Skip to main content

Roundup of the 2013 Esri Canada UC: GIS truly transforming our world (Part 2)

Earlier this week, we posted some highlights of the user presentations at the UCs. This time, let’s take a look at some of the new solutions and apps featured at the UCs.

Earlier this week, I posted some highlights of the user presentations at the UCs. Read part 1 of this roundup. This time, let’s take a look at some of the new solutions and apps featured at the UCs.

GIS technology becoming more powerful and accessible

Advances in GIS technology have opened up a world of unlimited possibilities for geospatial applications. At the UCs, attendees were treated to live demos of what’s new in ArcGIS 10.2.

The addition of ArcGIS Online has transformed ArcGIS into a complete Web GIS platform – making it even easier to organize data, publish maps and conduct analyses anywhere, on any device.

Figure 1: ArcGIS has become an integrated, open platform. It’s accessible from any client, desktop, Web or device and is powered by cloud services.

At 10.2, ArcGIS for Server capability is enhanced and ArcGIS Online is now available on premise as Portal for ArcGIS. Desktop licensees receive a subscription to ArcGIS Online, empowering them with content, publishing capabilities and analytics in the cloud.

ArcGIS Online also serves as the foundation for the living atlas of our world, made up of community basemaps contributed through the Community Maps Program. The program continues to gain traction, with now close to 200 members in Canada. Several government partners are also participating in the GeoFoundation Exchange, which will provide the framework for keeping the national basemap up to date.

Figure 2: The GeoFoundation Exchange or Community Map Exchange is a central repository that captures data changes from the source contributor, then forwards updates to other participants – keeping the community map as current as possible.

Through ArcGIS Online, users can access ready-to-use apps that extend GIS to other areas. Examples include the Operations Dashboard, Collector for ArcGIS and Esri Maps for Office apps. In Toronto, we had some fun with Collector for ArcGIS on the iPhone by asking attendees to pick inspiring places in Canada to be mapped on ArcGIS Online.

Story maps have also become very popular. Several templates available in ArcGIS Online make it quick and easy to build map tours of places or events, compare several years’ election results or take a look at places before and after they were impacted by a disaster.

Figure 3: This swipe map shows Alberta before and after the High River flood in June. Learn more about the image classification tools used in this map..

New solutions unveiled

To make it easier for governments to deploy Web apps quickly, Esri Canada has released the ArcGIS for Canadian Municipalities solution. It’s a series of free app templates built on the new Canadian Municipal Data Model – a harmonized model of GIS datasets, Web services, basemaps and editing workflows that can be applied to numerous GIS apps.

Meanwhile, property assessors should take a closer look at Assessment Analyst. Already being used by Maricopa County in Arizona, this solution combines the strengths of GIS and Computer-Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) systems into a powerful Geographic-Assisted Mass Appraisal (GAMA) solution. It allows assessors to significantly improve the quality of data for accurate assessments.

Figure 4: Using Assessment Analyst, assessors can use 3D analysis to assess properties from almost any angle. They can build precise 3D condominium parcels and see how factors such as obstructions to building views and amount of sunlight affect property values. 

The City of Kitchener shared how they use Esri Canada’s Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) solution for their winter operations. The solution not only tracks vehicles in real time, but also allows users to create route status reports, easily share data and use historical playback tools to effectively manage their operations.

Experienced GIS users livened up when they saw ArcGIS Professional. This brand new desktop app significantly enhances user experience by integrating 2D and 3D GIS capabilities in one app. It also provides easy-to-use tools for editing content, performing analysis and authoring maps and services for ArcGIS Online and Portal for ArcGIS.

Liberating data and enabling the creation of innovative Web apps

Most government open data are in the form of geospatial datasets. GIS enables the public to consume and make useful apps with this data.  In Ottawa, the Honourable Tony Clement underlined the importance of leveraging open data to create jobs and increase growth in all sectors of our economy. To emphasize this, he encouraged everyone to participate in the Canadian Open Data Experience or CODE, Canada’s first national appathon.

Also an advocate for open data, the Halifax Regional Municipality presented on their Open Data pilot project. They’ve released 17 datasets and are hosting Apps4Halifax, a contest that will create numerous apps using the city’s open data to improve the lives of Halifax residents. Esri Canada is sponsoring two Maps in Apps Challenges for students and startups, and will be giving away prizes of cash, software and training to the winners.

Figure 5: Participants in Apps4Halifax can check out Esri developer resources and get ideas for open data apps at

Building a stronger GIS community

The technical sessions allowed attendees to get training on specific skills without having to invest a lot of time. These workshops provided opportunities to learn how to use GIS in many different ways never thought possible. As well, the Solutions Expo showcased the latest partner solutions and Esri Canada products and services.

Perhaps one of the most valuable takeaways from the UC is the opportunity to catch up with old colleagues and make new connections. Rebecca Taylor from the City of Brooks in Alberta agrees: “I always enjoy coming to the Esri User Conference because it gives me a chance to meet other GIS professionals, learn what Esri is up to and get valuable tips and info on how to improve GIS in my organization.”

After a long day of informative presentations and workshops, many looked forward to the Networking Reception and a fun end to the conference.

Figure 6: In Halifax, the crowd was treated to an inspiring performance by Jowi Taylor, who gave an account of how the Six String Nation guitar Voyageur was made while accompanied by Heritage Gas’ Craig Power, who strummed Voyageur.

Figure 7: Voyageur is made up of more than 60 pieces of Canadian heritage. Explore the origins of each piece using this interactive map.

It was truly wonderful to see the significant exchange of knowledge and networking that occured at the user conferences. These help to build an even stronger Canadian GIS community. With ArcGIS being used by more people and organizations in new ways, we can’t wait to deliver an even more interesting and exciting UC in 2014.

If you’d like to relive some of the highlights from the 2013 UCs, check out our albums on Facebook and access the conference proceedings.

About the Author

Joy Chan is the Marketing Communications Manager for Esri Canada. She is passionate about sharing how GIS makes the world sustainable and how you don’t need to be a cartographer to make great maps. Joy has a Master of Science degree in Integrated Marketing Communications and has over 20 years’ international experience in the technology industry.

Profile Photo of Joy Chan