ESRI International User Conference 2002

Leica Geosystems and SOKKIA Corp. highlighted new products in the Exhibit Pavilion at the conference.

The Gathering of the Tribes

“Geography Sustaining Our World” was the theme as the ESRI International User Conference convened for its 22 nd meeting July 8-12 th. The newly expanded San Diego Convention Center once again hosted what could only be described as a gala geographic extravaganza. ESRI announced there were over 11,000 attendees representing 135 countries. This was my sixth time in attendance, but even the first time I participated back in 1997 there was an air of familiarity about these proceedings. I never could put my finger on it before. But this year it struck me like a 10 lb hammer as I shared a lunch table overlooking the Bay with some attendees from Africa and Europe.

I was not just the only San Diegan at the table, but the only American and native English speaker. Then I realized why it seemed so familiar. The first time I experienced this was when I worked for the National Park Service. That time I was sitting at a table in the cafeteria at the Grand Canyon and realized I was the only English-speaking person with the exception of staff, not only at my table, but in the entire room. So, it wasn’t deja vu after all. Nearly everyone knows the Grand Canyon is one of the “Natural Wonders of The World” and it’s no secret why it attracts visitors from far and wide. But what is it that annually attracts this multitude to Southern California and turns San Diego into a virtual global village for one exciting week in mid summer? Is it

(A) software products
(B) money
(C) the weather
(D) none of the above

The answer is, of course, D—none of the above.

The reason they come is for the opportunity to share and exchange information with their colleagues and peers from all over the world. And the amount of information available here is staggering. The conference runs for five days, plus pre-conference seminars with most of the “meat” com-pressed into Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. That’s when the vendors explode into the giant Exhibit Pavilion with their latest and greatest hi-tech gadgetry. Technical workshops start at 8:30 a.m. and run until 5:00 p.m. with Special Interest Group meetings (SIGs) and lunch (if you can squeeze it in) in between. There are also special evening meetings for some groups. This gathering is a crucible for one’s assimilative capacity. I’m usually in full sensory overload by mid-morning on Thursday. That’s when I head for the “Doctor’s Office.”

The Doctor’s Office is a large hard-ware/ software lab ESRI constructs in the huge Exhibit Pavilion hall of the Convention Center. Here you can talk with software authors and chief sup-port personnel one on one. Every year, I come carrying my laundry list of soft-ware grievances looking for answers from the “horses’ mouths.” And gener-ally I get them.

Topcon Positioning Systems displayed their products for conference attendees.

Measurement is Now King

In terms of measurement systems, as recently as two years ago the “Big Floor” in the Exhibit Pavilion was graced by the “Big Four” — Leica Geosystems, SOKKIA, Topcon and Trimble. This year I counted more than a dozen booths offering a variety of automated data collection systems. And, bear in mind, the preponderance of conference attendees are non-surveyors. This is highly significant.

The array of new and exciting products on display and demonstrated was truly awesome. Trimble (Sunnyvale, Calif.) was showing off its new Windows CE GeoXT handheld GPS Mapping series. SOKKIA (Olathe, Kan.) was spotlighting its own (Panasonic) Toughbook 01 handheld GPS mapping unit, as well as its new HL3D hand-held laser with compass bearing directional readout.

For those interested in building their own GIS land base from scratch we have IcoMap from UCLID (Madison, Wis.). This interesting product scans hard or soft copy deed and plat information and converts it to vector data with “COGO accuracy” in real-time. It utilizes a process called Mathematic Character Recognition and dumps its results directly into ArcMAP or AutoCAD.

Trimble spotlighted its new Windows CE GeoXT handheld GPS Mapping series.

All Too Quiet on the Western Front

Some readers may remember Jerry McGray’s piece about the 2001 Conference: “Plain Surveyor Discovers New Civilization” (POB, September, 2001). Some of you may even recall Mr. McGray’s comments regarding spirited discussions between land surveyors and GIS professionals. He reported on impassioned exchanges about the relative merits of the NCEES Model Law proposal and other “hot button” issues.

I certainly didn’t come to the conference this year with any illusions of surveyors and GISers sitting around a beachfront campfire singing Kum Ba Ya in the moonlight. But I do admit to a certain level of surprise about what did occur. The standing room-only “Survey Track” of 2001 became a handful of hardcore, true believers in the “Land Information Special Interest Group 2002.” “I never heard the word [survey] used so much at this conference before,” remarked one gentleman. “So where is everybody?”

For a brief moment I considered “GIS Surveyor Searches for Lost Civilization” as a working title. But that impulse passed, and I went about the business of gathering the facts, like all good surveyors do. As it turns out, there was a fairly large contingent of surveyors in attendance. Most of them chose to attend the technical workshops and avoid the “encounter groups.” I view that as a good thing. Choosing to enhance one’s skill set over beating the proverbial deceased equine makes a strong statement about the health of the profession.

One of those I had the pleasure of meeting was fellow POB Contributing Editor, Mark Meade. I asked him about his GIS program, and what he had to say was interesting. As recently as five years ago he had one part-time GIS person. Now his company has 40 full-time GIS staff.

Smaller audience notwithstanding, I found the National Integrated Land System (NILS) special interest group has made significant progress since the 2001 conference. For PLSS state surveyors especially, a visit to their new GeoCommunicator web portal at www. should prove both interesting and enlightening.

The NILS session also produced an important announcement about a new program offered by the New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors. This program offers GIS training for Garden State land surveyors.

This year's impressive ESRI Map Gallery.

Survey Analyst,
The “Missing Link”

The “release date” for the long awaited Survey Analyst extension to ArcGIS was announced as fall 2002. It will be released with version 8.3 (version 8.2 is current). To review, Survey Analyst is an ESRI/Leica Geosystems (Atlanta, Ga.) business partnership solution. The “missing link” appellation refers to the facility of this product to link survey data to GIS data. What that means exactly is that Survey Analyst can link survey data to GIS features and store the result. Or simply, Survey Analyst can input survey data directly into ArcMAP. Map features on GIS layers can then be linked to specific survey points. Survey Analyst has a Least Squares Adjustment feature. If survey points are subsequently updated and adjusted the linked features are also automatically updated.

What I have described here hardly qualifies as even a thumbnail synopsis of the events hosted within this gathering. I’ve only highlighted a few of the subjects I found interesting. For a more in-depth look at the 2002 conference, abstracts of the proceedings and much more, visit the ESRI website at

Have fun! I did.

Reporting for POB, Michael L. Binge, LS, brings news from the ESRI User Conference. If you have a timely, newsworthy item, contact POB at 248/244-6465 or E-mail Also visit for daily news updates.