Talking about GIS

31 Aug, 2004 By: Sara Ferris

ESRI International User conference showcases GIS in a number of roles

This year's ESRI International User Conference showcased the growing role of GIS in applications ranging from keynote speaker Rita Colwell's efforts to understand and prevent cholera outbreaks to determining where to plunk down your next drive-through expresso stand.

Figure 1. ESRI software powers AAA’s Internet TripTik tool, which provides both an overview map and tiled detail maps of your itinerary, as well as details on gas, food, and lodging.
Figure 1. ESRI software powers AAA’s Internet TripTik tool, which provides both an overview map and tiled detail maps of your itinerary, as well as details on gas, food, and lodging.

ESRI founder and president Jack Dangermond noted that GIS is emerging as a new language, offering five different methods of collecting and communicating geographical information: data models, geodata sets, maps, process and workflow models, and metadata.

Technology driving the spread of GIS includes more powerful workstations and more robust data repositories. Web services foster a distributed computing environment, with peer-to-peer sharing of schemas, data, and other resources. Mobile and wireless technology is also changing the way people interact with GIS systems, though the traditional workstation won't be going away. In its 35th year, ESRI reports more than 1 million seats sold to around 100,000 customers.

Desktop developments

ArcGIS 9, released in May, has reached 50% deployment among the ESRI customer base, Dangermond said. The focus in this release is usability-easier editing, faster printing, and batch geoprocessing. On the list of top enhancements are support for large data sets, keyboard shortcuts, and a layout preview in printing as well as background printing. Also new is the ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension, which incorporates technology from Safe Software to directly read a range of common file formats, including GML, XML, DWG, DXF, DGN, and Intergraph GeoMedia Warehouse.

The popular sketching application SketchUp can now exchange data with ESRI's 3D Analyst extension via two new plug-ins. You can use SketchUp to create 3D models and apply textures, then save them to a geodatabase. Download the plug-ins at

A bounty of other extensions and applications are available, as well as data and training options. The Community Tapestry product, for example, categorizes United States neighborhoods into 65 segments based on socioeconomic and demographic composition. For more details on the ESRI product line, visit

Server side

ESRI sees three levels of servers. Enterprise-scale applications such as ArcGIS Server provide centralized data and applications to handle all of a company's GIS needs. Internet tools such as ArcIMS deliver dynamic maps and data via the Web (figure 1). The third level is the personal server, which ESRI plans to implement in ArcGIS v9.1, scheduled to debut in 2005. Such a server will enable peer-to-peer file and catalog sharing among ArcGIS desktops.

Going mobile

ArcPAD 7.0 is due out in a few months. It promises improved performance, redline and markup tools, integrated camera support, and the ability to handle large raster files.

Coming up

ArcGIS 9.0.1, which adds support for Linux and Solaris operating systems, is due out this fall. Version 9.0.2 is planned for winter, with a focus on quality. It will also introduce Network Analyst, which handles multipoint routing and origin/destination analyses. Apart from the Personal Server, the next major release, v9.1, promises a catalog explorer to help you create and find data sets and data models. Also on the menu is the ability to store maps inside the geodatabase and create multiple representations from a single database.

More online

For highlights from the exhibit floor as well as more details from the plenary sessions, visit

About the Author: Sara Ferris