and get back geocoded points in a map layer! So close! What I really want is to do that on-premise, but what a great start! I just needed a few minutes in the Esri Showcase and a couple of judicious session selections, and now when I should be sleeping tonight, I will more likely be implementing a batch geocoding solution!

Read Caleb’s entire recap of Day 1

Geofencing Made Easy

by Dan Levine, CTO

I sat in a couple of sessions around the GeoTriggers component that Esri has been developing. The GeoTriggers is effectively a set of APIs (JavaScript, iOS, Android) that will let you leverage the location aware capability of your mobile device and allow you to create conditional actions based on proximity. For instance, you can set up a geofence around movie theatre and if you crossed into the geofence your web browser could open up to the theater’s “currently showing” web page. Alternatively, you could send a message to your home automation system to turn on the lights, heat, or air once you’re within 5 minutes of home. The possibilities of this kind of technology are wide but there are some caveats that the presenters warned about. They have worked hard at developing the infrastructure to manage battery usage – which is always a problem when tracking location. Also there seems to be a Privacy Awareness theme coming out in some of these talks – making sure you give people the opportunity to say no to using their location in your application and to say no to whatever message you might be sending. I had the feeling that this team has some experience with dealing with the legal end of this. There is a balancing act here that they talked about. Often when you install a newly downloaded application, you get the “This Application needs to Use your Location” message. They recommend that you actually put that warning deeper into the workflow of the application so that it doesn’t ask for permission to do something, like use your location, until the application needs to actually use it. That way the user is more likely to understand what the intent is and as such likely to accept it.

Read Dan’s entire recap of Day 1

New Feature Introductions

by Chris Bupp, Senior Application Developer

Esri has introduced several new features.  I attended the following sessions:

  1. Unleash the Power of Mobile Location in Your Applications
  2. ArcGIS Platform for Developers
  3. Extending ArcGIS GeoEvent Processor for Server with New Connectors
  4. Working with Application Frameworks and ArcGIS API for JavaScript

Discovering the latest ArcGIS tricks. A demo a day keeps the geodoc away. (Image courtesy of Esri)

Read Chris’s entire recap of Day 1

ArcGIS Online Is Like Flickr

by Christopher Fricke, Solutions Engineer

You can think of ArcGIS Online as the Flickr of Geospatial content. It provides an ever improving mechanism for viewing, editing and analyzing data. Just like Flickr I can define using groups, user credentials, and even active directory authentication to determine who can access my data. This assuaged a lot of my initial concerns dealing with security and access to sensitive information like property records.

What does this mean for me in the State and Local team?

It will hopefully mean less of the non-GIS server installation, configuration, and maintenance work. I’ll be honest, my favorite part of my job is getting my hands dirty with the data, not installing software. I will soon be focusing my energy developing solutions for maintaining geospatial data and applications in a load balanced, redundant, Esri managed hosting environment. This enterprise level environment is something many local governments could only dream of a few years ago.

Read Christopher’s entire recap of Day 1

Runtime SDK For Android

by Don Parkison, Senior Software Developer

From there I jumped right into the Runtime SDK for Android. Android is an interest of mine and since not many other developers seem to have a ton of interest in the subject I have been given the green light to learn all I can. This will be my first of several sessions regarding this technology. This being a beginning session, it was made clear that one of the primary gotchas with developing on the Android platform is making sure the correct configuration are set in the manifest file. These were the configChanges property, the permissions to access the internet and the fine location of the GPS. When starting an Android project in Eclipse it auto generates the manifest file for you so you tend to think that all is good when you start up. Wrong. Go make those changes before you even get started.

The next point of emphasis with Android is making sure that you never run any code that is not necessary in the view space. All real code must be run in an AsyncTask or new Thread. It is good practice to remove your code from your view objects in any language, but in a mobile app it becomes more important. You don’t want to have your app locked up because it is waiting for a response on the same thread as your view. Because of this structure, all code in an Android app is structured so that it is responding from events raised by the OS. So, for example the startup of any app is really a response to the OnCreate event that the OS has fired.

