Monday, April 30, 2012

MidAmerica GIS Consortium: Symposium Wrap-Up

Back in August 2011 I wrote about the MidAmerica GIS Consortium (MAGIC). Well, another excellent MAGIC Symposium was held just last week in Kansas City, Missouri. I thoroughly enjoy the MAGIC Symposium as it provides something for everyone, with a blend ranging from coordination/oversight issues to detailed, dirt-under-your-fingernails topics. Approximately 500 attendees had the opportunity to choose from over 100 presentations and 22 workshops.  Attendees had the opportunity to listen to excellent keynote addresses and 11 ignite sessions and to visit with over 50 exhibitors.

The opening keynote was Sean McGrath, CTO of Propylon. He spoke about e-Democracy and the role maps and geography have historically played when developing and enacting law, with examples going back to the 4th century and earlier. Despite all of our advances, we have more paper than ever with an estimated 16 trees needed to generate an average 130,000 papers for one budget bill, or 17 tons for one legislative session based on a study commissioned by Indiana. Sean noted that with mobile devices and spatial data, a "Dome 2.0" can and should now be utilized to ensure two-way communication between legislators and the public whom they serve.  For example, as as bill changes, alerts can be sent out based on geographic impact.

I soon discovered that one couldn't go to any of the sessions without hearing about LiDAR. Software is finally beginning to catch up and in doing so, is making it much easier for folks to actually use the data and its derivatives in their project work. In a workshop we heard about using LASzip for compressing .las files into .laz files that are usable as is by several software tools (Esri has this logged as an enhancement request). I ran a quick test on a .las file:  Original .las: 158mb; .zip: 78mb; .laz: 15mb.  Wow!

Esri provided two sessions on the ArcGIS 10.1 and for those who haven't been to the dev summit or won't be able to attend the Esri conference this summer, these sessions from Esri were an excellent way of learning about the new version.  Desktop has many new features including much improved LiDAR data capacities, dynamic legends, and updates to Maplex which is now core.  Server finally has a publisher role in addition to the user and administrator roles and will have improved printing.  And of course, ArcGIS Online continues to expand its capabilities including the new subscription-based ArcGIS Online for Organizations.

We had excellent weather at the Symposium but there were some clouds at the conference.  GIS in the cloud that is.  There was at least one cloud vendor on the exhibit floor (Valtus) and @MikeSchonlau from Douglas County, Nebraska provided a 90-minute presentation (seemed like it only lasted 20 minutes) on his department's transition from physical servers to using Amazon servers and storage. In doing so, his department has realized a very significant cost savings and much improved infrastructure. Mike's presentation was one of my favorite and provided some very good information and food for thought.

I find this Symposium to be remarkably productive when I attend with a shopping list of things I want to ask people about. There were ample networking opportunities to visit with representatives from the companies and with folks from other states and provinces.

These have been just some of the highlights from the Symposium. There were of course, other excellent presentations, keynotes, and workshops.  As they become available, the presentations will get posted on the MAGIC web site.

If you haven't had a chance to be a part of MAGIC, please consider doing so, there are lots of opportunities, just visit the web site or contact me.  And be sure to put April 27-May 1, 2014 on your calendar, that's the date of the next MAGIC Symposium. 

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