The 2019 Esri User Conference (UC) gets underway in San Diego on July 8th, and Esri has released its annual UC Q&A. The Q&A sets the scene for the UC; gives an update on Esri’s strategy; and answers questions about its software development, products, education, and support.
As last year, the Q&A site is interactive and searchable, but to save you a little time, here are some highlights that I think might be relevant for folk in Petroleum and the other Natural Resources communities that we work with.
The theme of this year’s UC, GIS – The Intelligent Nervous System, draws a parallel between the responsive nature of a nervous system and the emerging capabilities of a GIS. It’s actually quite a neat parallel, with Esri highlighting that “GIS resembles a nervous system in the sense that it brings together data from many sources including traditional systems of record, real-time sensor networks, and historical information” – just like our own human nervous system.
The building blocks of this “intelligent nervous system” are seen by Esri to be People, Data and the Web GIS architecture (maps, layers, web scenes, apps, portals, Living Atlas, etc).
The Plenary session, always inspiring, looks especially interesting this year with a chance to hear from ExxonMobil – I suspect they will cover their ArcGIS Indoors implementation, which was presented at this year’s Petroleum GIS Conference in Houston. Jack will also welcome Jane Goodall (United Nations Messenger of Peace) and E.O. Wilson (University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University) to the stage to discuss conservation and biodiversity, and to explore how everyone can play a part in creating a more sustainable future.
50 not out
This year, Esri turns 50 (happy birthday!) and continues to be healthy, growing at a steady c. 10% globally per year. As last year, Esri reports that it spends more than 30% of its revenues on R&D.
A recent and noticeable positioning change for Esri has been its move from “ArcGIS Platform” to “Esri Geospatial Cloud” – an umbrella term that Esri is using to frame all its software and services offerings. The Esri Geospatial Cloud comprises all of ArcGIS (Online, Pro, Enterprise and the app ecosystem) as well as Esri’s new “Geo-Enabled Systems” – a phrase it uses to describe its workflow solution offerings: ArcGIS Hub, ArcGIS Indoors, ArcGIS Urban, ArcGIS Excalibur and ArcGIS Business Analyst.
Some of the key trends Esri is seeing from its users, on the technology side, are:
- Migration to Web GIS architecture and pattern (Enterprise and Online)
- Growth in organization-wide GIS deployment (all aspects of ArcGIS)
- Embracing and adoption of ArcGIS Pro
- Massive growth in the use of field operations apps
- Widespread use of StoryMaps
- Strong interest in Machine Learning and AI
- Adoption of Python notebooks for automation and integration of data science
The Q&A reveals that Esri now has an entire initiative on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, including its AI partnership with Microsoft, whereby Esri technology is included in Microsoft’s new Data Science Virtual Machine.
Esri’s 64-bit desktop application goes from strength-to-strength. ArcGIS Pro has new tools for editing, data management, cartography, space/time analysis, and spatial statistics – including tools that integrate proven machine learning methods such as Random Forest.
ArcGIS Pro can also now support Autodesk Revit files – part of Esri’s ongoing collaboration with Autodesk to bring together GIS and BIM (building information modelling).
A new GeoAnalytics Desktop Toolbox brings a powerful set of analytical tools into ArcGIS Pro that are powered by Spark and allow desktop users to take advantage of the parallel compute resources at their fingertips. This toolbox delivers 20 commonly used spatial and temporal analysis tools and can leverage multiple CPUs to perform parallel processing against big datasets.
Esri have integrated full motion video into the ArcGIS platform. Within ArcGIS Pro, you can now display and map full motion video as part of an ArcGIS Pro project. From the video player in ArcGIS Pro, you can collect features and visualize them on the map, as well as draw features on your map and see them display in the video. Sounds pretty cool!
Shortly before UC, Esri will release ArcGIS Pro 2.4. Highlights include:
- Dynamic Feature Binning
- ModelBuilder to Python script export (huzzah!)