Regarding the ArcGIS Android API, this structure also means that even listeners that the map is already wired into might interfere with how you would like the application to respond. If you would prefer that a swipe action results in a drawn feature instead of a pan, you will have to disconnect the swipe event from the Esri listener and attach it to yours.

Read Don’s entire recap of Day 1

by Ryan Taylor, Application Developer

High-quality printing in web applications has always been a significant challenge and a large development effort. However at 10.0 Esri introduced new printing capabilities with a Print GP service using ArcPy.Mapping that appear to make printing high quality web maps significantly easier than in any previous version. If the out of the box print templates Esri provides by default are sufficient you can get away with very little server configuration to enable printing for your web maps. Widgets in JavaScript, Flex, and Silverlight provide an OK if generic looking interface to print your maps but those can be skinned if needed your you can write your own GUI. The out of the box printing does have one caveat. It is based on the WebMap JSON structure. If you want to be able to leverage the greatly enhanced printing capabilities at 10 and 10.1 you must send a WebMap formatted JSON object to the print service.

Read Ryan’s entire recap of Day 1

Tips and Tricks for iOS Application Development

by Michael Doolen

I attended another User presentation.  Evan Kirkwood, of Arter, gave a talk about their offline mapping solution.  They built a native iOS application.  It was a detailed discussion and he offered some good tips/tricks.  Note, disconnected editing was not a feature of this app.

  • Tip: TPKs work well will relatively static data
  • Trick: Used SpatiaLite to spatially enable SplLite in order to do spatial queries
  • Tip:  Used to Protocol delegate pattern
  • Tip:  Use the open source software than adds support for Shapefiles
  • Tip: iPad3 performed worse than iPad2 in testing.  Apparently it requires more processing for the retina display.  *Crucial to test on the real world devices you plan to target for profiling.*

Read Michael’s entire recap of Day 1

3 Steps for Geoprocessing Services

by Tommy Bramble, Senior Application Developer

My first tech session of the day was ‘Creating Geoprocessing Services’. This was a novice level session, which was perfect for me since I don’t have experience with geoprocessing services yet. In the past, when my web projects have needed custom GIS processing I’ve used Server Object Extensions (SOE) to extend ArcGIS Server. Esri seems to be moving away from SOE’s and really promoting geoprocessing services as the way to implement custom GIS processing moving forward so it was time for me to get up to speed on this methodology. The session gave a good overview for creating geoprocessing services; breaking the process down to a 3 step approach:

Step 1: Create a geoprocessing tool in ArcGIS Desktop using the model builder.

Step 2: Publish the geoprocessing tool to ArcGIS Server.

Step 3: Consume the geoprocessing service in your web application.

Read Tommy’s entire recap of Day 1

Update to Location Analytics

by Steve Mulberry, Sr. Enterprise Architect

Esri showcased it’s improvements for supporting location analytics by way of business intelligence systems such as Microsoft’s CRM, Office and SharePoint solutions as well as releasing a beta version  of Esri Maps for MicroStrategy. Earlier this year we saw the release of Esri Maps for IBM Cognos.

Read Steve’s entire recap of Day 1

Getting Started with AGOL

by Joe Howell, Energy Market Manager

The biggest news here is the ability to integrate AGOL security with enterprise login (Active Directory). If you have been using ArcGIS Online, the other content of this seminar is really fairly minor. The ability to join to offline content (spreadsheets…), embedding maps in Microsoft office and having the map interactively update itself based on content in the document (think excel filters and formulas). My immediate thoughts is that this functionality combined with feature services could assist with getting data from those folks who won’t let go of their spreadsheets (you know who you are) into an enterprise database. This isn’t new functionality, but it could improve data integration efforts.

