Esri Developer Summit: Day 2

Danny Bradshaw

Day 2, like most ESRI conferences, was the official start of the conference and included the customary plenary session.  Some of the noteworthy points:

  • ArcExplorer Online being redesigned to get rid of the Microsoft-esque ribbon (and taking design cues from Apple, I’m still laughing at that one!)
  • Ability to author and publish ArcGIS Online from ArcGIS Desktop
  • ArcGIS Online portals coming soon so you can host and publish your own virtual AGS Online within your own firewall.
  • Application builders for both the Flex and Silverlight viewers
  • Better support for popups to include richer and more relevant information

These points are all well and good, but the really cool demo of the morning came when the team used a Microsoft Kinect camera to zoom, pan, and redline a simple Silverlight map.  Talk about a new take on the touted “smart tables” we’ve heard so much of over the last few years.  Who needs a table!  The demonstrator had to sync with the Kinect system using a “hands up” position (picture someone sticking a gun in your back and demanding your wallet), but after that, it was literally a GIS symphony as he waved his arms around to navigate and edit.

Then Ismael Chivite got on his soap-box for a few minutes.  I found myself chuckling when he declared that GIS professionals make ugly applications and that it’s time to get designers involved (agreed!).  He then talked about how the “black box” of ArcGIS Server is improving.  As a company, we’ve already heard the news about the changes being made to the data and architecture upcoming with the 10.1 release of ArcGIS Server… Ismael touted benchmarks such as the Identify functionality being 200% faster, dynamic map services currently processing 30-40% faster, 60 ms queries, etc.  Pretty impressive stuff on the surface.

As a final note, I attended both the AGS for iOS and AGS for Android sessions.  AGS for Android is in public beta (or perhaps just launched with final), but I have to say, between the two development platforms, I would choose Android in a heartbeat.  The differences between developing with a full-featured developing language like Java vs. what I saw with Objective-C was night and day (sorry if I offended any C aficionados – and forgive my ignorance).  While, in the long run, iOS apps might produce some smooth and sexy apps… You’ve got just that, a long run, because you’ll have to write twice as many lines of code than an identical app on the Android platform.  Of course, I did meet a fellow  who writes iOS apps with C# (MonoTouch)…

Dan Levine

Code for America Introduction

Code for American is a new nonprofit organization built to serve the needs of local governments across the country. The driver is that the economic downturn has impact local governments to provide services to their residents. Take this in context with the large IT aware growing youth community, and the re-developing attitude that we won’t wait for our government to solve our problems. The concept for Code for America is to bring in a set of young technicians (developers, designers, writers, etc.) looking to give back to the community and send them out to a set of cities with need. They interview city stakeholders, community organizations, and the public and identify and build applications to fit an unmet need with technology. Typically these are giving the public a way to find or report on information already in multiple disparate databases in a city.  Furthermore, these apps are designed to be portable to other cities (to the extent possible). One examples given was an application to connected a school bus tracking system to a mobile reporting application so parents could find out where the kids buses were during snow storms. Another was a tool that let the public adopt a fire hydrant; they were then responsible for shoveling out the snow so the fire department wouldn’t have to in the case of emergency. The web application let the adoptees report on status after snow storms and the fire department always had real time awareness of availability. This program is just getting started with the first set of 20 technologists but is already proving successful. Esri is very interested in integrating these efforts into is Local Government Templates model for “canned” solutions.  So turn this around from a business perspective and what does this mean to us. I can see a couple of perspectives. First, this group is out there building solutions for free and giving them away to our customer base. Hmmm, does that shrink our market? Or is this making more and more people aware of IT and GIS solutions and effectively help our cause. On the other hand, we are all interested in more effective government and public involvement and this seems to be enabling this well.

