2018 Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit – Part 2

The timing worked superbly, like the best Swiss clockwork: A few days before winter made a comeback in Switzerland, I sat in a plane to Los Angeles. Nevermind that California also had slightly cooler temperatures than usual – it was definitely preferable over the polar cold air masses that firmly occupied Switzerland. Even the place names felt evocative: Santa Cruz, Big Sur, and San Francisco. For two weeks I would cruise California, before making my way back to L.A. and then Palm Springs in order to attend the 2018 Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit together with my colleague, Nicole Sulzberger. In what follows, we describe what we learned during the two Esri events: the latest news about developments at Esri.

Part 1 of this review has been published last week.

The Science of Where

As described previously, The Science of Where is still Esri’s tagline. Esri aims to apply the science of where to help answering spatial questions with:

  • increased efficiency to save resources
  • better analysis to actually understand what is going on, and
  • better communication to foster good decisions

Many of the recent developments shown during the Partner Conference and the Developer Summit can be linked very well to at least one, often several, of these three promises.

 

Select Highlights (continued from Part 1)

Geo AI DSVM

The big news of Esri in terms of data analysis was quite a mouthful: Esri Geo AI Data Science Virtual Machine (DSVM) on Microsoft Azure. That’s „GeoAI DSVM“ for short.  What is behind this? Geo AI DSVM is a virtual machine in the Microsoft Azure cloud that combines ArcGIS Pro and a plethora of Microsoft data science toolkits. It’s part of Microsoft’s „AI for Earth“ project. The VM contains pre-configured installations of, for example, Python, R, VisualStudio, RStudio, Microsoft Powershell, various Python and R packages, Power BI, and a Jupyter Notebook Server. So there is a lot of things that allow you to dive into GIS-supported data science in a scalable cloud environment. In order to use the GeoAI DSVM you need to have an ArcGIS Pro license and Azure VM usage charges apply. An overview of the GeoAI DSVM can be found in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace. On Github, Esri offers an example of a pixel-level landcover classification using Deep Learning with Microsoft’s Cognitive Toolkit, that can be used in conjunction with the Geo AI DSVM.

Geo AI DSVM was a big part of Joseph Sirosh’s (Corporate Vice President in the AI Research group at Microsoft) keynote address:

 

Jupyter Notebooks

Throughout the conference, various data science and machine learning examples were highlighted, and often demonstrated with Jupyter Notebooks – basically an interactive Python environment in your browser that lends itself ideally for making data analysis workflows more transparent and reproducible through integration of code, documentation, and output. Jupyter Notebooks can also be used with the Python API for ArcGIS for, e.g., Portal administration, however, if you are so inclined. If you do data analysis in Jupyter using, e.g. arcpy, results are by default temporary but can be persisted onto a Portal or locally. Esri offers http://notebooks.esri.com for testing Jupyter Notebooks.

One example that was shown using Jupyter was the extraction of SAM sites from orthoimagery using a neural network:

A planned feature for ArcGIS Portal is the integration of Jupyter Notebooks. You will be able to share your Jupyter Notebooks with your colleagues on your ArcGIS Portal.

And Other Things Python

In other Python news, we found an emphasis on ArcGIS Enterprise and Online automation using Python, specifically the ArcGIS API for Python for communicating with a web GIS. Example tasks that can be done through this pythonic API were the creation of groups and user accounts, the assignment of accounts to groups, and of content to users, cloning a portal, re-assignment of content, creation of reports about content, as well as publishing new and pruning old content. The plenary session had an Automation with Python slot that highlights some of the key developments around these topics.

Secondly, Python in ArcGIS Pro was a big topic and also part of the plenary session. Some of the key things to know: ArcGIS Pro comes with Python version 3, rather than 2.7 like ArcGIS 10.x. Further, the Python installation is conda-based. (Ana)conda is a widely used Python package and virtual environment manager that should make the lives of Python developers easier. Thanks to the conda-based installation, many relevant Python packages are pre-installed, for example the whole SciPy stack (this includes pandas). There have been numerous other improvements, big and small, of the Python developer experience, for example for those of you who like to work in Microsoft VisualStudio.

If you want to know more about these topics, check out the videos and the above links: Automation with Python and  Python in ArcGIS Pro.

Exploratory Data Analysis with Insights for ArcGIS

Insights, the data exploration solution by Esri, was highlighted throughout the event (earlier versions of Insights have been shown in previous events). This tool allows to carry out data analysis using a drag-and-drop interface that lets the user build a collection of „cards“ that can contain maps, charts, or tables. Users can interact with different cards using the linked view paradigm where features in a card are highlighted based on a user interaction in another card.

ArcGIS Insights (source: Esri)

Insights further allows joining data dynamically (not sure to what data set size this stays performant) and the analysis that a user builds is represented in a graphical model that can be shared with other users. Since December 2017, Insights is newly available also in ArcGIS Online (previously it was part of ArcGIS Enterprise): To perform analysis in Insights for ArcGIS, users need to purchase a subscription, in addition to an ArcGIS Online Level 2 named user license. A Level 1 named user license for ArcGIS Online provides you view-only access to Insights.