Read Joe’s entire recap of Day 1

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Leap(Motion) Into ArcGIS

by: Christopher Bupp

Esri is hosting a 100 Lines or Less ArcGIS JavaScript Code Challenge … and while that is a mouthful to say, the important word is: “Challenge.” My response of course is: “Accepted.”

For the last few months I’ve been tinkering with a developer model of the Leap Motion device. So for my submission, I decided to put a couple awesome things together.

I experimented with several gestures to interact with the map, but I settled with the following:

  • Circle Gesture – Zoom to Extent
  • Tapping/Poking – Center the map
  • 1-2 finger swipe – Pan the map
  • 3 or more finger swipe – Zoom out
  • Pointing at the screen – display point location with latitude and longitude.

The latest versions of the Leap Motion JS API are pretty good at recognizing gestures. The tapping/poking seems to be the hardest one to recognize. The circle gesture and swiping are almost always recognized.

The current version of the Leap Motion JS API doesn’t recognize a skeleton. So fingers tend to get merged and disappear from view. I’ve heard that the next versions of the SDK will be adding this functionality.

Something that the Leap Motion JS API doesn’t yet support is screen location. So, I used 27 lines (out of 100) to create a “very basic” calibration. The calibration assumes that the leap motion is below and parallel with the screen. A really cool consequence of my basic calibration is that interactions “off screen” still get translated to map points; you’re able to circle or poke off-screen, and the map will still go to the desired extent.

My code is hosted on GitHub. Here is the code break-down (out of 100 lines)

  • Setting up the map (4 lines)
  • Calibration (27 lines)
  • Detecting and drawing the finger tips with lat/lon (17 lines)
  • Detecting Gestures and interacting with the map (24 lines)
  • Creating output messages (10 lines)
  • Detecting leap motion support (2 lines)

Which means 16 lines were used for variable declaration and closing curly braces.

Since the competition ends March 28, the judges will likely not have a Leap Motion by then. I’ve created a demo video of my code in action.

If you happen to have a Leap Motion, you can download my code from GitHub and run it by simply opening /LeapIntoArcGIS/index.html in your browser (doesn’t support IE).

For anyone interested in entering the competition, simply:

  1. Fork the competition repository
  2. Make code changes
  3. Submit with a pull request.

Fresh Thoughts on Data Management

By Jonah Adkins, GISP

Over the last few years the high availability of map and geo-data services with the help of mobile technology has sparked the “geo-boom”; any and all data can be tied to location using a variety of technologies, therefore making data management more important than ever.

GIS professionals have long been familiar with data management practices. The landfills are full of floppy disks, CD’s, and DVDs of Coverages, shapefiles, and geodatabases shared between localities, bought from vendors, or supplied by software companies. Growing up in this industry, there was a two-sided badge you got to wear as a GIS professional. The front side was a badge of honor you got for skills in “Data-Hoarding”; “How big is your database?” “Where did you get that dataset?” “You have so much data you had to buy a server!!!!” The other side of that badge said Sheriff in big letters, “Why do you need MY data?”, “It’s going to cost you”, “Can I get that formal request in triplicate?”  This badge was also a curse, because all GIS pro’s had it, so good luck getting some data from a suspicious colleague. Lost hours of phone calls with protective data mothers, answering a litany of questions, and paperwork, all to show the buildings of an adjoining county on the map. Our niche community of GIS technologists has ballooned into a billion dollar a year industry with a bevy of new catchphrases like “big data” and “location analytics”. The need for your two gigabyte geodatabase is dwindling in favor of “point me to your map service”.

