The 2022 Esri User Conference (UC) gets underway on July 11th and I’m sure we’re all delighted to see the event return to the San Diego Convention Center for the first time since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Ahead of the conference each year, Esri publishes its UC Q&A – to save you a little time, here are some highlights that I think might be relevant for colleagues across the Energy and Natural Resources sectors that we work with here at Exprodat and Getech.
Mapping Common Ground
The theme of this year’s UC, GIS – Mapping Common Ground, focusses the conference on “the central problem of our time” which Esri says is a lack of understanding about the challenges of safeguarding our common home (our planet) and a failure to effectively collaborate on finding solutions. To effectively address the challenges we are facing, Esri says we must “break out of our silos, recognize all the ways in which we are interconnected, and collaborate to support data-driven decisions that help us design solutions for a better collective future”.
This year’s plenary will of course feature Jack Dangermond and his update on Esri’s recent work as well as the work of the Esri user community. Look out for examples of our work in Jack’s sections on Renewables, Natural Resources and Energy.
The afternoon session will feature two keynote presenters who will share stories about their work – Ronan Donovan from National Geographic and Deanne Criswell from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
How’s Esri doing?
Esri says its core business remains strong and stable, and that this solid financial foundation has allowed it to continue supporting its users as well as advancing its technology to create many innovations that will be shared at this year’s UC.
Esri goes on to say that organizations are increasingly developing strategic plans for geospatial infrastructure, placing the world “in the midst of a data explosion” – the challenge is now how to harness and manage this data. With most data having a location component, GIS provides a way to organize and analyze, which also increases opportunities for collaboration.
Latest Technology Trends
In the Q&A, Esri lists a number of trends that it is seeing in GIS technology, and I’ve picked out a few highlights here:
- Spatial analytic advances – Esri continues to work hard in this space, delivering analytic capabilities such as Business Analyst, ArcGIS Insights, Notebooks, GeoAI, ArcGIS Knowledge and ArcGIS Velocity.
- Big data – Connecting GIS to data lakes and data warehouses where organizations accumulate data from transactional systems at scale and process large volumes of data in the cloud. ArcGIS GeoAnalytics Engine is a new library of software tools that can be sent to a Spark cloud environment and placed right next to the data, significantly reducing processing time.
- Imagery & remote sensing – ArcGIS provides “a comprehensive and integrated imagery system” with four main parts that include 1) the management and dissemination of imagery data with server technologies; 2) drone mapping tools that connect these collection tools with cloud resources; 3) a rich set of tools for analytics, including pulling data from imagery to create new features; and 4) tools for imagery visualization and exploration.
- 3D systems of record – 3D capabilities are turning GIS into a tool for creating living digital twins. To enable this, Esri has added new visualization capabilities, like voxel visualization, game engine immersive experiences, and the integration of BIM models and spatial analytics into the same UI.
- Immersive experiences – Using ArcGIS Maps SDK, users can plug into the leading game engines (Unreal Engine and Unity) to build new applications that opens the mixed reality, virtual reality, and augmented reality experiences for our users. SURE for ArcGIS is a surface reconstruction software that allows users to create photo-realistic models from imagery as well as lidar.
- Embedding geospatial capabilities – GIS capabilities are becoming more embedded in other systems from the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, SAP, Autodesk, Microsoft and others.
OK, let’s take a look at the updates for some key Esri products that we know our users leverage in their day-to-day business.
Esri says ArcGIS Pro has now far exceeded the spatial analysis capabilities of ArcMap, with hundreds of new vector and imagery analysis tools, including tools that leverage machine learning and deep learning to perform clustering, regression, classification, and prediction.
In the last year, ArcGIS Pro 2.9 added some capabilities such as the ability to easily convert graphics to features, and a PDF to TIFF converter.
But the big news for ArcGIS Pro is that Esri has recently released ArcGIS Pro 3.0, which was driven by the change to .NET 6 (formerly known as .NET Core) – Microsoft’s latest development framework. These .NET and other related under-the-hood breaking changes mean that ArcGIS Pro v3.0 add-ins and project files are not backward compatible with ArcGIS Pro 2.x, e.g. the project file (.aprx) format is changing from xml to json format for improved performance. As such, if you’re an existing ArcGIS Pro 2.x shop, we recommend you plan your 3.0 upgrade pathway a little more carefully than you might for a non-major / ‘dot’ release.