 

Also on the Table

There was much, much more on the plate: improvements around the performance of the GeoEvent Server, the Spatiotemporal Big Data Store and the GeoAnalytics Server, for example, but also in deployment with Docker and Kubernetes, UX and UI, data in the Living Atlas, as well as IoT and real-time applications.

 

And Where Do We Go From Here?

In our opinion, it was rightly emphasised in the plenary session during the conference: the future lies in

  • connecting separate software systems,
  • expanding collaboration between individuals, teams, departments, and organizations,
  • integrating all kinds of data in common views, be they interactive plots and visualizations, feature layers, maps or web scenes,
  • and adding powerful exploration and analysis of data.

In the perspective of Esri, these ingredients enable a new scale in the trajectory of GIS (if you still want to call it that): GIS will turn into a system of systems.

However, this process doesn’t happen by itself but requires careful thinking and designing.

If any of these piqued your interest, please get in touch with us. We are happy to think along with you and assist in designing tomorrow’s workflows, systems and tools!

 

Part 1 of this review has been published last week.

 

2018 Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit – Part 1

The timing worked superbly, like the best Swiss clockwork: A few days before winter made a comeback in Switzerland, I sat in a plane to Los Angeles. Nevermind that California also had slightly cooler temperatures than usual – it was definitely preferable over the polar cold air masses that firmly occupied Switzerland. Even the place names felt evocative: Santa Cruz, Big Sur, and San Francisco. For two weeks I would cruise California, before making my way back to L.A. and then Palm Springs in order to attend the 2018 Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit together with my colleague, Nicole Sulzberger, in order to gather the most recent news for our clients and to network with Esri employees and partners from around the world. In what follows, we describe what we learned during the two Esri events: the latest news about developments at Esri.

The Science of Where

The Science of Where is Esri’s tagline since 2017. In the plenary session, Jack Dangermond, the president of Esri, made clear what it summarizes: The world is seeing many big challenges. Loss in biodiversity, competition for resources, increased mobility demands, demographic shifts, and climate change, to name a few. The science of where helps to address all of these and more. It is, in Esri’s understanding, the combination of the competence of geography (process knowledge, spatial thinking and reasoning) and the technology around GIS. Applying the science of where helps answering spatial questions with:

  • increased efficiency to save resources
  • better analysis to actually understand what is going on, and
  • better communication to foster good decisions

All this rings true for me as a geographer and in our team we agreed that this vision matches well with our own.

What Esri showed during the Partner Conference and Developer Summit can be linked very well to at least one, often several, of these three promises, for example:

  • increased efficiency around working with big data, on desktop or mobile, or administrating one’s geodata infrastructure,
  • better analysis capabilities within (e.g., ArcGIS Insights, GeoAnalytics Server) and around Esri’s core products (e.g., GeoAI DSVM, R-ArcGIS-Bridge, Jupyter Notebooks), and
  • better communication through effective visualization (e.g. on mobile using the ArcGIS Javascript API 4.x, using the AR or VR mode and their innovative user experience, or leveraging the computational and graphics performance of game engines for visualizing 3D content)

Select Highlights

ArcGIS API for JavaScript

The developments of the JavaScript API 4.x has been a big topic in this years Developer Summit. The WebApp Builder and the ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise Map Viewer are both moving to the ArcGIS JavaScript API 4.x. There are, for example, new out-of-the-box responsive widgets and an enhanced search widget. Feature Layers now support loading large amounts of features for visualization and analysis with improved client-side Web GL-based rendering, improved Feature Service capabilities, and the possibility to build a Feature Layer from in-memory data (such as a CSV file with coordinates that is loaded into a map using drag-and-drop). Finally, in JavaScript API 4.x, the geometry engine is available locally, thus you can get faster responses for geometry operations. This enables us to implement locally (and thus with immediate response), for example, snapping, simple topology checks, interactively calculating areas when cutting polygons and much more.

 

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) functionality has been built into the ArcGIS Runtime SDK. The AR mode gives a transparent background to a scene so that it can be shown on top of a device’s camera feed. The VR mode allows displaying a scene in stereo and an appropriate VR user interface. There is an Esri Labs ArcGIS 360 VR app for the Samsung Gear VR headset on Oculus that highlights the new VR capabilites of Esri software. Further, Esri showed their tabletop UX for planning: there, a 3D scene (from e.g. City Engine) is displayed on a virtual tabletop. Viewers can virtually gather around the table and interact with the model, e.g. selecting different planning scenarios for visualization. The viewers themselves can be in remote locations. Upon viewing the scene they can also see other viewers and what they are looking at. Finally, any viewer can teleport into the scene itself and look at the model from different in-scene vantage points.

The following video from the plenary sessions highlights some AR/VR capabilities of ArcGIS Runtime (jump to 4:00 for seeing first a VR, then an AR demo):

 

3D and Indoors GIS

Esri 3D Web Scenes will be consumable on mobile devices, using a responsive interface. Features from 3D scene layers are quickly streamed to the device. Users can use advanced measurement tools to, for example, measure plan surface areas in a 3D scene:

 

Some powerful 3D features in native apps such as interactive line-of-sight analysis have been shown in another plenary session, the video of which is available from Esri.

