This year’s Esri Mid-Atlantic User Group (MUG) Conference was located just north of Baltimore City in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Having grown up in Northern Maryland and attended UMBC, this conference was a little bit like heading home for me. I ran into a number of former classmates and colleagues from across the state of Maryland and really enjoyed "geeking out" about the innovative work we have been doing over the years.
If I could choose one buzz word to describe the future of GIS it would be Integration. With Esri’s upcoming 10.1 release and increasing push into cloud infrastructures, it is becoming easier to push data developed in ArcGIS Desktop to map services hosted by ArcGIS online, that feed applications hosted on a webserver to clients anywhere in the world. It is a different concept than what I am used to. I think Clint Brown said it best when he proclaimed ArcGIS Online the Flickr of GIS.
In addition to integrating a number of their software products, it sounds like Esri has invested a lot of time simplifying the everyday maintenance of their ArcGIS Server and ArcSDE products. ArcGIS Server is getting a total make over, dropping support for DCOM connections and trimming down the number of installed users from three to one. Also, I really like the incorporation of more Database Administration tools into ArcCatalog. Hopefully gone are the days of cracking open SQL management studio to manage users.
I was left really inspired by this year’s MUG. There were a bunch of presentations that showed the increasing role that GIS plays in disseminating information to typically non-GIS users. The Flex Site the Baltimore City Fire Department set up for emergency responders working the Grand Prix showcased how GIS can be used to help dispatchers make decisions on the fly in a rapidly changing environment. I also thought the model the National Capital Region Geospatial Data Exchange utilized to distribute data between local governments, private industry and non-profits was really innovative. Silos of data are nice and all, but real information comes when multiple data is shared throughout the community.