Manseur Raad, Kinect in Flex

Well Manseur must have got his feathers ruffled during the plenary when Art Hadaad showed a Silverlight app and Kinect because this talk was supposed to be about Augmented Reality. Instead Manseur decided to show the flex version of what Art showed. Esri technology competition? You tell me.  Any Manseur walked through the available tools and how to implement a solution that connects flex based map applications with Kinect. Well he didn’t disappoint. Using Adobe Air and Open Source connectors from TUOI.org he walked through the code and demonstrated how to build a simple application controllable through the Kinect sensor.  Really cool stuff and my mind is full of ideas of how this might be useful.  Sporting his Flash Gordon T-shirt Manseur had the crowd on the edge of their seats even getting collective Amens from the audience – a strange and funny cultural event. Manseur will be making the code available, if you follow his blog you will see it shortly. http://thunderheadxpler.blogspot.com/

Choosing a Mobile Deployment Platform

My first take away from this session was that I was stunned at how few people were actually in there.  This was held in the largest room but was attended by only about 50 people. Is no one else getting the push to develop Mobile applications? Perhaps not or maybe this is still such a developing technology that people are still shying away.  Anyway this session was all about pros and cons of deploying a web application that works on any mobile device developing and deploying on a device specific applications.  Some of the pros/cons for a web application are that it is mostly a single development and deployment with some modification for each platform, you have total control over deploying and updating the application, limited access to device capabilities (camera, compass, gps, etc). While the device specific solution offers better performance and function, usability – designed specifically for the device, direct access to device capabilities, market penetration – app stores, easier to monetize. The downside is that you have to build multiple solutions for each platform – if you need that, which drives up development and maintenance cost, you typically have to go through some gatekeeper to make your app available.  They did show the Adobe Air option where you can build in one environment and deploy on and Android and an Apple device.  They also talked about a couple of other emerging technologies. JavaScript compact build and JQuery mobile and PhoneGap were two prominent ones.  Mentioned the tool Protofluid, which works with Firebug to test and troubleshoot phone behaviors on your desktop. The remainder of the session was about each of the mobile device specific development platforms and the pros and cons of those and they took an informal survey on who was going to deploy on which of these – basically asked us to scream for each one and they measured noise. Results http://stlouis.esri.com/apps/dsmobile. Not sure this really shows any differentiation. I got the distinct impression the presenter was touting the new JavaScript based solutions – but it felt like a personal preference as opposed to a true recommendation.

Ben Taylor

Out of the box functionality for exporting maps coming 10.1.  I know there is the ability to export directly to pdf, I’m not sure yet what other file types will be supported. Custom symbolization of individual service layers will also be supported. No need to have to modify the mxd/msd and republish or create a custom solution if you want to change a service layer’s symbology.

I took in a session on .NET/Java Add-ins for Desktop. The coding of add-ins is a bit simpler, no managed com is required.  The add-ins are typically easier share and deploy. You can save your add-ins to a common directory and have your users install them from there. You also have the ability to digitally sign the add-ins to take care of any security woes.

A few positive changes to the Javascript API 2.2 release. The base class for the info window is now exposed. So you can extend and customize your own info windows much easier. There are a few much needed map events added to the API. In particular, an “on update start” and “on update end” event is now wired into the map. So you no longer have to listen to each layer’s event to determine what state your map is in. On the editing front, a new client-side method is exposed to check for self-intersecting polygons. You no longer have to waste calls to the server to simplify each edit to a polygon. Overall, there seems to be a lot of buzz about this new release.

Patrick Barnhart

The first day of my first trip to the ESRI Developer Summit was a good one.  This was actually the second day of the summit, the first day was taken up by layovers, delayed flights and general unhappiness but I arrived safe and, due to the weirdness of flying across a bunch of time zones, in time to get plenty of rest for the next day.

We began with the Plenary Session (which I had to look up, it means all members of all parties in attendance, if you’re curious) which was really the highlight of my day.  This session was a broad overview of all the new developer toys either recently added to ArcGIS 10 or that are on the way with 10.1.  There was an abundance of great stuff, to the point where I was getting somewhat overwhelmed by it all about three quarters of the way through, but looking back at the end of the day a couple of things stick out.

