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21st ESRI European Conf Opens - Athens

By [email protected] - 6th November 2006 - 08:59

The 21st ESRI European Users Conference made its return debut in Athens, Greece today, returning after 13 years.
Jack Dangermond, CEO ESRI and Adonis Kontos, President of Marathon Data Systems, Greece

With 2000 in attendance, Adonis Kontos opened the show to a film of Greek culture and history - highlighting the conference theme "Discover the Power of History and GIS."HistoryAncient Greece contributed significantly to the human pursuit of knowledge, particularly in the geometry and measurement fields. Who would challenge the likes of Eratosthenes who calculated the circumference of the earth in his writing "Measuring the Earth."Classic Geometry is still called Euclidean in recognition of the Greek mathematician and the names Hippocrates, Pythagoras, Plato and Samos are others who have been involved in the "geospatial" professions.Kontos is a great supporter of education and building capacity in the GIS community and Dangermond is no stranger to similar thoughts and support. Father of GISThe second speaker, Roger Tomlinson - Father of GIS - speaking next, recounted former employee's he worked with, countering that he wished he had had a David Maguire "then we had made more money," he said. Aside from the brief sharing of humour, Tomlinson pointed out the need to focus on what one is doing with geography and GIS to do do what one "really wants to do." This in obvious reference to just following the trend for trend sake. Young in attendanceThe conference room was loaded with young students today. This was great to see and I smiled a few times watching them smile and become excited as they moved around the premises. Dangermond KeynoteDangermond delivered a keynote about the new ArcGIS 9.2 system, but also shared thoughts on where he felt we are heading into the future. "We learn from each other," he said and "your work is making a difference today." If the map gallery is any indication of that, then I can say that that is more than true, as I was astonished more than a few times seeing the level and types of GIS applications originating from the region. It is clear in listening Dangermond's words that he recognises the value of GIS in education and helping to develop the next generation of "geo-folks", those who understand it and can make a difference. [Addendum: Continuing coverage]As Dangermond see's change as originating through consumption and population growth, he also points out energy is in short supply and a "need exists to empathise" with others and to have the courage to act with their new found geographic based knowledge. This will "take leadership and need to understand GIS in the context of a new framework - breaking the components into systems" to understand them better. As this happens, then evolution will continue for GIS professionals. This, in Dangermond's words, will eventually lead to what he terms the 'GeoWeb".It is in the context of this new "GeoWeb" that, in my view, the elements of the new ArcGIS 9.2 architecture begin to take root and concepts move from theory to more easy-to-understand pieces. "People will share in a distributed and collaborative manner" and individuals will take on the role of both "creator and distributor of data." This will require protocols between systems and a new generation of servers - let's repeat that..... A New Generation of Server's, thus if you are not thinking ArcGIS Server yet, you might begin to: an ArcGIS Server will create and distribute content. It will link users collaboratively and it will share dynamically. Take note Web 2.0. ArcGIS 9.2 is a Web 2.0 enabled system, limited only by the creators data design and distribution desires. Later in the day, David Maguire, Products and international, together with his team of developer's showed how this can work and some of the advanced tools available in the new software. As I listened to this, it became clearer to me that a mental shift for desktop users needs to take place. They now become developers and builder's; designing content for distribution from "one to many". This causes me to wonder why I would even buy such a system - as a user or a small business? Why not just buy the applications I need? ArcGIS 9.2 is more advanced than I think many of us have got our head around yet. It will be interesting to see how users use the system for building and distributing and which can be licensed under Basic, Standard and Advanced level. Rules based cartographyThis feature is termed "rules based symbology" and "rules and conflict resolution". It aims to ensure symbology is located properly according to user applied rules, resulting in clearer and crisper looking maps.Jeremy Harris - Former Mayor of Honolulu, HawaiiJeremy Harris exudes energy. He is passionate about geography and it shows - in a big way. Harris was responsible for guiding the City of Honolulu, Hawaii from a paper-pencil coloring operation into one of the U.S. most highly awarded cities, through