Highlights of ESRI EMEA Conference in London

I attended the ESRI EMEA conference this past week in London.  To give you a sense of the size of the conference, there were about 1,600 in attendance from Europe, Middle East and Africa, with about 50 vendors with displays in the exhibit hall.

Great location for a conference venue Great location for a conference venue

The venue was the QE2 conference center in Westminster Square which is a terrific location in London even if the conference center space itself was a bit disjointed and smallish for the size of the conference.  Just being in this part of London was a highlight in itself.

This was my first time at this particular conference, and I was unsure what to expect.  I was not disappointed.  There was lots of traffic at the booth during session breaks and the conference attendees were a very educated and focused lot.  I always enjoy getting out of the States whenever I can to get a broader perspective, and this was a great opportunity to get a more global view of the GIS world through conversations with other users and GIS professionals from Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Here are the highlight trends that I came away with from the conference:

GIS for Facilities Management is really gaining momentum. This is a trend that I have noticed (and tried hard to push) in the States, but I was heartened to see the strength of the trend in Europe as well.  I attended one presentation on the integration of BIM with GIS (there wasn't actually much pertinent information on BIM but that is not really the point) and the attendees were standing in the back and spilling out into the hallway.  The GIS community is hungry to understand what BIM really means and how we interoperate with buildings in a GIS environment.  This impression was strengthened by many conversations that we had at the booth where people were trying to figure out how they could extend their GIS operations to concerns inside buildings.

GIS is embracing 3D.  Or at least GIS users desperately want to embrace 3D for a wide variety of uses and workflows, many of them involving buildings.  ESRI seems to have really gotten the message that 3D is critically important and are investing in 3D development.  David Maguire was pretty direct in describing an emerging trend toward 3D at ESRI in his remarks on the opening day.  While I am very encouraged by the desire and the direction, I also understand that the level of expectations from users is very high and we have a VERY long way to go to deliver practical and usable 3D capabilities in ESRI GIS.

Carbon management is a BIG deal in Europe. One of the strongest impressions that I was left with from the conference is how seriously the issue of climate change is regarded in Europe.  While this issue was less important to attendees from the Middle East and Africa, the Europeans are very serious indeed about global climate change and are taking strong actions to deal with it.  Both government and commercial sectors are taking significant actions to combat global warming.  There are significant investments in green energy being made and energy conservation is taken very seriously.  As one small example, the Manchester Airport Authority has stated that it will be "carbon neutral" by 2015 and is investing in a wide variety of programs to get there.  I left with the sense that the Europeans are at least a decade ahead of us on this issue and we falling further behind every day.  If we don't see a significant change in attidude in the States on this issue soon, we will find ourselves far behind the Europeans in the green revolution even as the value of our own greenbacks become increasingly irrelevant on the global financial stage.