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Download ESRI MapIt

Now that MapIt has been released, you can now learn more and download it.

MapIt is software and online services that enable you to create simple maps from your enterprise data. MapIt software transforms your data into meaningful information displayed on maps while providing access to a wealth of online data, basemaps, and task services from ESRI and Bing Maps. MapIt is built on the Microsoft platform, enabling organizations to leverage their developers’ skills and IT infrastructure.

We’ll probably learn much more over the next week about MapIt and how it fits in with the ESRI product line. You buy it directly from ESRI and not through resellers or the normal ESRI sales lines. Remember, this is a Microsoft only solution so if you want to work with products outside their “stack”, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

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The ESRI 2009 UC Plenary – First Session

We are ready to go at the Plenary and Jack Dangermond has taken the stage and is giving away awards.

Jack then jumped into the ‘vision’ of the 2009 UC. Jack calls us designers and it falls into three areas; software, systems, geography. The first two are well know, but designing geography is really what this conference is about. GIS + Design gives us a plan for decision making. We do get our first look at ArcGIS Desktop 9.4 and its new creation tools. The 9.4 demo later this morning should be impressive. Maps and GIS are changing; and there are many new ways to take advantage of the new technology to improve GIS. Jack’s slide references the cloud incorrectly, but I guess it depends what the term ‘cloud’ means to you. His cloud aligns more with the Internet as a whole than a specific cloud process.

The web is a strong platform for GIS and it is about distributing geographic knowledge. I find it interesting that ESRI has replaced the Windows Mobile Phone graphic on their slides with an iPhone. Being able to leverage the iPhone or Blackberry is easy because ESRI took the time to create a great RESTful API. Others should take note.

ArcGIS according to Jack is a ‘complete system’ consisting of Desktop, Server, Mobile and now their ArcGIS Online. The Geodatabase organizes your spatial information with a model. ESRI says if you want to leverage the power of GIS, you need to stop using Shapefiles and start using the Geodatabase. At 9.3.1 ESRI looked at quality, performance and cleaned up some licensing issues. ESRI then showed some of the same demos from the ESRI Developer Summit with the speed improvements to ArcGIS Server. The optimized map service toolbar was covered before so none of this is new. One new announcement is that their APIs are free for non-commercial use. We should see a huge uptick in the use of ESRI’s JavaScript, Silverlight and Flex APIs.

ArcGIS content is king of course. ESRI has been offering data on CDs/DVDs for years and since 9.2 they’ve had their ArcGIS Online services. Bing Maps has been included at no costs for 9.3.1 users which we’ve known about for months, but the DeLorme World Atlas maps are just incredible. If there is DeLorme Kool-aid, I’d be happy to sip on it. ESRI has also improved much of their free data layers that are freely available to Desktop users.

Bern then got up and showed some of the new ArcGIS Explorer features. I’ve been lucky enough to play with ArcGIS Explorer 900 on the beta and it really shows of a great user interface (take note of that ESRI Flex API users). Remember if you are an ESRI ArcGIS Desktop user, you’ll get complete access to the Bing Maps services for free. The biggest feature I think at 900 is the ability to switch between 2D and 3D maps. Sometimes it is better to work with a 2D view for presentation purposes. You can author layers in ArcGIS 9.3.1 and then create a layer package and push to ArcGIS Explorer with all the rich cartography. The integration between ArcGIS Server and Explorer is impressive and you’ll want to hook it up to AGS to gain the full functionality of AGX. The presentation mode of AGX should be a great way for ESRI users to share their geospatial projects. Bern and the AGX team has done an incredible job.

Then Rob Shanks came up to show the new ArcGIS Online sharing tools. Basically you need to create layer packages to get your data into the ArcGIS Online system. The layer package is nice because it allows you to share the symbology with your dataset. You can share the dataset with everyone or groups you define. You tag your uploaded data to enable to be found by other users. Remember layer packages are disconnected from your data storage so if you want to ensure that users get the latest data, you’ll have to share the web services. Of course you’ll have to host the web service yourself. The ArcGIS Online service is still early in its development so it will be interesting to see how and where it grows. ESRI describes ArcGIS Online as Flickr.

