Review of ESRI Federal User Conference

This week the PenBay team hit Washington DC in force for the ESRI Federal User Conference.  It was a great week, full of interesting conversations with interesting people.  The  presentations at the plenary were mind expanding.  We got a lot of traffic at our booth so we are encouraged that we may be able to hold a riding turn on business development in spite of the frightening economy.  Some of the highlights of the week for me include:

  • During Jack's plenary presentation, he updated the software road map and release schedule for the ESRI product suite.  Of significance, there will be a "9.3.1" release scheduled for the May 2009 time frame.  The "9.4" release will hopefully be in beta sometime in late summer.  From what I could read through the tea leaves, 9.3.1 seems to be focused on security and performance enhancements for ArcGIS Server.  The 9.4 release will be a significant release and will contain the major enhancements to 3D geometry that I have been hoping for.  ArcGIS Explorer build 900 is scheduled for release coincident with 9.3.1.

  • Bernie Szukalski demo on the plenary stage.  Bernie is one of my favorite people in the world just for openers.  He is a superb human being with a tremendous and very human imagination.  He is a magnificent story teller and gives as good a demo as anyone I have ever seen.  On Wednesday, Bernie was showing off the capabilities of the upcoming ArcGIS Explorer build 900.  It is a truly game-changing piece of work.  The whole interface has been reworked to make it much more usable.  (Hopefully stability and performance will have been addressed as well, but that is impossible to assess through a demo)  Some great new features have been added including a presentation feature that allows you to create powerpoint like map based presentations.  Another excellent addition includes the ability to create layer packages that package up data, cartography, spatial extents, etc. to send along to others.

  • John Caulkins' demo focused on a concept he called "FedStat".  This is not a product at all, but rather a web application design concept that delivers to executive decision makers dynamic cartography, analysis, integrated charting and graphics, and reporting in a way that allows the decision makers to focus on the relationship of key variables of a particular issue in a highly interactive and intuitive interface.  The demo was interesting to me as much for what it did NOT contain as anything else.  For one thing, there was no ground-breaking new technology highlighted other than creative use of Flash/FLEX in the design of the user interface.  Nor was the story line particularly exciting.  Lets face it, rusting bridges in Minnesota is not as exciting as predicting the locations of nuclear processing facilities in Iran like the Natanz demo.  But the thoughtful and creative development of an attractive, intuitive, and highly interactive web application interface implemented in Flash/FLEX was extremely compelling.

  • At this conference, we announced the availability of our In-Vision Portal product.  This web application viewer product is designed to be the query, visualization, and reporting capability for a cross-functional Facilities Information Infrastructure.  Built on ArcGIS Server with a Flash/FLEX interface, the solution allows users to quickly and easily understand various different facets of their buildings.  We have very consciously built this system on a service oriented architecture to enable this viewer to "spatially enable" your existing enterprise information systems related to buildings.  We demonstrated this new product to a wide range of potential customers and partners at the FedUC and were very encouraged by the reactions that we received.  People seemed to immediately understand the value that this product could deliver to their organization particularly if it were integrated with their particular buildings information system whether that is a real property inventory, work order management, public safety, or space management.

  • On Thursday morning, Sylvia Kendra of Smithsonian and Kenton Williams from PenBay presented a paper on a project that we did with Smithsonian to create a Facilities GIS for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.  You can find their presentation here and their submitted paper here.

  • On Thursday afternoon, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel with Don Keuhne from ESRI and Eric Maxfield from Archibus on the concepts and technologies required to integrate CAD, BIM, and GIS and the basic concepts required to implement a Facilities Information System.  You can find my annotated presentation here.

  • The FedUC social this year was held at the convention center.  Unlike previous years where the venue has been the Library of Congress, the Organization of American States building, or the National Geographic Society, this year's social reflected the economic downturn.  Attendance to the social was significantly reduced compared to other years I have attended largely because of the venue I suspect.  That said, it was a great time for networking and I had a number of great conversations with ESRI staff and with other industry players.

All in all, the conference was exceptionally good for us.  I think that we made more progress on various business development initiatives in the three days at the conference than in the previous three months.  I was very encouraged about the response to our new In-Vision Portal product and am feeling very upbeat about opportunities in the coming months.

If you were also in attendance at the conference, please add your experience in the blog comments.