To navigate the through the “geo-boom”, GIS professionals must be adaptive to a dizzying array of technologies, making managing your data so important. See the ‘your’ underlined in that sentence? Being an authoritative data source comes with responsibility. Your data is worth the time and effort to ensure it has proper formatting, free of errors, and is the reflection of your business. Can it be considered ‘authoritative’ if it doesn’t have those attributes? To curb the old “data-hoarding” habits, leave data that isn’t yours to the professionals, the ones who own it. By taking the time to research who the authoritative source for a needed data set, you can prevent costly duplication and replication of data. Why spend resources on building tile caches and storage if the authoritative source already has, and if not start a dialogue with them, chances are you are not the only one who needs it. There are countless cost effective options to make authoritative data available. While healthy protectiveness of your data is honorable, that Sheriffs badge you wear is starting to rust. You are sorely behind the curve if your data is not or if you do not currently have plans to make your data available to consumers. Potential partnerships, new consumers, and innovation are just a few of the benefits for making your data “open”. You may never fully understand the importance of your data until you make it available for all to use. Understanding that some datasets are sensitive, data security exists, and yes, some businesses would like to profit from their tireless work of creating data, these points still apply and even more so, for pay to play datasets.

Regardless of the data model, storage method, dbms, or software your data is ultimately a reflection of your business. If you cannot successfully manage your business you are doomed to fail, likewise without proper data management values, the usefulness of you data will fade. One final thought – Our niche community of GIS professionals still exists, we have endured countless changes in technology, and we will survive this “geo-boom” like the rest: as a community of professionals dedicated to putting it on a map. (Paper, digital, or otherwise)

Recap of Esri Federal User Conference 2013

Early last week GISi attended the Esri Federal User Conference in Washington D.C. and we have put together a review of the highlights that we would like to share with you. We walk through a few scenarios from the ‘Making a Difference Award’ presented by Esri, Plenary Comments, Technical Sessions, Upcoming Technologies, an ArcGIS Online update, and what we think is the sleeper announcement of the conference. If we missed something you would like to know, please feel free to reach out to us and we will do our best to comment back on your request as soon as we can.

An introduction from our CEO, Lee Lichlyter:

We live in a time of accelerating change and this is certainly true for our Federal government.  There are many drivers of change, including global events, computing trends, policy initiatives, and economic pressures.  GIS as a technology has always been an integrating technology and its value in this changing time is more needed than ever.    It provides a solution framework to address issues, and in Jack’s words, “unveils the whole”.   As part of this, the emphasis is on web maps as the new medium.  They are a simple, powerful, cost effective tool for collaboration and integration.  ArcGIS is a platform that enables this.  There are three components to ArcGIS as a platform – applications, content, and infrastructure.  Esri is moving aggressively to provide capabilities on all three of these components.

Making a Difference Award – Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery was presented the “Making a Difference” award at morning Plenary session.  GISi is proud and honored of our support to Arlington National Cemetery in the data collection and application development efforts.

Plenary Comments
From Zac Odom – GISi Deputy Program Manager – Navy

Something that struck me from Jack’s presentation was ESRI’s strategy of pressing their services based architecture and finally addressing some of the long-standing issues (CAC Authentication) with deploying their solutions in the DoD environment.  This, coupled with the ability to deploy the portal framework within an entities own environment, will make some of the super slick demo workflows actually possible on DoD networks

Tech Session
From Ryan Heitz – GISi Federal Program Manager

There is a continued emphasis on movement towards Portal for ArcGIS- which provides a secure implementation of the same sharing and collaboration capabilities as ArcGIS Online.  At the plenary and in technical sessions, Esri provided information on installation and integration of Portal with enterprise content and services.  In the technical session, the Esri team reviewed On-Premise, secure Portal implementation patterns and options for installing Portal and coupling it with existing GIS Services and Content, such as enterprise geodatabases.  Significant for DoD clients, Esri is supporting secure Portal implementations that use HTTP and PKI (CAC authentication) required by many of our our defense clients.  Portal will be first released as a stand-alone, installable product with 10.2, planned for June 2013.