Clint Brown then was featured in a video talking about the new ArcGIS Online Templates. I’ve always thought that ESRI never invested in the templates in the past so it is great to see them starting to offer new ways to create great looking maps without any effort on both Desktop and Server.

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The ESRI 2009 UC Plenary – Second Session

The later morning session started out with one of the largest customers of ESRI software, FedEx. The integration of ESRI software into FedEx’s workflows is impressive and if you are interested in seeing some really great uses of ESRI Server software, you should pay attention. Heck if you use ArcGIS Server Java, they might want to learn a lot more given the platforms they are running ArcGIS Server on (non-Microsoft).

Jack then dropped into the ‘What’s Next’ part of the Plenary. He showed a video of Scott Morehouse talking about what he is looking at for the future of ArcGIS from a design standpoint. 9.4 is going to be a large release (Jack joked about it being release 10). Jack says it will fundamentally change how we work with ArcGIS by making us more productive.

At 9.4 you can also have 9.3.1 installed at the same time, the ability to check out licenses and take them with you. The user interface is allows dockable windows so that you can hide the TOC when you aren’t working with it. ArcCatalog is now embedded in ArcMap and can be docked as well. Attribute results are also dockable and gives you the ability to work with tables much like you’d work with them in Excel. Search is also now integrated into ArcMap. The problem is that it isn’t geoenabled so you can’t search by your map window. ESRI says they have new reporting tools, but they seem to still be based on Crystal Reports so I’m not sure what has changed other than some new templates and save/print. 9.4 now can put all the analysis tools on the toolbar (toolbar overload!) and models can run in the background (about time!). You can have your layers appear and hide depending if they appear in the map window. You can actually search the symbol libraries rather than browse them. There is a new time tab on layers that have temporal attributes. There is also a slider like Google Earth to move back and forth in time to see changes in layers over time. There is a new ‘basemap layer’ feature (special group layer) that improves redraw of features so you don’t have to wait for the background to draw. No mention of the penalty of this basemap layer on your system.

Editing tasks at 9.4 allows you to predefine features you can create with rules already defined. I know many people who are going to really like the new editing/creating features. I think finally people who have no familiarity with ArcGIS should be able to complete edits without much direction. The bottom line is editing will be much more usable and while it isn’t as sexy as RESTful API, web editing is going to be huge.

Map Automation and Generalization is one of the key features of 9.4 IMO. We had map automation at Workstation years ago and then ESRI took away AML. Python is now integrated directly into ArcMap. I say it every year, but if you are an ArcGIS Desktop user, you need to take a close look at python as your scripting language. Using a mouse to perform analysis is really a bad idea. One of the greatest things with Python integration is the ability to create map books using python and export out PDFs. The DS Mapbook example is used by way too many people for map production and of course it is really just a demo. Now with Python, we’ll have the ability to populate dynamic text to update page numbers and such. You can also publish Python scripts to ArcGIS Server so that users can leverage the Python script in your web applications. Python is totally integrated into ArcGIS 9.4 so you’ll be able to take python projects and import them into your ArcGIS projects

ArcGIS 9.4 3D support allows you to take more control over your maps. Performance seems greatly improved. You can edit in 3D (ArcScene and ArcGlobe), but it is still not integrated directly into ArcMap (you have to deal with two programs). Import of SketchUp models is much improved, click and place. You can update model changes by right clicking on the model and click update. You won’t lose all your new attribute data. You can also place video layers in ArcGlobe and drape them over the the terrain.

So that is the improvements to ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Server is next up. I’m not sure we saw anything different than we saw at the Developer Summit so it just goes to prove how important that conference is to keeping on top of the direction of ESRI software.

At 9.4 ESRI will provide an ‘open API’ to read the Geodatabase. Any client can embed the API and use it. Lawrie Jordan (who joined ESRI last year) then demonstrated imagery analysis at 9.4. There are a ton of new features to discover and add updated imagery that I’m sure will go over well. ESRI also has improved the speed at which imagery draws (you can pan around without waiting for it to appear). The Image Analysis tools are now all combined in one panel for easy manipulation.