The 3.0 release has some neat new features too, including:
- A new GeoAI toolbox in ArcGIS Pro 3.0 which contains tools for performing automated machine learning (AutoML) on feature/tabular data, and text analysis tools for natural language processing on unstructured text
- The Forest-based Forecast tool has added the ability to incorporate explanatory variables, estimate lagged effects between them, and change the model scale providing more flexibility to find a better prediction model
- A Color Vision Deficiency Simulator has been added to simulate how a map, layout, or report appears to someone who has a color vision deficiency
- Export Presets bring pre-configured settings for both maps and layouts making it easy to store and re-use settings quickly
- Credit estimation for geocoding tools that use the World Geocoding Service
- Maps can be added to Reports
- Ability to upgrade existing cloned Python environments
- Support for Microsoft Visual Studio 2022
ArcGIS Pro 3.0 also features capabilities for creating knowledge graphs to help in modeling and analyzing relationships, interconnections and networks. This is a really interesting new branch of spatial and relationship analysis, and one to keep an eye on.
Esri’s position on ArcMap is unchanged – it last released a new version of ArcMap as part of ArcGIS 10.8.2 (Dec 2021) but will not be releasing ArcMap for 10.9. The 10.8.x series of ArcMap is therefore the final series of releases. According to the Esri Product Lifecycle website ArcMap will exit ‘Extended Support’ in Feb 2024 (at which point there will not be any more patches or hotfixes), and will eventually be retired in March 2026. To help customers transition to ArcGIS Pro (which we strongly recommend!) Esri has created the ArcMap Continued Support page.
Given that 10.8.x is the last release series for ArcMap it is therefore also the last release series for the Geometric Network. Support for this will also continue until 2026 but now is a good time to look into the Utility Network, if you haven’t already.
ArcGIS Online has a host of recently added features, including Map Viewer features such as adding Effects to help create expressive maps using visualizations for basemaps and operational layers; Charts coming out of beta; Pop-ups being enhanced with support for new Arcade elements and HTML editing; adding GeoJson layers from a URL; the Flow smart mapping which uses animated streamlines and wavefronts to represent direction and magnitude; duplicating group layers for better layer management; an improved editing experience for feature layers comprising an enhanced Editor pane and new snapping options; and keyboard shortcuts to help you complete common workflows (view the full list by pressing Alt+?/ on Windows or Option+?/ on Mac while in Map Viewer).
There is an update on the retirement of Map Viewer Classic which Esri now says will be available “into 2023” (increased from “into 2022” at this time last year).
With Scene Viewer there are no longer limitations on the number of features from a feature layer that can be shown – it is possible to bring millions of features into a scene.
Esri currently has “no plans” to replace Web AppBuilder with Experience Builder in ArcGIS Online. Both builders will be running and maintained in parallel for the foreseeable future. Experience Builder will reach most of the functional parity of Web AppBuilder through “incremental releases”.
In the Q3 and Q4 2022 releases, Experience Builder is planning to include the Swipe widget, the Basemap Gallery widget, the Coordinate widget, the Threat Analysis widget, and the Emergency Response Guide widget.
Moving on to ArcGIS Enterprise, version 10.9.1 includes updates and enhancements in applications, managing data, administrative options and ArcGIS Enterprise sites – including key updates such us:
- Map Viewer is installed with ArcGIS Enterprise as it is no longer in beta
- Cloud data warehouse support, including Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, and Snowflake
- Faster installation times for Portal for ArcGIS
- Optional ArcMap Runtime Support feature – consider this option if you are looking to remove Python 2.x from your environment or if you are ready to fully migrate to the ArcGIS Pro-based runtime
- Email notifications for low disk space in ArcGIS Server and the ArcGIS Data Store
- Ability to add members through a template: instead of adding members through a CSV file that needs to be properly formatted, you can now download a CSV file within the Enterprise portal to serve as a template when adding members
- Ability to set up distributed collaboration between ArcGIS Enterprise on Windows or Linux and ArcGIS Enterprise on Kubernetes
- Support for ArcGIS Enterprise on Kubernetes on Google Kubernetes Engine
Looking at the roadmap ahead, ArcGIS Enterprise 11.0 will have significant under-the-hood technology changes. This release moves from supporting both ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro for publishing and administrative workflows to only supporting ArcGIS Pro.
ArcGIS Enterprise 11.0 will support exporting ArcGIS StoryMaps, as well as the ability to add custom widgets in Experience Builder.
Esri is stepping up its support for game engines, having recently released ArcGIS Maps SDK for Unity, while the ArcGIS Maps SDK for Unreal Engine is due for release ahead of the UC.
Capabilities of ArcGIS
ArcGIS Image has now been released. It allows you to host, analyze, and stream imagery, such that it can be easily integrated into all spatial applications. As we mentioned last year – we participated in the beta program for ArcGIS Image and it looks very good, so comes highly recommended.
