The Geospatial Information & Technology Association's Annual Conference 28, held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colo., March 6-9, 2005, attracted a total of 2,127 participants-a larger number than the previous year's conference. With the theme "Crossing Boundaries," the conference featured more than 80 paper presentations, a 100,000-square-foot exhibit floor, and a number of networking opportunities.

A survey of conference attendees conducted after the event shows that the event was a significant success: 96 percent of the attendees indicated they would recommend the conference to a colleague.

Prior to the official kickoff of the conference, 11 knowledge immersion seminars offered participants a chance to get in-depth education on topics ranging from spatial databases to Web services and work management.

On Monday, March 7, a large crowd overflowed the room for the Industry Trends Analysis Group (ITAG) meeting, during which representatives from the electric, water, gas, telecommunications, and local government sectors discussed issues affecting the industry. The ideas generated from ITAG meetings help the GITA Board of Directors and association committees plan GITA's programs and other educational efforts. Prior to dividing into sector-specific groups, much of the discussion focused on attracting high school and college students to the industry.

GITA's Annual Conference 28 kicked off with Monday afternoon's Opening Session, which featured a welcoming address by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. The session also included the presentation of GITA's Lifetime Achievement Award to Sakura Shinoaki of Tokyo's Otsuma Women's University. Shinoaki, responsible for the education of several generations of GIS professionals, played a key role in the development of Japan's landmark ROADIC GIS project. Keith McDaniel of Centennial, Colo., who served on GITA's Board of Directors and many of its key committees, was presented with GITA's Distinguished Service Award.

Also during the Opening Session, Jones-Onslow Electric Membership Corp., of Jacksonville, N.C., and the MassGIS Office of Geographic and Environmental Information, Boston, Mass., were each presented with GITA's Innovator Award. ENMAX Power Corp., Calgary, Alberta, was presented with GITA's Excellence Award.

In his Opening Session remarks, GITA Executive Director Bob Samborski dedicated GITA's Annual Conference 28 to Henry A. "Hank" Emery, one of the founders of the association who passed away earlier this year. Welcoming addresses were also heard from Conference Chair Vince Rosales of Idea Integration and GITA President Pete Gomez of Xcel Energy, who noted that the conference had attendees representing each of GITA's regional chapters and international affiliates.

Following the Opening Session's keynote address, provided by award-winning speaker Chip Eichelberger, the doors to the exhibition hall opened to admit attendees to the spectacle of 135 vendors showcasing the latest in geospatial products and services. On the floor, which was bigger and featured more vendors than the previous conference, the vendors reported robust interest in what they had to offer. In particular, many of the attendees stated they were interested in discovering more information about mobile GIS solutions and return on investment (ROI)-sentiments that were also reflected in strong attendance at the relevant pre-conference seminars as well as paper presentations later in the conference.

At the President's Reception on Monday night, attendees enjoyed a Colorado-style evening of food and fun that included a Western swing band, trick ropers, and other hallmarks of the Old West.

Also on Monday evening, many younger representatives of the geospatial industry met for an informal networking reception for the inaugural gathering of the "GITA Cheetahs." The event, which met with much success, allowed young GIS professionals to share their perspectives.

The conference's educational program began in earnest on Tuesday morning, March 8, with the delivery of the first of 81 paper presentations. The presentations, organized into 13 topics, addressed a wide variety of subjects including critical infrastructure protection, ROI, Web applications, and operations management.

The GITA Chapter Forum was held on Tuesday afternoon, March 8, with excellent representation from GITA's regional chapters. Awards recognizing the chapters' achievements in publicity/communications, organization/meetings, chapter events, membership/involvement, and student education were presented to representatives from the Alberta, New England, New York/New Jersey, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, Southeast, Texas Gulf Coast, and Wisconsin chapters of GITA. Several participants in GITA's Annual Conference 28 were college students who were able to attend with the financial help of GITA's regional chapters.

Also on Tuesday afternoon, representatives of utility sectors met in "Birds of a Feather" forums to discuss issues of importance to their particular market. Open to users only, these sessions allowed a free exchange of information.

Tuesday afternoon also saw two panel discussions that addressed topics of growing interest to the geospatial industry as a whole. "Communications-A Revitalization" discussed how the communication industry is staging a strong comeback and how geospatial technologies can capitalize on its resurgence. "GIS: Profession, Niche, or Tool" revisited the oft-discussed topic of what exactly GIS is and what it is not. Both panel discussions resulted in constructive dialogues.

Following the conclusion of GITA's Annual Conference 28, two companies-Oracle Corp. and Ten Sails Consulting-conducted their own respective user conferences at the Colorado Convention Center on Thursday, March 10. The inaugural Oracle Spatial Users Conference as well as the first Ten Sails Smallworld Symposium both reported strong attendance.

The planning committee for GITA's Annual Conference 29 is already hard at work developing the educational program and other aspects of the event, set for April 23-26, 2006, in Tampa, Fla.

Source: GITA, March 31, 2005