And so once again 14,000 ESRI GIS users descend on Downtown San Diego for a week of technical sessions and events which often has the atmosphere of a revivalist gathering, such is the ‘Cult of ESRI”, and I really mean that is a positive way, as I am a willing member of the other great technology cult, “the cult of mac“.
The size of this event for anyone coming from the Europe is staggering, the big convention is a North American phenomenon, the ESRI UC alone for San Diego is worth no less than $46m each year.
Today I attended the Executive Session of the User Conference, both a high level introduction to GIS and an insight into the current vision of ESRI which will be covered in much more detail tomorrow, remember this is for a senior executive audience, there is little technical detail 🙂
There is a clear vision developing around the concept of the Geoweb, a network of both GI clients and servers which offer the potential to democratise not just geographic data, but also geographical knowledge as represented by the publishing of spatial models or the mounting of analytical task based servers, the ability for example for a server in Australia to process data on a server in the USA, for display on a PDA in England.
This is an evolution beyond where we are today with the publishing of Data Services as described by ESRI for some time, and popularised by the mapping API’s of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. This moves away from the relative simple and stable world of one to many publishing to the slightly scary world of many to many publishing.. initially these developments may be restricted to with corporate networks but ultimately, and here comes a very quotable phase from Jack, “The whole web becomes one GIS”.
So how realistic is this vision and how committed are ESRI to it, well ESRI as a private company have more latitude in their ability to make statements about the future than a public company, so words are cheap – however there are a couple of things that really make me think this is serious.
Firstly ESRI have put so much effort into building the necessary services technology over the past couple of years, literally thousands of man years..
The second hint is much less explicit, but is just as telling.. to make this vision work you need interoperability between systems and data, not everybody after-all is going to be using ESRI software.
For a number of years ESRI have offered I believe only lukewarm support of the OGC, and OGC standards, quite rightly in some cases being critical of some elements of them.. recently things have changed, you hear the OGC mentioned much more by ESRI staff and ESRI are much more active in the OGC helping to fix the things they think are wrong.
So time will tell, looks like another interesting week.
Written and submitted from the Wyndham San Diego Hotel, using a local open wifi network.