The Q&A clarifies the differences in Esri’s storytelling products – ArcGIS StoryMaps is a professional storytelling tool “used for work” and integrated into the ArcGIS system, while the recently released StoryMaps is “not part of the ArcGIS system” and is a consumer-facing storytelling tool for “outside of work”. If you’re still confused, take a look at the Esri Storytelling Solutions page to learn more.
Esri hosts a number of live feeds in the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World for use in maps and applications. Examples include weather watches, active hurricanes, wildfire activity, and stream gauge levels, along with many others. According to Esri, these layers have been “instrumental in disaster preparedness, public information maps, and climate analysis”.
One thing I was unaware of is that after World Imagery data is updated you can still view the older data using the World Imagery (Wayback) service. Wayback is a digital archive of the World Imagery map, enabling users to access different versions of the map archived over the years. Each time World Imagery is updated, a new layer is created and added to the Wayback service. Take a look at the Wayback app for further details.
ArcGIS Open Data has been merged into ArcGIS Hub – Esri’s solution for organizations to share their authoritative data with the community. If you had an Open Data site then that will have been automatically converted to a Hub site. You can select between two URLs for your Hub site, either hub.arcgis.com or opendata.arcgis.com.
ArcGIS IPS is an indoor positioning system that enables you to locate yourself and others inside a building or facility in real time. Like GPS, it puts a blue dot on indoor maps and uses location services to help you navigate to any point of interest or destination. In combination with the ArcGIS Indoors mobile app, you can track building occupants (who are using the Indoors mobile app) indoors and outdoors. To allow this, users do need to opt in to share their real-time location.
ArcGIS Insights had three releases since the last UC, and has added a whole host of new features, including spatial data support within Snowflake and Google BigQuery data connections; support for JDBC database connections, SAP HANA cloud, geopandas, koalas, and pySpark; a new table card for displaying and understanding record-level detailed information; enhanced reporting; scatterplot binning and a new temporal filter widget.
CityEngine allows you to create digital urban models and is used in both the Urban Design and Visual Effects (VFX) industries. Recent productions that used CityEngine include Game of Thrones, The Witcher, Blade Runner 2049 and Pixar’s Incredibles 2.
Real-time visualization and analytics in ArcGIS are delivered via ArcGIS Velocity (SaaS) and ArcGIS GeoEvent Server (in your own environment). Both products are still being developed and enhanced, with Esri continually providing new capabilities and key feature.
As mentioned above, this summer Esri will release ArcGIS GeoAnalytics Engine – an extension for Apache Spark that provides the ability to run GeoAnalytics tools and spatial functions in hosted Spark environments like Databricks, Amazon EMR, and Google Dataproc, providing a fully-scalable and cloud native approach to spatial big data analytics.
The Esri Autodesk Alliance continues to push Revit and civil 3D integration across ArcGIS to better serve engineers, designers, drafters and GIS professionals within the AEC industry and for asset owners. ArcGIS for AutoCAD improves the way AutoCAD users access and discover content available in ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise. It also lets users publish and edit ArcGIS feature layers. Critical information, such as maps, feature layers, and imagery that has been difficult to add to AutoCAD, is now “easy to browse for, search, and add from ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise”.
ArcGIS Field Maps – intended to replace the separate Collector, Explorer and Tracker mobile apps for iOS and Android – combines into one app the ability to view maps and data, share worker location, and perform asset inspection and data collection activities. The ArcGIS Workforce team is preparing to integrate Workforce into the ArcGIS Field Maps app. As such, new development work in this area will go into ArcGIS Field Maps.
Over the past few months, Esri has added new capabilities and enhancements to ArcGIS Survey123, including smart form design, mark-up tools, new Address question type, choice randomizations, photo question enhancements, expanded XLSForm support and improved reporting.
In 2022 Esri will be consolidating the ArcGIS for Office, ArcGIS for SharePoint, ArcGIS for Power BI, and ArcGIS for Teams products into a single offering called ArcGIS for Microsoft 365. This product will enable you to create maps in Excel, SharePoint, Power BI, Teams, and leverage Power Automate to bring location into your business logic. According to Esri, the legacy products listed above will start to sunset this summer, with an end of life planned for 2023.
See you there!
If you’re coming to the UC, please do drop by the Energy and Mining Social (PUG and MUG) on Tuesday 12th July (6pm – 8:30pm on the Marriott Coronado Terrace) and say “hi” to our team.
If you can’t attend the UC in person, don’t worry! There is a digital access option that provides livestreams of the plenary session and over 65 technical workshops. Visit the Digital Attendance page to find out more details.
Posted by Chris Jepps, COO, Getech & Exprodat.