Further, 3D scenes support a new rendering mode that gives building edges a „sketch“ look. This is interesting, for example, for visualization of planned projects where you do not yet want to convey a very crisp and precise impression of a provisionally planned scenario.

Since the previous Partner Conference and Developer Summit, ArcGIS Indoors has matured further. This new suite of tools comprises ArcGIS Indoors Desktop (built on top of ArcGIS Pro if I’m not mistaken), the ArcGIS Indoors Web Viewer, and the ArcGIS Indoors Mobile App. They in turn support data preparation and map design, simple editing and dashboard functionality, and indoor-navigation using device sensors through the indoors positioning feed.

ArcGIS Indoors: Esri Campus Viewer (http://3dcampus.arcgis.com/EsriCampusViewer/app)

When you zoom out from your building(s) view, the transition into geographic space and navigation by GPS only should be seamless. The navigation functionality relies on an appropriate 3D network dataset (somewhat in contrast to our own pedestrian modeling tool Walkalytics).

Click through to Part 2 of this review.

 

2017 Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit

From Swiss late winter to Southern California spring: My colleague Alex Graf and I attended the 2017 Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit in Palm Springs two weeks ago. These events are always a great opportunity to get the latest information on Esri software and strategy as well as spend a week in an inspiring ‚geo-rich‘ environment. In this post, we summarize some highlights from the conference.

The motto of the Partner Conference and the Developer Summit was Esri’s new claim: „The Science of Where“. Yet what exactly is the „Science of Where“? In a nutshell: It uses location and technology to collect, analyze, visualize and share data and information to solve relevant problems. Or in Jack Dangermond’s words: „[…] The Science of Where is, quite simply, what we do.“ That „we“ includes us as geographers, data scientists, developers, and, of course, users of the ArcGIS platform. From that point of view I really like the slogan. Unfortunately (but understandably) Esri has trademarked it, so this won’t become an inclusive rallying cry for e.g. #gistribe.

The big trends

The big trends in IT are of course also very relevant for GIS, and some were covered in depth at the Developer Summit: Distributed (GI) systems, real-time data streams, big data and the Internet of Things (a bit less than the other ones). Since a couple of years, Esri has been claiming to provide a distributed platform for GIS. While in the beginning this was more of a marketing claim than a working solution, we now welcome a phase where the claim becomes more and more credible. With ArcGIS 10.5, portal-to-portal collaboration is possible, for example, which allows you to connect different GI systems and share data across organizations.

Esri has also made a huge effort to enable their technology to work with ever bigger data, particularly data being transferred in real-time data streams. One outcome of this effort is the new spatio-temporal big data-store. The data store is not only capable of a much higher write-throughput (according to Esri about 50 times more events per second can be processed compared to a classical geodatabase); it can also be scaled across multiple machines in order to increase capacity. Esri also introduced their new offering for analytics: the GeoAnalytics server. It is intended for distributed analysis of massive vector and tabular data including temporal information. It should also be easily scalable and allow you to shorten the processing time of some of your analyses massively. Last but not least, visualization is also improved to work smoothly with big data (check out this tweet for an example).

All these improvements in technology will support the shift from simple GIS apps for displaying and querying spatial data to more advanced solutions that support advanced exploration, finding patterns and making predictions.

Say goodbye to old friends (or foes, frenemies)

The technological advancement has of course implications for Esri’s product portfolio: Esri believes that using ArcGIS Server as a standalone software and accessing services via REST will be a less and less common practice. They expect that the typical user (if such thing exists) will rather use services via Portal for ArcGIS. Consequently, Esri has bundled ArcGIS Server together with Portal for ArcGIS,  ArcGIS Data Store and the ArcGIS Web Adaptor and gave this package the new product name ArcGIS Enterprise.

Moving the focus from server to desktop, another oldie you should start saying Goodbye to is the ArcMap/ArcCatalog combo. ArcGIS Pro is now not only the future but should also really become the present. If you haven’t already started working with it, you should definitely do that now! There will be another release for ArcMap, but that will be purely bugfixes. All new development goes exclusively into Pro. More importantly, feature equivalency will be „more or less“ achieved this year – note though: some ArcMap/ArcCatalog functionality might never be included in Pro. Just keep an instance of ArcMap available somewhere for that odd task that you can’t do in Pro, but use Pro for everything else. And there are of course more and more cool things that you could never do in ArcMap, for example creating vector tiles, now also in 3D!

Some other cool stuff

Speaking of 3D: It was really one of the big topics at the Developer Summit (like every year to be honest – 3D provides really cool demos, doesn’t it? See this story map for an example). 3D is available across the Esri platform and all SDKs now support the same 3D capabilities. This means that you soon can use 3D scenes offline on a mobile phone! – and the performance during the demo looked exciting.

In 2016, Esri announced Insights which has now been released. It’s a browser-based tool for exploratory analysis of spatial and non-spatial data. It has similarities to business intelligence (BI) tools (cough, Tableau, cough, qlik, cough), but definitely with a stronger focus on geospatial analysis. Somewhat surprisingly, Esri stated that they don’t see themselves in competition with other BI tools. In any case, it will be interesting to see how Insights will establish itself in the market and where and to what ends it will be used (keep in mind that you’ll need an ArcGIS Enterprise installation to use Insights). For now the app works with vector and tabular data only. Support for raster data is announced for fall 2017.