- Parcel Editing Tools
- Profile Viewing
- Parallel Desktop Processing (see above)
- Animated Water Symbology
- A new Raster Pixel Editor
- Additional Multipatch Editing tools
At ArcGIS Pro 2.3 Esri added the capability to publish map services direct to ArcGIS Server via Python. At the 2.4 release Esri have added a new User Interface and extended support to include feature, image, and analysis services.
Announced ahead of UC last year, Esri’s work on ArcGIS Enterprise Sites continues. Sites allows you to create multiple web pages that can have their own design, branding, and layouts – powered by an ArcGIS Enterprise portal.
Esri are building and will soon be releasing a next-generation storytelling tool, called ArcGIS StoryMaps. This product is more than just a new app template – with Esri using all its StoryMaps learning from the past seven years to re-imagine, redesign, and rebuild the platform from scratch. One of the key design features will be that you don’t need to pick, and be stuck with, a particular layout/behaviour template up-front – instead the new ArcGIS StoryMaps will have a unified builder, giving you the flexibility to mix and match content blocks and change template/style even after your initial app set-up.
On the mobile app front, a new product called ArcGIS QuickCapture has recently been announced. This is Esri’s “rapid data collection app” and is specifically designed to “support at-speed and rapid data collection workflows, where users demand an extremely simple and streamlined data collection user experience while on the go”, such as at-speed asset inventories, aerial surveys, pipeline patrols, on-the-go inspections and crop scouting.
For the geodesists amongst you, Esri has announced support for the Equal Earth projection – an equal-area pseudocylindrical projection for world maps. Similar to the Robinson projection, it has a “pleasing appearance” for land features. Available in ArcGIS Pro 2.3 and ArcGIS 10.7.0 and above.
ArcGIS Analytics for IoT is a new software-as-a-service (SaaS) capability coming “later this year”, offering cloud-based real-time and big data analysis at scale. Essentially, it will provide the capabilities of Esri Real-Time and Big Data GIS products (GeoEvent Server, GeoAnalytics Server, and the spatiotemporal big data store) as a service on ArcGIS Online, which should really simplify these workflow implementations.
Esri continues to expand the support for new database management systems. Last year Esri added geodatabase support for SAP HANA, as well as support for Microsoft Azure Database for PostgreSQL and Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL.
Insights Local is currently in beta, and it sounds as though it will allow analysts to run ArcGIS Insights in an offline setting, i.e. in a disconnected environment with no internet access. Insights Local is delivered as a client application – installed natively on either a Windows or Mac device.
ArcGIS Online users will have to wait a little while yet before group layers are supported, although Esri hope to complete the UI and functional update to Map Viewer that will enable this by “the end of the year and into 2020”.
Finally, slated for release in 2020, is ArcGIS Mission, a “Geo-Enabled System” that sounds like a new Common Operating Picture offering comprising a set of “mission-focused, real-time situational awareness and collaboration tools for a comprehensive understanding of the operating environment.”
After January 14th 2020, Esri will no longer support use of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2 with Esri software. Esri recommend that if you’re still using these, you should migrate to Windows 10, Windows Server 2016 or Windows Server 2019 as soon as you can.
And last but by no means least, at last(!) Esri have released some detail about the expected lifespan of ArcMap. With ArcGIS 10.7.1 expected around UC, Esri plan on releasing ArcMap 10.8 with ArcGIS 10.8 in 2020. But the real news is that after 10.8, ArcMap support will be limited to providing patches, updates, and new environment support. So, it looks, for now at least, as though ArcMap 10.8.x releases will be the final versions. Esri, along with Exprodat, encourage everyone to move to ArcGIS Pro as soon as they can complete their workflows.
See you there!
If you’re coming to the UC, do visit Exprodat and other Esri partners at the Petroleum User Group/Mining User Group Social on Tuesday 9th July, starting at 6pm on the Coronado Terrace of the Marriott Marquis, San Diego.
Posted by Chris Jepps, COO, Exprodat.