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ESRI User Conference – GIS for the Masses, Thanks to the Web

I just returned home from attending the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego last week. At all the tradeshows I’ve been to this year, ESRI’s show being no exception,...

I just returned home from attending the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego last week. At all the tradeshows I’ve been to this year, ESRI’s show being no exception, I’ve seen a clear move of GIS data and functionality to the web. The availability of spatial information is critical to fast decision making and collaboration between information holders – and ESRI’s ArcGIS Server looks like a winner both in terms of distributing great looking maps and providing powerful geo-processing services.

Many people stopped by our booth to ask for demos on how to publish spatial ETL tools authored with ArcGIS Desktop and the Data Interoperability extension to ArcGIS Server 9.3. This is in contrast to previous years where users were almost exclusively interested in how our technology behind the ArcGIS Data Interoperability Extension enables ArcGIS Desktop to work with non-ESRI data formats. Users are now very interested in using ArcGIS Server to share maps in non-ESRI formats and publish geo-processing tools. Moving forward, the market can expect to see Safe Software and ESRI continue to bring more of Safe’s spatial ETL capabilities to the ArcGIS Server environment, providing organizations with a single GIS system for data conversion and transformation and further empowering the exchange of spatial information.

The shift of GIS data and functionality to the web is making data harmonization more important as the number of data sources online is exploding. At the conference, we heard more discussion of people moving away from large, central databases and into more of a mixed model in which there are some large central databases, but also many smaller data sources accessible over the internet. By offering spatial ETL capabilities at the server level, organizations will be able to use different schemas for sharing data than they use for their internal systems. These views of their data exist only for data sharing purposes and allow them to participate in spatial data infrastructure (SDI) initiatives with no impact on their internal workflows.

As data is becoming more available through these data sharing and harmonization initiatives, GIS is really stretching beyond its traditional boundaries into the hands of more users. This was made evident as I walked the exhibit floor, seeing exhibitors such as Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of the Blackberry, and many other vendors which show that GIS is taking off in the main stream: Microsoft, HP, EDS, Oracle, Google, IBM and more. GIS isn’t just for mapping and GIS departments anymore. It is being used by businesses to make better decisions. Within the GIS world, we’ve long known that GIS gives businesses insights which provide them with a competitive advantage in the marketplace, but to see vendors from outside traditional GIS catching on is very exciting.

From our standpoint at Safe Software, our focus is all about uniting users with the data they need. While enabling people to get their data out to the masses, we can only imagine what great things these users are going to do with the data, and what amazing applications will be built for them.

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