Another newcomer is the ArcGIS API for Python. This API is much more powerful than the existing arcpy module and lets you script and automate all kinds of tasks across the Esri platform. Esri branded it (tongue-in-cheek) as the „return of AML“. This should delight at least one of my colleagues at EBP. There is also a completely new language called Arcade. Arcade is designed to formulate expressions (think for example, labeling) in a consistent way across the platform, something that was not possible with the options available now.

To finish off this post, let’s take an exciting look into the future: Watch this video of Esri’s HoloMap, a prototype app for Microsoft’s HoloLens:

2016 Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit

Traditionally two members of #TeamEBP visit Esri’s annually DevSummit in order to hear the latest from the world of ArcGIS – and beyond. This year, my colleague Sarah Schöni and I had the chance to fly to California. In this post, we’d like to summarize the highlights from our point of view:

  • The overall theme: „Web GIS is a System of Engagement“
  • The Keynote: Douglas Crockford
  • The State of Esri Technology
  • Python is now a first class citizen in Esri’s world
  • What else is new and cool? Insights and Vector Tiles!
  • One more thing…
Sarah and me with two friendly developers…
Sarah and I with two friendly developers…

The overall theme: „Web GIS is a System of Engagement“

Esri usually has an overall theme that they want to get across, such as mobile in 2011, online in 2012 or platform in 2014. This year’s theme „engagement“ is based on Geoffrey Moore’s paper on „Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT“: In the past, organizations have built transactional tools and systems specifically designed for their business processes. The systems are mostly static, very accurate, mostly complete and tightly controlled – they are systems of records. With the advent of consumer IT, we’re moving closer to systems of engagement, where the focus is on interaction, collaboration, openness and immediate answers.

Esri has transferred Moore’s theory of systems of engagement to GIS: They use the term „Web GIS“ as a synonym for a geo-information system of engagement: In this sense, a Web GIS is built on distributed servers, web clients, several focussed apps and it provides an open, real-time environment for engagement in your organization. If you are interested, you can read Jack Dangermond’s post about Esri’s vision.

Slide for WebGIS as a System of Engagement
Slide for System of Engagement

The Keynote: Douglas Crockford

One highlight of a conference is the keynote and this year we were fortunate to be able to listen to Douglas Crockford who is one of the leading figures in the development of the JavaScript language. His keynote was both entertaining and insightful. Although my main programming language of choice is not JavaScript, I highly enjoyed his talk. You can re-watch the keynote here. One highlight was the comparison between the relationship of Java and JavaScript and the relationship of Star Trek and Star Wars:

java-js-startrek-starwars

Of course, JavaScript has to be Star Wars!

The State of the Esri Technology

It seems that Esri’s server technology has reached maturity. ArcGIS for Server consists of two core components: the backend (the actual ArcGIS server software) and the frontend (the so-called Portal for ArcGIS). The backend has been around for nearly a decade (anyone remembers 9.0?) and the frontend is basically a self-hosted version of ArcGIS Online.

Currently, Esri is in a transition phase for three important technology components, namely Desktop, Runtime and JavaScript API:

  • Desktop: ArcGIS Pro has been announced 2 years ago and is now in version 1.2. It is close to becoming mainstream, but Esri stresses that ArcMap – the long-running desktop solution – will continue to be developed and supported for the next 10 years. However, new features (like generation of vector tiles) are unlikely to be developed for the „old“ platform.
  • Runtime: For developing independent GIS applications, ArcGIS Engine was the go-to solution in Esri’s world. With ArcGIS Runtime and the announcement of the Quartz architecture, there is now a new architecture to depend on in the future. At the time of writing, there is no final release yet (though beta versions for mobile are available). It is expected that versions for iOS and Android will be released in the second quarter, while the other versions (.Net, Tamarin, Java, Qt) will be released in the Q3.
  • JavaScript API: The ArcGIS JavaScript API is currently in version 3. I always recommend developers to have a look at the sample code page to get a feel of what the API can do for them. There is a lot to explore, but one thing you might be missing in version 3 is 3D (no pun intended). Last month, we’ve already written on the upcoming version 4 which handles 2D and 3D equivalently and allows to easily switch between the two dimensions while writing the code. Additionally, the API calls are much simpler now – with the drawback that older code probably has to be rewritten. For this reason I think it is more than a change in version numbers, but actually a similar big transition as we experience with Desktop and Runtime. Again, I recommend to have a look at the sample pages for the beta version to get a feel of what can be done now and in the future. The nice Esri folks at the DevSummit told me that there will be a comparison page between the functionalities of the two API versions, so stay tuned for more info. Update 2016-05-09: The page is now available and very comperehensive.

My recommendation regarding the transition of the three Esri components mentioned above: For every new project, you now have to carefully choose between the old and the new technology. There is no general advice on what is best, because it depends on the requirements of your project. If in doubt, you may consider to ask us to help you out ;-).

