Web Exclusive! More on the 23rd ESRI User Conference

July 31, 2003
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Updates and information that was not included in the magazine.

Technical staff who support GIS implementation, analysts who use or benefit from GIS analysis, managers who run GIS departments, decision makers who support GIS in their organizations and any user of ESRI software were invited to attend the many facets of the annual ESRI International User Conference. Attendees were provided the opportunity to here briefings by senior ESRI management on ArcGIS 9.x, learn about updates from senior ESRI product managers on new tools in ArcGIS 8.3, hold one-on-one consultations with software experts, attend more than 100 technical workshops on ESRI software, learn from more than 1,100 user paper presentations on challenges and successes, enjoy the exhibit hall with vendor solutions and access to 1,000 ESRI business partners. Many attendees participated in some of the 100-plus regional and industry user groups.

More on the Survey Focus

The sea of gray seen at many surveying conferences wasn’t as evident at the Survey and GIS Summit, Bridging the Gap 2003. As far as objective stats on attendees of the Summit, Mike Weir, ESRI surveying industry manager, shared these:
  • 86% were from the United States
  • 57% were from the private sector
  • 32% were from the government sector
  • 11% were from federal organizations
  • 43% were surveyors
  • 43% were GIS practitioners
  • 6% were engineers
  • 3% were educators
  • 5% were other

During Weir’s opening speech, an audience member who says he is ESRI customer No. 552 and has been in attendance at ESRI conferences for 14 years and counting asked how many GIS people were at the conference to learn the survey end of things, indicating his concern for a reciprocal effort on the part of GIS-ers. Weir said the conference—and the integration—are to be entrusted to both groups 50/50. And although Survey Analyst, the software program three years in the making, seems to be a good solution to bridging this gap, and providing clients and the public with complete and accurate maps, some attendees at the conference said the program has its kinks. The concept exists, however, and the promise from nearly three years ago has flourished into a workable solution. And if these two groups of professionals sail on the efforts of others, perhaps cooperation will be evident and perhaps seamless. The National Map, NSDI’s Geospatial One Stop and homeland security programs are examples of collaborative efforts that have come to fruition. As Eric Anderson, current ACSM president noted in his presentation at the summit, “People are starting to get over the technology problems and asking about how the data will be used, how it is acquired, who owns it and what standards apply.”

It is in response to this conscientious mindset that GIS-ers and surveyors must find the answers and the solutions. Andrew Hurley from Leica Geosystems said: “Raw data acquired can only be further processed into mean information once it’s been modeled.” The collaboration of survey data into GIS models can be that marriage. GIS is useful in many ways, but only if the data it consists of is accurate and when the two are integrated. The old system of handling data, Hurley says, consists of going through the process, adding new information or changing information and processing again. The new system processes data, adds new or changes information at hand, then transfers and implements that information into a GIS database for future use. But the question regarding that processing is whether a GIS person will ask the surveyor what program he used to collect, compute and correct the information in order to ensure the accuracy of the data, and thus the accuracy of the GIS? Or rather, will the GIS person accept what is given to him? How about the work on the end of the GIS person? What will the check and balance system be for him? Will the software being created for the integration of these two professions be so seamless that the GIS person will not rely on the surveyor for accurate data?

Buzzing among attendees began about the proper system for QCing of spatial information, including implementing and maintaining a survey management engine that will allow for feature changes that does not change survey data. A proper system was discussed such as: create (from survey data) to link (separate GIS info.) to select to upgrade. This process will void the necessity to “going back to the beginning” and rather, can use the initial information over and over. “Collect one, use often.”

So, as surveyors and GIS-practitioners must roll with the times and embrace innovations as they come about, they too must understand the requirements and expectations of both worlds. Solutions to the understanding and expectations of users, according to Weir, are joint education and training among the groups, joint conferences such as the ESRI Survey and GIS Summit (which plans to continue) and implementing—and following—standards.

The Summit was sponsored by Leica Geosystems (Atlanta, Ga.), national organization ACSM, international organization FIG, POB magazine, Professional Surveyor magazine, Trimble (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and UCLID (Madison, Wis.). Exhibitors included all of the sponsors and: Condor Earth Technologies of Sonora, Calif.; Grontmij Geo Informatie of The Netherlands; Geodata Information Systems Pty. Ltd. of East Maitland, Australia; The Keith Companies of Irvine, Calif.; SOKKIA of Olathe, Kan.; Tadpole-Cartesia of Carlsbad, Calif.; and Topcon of Pleasanton, Calif.

The NCEES Model Law Presentation and Current Issues Discussion was introduced by Bruce Joffe of GIS Consultants. Joffe clearly layed out the difference between the data in a survey and the data in a GIS and thoroughly explained what kind of data should be in the realm of a surveyor and a GIS practitioner. From the model of the NCEES, data for a survey is any data that comes from the documenting of original measurements whereas a GIS includes measurements used for interpretation or representation of data. Further, survey data is the detection of definite location versus a GIS, which includes locational references for the purposes of planning, infrastructure, etc. The decisions of definitions from the collective NCEES are important for surveyors and GIS-ers alike to know, as the Model Law is—and can be expected to be—used as a base for state licensure rules.