For the Defense community, Portal provides capabilities to support out-of-the-box web map publishing, improved web map and web map service sharing via using groups, and web app templates that provide rapid stand-up of light-weight web apps.  Applying this technology enables more users to become “web map publishers” – a potential benefit, but it requires consideration of several factors:

  • Server architecture and infrastructure sizing to potentially support more publishing of web maps and services,
  • Administration, policy and procedures to ensure that such a federated solution is supported and sustained (e.g. who will be able to publish? how will content be reviewed? how to  ensure the web maps and apps are based off of authoritative data?
  • User groups and roles – defining, creating, and administering roles to meet organizational and policy needs.

Overall, Portal looked promising as a solution to support enterprise web map sharing and publishing.  As a Portal solution, it may also have long-term cost-savings over maintaining and enhancing more custom map publishing and sharing capabilities.

New Technologies Coming
From Jeff Williams – GISi Deputy Program Manager – Army

Esri Location Analytics is creating solutions to bring geospatial capabilities into major business intelligence platforms and dashboards – an area that is growing in importance.   GISi is looking forward to seeing models and UI experience to draw upon to build products for Business Intelligence.  This will benefit many customers who are using a BI solution and also have Esri technology.

Location analytics for BI holds the potential to bring geospatial capabilities to traditional DoD enterprise business systems.  Moe than 80% of data has a spatial component – this effort would bring out the location intelligence to business analysis and reporting.  For example, location analytics could be applied to DoD financial and supply tracking systems to improve data analysis and visibility. There is potential to reach outside of GIS departments and planning organizations and geo-enable enterprise applications by bringing geospatial services and capabilities to their applications –extracting more value from existing data.

ArcGIS Online Update/Delay
From Dan Levine –  GISi Chief Technology Officer and Range Program Manager

With all these new capabilities and changes, Esri is dropping the 10.1.2 release that was scheduled to come this month in lieu of a 10.2 release scheduled to be just before the user conference. A bit disappointing to those of us that have been waiting for a number of fixes that were “promised” for the 10.1.2 release. This is the second time in the last few years that I recall a sub-release being cancelled and rolled-up to a major release.

Sleeper Pick of the Conference
From Colby Free – GISi Federal Business Program Manager

The sleeper in my book was the ArcGIS GeoEvent Sever (Successor to ArcGIS Tracking Analyst). Currently there has been a focus to pipe traditional GIS capabilities and solutions to a mobile platform or asset… but the GeoEvent technology leverages the mobile asset and related data and capabilities to create new solutions. This translates to a new value proposition through new client solutions and market opportunities. But think beyond mobile devices and tracking an asset… consider anything that is constantly updating its state or is a source of continuous data (i.e. sensors, alarms, video cameras, et) and imagine what can be done with those data in a spatial solution… the applications are endless (i.e. security system, environmental monitoring and alerts, mass notification and tracking, dispatching, logistics, mass marketing, fleet tracking, et et et). Very exciting proposition!

Tell me a Better Story – The Impact of Location Analytics on Business Intelligence

By Tim Calkins, Market Manager, Financial Services


There is an old Native American Proverb that goes like this –

“Tell me a fact and I will learn.
Tell me a truth and I’ll believe.
But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever”.

Business Intelligence has matured to be a mainstream application because it takes the two dimensional spreadsheet world and uses the data to tell a story.  Users can visualize trends, quickly picture their organization in dashboards and use indicators to traffic-light key performance metrics.

Business Intelligence has become even more effective and predictive with the use of Business Analytics, However, a chapter has been missing in the Business intelligence story, and that chapter is “Location”.  Location analytics is the next big thing in the world of BI.  In fact, a good argument could be made that location analytics enriches business intelligence they way business intelligence enhanced spreadsheets.

What is Location Analytics?

Location Analytics is the ability to draw accurate conclusions from data assembled from a variety of population and demographic data sources.  When combined with GIS (Geographical Information Systems) mapping tools, it helps organizations predict patterns and emerging demographic trends.

Location Analytics “geo-enables” data.  It is more than points on a map.  Location analytics involves spatial layers the way that OLAP cube (Online analytical processing) invokes multiple dimensions.  These spatial layers can be combined or “mashed up” so that the combination marries the data into a common framework.