Python is a first class citizen in the Esri world

Talking about migration: Python has been recommended as your first option for extending ArcGIS platform functionalities. One reason is that migrating Python code from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro is much simpler than migrating .Net code, because the ArcPy library has not changed much (except arcpy.mapping and of course some necessary adaptions due to the shift from Python 2.x to Python 3.x). So, to quote an Esri staff member: „Use more Python and less ArcObjects“.

But there was a lot more on Python, like ArcGIS integration with the packaging manager Conda and the outlook that Jupyter notebooks (formerly known as IPython notebooks) will be part of the ArcGIS platform (probably late 2016, maybe early 2017). I’m quite excited about the Jupyter integration, because then you may edit, explore and share your ArcGIS Python sessions and even take advantage of the power of SciPy, pandas and other great Python modules. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many details available on this.

ipython-arcgis
A screenshot of an ArcGIS Jupyter notebook.

What else is new and cool? Insights and Vector Tiles!

Last, but not least, we want to talk about two new cool things that have been unveiled at this year’s DevSummit:

  • Insights for ArcGIS: This demonstration was the most impressive one and was much talked about during the conference: It is basically „GIS for Data Scientists“. Just have a look at the product page or watch the 8-minute video and you get a glimpse of how easy GIS can be: Just drag-n-drop a county outline on a map of points and you get an aggregated view. Or select a slice of a histogram and the corresponding features in the map as well as on a scatter plot are highlighted.
  • Vector Tiles: Vector tiles have been announced last year, but now you can generate them from ArcGIS Pro and publish them directly on your ArcGIS Portal. At least with vector tiles, the old saying „Raster is faster, but vector is corrector“ does not hold anymore: Publishing the entire world as vector tiles takes 8 hours on a desktop machine (with 16 GB RAM and SSD) and consumes about 13 GB of disk space. Compare this to weeks of processing and dozens of terabytes of disk space for traditional raster tiles. As Esri adopted the MapBox specification for vector tiles, the tiles should eventually be consumable by non-Esri clients (and also non-Esri tiles by ArcGIS clients). But these setups are apparently work in progress and may yield unexpected results at the moment.

One more thing

Where to go from here? I recommend to have a look at the presentation videos that are already published on Esri’s video portal, for example start with the ArcGIS platform overview.

But there is one more thing and a personal note: I would like to plug my lightning talk that I gave during the DevSummit. It was about a topic, that I am planning to expand on this blog in the future:

Bots!

Stay tuned…

Review of the 2014 Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit

(Eine deutsche Fassung dieses Beitrags finden sie hier)

From 9 to 13 of March, Christoph Graf and I have attended the Esri Partner Conference and the Esri Developer Summit in Palm Springs. In this blog post we report on, and assess, some of the trends that we identified primarily during the Partner Conference.

First of all, let’s state that this year’s conference was not dominated by a single buzzword (or at least less than it was by the term „cloud“ three years ago). (We will discuss the most dominant concept in this year’s conference in the next section.) Instead, many parts within Esri and its product palette are moving simultaneously. The developments can be categorised into those that have been born from within Esri’s core and those that Esri has incorporated through acquisitions. The fine breaklines (between core products and newly acquired products) that the acquisitions introduced into the Esri software range are disappearing.

If you have questions or simply want to know more after reading our article, please contact either me or Christoph Graf.

„Platform, platform, platform!“

Platform is clearly the term that has been used most during this year’s conference. Esri wants its product range to be understood as a platform. One could probably also call it an eco-system that can serve as a base to various and diverse solutions.

A crucial part (and also frequently-used term) is the Portal. The portal is the interface between servers and services on the one hand and desktop, web and mobile applications on the other hand.

The Esri portal comes in two flavours: along with the currently heavily promoted ArcGIS Online (hosted by Esri) as well as in the form of Portal for ArcGIS Server, the „ArcGIS Online behind the firewall“, i.e. within the domain of an organisation (see here and here). Esri’s platform strategy reinforces these two components within the eco-system. They will represent the single point of entry (or viewed from within an organisation: … of exit) for publishing, sharing, searching, discovering and using geodata, maps, and applications.

Top-class podium: Jack Dangermond, Sud Menon and Scott Morehouse (from left to right)

„Configure, don’t customize, stupid“

Esri follows a strategy of „more out-of-the-box“: Somewhat surprisingly within the frame of the Developer Summit, there was much talk about fitting solutions to a customer’s need through configuration rather than customisation. Esri is working on making the development of web applications and also (native, web-based, hybrid) mobile applications less and less complex for the users. They do this with so-called Application Templates and the new application Web Map Builder which allows everyone to produce web applications as well as afore-mentioned Application Templates.

Through this strategy, Esri hopes to gain an advantage with regards to agility. COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) software, i.e. the Esri products that you can license, should primarily be used. If required they can be configured, but they should not necessarily be customised. And finally Esri has (speaking from a European perspective) dared to posit that workflows of employees be shaped after the tools (and not the other way around).

Esri headquarter in Redlands

Real-time data

Esri insignia of the geo and social media geek (= Geohipster?)

The acquisition of Geoloqi in Portland (now an Esri R&D centre) has been a clear sign: Esri attaches considerable, and growing, value to real-time data. New tools such as the GeoTrigger and the GeoEvent Processor (coupled with mobile applications) are intended to satisfy (stationary or mobile) real-time data needs of customers.