the use of GIS. "We did everything wrong" he says. That in reference to planning to applications to design - all prior to GIS. "Cities are complex systems," he says. "They need to be managedthat way." In his view, the idea is to leapfrog past mistakes of legacy systems to re-craft and use GIS tools for modernisation." Honolulu lost 20 billion USD in property values in the 1980's, before deciding to invest in technology and make changes. "We had no way of knowing what assets we had" nor did the city understand how to identify its infrastructure processes. Since that time, the city has invested 50 million USD, but more striking is the fact that private industry has invested over 1 billion USD into the changes. Harris can cite example after example of the city realising what he terms "Smart Growth" - where GIS has connected to buses, to roads and to infrastructure. The list is long with the improvements. He was even able to demonstrate how the city would respond under emergency situations of various types. ColorTracI ran into Peter de Winter-Brown of ColorTrac based in the UK near Huntingdon. Brown showed me the new SmartLf Gx 42 Scanner. This 42" scanner is designed for GIS folks and can re-size scans. HP Plotters Markus Finkbeiner showed me the new Designjet Z2100, a color plotter with 8 inks that can produce plots that do not fade for 200 years! GCS Research This product was one of my top picks at the ESRI User Conference in San Diego earlier this year. Michael Beltz explained the product, which encodes individual pixels for security purposes - much like a water-mark. "Geo-Marc" is innovative, allowing images to be tracked, secured, identified and proected. The company is now marketing their solution for "Common Operational Picture" applications. Worth a look, stop by and say hello to Michael. David Rhind - GIS and Safety in Society David Rhind was a previous director at the Ordnance Survey, UK and is President of The City University, London, UK. His keynote today revolved around the topic of security and he ventured, "imagine yourself with the role to protect society." Few of us have given that much thought I suppose. Rhind pointed out the "Types of disasters", seeing them as falling into 2 groups, the man-made and the natural, mentioning "158 earthquakes / week were recently recorded by the United States Geological Survey (USGS)." Yet, the entire area of the SouthEast Asia earthquakes was well known to be problematic and printed in map form some time ago, a fact Rhind showed visually, and which prompted the audience to realise that people never listened to the warnings. "Many of the emergency and security issues are now Pan-National in nature," he says. "The Media play an integral and important role in the disaster and emergency process" he further speculated, pointing to an alarmist media, that, sometimes, over-represents issues, leading to heightened responses. His point is well noted at a time when sensation seems to capture more attention.The point Rhind makes however is important. The process of dealing with emergency and security issues necessitates rational thinking, thoughtful response and a willingness to understand first impressions may not always be correct. He mentioned "98% of 211 million people affected by emergency or disasters between 1991 - 2000 were in developing countries." How can GIS help?--preparedness--mitigation--response--recoveryIt was interesting to learn that there is a "commercial dimension" to disaster and security, and figures from the insurance industry were cited, showing that the level of damage far exceeds the level of insurance coverage. The result leading to the conclusion that many properties and assets are not being covered with insurance properly - if at all. Rhind speculated, that given the rising levels of the world's oceans, London could experience severe flooding by 2100. Furthermore, he noted that the Thames Barrier, a man-made protection barrier constructed in the event of flooding, is now used 30-40 times a year. This figure is running well ahead of the previous 3-4 times per year when it was designed and installed. "What is required is an overall plan for human threats," he says. The City of London has a Strategic Plan, dated April 2005. That plan involves;--command control--media/public information--mass fatality plan--large scale evacuation--site clearance--disaster fundsA key point to understanding disasters and emergencies relates to what Rhind calls "geographic interdependence." Involved are:--inter-dependencies--interoperability--risk assessment and planning--GIS in real-time and 3D people integration--leadership, management and human factors"Science and technology are not enough," Rhind warns. In conclusion he says;--GIS can play a role--GIS is the only tool that can link the unique types of data from such situations--Biggest issue is not technology, but human in nature--Need more GIS people getting jobs in management roles.

Author: Jeff Thurston

Bio.: Editor, Geoconnexion International

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