This article may reference Continental Mapping, GISinc, or TSG Solutions. These three legacy companies merged in January 2021 to form a new geospatial leader.

Opening day at the Esri Developer Summit is always exciting. I like to listen for the items that get emphasized during the plenary session. They can give you an idea of the kinds of sessions you might want to attend during the summit. More generally these points of emphasis provide you with insight into where Esri sees their product line going in the near future. Here are some of the items that stuck out for me:

  • A big theme this year was integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within ArcGIS products to facilitate “deep learning” and improved abilities to solve spatial problems using GIS. One very interesting demo illustrated the use of AI to identify and classify pavement cracks from video footage of highway and bridge surfaces.
  • As in the past, there was a lot of emphasis on recent (and upcoming) improvements in the JavaScript API. There’s a new Feature form for editing data including field/mobile workflows, as well as a fully featured Editor widget. Improvements in dynamic rendering of feature data was illustrated via a number of demos. One that stuck out for me was of the new Dot Density renderer visualization style – as the mouse was moved over a legend item, the dots corresponding to that item would be emphasized on the map with all others being dimmed such that they receded into the background – the resulting effect was very compelling visually. There have also been performance improvements, including the ability to take full advantage of the GPU for rendering feature tiles, along with use of the Protocol Buffer format for returning feature data to the client in a compact, binary format. If you have not already migrated to the 4.x version of the API, the reasons for doing so just keeps growing.
  • Vector basemaps continue to evolve and can be styled to create your own custom basemaps. There is a new Style Builder that provides a nice UI for creating those custom styles.
  • There was a lot of talk and excitement about the ability to host Python notebooks on ArcGIS Online or Portal. These hosted notebooks are authored via a UI experience that is very similar to that for creating a web map. After creating a hosted notebook, it can be added to a web map as a way to include your geoprocessing or analysis right in that map. I’ve just skimmed the surface here – I anticipate that we’ll see lots of interesting uses of hosted Python notebooks in the future.
  • A new feature of Portal is Web Hooks, which are basically a way to trigger some external action when event occurs inside Portal. For example, a web hook could be set up to send an email when an item was added to Portal that had insufficient metadata added as part of it. I can envision a number of ways that web hooks could be used to help maintain quality content and functioning of your Portal over time.
  • The most exciting thing for me today was learning about Experience Builder, which Esri is billing as their “Next Generation Web AppBuilder”.  Experience Builder is built on the 4.x JavaScript API, and provides a more modern, flexible and extensible way to create web applications. The example “Landmark Search” application that they showed looked nothing like current “map centric” Web AppBuilder applications – this example application had a modern, clean look and responsive design that rendered well in a mobile layout as well. I was very interested and pleased to learn that the new Experience Builder was created using React and TypeScript, and those same technologies will be used to create widgets for these new “experiences” or applications. It is a very welcome improvement to see Esri embracing React and TypeScript for their next generation application builder.


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Topics: Solution Design & Development, GIS Implementation