This development renders geodata dynamic: The term geodata will encompass new types of data that have not been considered typically „geo“. These are e.g. traditionally dynamic data that have a location, but for which location has so far been considered mostly one attribute of many (e.g. meteo data, environmental monitoring data (air quality, hydrometric data, etc.)). Here, Esri wants to unlock new markets.

ArcGIS Pro(fessional)

With ArcGIS Pro or ArcGIS Professional, Esri has presented a prototype for the future of desktop GIS work. The name of this still somewhat mythical product is not a good one (yet) (ArcGIS light, anyone?). However, one thing is (almost) for sure: in this area, names will be ephemeral during the next few years.

The twittersphere’s take (representative sample)

ArcGIS Pro has been presented as an addition to the software range: Esri made a strong point that it will not replace ArcMap and ArcCatalog. Instead, these programs will exist side-by-side. ArcGIS Pro has the technical advantage of a 64bit-architecture and multithreading; thus, it should be clearly more performant (the demos did indeed look good in that respect). Conversely, this means that ArcMap and Co. won’t get these (actually long overdue) features anymore.

3D – again?

Three-dimensional data are a new focus of Esri (sharp tongues would say: renewed focus; even sharper ones: renewed every 5-7 years). At present this point has been clearly emphasised by the acquisition of the Swiss start-up Procedural (CityEngine): Esri believes in a strong added-value of three-dimensional visualisations and follows a holistic marketing approach by labeling CityEngine as a general-purpose collaboration platform with public engagement.

Demonstration of the hybrid approach of ArcGIS Pro: 2D and 3D side-by-side, in sync

Esri’s 3D strategy is built on two (mostly independent, non-integrated) pillars: on the one hand there is the dedicated, quite complex expert tool CityEngine. On the other hand ArcGIS Pro will feature 3D visualisation and editing functionality as a central and quite seemlessly integrated component of a mixed 2D/3D environment („it’s simply in the package„). In ArcGIS Pro, 2D and 3D will be at your fingertips, side-by-side and linked.

Finally, much progress has been made under the hood: the newest version of ArcGIS Runtime will see stark improvements of its 3D performance.

Maturation of mobile apps

Be it data capture in the field with an update for the teammates in the office or the coordinating office dispatching tasks to fieldworkers: A permanent data connection is not always given. Thus, in an increasingly mobile world synchronisation of offline data is crucial. Esri makes big efforts in this area and has managed to mature mobile apps for practical use.

Blick in die Ausstellungshalle
View of the exhibition hall

Social Coding, and more!

In his Keynote SessionChris Wanstrath, co-founder and CEO of GitHub spoke very eloquently about Social coding along the lines of the slogan: better together (you can watch his talk (as well as other talks) on Developer Summit website). Dropping out of college seems to be part of the experience of building a successful tech start-up in California. Or put differently: In order to be successful you’ll need passion, effort and focus on one thing. We are convinced of GitHub’s usefulness for our business and we thus have a company account.

 

Once more, the Esri Partner Conference and the Developer Summit have been very interesting and relevant events. We would like to give you deeper insight and we are happy to consult you regarding the changes that can already be anticipated. Please contact either me or Christoph Graf if you’d like to meet.

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Palm Springs vor Sonnenaufgang
Palm Springs before sunrise

Rückblick auf Esri Partner Conference und Developer Summit 2014

(An English version of this text can be found here)

Ralph Straumann und ich haben vom 9. bis 13. März 2014 in Palm Springs die Esri Partner Conference sowie den Esri Developer Summit besucht. In diesem Beitrag berichten wir über die Trends, die wir vor allem an der Partner Conference identifiziert haben, und ordnen diese in einen grösseren Rahmen ein. Zuerst lässt sich feststellen, dass es dieses Jahr nicht ein bestimmtes Schlagwort gab, das die ganze Konferenz durchzogen hat – oder zumindest weniger als zum Beispiel „Cloud“ dies vor 3 Jahren getan hat. (Auf das dominanteste Konzept werden wir im nächsten Abschnitt eingehen.) Stattdessen bewegt sich im Gefüge von Esri und Esris Softwareprodukten gerade sehr vieles gleichzeitig. Die Entwicklungen teilen sich auf in solche, welche Esri aus eigener Kraft geboren hat, und solche, welche sich Esri durch die weit vorangeschrittene Integration akquirierter Firmen einverleibt hat. Die einst noch auszumachenden Bruchlinien im zweiten Fall sind im Begriff sich aufzulösen. Falls Sie nach der Lektüre unseres Artikels noch Fragen haben oder einfach mehr wissen möchten: kontaktieren sie mich oder Ralph Straumann.

„Plattform, Plattform, Plattform!“

Plattform ist mit Abstand das Wort, welches an der diesjährigen Veranstaltung am meisten benutzt worden ist. Esri möchte die eigene Produktpalette als Plattform verstanden wissen. Man könnte dasselbe wohl auch als ein eigentliches Ökosystem bezeichnen, auf dem aufbauend Diverses umgesetzt werden kann.