‘The internet as an operating system’ – so with the cloud and distributed computing I’m aware of the move towards having lightweight computers, basically keyboards and monitors, with the muscle being provided by a server living out in a farm somewhere but this is the first time I’ve heard it phrased in this way.  It also goes along with ESRI’s push towards hosted mapping solutions on ArcGIS.com, one of the speakers said right out that one of their goals is to have organizations use ArcGIS.com instead of having their own copy of ArcGIS Server, which is surprising to hear from someone in the business of selling software.   You can publish, edit and analyze map data online and they’re adding tons of widgets to make the whole process easy enough that pretty much anybody can do it.  I’m not going to try and go through all the functionality they’re adding but it feels like to me like they’re really committed to this approach and I’m a big fan.

Anybody remember having to actually write code?  The ESRI family of APIs (Mobile, Flex, Silverlight, Javascript, REST) seem to be doing all the work, a couple lines of code can do amazing things and a lot of the framework can be built in good ol’ wysiwyg editors using a mouse.  Once the bones are in place you still have to do some coding but this is a trend that’s been going on for a while and is still picking up speed.

10.1 is going to be awesome.  Yeah I know, they say that every time but really, an embedded web server, new and improved online printing capabilities, web accessible feature editing and symbology customization, the list goes on and on.  I won’t really be sold until I can do some of this stuff myself but the peek I got today fills me with warm fuzzies.  ArcGIS has always had power and tons of functionality but the words ‘heavy’ and ‘slow’ come up a lot and in addition to the new toys I saw some really, amazingly fast demos today.

Most of the other sessions I attended were about the Javascript and REST APIs but I’ll be going to the advanced version of these in the days to come and will talk about them then.  The coolest demo of the day award is a toss-up between drawing travel time/distance polygons on the fly (unbelievably fast) and using an XBOX Kinect for map navigation (it’s kind of rough at this point but a very interesting concept – once ESRI puts the sessions online be sure to check these out.

Tommy Bramble

Day 2 was kicked off with the Plenary Session.  This is basically the opening ceremony for the conference where the top Esri techs demonstrated their latest and greatest products and described the technological road ahead for the ArcGIS System.  A lot of information and cool technology was demonstrated in this all-morning session, but some of the key points I took away included;

  • ArcGIS products should now be considered wholly as a system, the ArcGIS System, where there is a focus on the cloud platform and services and data are not specific to any one component or device in the system.
  • ArcGIS Online (ArcGIS.com) is a powerful web tool for creating maps and sharing data and information.  ArcGIS online has been heavily integrated into most all components of the ArcGIS System, from ArcMap to the new Application Builder tools for flex and silverlight.  Esri is even implementing a new ‘portal’ feature that organizations can leverage to create a private ArcGIS Online space hosted by Esri or within the organization’s intranet.
  • ArcGIS Server 10.1 is fast!  The ArcGIS Server product manager demonstrated the new 10.1 server system by calculating drive times by mouse click, which took less than a second to render in the live demo.  Other wow factors included the new out-of-the-box high quality print tasks and feature service editing enhancements.
  • The new ArcGIS desktop runtime makes deploying custom desktop apps a lot easier.

Esri techs also really wowed the crowd by demonstrating some of their R&D work, a WPF-based map viewer that used Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect (and human movement) to control the map.  Not much utility for that now, but definitely was really cool, especially for an Xbox junkie like myself.

My first session of the day was ‘The road ahead for ArcGIS Server Developers’.  This was basically the detailed rundown on what changes will affect the AGS developers as they migrate to AGS 10.1.  Esri re-emphasized that developers discontinue their use of the WebADF, which is being deprecated, and move on to the WebAPI’s.  Esri is removing DCOM/AGS Local Connections in AGS 10.1, so if you are using local connections with the WebADF or making a local connection with ArcObjects your solutions will no longer work.  However, Esri states that if you are using the WebAPI’s you will be able to upgrade to 10.1 without anything breaking in your applications.  Optionally, you may want to update your applications to use the latest versions of the APIs, which will be updated to take advantage of any new features available in 10.1.  Some of the new features that will be added to AGS 10.1 services include;