Joffe also discussed ESRI’s Survey Analyst, the software he claims is “A Dream Come True.” Joffe noted some important elements for surveyors and GIS-ers to pay attention to. Since Survey Analyst makes it easy for non-surveyors to make a representative map, a licensed land surveyor should still perform any geographic work if the resultant product is to be intended or created as an official record, he says. Exclusions for requiring an LLS are: creation of general maps, maps for planning purposes, tax maps, inventory maps and environmental management. The changes to the NCEES Model Law, Joffe says, took more than 650 hours of effort of all involved and they are the true vision and effort to “Bridge the Gap.”

A presentation given by William N. Wally of WNW Consulting LLC included some highlights about the management of geographic data. Wally raised important issues that those handling and using geo data should always consider: the accuracy of the data, the coordinate systems used, all sources referenced, the consistency of the data (while monitoring duplicate data) and one that seems to rear its head more and more: ownership of the data. These elements, Wally says, must be considered when blending old data with new to ensure efficient datasets.

Survey Interest Group Meeting

In July 2000, ESRI established the Survey SIG (Survey Interest Group). Other groups at the ESRI conference are referred to and labeled as User Groups (UG), but Mike Weir and others wanted anyone interested in surveying issues to feel welcome to the meeting; thus, the SIG was formed instead of the SUG. Then, SIG participants include surveyors, engineers, parcel and cadastral mappers, land associations/valuers, and those involved with land registration and title and those in the education sector. In July 2001, that SIG focus was shifted to a land information SIG. In July 2002, the third SIG meeting was conducted at the ESRI User Conference. This year, the SIG was even more refocused for surveyors. Weir and others hope to expand the Summit and the SIG at future ESRI conferences.

Map Gallery

The annual ESRI Map Book created each year from the selected best representative maps are first viewed at the very impressive, albeit lackluster named Map Gallery during the first few days of the annual ESRI User Conference. Unmatched, I think in this industry, the Map Gallery is a venue where conference attendees can network with one another, learn from the grand efforts of others and admire the thousands of hours of work put into these works. The varied maps of astounding detail illustrates the depth and impact that GIS—and those creating GISs—have in building sustainable environments, protecting our world and building communities. Categories represented include: agriculture, cartography, conservation, health care, natural resources, public safety, tourism and transportation. This year’s posters included a remarkable collection of detailed work of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in February, the study of crops, the evolution of flies and an impressive collection of historical maps, books and globes. New this year was the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Display, which highlighted geospatial data associated with the Corps of Discovery trail.

Other noteworthy projects included:

  • The Columbian shuttle recovery mission
  • Relief and recovery efforts in Baghdad
  • NIMA maps and charts
  • Using ArcPad to track the spread of West Nile virus
  • Monitoring the spread of SARS
  • National park planning in China
  • Snow removal reporting in New York
  • Tracking the spread of a recent wildfire near Tucson, Ariz.

Another grandiose display, the one in which people were “standing” on each other to view, was the latest creation from Solid Terrain Modeling of Fillmore, Calif. STM produces very accurate, full-color, 3D solid interactive models of geographic terrain. In addition to the awesome representations of the Grand Canyon, Chesapeake Bay and the Appalachian Range, Hurricane Floyd, Mt. Everest, Mt. Fuji, and many more, STM unveiled the largest physical terrain model ever, that of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The 384 sq. ft. model of the Marine Corps base was commissioned by the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. For more information on the model, click here www.stm-usa.com

The model, as you can imagine, was astounding. Displayed in an open case with only glass sides for leaners, all viewers can see it, point to specific parts of it and discuss its details in a way that no flat map can offer. If you have a chance to see any of the 17 models displayed at the National Geographic Society’s Explorers Hall in Washington, D.C., don’t pass it up. Keynote Speaker

ESRI President Jack Dangermond introduced this year’s keynote speaker, Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund Hillary, as someone who is “giving back to the world, much like you do.” Hillary spoke of his tremendous accomplishment of reaching the summit of Mt. Everest 50 years after his father did. He discussed the details of the climb, including the elevation, the determination to keep going, the trials he and his climbing crew overcame, including the deaths of several friends and colleagues, and the tremendous hardship of having one-third less the oxygen in high elevations. At one particular point in the climb, Hillary said he flipped on his back and sprained his ankle between the 8,000 ft mark overlooking Western Koom and the 14,000 ft mark overlooking Nepal. But he had the control and drive to keep going.

Hillary’s stories seemed to me to be moving in a philosophical direction, but then GIS software brought the speech back to the purpose behind the conference. Detailed fly-bys of Mt. Everest and the surrounding areas were shown using ArcCatalog and ArcTools.

Hillary ended his speech by reminding the audience that “there is no end to the challenge,” something most anyone can embrace. Take it from a guy who stepped over a dead climbing friend while attempting his greatest feat.

More ESRI Conference Information

To view ESRI’s Preconference Survey Q & A, click on http://gis.esri.com/uc2003/qa/index.cfm.
To view the 2003 Award Winners and Contest Results, click on http://www.esri.com/events/uc/#winners

The 24th annual ESRI International User Conference will be held in the same location of San Diego from August 9th through 13th, 2004. To submit an idea for a paper presentation for User Conference 2004, submit a 50-word description abstract at www.esri.com/uc or E-mail papers@esri.com. Deadline is Nov. 3, 2003.

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