Ein zentraler Bestandteil (und auch ein häufig angeführtes Wort) ist das Portal. Das Portal ist das Interface zwischen Servern und Diensten auf der einen Seite und Desktop, Web- und mobilen Applikationen auf der anderen Seite.

Das Esri-Portal hat zwei Daseinsformen: Das aktuell stark promotete, bei Esri gehostete ArcGIS Online (AGOL) sowie Portal for ArcGIS Server, das „ArcGIS Online behind the firewall“, also im eigenen Einflussbereich einer Organisation (vgl. hier und hier). Die Plattform-Strategie von Esri stärkt diese beiden Instrumente innerhalb des Ökosystems. Sie werden die hauptsächlichen Anlaufstellen sein, um Geodaten, Karten und Applikationen zu publizieren bzw. zu teilen, zu suchen, zu entdecken und gemeinsam zu nutzen – der single point of entry bzw. aus Sicht einer Organisation auch: … of exit.

Hochkarätige Podiumsdiskussion: Jack Dangermond, Sud Menon und Scott Morehouse (v.l.n.r.)

„Configure, don’t customize, stupid“

Esri verfolgt eine Strategie des „mehr out-of-the box“: Erstaunlicherweise – zumindest im Rahmen des Developer Summit – war viel die Rede davon, dass Lösungen durch Konfiguration und nicht (unbedingt) durch Programmierung angepasst werden sollen. Esri arbeitet konsequenterweise stark daran, das Entwickeln zum Beispiel von Webapplikationen oder auch (nativen, web-basierten oder hybriden) mobilen Applikation für die Nutzerinnen und Nutzer stark zu vereinfachen. Das geschieht zum Beispiel über sogenannte Application Templates und die neue Applikation Web Map Builder, welche es erlaubt, sowohl Webapplikationen als auch eigene besagte Application Templates zu erstellen.

Esri erhofft sich durch diese Strategie Vorteile bezüglich Agilität. COTS (commercial off-the-shelf)-Software, also die Esri-Produkte wie man sie erwerben kann, soll primär zum Einsatz kommen. Diese soll nötigenfalls konfiguriert, aber nicht unbedingt programmiert bzw. angepasst werden. Und schliesslich hat sich Esri auch getraut zu postulieren, Workflows von Mitarbeitenden sollten den Tools angepasst werden bzw. Tools die Workflows formen.

Das Esri-Hauptquartier in Redlands

Echtzeitdaten

Esri-Insignien des Geo- und Social Media-Geeks

Mit der Akquisition von Geoloqi in Portland (nun ein Esri Research Center) hat es sich abgezeichnet: Die Bedeutung, welche Esri Echtzeitdaten beimisst, ist gross und im Wachsen begriffen. Neue Tools wie GeoTrigger und GeoEvent Processor (gekoppelt mit mobilen Applikationen) sollen Kundenbedürfnisse im Bereich der (stationären oder mobilen) Echtzeitdaten abdecken.

Geodaten werden durch diese Entwicklung dynamisiert. Der Begriff Geodaten weitet sich tendenziell auch auf neue, bisher nicht als typisch „geo“ verstandene Daten aus. Dazu gehören traditionell dynamische Daten, welche zwar einen Standort aufweisen, der aber nicht von höchster Bedeutung ist: ein Beispiel sind Meteodaten oder allgemeiner Umweltmessdaten (Luftqualität, Hydrometrie, u.ä.). Esri möchte versuchen, sich hier einen neuen Markt zu erschliessen.

ArcGIS Pro(fessional)

Mit wahlweise ArcGIS Pro bzw. ArcGIS Professional hat Esri einen eigentlichen Prototypen für die Zukunft vorgestellt. Der Name des bisher noch ziemlich sagenumwobenen Produkts ist zwar unglücklich gewählt, denn er stimmt derzeit nicht (vielleicht wäre ArcGIS Light besser?). Namen werden sich in diesem Bereich über die nächsten Jahre aber fast mit Sicherheit als sehr vergänglich erweisen.

Was das Twittervolk zu sagen hatte (repräsentativer Ausschnitt)

ArcGIS Pro wurde als Ergänzung der Palette vorgestellt: Esri war sehr bemüht, immer wieder zu betonen, dass das neue Produkt ArcMap und ArcCatalog nicht ersetzen werde. Stattdessen werden die Programme nebeneinander existieren. ArcGIS Pro hat technisch den Vorteil, dass es eine 64bit-Architektur hat und Multi-Threading unterstützt; es sollte also deutlich performanter sein (die Demos sahen denn auch gut aus). Umgekehrt heisst das auch, dass ArcMap und Co. nie mehr in den Genuss dieses (eigentlich schon längst fälligen) technischen Fortschritts kommen werden.

3D – again?

Dreidimensionale Daten sind eine neue (böse Zungen würden sagen: erneute; noch bösere: alle 5-7 Jahre erneuerte) Stossrichtung von Esri. In der aktuellen Inkarnation wurde dies zum Beispiel anhand der Akquisition des Schweizer Startups Procedural (nun CityEngine) deutlich: Esri glaubt stark an den Mehrwert dreidimensionaler Darstellungen und verfolgt bei der Kundenakquisition für CityEngine einen holistischen Ansatz, der CityEngine als collaboration platform mit public engagement vermarktet.

