Friday, September 19, 2014

2014 NSGIC Conference Summary

  • The NSGIC conferences that I've attended have always been very worthwhile and have provided excellent learning opportunities.  This conference raised the bar even higher.
  • One of the things that struck me the most is that there is a shift that is beginning to happen.  This has to do with the vendors in the geospatial community in terms of how they are working together, the services that they are offering, and the innovation is that is happening now by companies who previously were not as "mainstream" as they are now.
  • Google came out swinging
    • They are now offering hosting services including Windows Servers running ArcGIS Server
    • Storage prices are now in the neighborhood of $12K for 50TB/year
    • They are offering 6" resolution imagery refreshed 1-3 years
    • With their acquisition of Skybox, they have a constellation of 24 satellites that can acquire 15" resolution imagery over the earth every 3 days 
    • They are the world's 4 largest hardware company, making their own
    • They offer a map gallery and crisis mapping
    • The Texas DOT uses Google servers; their travel information map has been load test for 100K hits/second.
  • Hosting of imagery and LiDAR by commercial vendors continues to increase.  This saves on storage and software costs.  During times of emergency, the data can be shipped via drives.
  • Aggregation of open source and commercial software to create cost-effective solutions for their clients continues where those companies specializing in doing that style of work are positioning themselves very well for the future. This may be creating some friction in existing business models as evidenced by one well-respected company being told by Esri that they could no longer be an Esri business partner.  This company just happens to use Esri AND other company's software.
  • Hexagon Geospatial is offering an innovative licensing approach for entire states using the population of the state as a criteria in the pricing model.  Those states already using some of the software now owned by Hexagon (e.g., GeoMedia, ERDAS, Intergraph) may find this to be an attractive solution though I still have concerns on when the ROI would be realized based on training and other transition costs.
  • Open data received a lot of stage time.   
    • A brilliant presentation was made by the New York GIO who described open data as being:  Machine readable, posted online, downloadable, free, no restrictions on use, provider held harmless, has metadata.   
    • This wave of open data has lots of similarities to what North Dakota and other states have been doing for some time, but in this new wave there is more focus on making more data more accessible.  
    • New York's governor has issued an open data executive order
    • Open data buzz terms:  "The new economy is the data", "Open data is the next wave, government is best served by embracing it fully", "people are moving away from selling data to open data to realize greater benefit"
  • UAS data collection continues to improve.  Based on discussions with a vendor, they can produce 3cm resolution imagery and 3-5cm vertical accuracy.
  • States having new portals include WY and MN. WY's new portal uses Drupal on the front end and includes Open Data for serving up vector data.  Minnesota's GIO did a very nice job of describing how his state is CKAN and their Geospatial Commons will be replacing their multiple existing portals.  CKAN is a powerful open source tool that is also used by  I've looked at it before and after this week plan to look at it more.
  • Out of the box thinking was demonstrated by a number of the "git-r-done" gentlemen from Arkansas
    • Text, in this case text from ancient Middle East documents are parsed, ran through an authoritative database, through a tool that prepares the text for Geographic JSON and then mapped.  This results in mapping of documents. An approach such as this can also be used to map legislation, to show where are funds being spent.
    • A budget atlas is used to show how legislators vote and how funds are spent.  For example, Medicaid vendor claims by senate district
  • There was a lot of presentations and discussion on addressing and centerlines.  North Dakota has much to learn from the other states including working with local government, standards, and the benefits for all level governments to work together to develop and maintain these datasets. I hear a lot about locals should be submitting their data to the state and the state can make fixes and send it back.  But a South Carolina speaker said, "Let the locals make the fix, not the level above." 
  • Esri presented how ArcGIS Online is being used by members of the U.S. Congress to display issues pertinent to their states.  For example, where has the house member been? Where is constituent mail coming from? This can be very beneficial for things such as embedding maps in galleries and in press releases.
  • Open source was again present at this year's conference.  A notable quote from the gentleman who was involved with the open source National Broadband Map "Mobile is the new desktop".  He was also the person who displayed this slide:
  • For those of you looking to install and use Esri's GeoPortal, you may want to also look into Esri's Open Data as that appears to be the focus of much of Esri's current development work relating to data discovery and use.
  • LiDAR is always present at NSGIC.  A useful web site noted by the U.S.G.S. is the U.S. elevation inventory tool.
  • Another shift that I first noticed at last year's NSGIC but much more pronounced this year is the shrinking of the federal geospatial role in some areas.  For example, Montana has assumed ownership of the Public Land Survey System data.  Utah is just about ready to do the same thing. Much of this stems from errors in the data that are not being addressed by federal agencies.  BLM, who is the steward of the PLSS, does not have/use GIS and thus they do not see the errors a GIS users sees.  As usual, Utah's geospatial folks continue to create some nice tools such as their PLSS viewer.
And now, a few important points:
  1. You do not have to be a GIS Coordinator, GIS Manager, GIO, etc. to attend.  You can be from a state, county, city, Tribal organization and no matter your title, you can attend. 
  2. Presentations from this NSGIC conference can be found here on the NSGIC web site  


  1. hi Bob, I'd be interested to hear where you got the impression that Esri is not continuing the development of Geoportal Server and please update your blog post. Geoportal Server is alive and well (just like Betty White) and we're continuing our work providing open source standards-compliant metadata cataloging.

    kind regards,

    Marten Hogeweg
    Product Manager Esri Geoportal Server

  2. Hi Marten, thanks for your comment. I've made an adjustment to the text to reflect what I believe improves the text. Please have a look and let me know your thoughts.

    Thanks, Bob

  3. Thanks. Just to keep everyone informed,

    We released Geoportal Server 1.2.5 in April:

    I encourage everyone to take a look at my UC presentation:

    Here you can see why we're quiet since April: we're working hard to enhance ArcGIS Online with standards-based metadata and federated search.


  4. Thanks for this great summary/post, Bob. However, you left out the most important part: the hush-puppies at Hyman's Seafood Restaurant!

  5. Thanks Tony. I knew that there was something that I was forgetting! Thanks for reminding me. :-)