LOCATION the great integrator –Data Integration Management

Data layers can come from a variety of disparate sources both internal and external.   More than 60% of data has a geo reference component and therefore easy to geo enable.   Just think about how much of your data is tied to an address or location.

An example would be customer address, layered with census data on population, income levels and age, that’s four layers right there (see Figure 1).  Now you can get answers to questions like: “What’s the average distance of customers from your point of sale by drive time or by distance?  You can also add additional layers if needed and, since the layers all deal with location, all the data integrate seamlessly.


Real World Examples

Location analytics can tackle decision support problems that business intelligence, void of analytics, would not be able to.  Here are a few examples of some of the common problems being answered with a GIS solution.

Risk Management

GISi is currently working with a financial service company to help implement location analytics. The first project was to pinpoint their customers and overlay those locations with major storm and natural disaster data.  This will allow them to avoid fraudulent claims, but more importantly reach out to customers that fall within the area of impact to provide exceptional customer service. The solution allows them to pinpoint down to a specific house or business affected.  They can now offer one-on-one assistance to their customers in the time of their greatest need. This will help them build a stronger bond with their customers. 

Other organizations use Location Intelligence to determine the risk exposure of assets, clients or facilities.  For example, they can quickly get answers to questions like:

  • What assets are located at 20 feet or less above sea level?
  • Structures that are within 25 miles of a nuclear plant?
  • How many foreclosures in a five mile radius?

This type of analysis is very difficult with standard business intelligence solutions.

Site Selection

Do you want to know where to put a store, ATM, hub or building?  Retailers and franchises have been one of the biggest proponents of GIS.   Location is a key to success or failure.  Site selection helps to visually analyze and determine the best possible locations/markets areas that would be favorable to be located based on specific conditions and variables.

GISi, in conjunction with our partner Intalytcs, has developed a custom site selection tool called SiteIntel.  It uses predictive models to estimate sales performance by location then allows the user to interact with those models in a map-based environment.  It allows a user to see (POS) Point of Sale history, demographics, site photos, aerial views, and sales forecasts, and other information such as:

  • The optimal site for the next retail/restaurant/ATM location
  • What impact the competition has on sales potential
  • Optimization (number of locations a market will support)
  • Forecasted sales for each potential location, including revenue with cannibalization (net new revenue)



This type of decision support and analytics would not be possible without Location Analytics.

Get Your Users Involved 

Now for a Chinese proverb:

Tell me and I’ll forget
Show me and I’ll remember
Involve me and I will understand.

Location Analytics engages the user and insightfully displays data concepts for better decision-making that Business Intelligence alone never could.  Location Analytics involves the user with interactive maps.  Users can pan, zoom, select, and visualize.  The maps are integrated with the tabular data as well.  Do you want to see the sales performance of a specific region on the map?  Draw a circle on the map and the application will calculate the sales data for the region selected.   These intuitive tools help your users better understand data, trends, and ultimately their business.


Most people understand the intuitive and informative nature of geospatial information.  Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri, states it this way, “Maps are a kind of language, we have text as a language, we have music as a language, we have mathematical languages, and we have software as a language.  Maps are a language and their power is that they communicate intuitively to people.  You can look at a map and see context as well content of a situation and the actual phenomenon that is occurring”.

It is only a matter of time before Location Analytics become widely adopted into the Business Intelligence organization.  Cognos, Micro Strategy, SAS and the other BI partners are integrating GIS directly into their platforms.  They understand this is the providing an enriched and more intuitive decision support environment and extensive visualization.

If you want your BI dashboards to tell a better story, try using Location analytics.

About the author – Tim Calkins is the Market Manager, Financial Services for GISi and their subject matter expert for business intelligence.  GISi is an award-winning GIS professional services firm located in Birmingham, Ala., with offices throughout the United States. GISi has a passion for delivering customer driven location technology solutions to federal, state and local governments, and commercial organizations.