Demonstration des hybriden Ansatzes von ArcGIS Pro: 2D und 3D nebeneinander, synchron

Tatsächlich ruht die 3D-Strategie von Esri aber auf zwei (derzeit ziemlich disparaten/nicht integrierten) Säulen: auf der einen Seite das eben genannte dezidierte, relativ komplexe 3D-Werkzeug CityEngine. Auf der anderen Seite wird in der neuen Software ArcGIS Pro 3D-Visualisierungs- und Editierfähigkeit einen zentralen und im gewissen Sinn unspektakulär integrierten Bestandteil einer gemischten (2D/3D) Umgebung darstellen („it’s simply in the package“). 2D- und 3D-Funktionalität werden in ArcGIS Pro auf Wunsch nebeneinander, gleichzeitig und verknüpft nutzbar.

Schliesslich hat sich auch unter der Motorhaube viel getan: So soll die ArcGIS Runtime in den jüngsten Versionen stark verbesserte 3D-Performance aufweisen.

Reifung mobiler Applikationen

Ob Datenerfassung im Feld mit -aktualisierung für die Kollegin oder den Kollegen im Büro oder Aufträge von der Zentrale an die Feldmannschaften: Weil eine permanente Datenverbindung nicht garantiert ist, wird in einer immer mobiler werdenden Arbeitswelt die Synchronisation von Offline-Daten immer wichtiger. Esri unternimmt auf diesem Gebiet grosse Anstrengungen. Dadurch sind Applikationen auf mobilen Endgeräten nun definitiv für den praktischen Einsatz reif geworden.

Blick in die Ausstellungshalle
Blick in die Ausstellungshalle

Social Coding, and more!

In der Keynote Session referierte Chris Wanstrath, Mitgründer und CEO von GitHub sehr eloquent über Social coding nach dem Motto: better together (den Vortrag kann man sich auf der Developer Summit-Website zu Gemüte führen). „Dropping out of college“ scheint zum guten Ton zu gehören, wenn man es (in Kalifornien) schon in sehr jungen Jahren zu etwas bringen will. Oder anders formuliert: Um erfolgreich zu sein braucht es Passion, Fleiss und Fokus auf die eine Sache. Wir sind vom Nutzen von GitHub überzeugt und sind deshalb auch auf der Plattform vertreten.

 

Die Esri Partner Conference und der Developer Summit haben sich einmal mehr als sehr interessante und relevante Veranstaltungen präsentiert. Gerne geben wir Ihnen vertiefte Einblicke und beraten Sie dabei, wie sie die neuen Entwicklungen mit Ihrer Organisation leichtfüssig und gewinnbringend umsetzen können. Am besten kontaktieren Sie dazu mich oder Ralph Straumann für die Vereinbarung eines Gesprächs.

Palm Springs vor Sonnenaufgang
Palm Springs vor Sonnenaufgang

[Korrigenda: Sitz von Geoloqi ist Portland nicht Philadelphia]

Esri Developer Summit 2012

Schon zum zweiten Mal hat es mich ins beschauliche Palm Springs an den Esri Developer Summit verschlagen. Der diesjährige Summit stand ganz im Zeichen der 10.1-Produktpalette und „Online, online, online“. Im Folgenden schildere ich meine persönlichen Eindrücke der Konferenz.

ArcGIS 10.1

Auch wenn im Juli noch ein SP5 für die 10er-Palette erscheinen wird, ist es nun doch an der Zeit, die 10.1-Ära einzuläuten. Im Juni 2012 wird es endlich soweit sein. Eine Liste aller Neuerungen findet man auf Esris Website. Ich freue mich insbesondere auf: „Esri Developer Summit 2012“ weiterlesen

ESRI Developer Summit 2011

Esri Showcase an der DevSummit

Esri Showcase an der DevSummit

Wohl jeder, der am DevSummit dabei war, kann den kommenden Release 10.1 kaum noch erwarten. Esri bietet daher für die Ungeduldigen unter uns die neue Beta Community auf http://betacommunity.esri.com an. Diese ist selbst noch in der Beta-Phase und verfolgt den neuen Ansatz, die Gemeinschaft an der Entwicklung und der Testphase teilhaben zu lassen. Gerade in der Vorentwicklung von Applikationen, die eine bestimmte Funktion bereits benötigen, ist ein Beta-Release für Entwickler oft unverzichtbar. Esri scheint erfreulicherweise die Scheu bezüglich Veröffentlichung von Beta-Versionen abzulegen und bietet so ein ähnliches System wie Microsoft an.

Plenary Session der Esri DevSummit in Palm Springs, CA
Plenary Session

Als Trend waren am DevSummit die Gewichtung von mobilen Applikationen insbesondere in Zusammenarbeit mit ArcGIS Online spürbar und weiter, dass sich mit der Version 10.1 einiges ändern wird. Mit einem weinenden und einem lachenden Auge verabschiede ich mich auf diesem Weg von DCOM und dem Web ADF und freue mich auf Server Object Extensions und den neuen Silverlight-Viewer, eines meiner persönlichen Highlights des DevSummit, für dessen Betaprogramm ich mich auch schon registriert habe.