  • Ability to add and remove layers to an existing map service using the new ‘workspace’ feature.  Basically, when you create a feature service you can specify a file-based directory where any data that resides in that directory can be dynamically added or removed from your feature service.
  • Ability to dynamically change layer symbology and transparency within your feature service.
  • Ability to change the geodatabase version being used (i.e. switch between versions to instantly see the different edits on your web map).
  • Ability to dynamically create new layers based on JSON markup (i.e. create a buffer result layer based on an existing feature layer and add that to your map).
  • The new high-quality print method that will be exposed through the updated WebAPIs.  The print task can also be extended using ArcPy and exposed as a geoprocessing service if you require more print options than will be exposed through the WebAPIs (i.e. print  resolution).

Also, AGS 10.1 will be native 64-bit runtime.  It will not run on 32-bit servers.

My second session of the day was ‘Using the ArcGIS Server REST API’.  This session was very good and presented well, but there wasn’t a wealth of new information here for the seasoned users and there was no discussion regarding any changes that could come with 10.1.  The session focused on current features available at AGS 10.0 and best practices.  Some new information I took away from this session included;

  • Using ETags and Cache-control headers with the REST requests/responses.
  • A review of the different service response formats.
  • The new operations for editing available at 10.0 that use HTTP POST.
  • A brief description of how to browse and consume the REST SOE’s, which are new to 10.0.

My third and final session of the day was ‘Extending ArcGIS Server Services using .NET’.  This session focused on using Server Object Extensions to extend/customize your AGS 10.0 map services.  Esri is highly recommending developers move to this design pattern now for their AGS custom solutions that are using ArcObjects in preparation for the major change that comes with AGS 10.1.  Again, with AGS 10.1 you will not be able to make local connections to AGS or use the fine-grained ArcObjects classes that you would create from your local connection.  Alternatively, you will have to build your custom ArcObjects solutions within the SOE framework at 10.1.  Some key information taken from this session includes;

  • SOE design pattern is available now at 10.0 and Esri recommends moving to this framework now if possible.
  • Research alternative solutions that may be available with 10.0 and 10.1 before developing your SOE.  There may be a new option available for solving your development issues (i.e. geoprocessing services or the new print tasks available at 10.1).
  • SOE’s described as fast, pluggable, and functional.
  • Ability to create SOAP or REST endpoints from your SOE, although Esri recommends REST due to its lightweight nature (and they only demo’d the REST solutions).
  • You must register your SOE to your AGS and then enable it for your map service through the ArcGIS Server Manager.  The SOE registration process is currently complicated so be sure to use the Resource Center and Help docs (including the sample solution for registering SOEs provided by Esri).
  • Also, make sure to take advantage of the Visual Studio SOE templates Esri has made available through the Resource Center.

In conclusion, it was a very good first full day of the summit with a ton of information to absorb.  Esri has done well so far and I’m looking forward to the REST of the conference.

Steve Mulberry

As always the Plenary Session showcased some exciting new technology and advancements with ArcGIS.

Some of the notable changes and improvements available now and coming in v10.1:

  • ArcGIS Server – Will become one component at v10.1, no more SOM/SOC which means no more managing of the 3 accounts (SOM, SOC, and Web Services). All communication is through HTTP/REST! J
  • ArcGIS Online – ArcGIS Explorer Online has a new face lift, which includes full support for tool tips or Popup windows, @ v10.1 support for hosted data/services as feature service or tiled (this means also online editing of the data you post), and its availability as a Portal you can run internally.
  • All the Web API’s are improved, look for the 2.2 beta releases on the resource.
  • New Application builder for Silverlight viewer.
  • New Flex Viewer configuration Builder…no more opening up the XML configuration file!
  • New ArcGIS Runtime, small foot print with simple copy paste deployment method. 64-bit support, new development architecture.

Overall the v10.1 is Server focused with faster native 64-bit support, dynamic legends, new print service, all HTTP/REST communication, dynamic rendering, and simple entry level into mapping through the spatial data services. New FGDB API, desktop SDE administration tools (No more command line J). Right click sharing/hosting from your ArcMap project.

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