Mobile GIS has been a part of ESRI for some time and I think we are beginning to see a shift from from Windows Mobile to the iPhone and Blackberry. The first demo though was the classic Windows Mobile demo that we’ve seen for years and saw at the ESRI Developer Summit in March. The new iPhone app looked nice and allows you to use ArcGIS Server services. You can click on the map and get attributes and it seem to integrate in with the GPS. You can add notes to the map and then share them back with via email, sms or sync back to the ArcGIS Server. The iPhone already does a better job with interaction of ArcGIS Server than Windows Mobile so the future is very bright.

This year ESRI is 40 years old. Jack says ESRI is financially secure and growing. Break for lunch and keynote later.

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Moving into the cloud

Over the past year I’ve found myself working more and more with cloud based SaaS products. We presented at Where 2.0 how we were using SaaS cloud services to help deliver data to the community in New Orleans. I then presented a keynote at the Safe FME UC about removing barriers to data sharing and how you can use cloud content management services to help share data within your organization or with the world. Clearly my mind was on pay as you go geospatial content management.

WeoGeo Logo

Well lucky enough for me a great opportunity presented itself and Thursday was my last day at RSP Architects. I’m really going to miss working with some very innovative people and the friendships I made there will definitely last me a lifetime. Starting next week I will be working at WeoGeo helping integrate their Library content management system in with existing workflows. Starting all this off will be the ESRI User Conference and we’ll have a booth (booth 217) where we’ll be demonstrating how the WeoGeo Library can help people manage their spatial content with ESRI ArcGIS. If you are at the ESRI UC next week, please stop by and say hello to myself, Paul or Dan.

I still plan to keep this blog exactly the way it is, blogging about GIS and whatever geospatial catches my eye. Planet Geospatial will continue to stay the way it is (and hopefully I’ll have a little time to improve it). I’ll be blogging the ESRI UC Plenary as usual so if you aren’t there, check back on Monday for all the latest news.

I’m really excited to be joining WeoGeo and the excellent team that has built the cloud based services and the great RESTful APIs that I’ve been able to use on projects. You can reach me at my new email address jfee@weogeo.com.

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Here comes the anti-database “movement”

I’ve been seeing more and more articles like this one from Computerworld about abandoning SQL databases.

The meet-up in San Francisco last month had a whiff of revolution about it, like a latter-day techie version of the American Patriots planning the Boston Tea Party. The inaugural get-together of the burgeoning NoSQL community crammed 150 attendees into a meeting room at CBS Interactive. Like the Patriots, who rebelled against Britain’s heavy taxes, NoSQLers came to share how they had overthrown the tyranny of slow, expensive relational databases in favor of more efficient and cheaper ways of managing data.

NoSQLers? Oh boy are we going to be in for it when they hear how critical databases are for the geospatial industry. To me this “revolution” sounds more like a backlash against the traditional SQL DBA who doesn’t want to change in the face of “Web 2.0”. Of course it is very easy to move to a new data storage platform when you either have a ton of money or no product yet. While I do think technology such as Google’s BigTable and Amazon’s SimpleDB as an inevitable course for many web applications, wholesale abandonment of SQL and databases such as Oracle/SQL Server/PostgreSQL is absurd.

No-SQL “Patriots” dump RDBMS without a care to the implications…

No-SQL Patriots dump RDBMS without a care to the implications...

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Implications of ESRI MapIt

So ESRI has a new product arriving:

Another major/joint effort involves the development of a new ESRI product called **MapIt. **This technology provides simple geocoding and mapping capability for the Microsoft environment. MapIt enables developers to create maps of their enterprise data stored SQL Server 2008 and Excel. MapIt is designed to give non-GIS organizations the ability to easily create maps and share them within a variety of Microsoft environments like SharePoint. Details will be announced in July.

There were rumors of such a product coming out at the DevSummit, but nothing came of it. This appears to be the continuation of the Silverlight/WPF product that ESRI has been working on. What is interesting here is it would appear not to be using ESRI Servers (ArcGIS Server/ArcSDE) and direct connecting to SQL Server then visualizing on Bing Maps. It would appear that you can develop using ESRI’s APIs, but not deal with ArcObjects. As an ESRI developer though, I’m wondering if this could be my new MapObjects?

No word on pricing and licensing, but I’m going to be paying close attention to MapIt in two weeks.