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2019 Esri Mid-Atlantic User Group Conference: Five Major Takeaways from our GIS Team

Blue Raster was a proud sponsor of the Esri Mid-Atlantic User Group Conference in Philadelphia, PA. In addition to showcasing our work and connecting with Esri users, members of the Blue Raster GIS Team attended technical sessions and workshops. The two-day event brought together over 400 Esri users and GIS professions from around the region seeking to advance their organizations and workflows with the latest GIS technology offerings.

Esri Mid-Atlantic User Group Conference

The Plenary featured presentations by Esri’s cartographer and user experience designer, John Nelson, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, and technology presentations by Esri staff. This year’s conference theme was titled “GIS - The Intelligent Nervous System,” a reference to the intricate communication system in the human body responsible for detecting, transmitting, and communicating vital information across complex network of nerves.

Esri Mid-Atlantic User Group Conference
Esri's cartographer and user experience designer, John Nelson, led the plenary session.

5 Takeways from the Esri Mid-Atlantic Conference

The Esri Mid-Atlantic conference helped provide answers to these questions: What is new? What has been improved and updated? What can we anticipate in the future?

1. GIS technologies are constantly advancing.

As an industry leader in GIS software, Esri’s applications and tools are constantly evolving to suit the needs of an increasingly diverse range of customers. From education to AEC (architecture, engineering and construction), Esri is at the forefront of product development for an increasing number of GIS users. It is important for Blue Raster to attend Esri’s conferences to ensure we remain informed about the latest developments in the field. As a result, this allows us to build capacity in our team and our clients when it comes to GIS workflows.

2. Building connections face-to-face improves our understanding of what GIS users need.

Throughout the conference, we had the opportunity to meet and speak with GIS users from around the region. These face-to-face interactions allowed us to gain a more nuanced understanding of how organizations are using GIS to address problems at a variety of scales. This only reinforces the importance of stepping away from our desks and attending these conferences. The importance of face-to-face discussions in a constantly evolving industry is just as important as the work we do from our computers.

Esri Mid-Atlantic User Conference

3. For local and state governments, GIS happens at the smallest scales.

From water utilities to curbside maintenance, city governments are eager to leverage GIS workflows to track and manage their assets and workforce. Unique to this scale is the need for precision and accuracy. As a result, government GIS users must have a deep and intimate understanding of their cities. Esri products cater to these needs through a large selection of highly customizable field and web applications.

4. For small municipalities and city governments, Emergency Management Preparedness and Mitigation is happening right now.

Adjusting and preparing for a changing global climate can often seem like an overwhelming task, but for local governments and municipalities being prepared to face this change is happening right now. Furthermore, small municipalities are keenly aware of the specific risks and needs of their communities and are eager to leverage whatever technology is available to manage assets and personal in times of crisis. This desire to be ready and up to date on the newest uses of GIS for Emergency Management was evident in the high attendance of all three Emergency Management focused session of the conference.

5. GIS technology isn’t just for the GIS industry.

Throughout the two day Esri Mid-Atlantic Conference the Blue Raster team had the chance to talk to attendees, other sponsors, and Esri professionals. An overarching theme was that GIS is involved in countless sectors of business and professional industries, from architects to civil engineers and city planners, GIS professionals, non-profit community development groups, educators and students, and local and county government employees. We are excited to see how The Science of Where continues to expand.

Blue Raster Wins Esri’s StoryMap Challenge

 

Last week, Blue Raster attended and presented at the Esri Federal Business Partner StoryMaps Challenge and Open House at the Esri R&D office in Arlington, Virginia. Two of our team members, Rachel Stock and Andrew Patterson, visited the R&D center for the day long competition. Our StoryMap about mapping America's wine regions was selected as the winner. This provided our team a chance to present about the making of the StoryMap at the Esri Open House.

Behind-the-scenes look at producing the StoryMap:

Making of the StoryMap pictures

The Geography of Wine focuses on Blue Raster's work digitizing over 270 American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). In addition to this work, we made the maps explorable to the public through the AVA Map Explorer application. The app allows users to view current and proposed AVAs, as well as submit proposals for brand-new AVAs.

StoryMap photo of a vineyard

Blue Raster’s story map about our TTB work highlights the importance of AVAs and features some of the most geographically unique AVAs from around the country. Additionally, it points out that, with GIS, we can provide location intelligence to the American Wine Industry.

View the winning StoryMap about mapping America’s wine regions, and learn more about our TTB work and creation of the AVA Map Explorer.

ArcGIS Maps for Microsoft Power BI: Make Spatially Informed Business Decisions

What is Microsoft Power BI?

Power BI is an award-winning business intelligence tool created by Microsoft as a single hub for tracking and managing many diverse assets within a given organization. The Power BI platform consists of widget-based analytical tiles from both Microsoft and their various partners. These tiles allow for a simple, professional, and customizable visualization of otherwise unmanageable amounts of business data. The straightforward user interface and intelligent feature construction means that dashboard setup and asset management is now faster and easier than ever before.

Let Blue Raster create and optimize custom maps in Microsoft Power BI to give you more control over your data than ever before.

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ArcGIS Maps Integration

ArcGIS Maps within Microsoft Power BI contains many map-building elements that are similar to those found in other Esri products, such as ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online. The configuration tab is highly user-friendly, featuring “drag & drop” field population and automatic detection of spatial data types. ArcGIS Maps for Power BI accepts both point and polygon data types. It can recognize fields that contain standard administrative boundaries (such as zip codes, counties, states, etc). Automated geocoding of point locations and polygon centroid calculation help to reduce the time and effort of spatial data management.

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ArcGIS Maps for Microsoft Power BI provides basemaps and reference layers that are crucial to understanding the spatial context of business data. There are numerous basemaps to choose from to ensure a visualization that complements the symbology of spatially referenced assets. Changing the color schemes of data is also easy to do, with many hand-picked combinations and editable classification settings. Meanwhile, reference layers containing verified spatial data such as Median Household Income or Biodiversity Hotspots are great for showing the underlying geographic or demographic characteristics at any scale. Simple infographics cards display summaries of multiple key factors based on the extent of the map viewer.

The functionality of ArcGIS Maps for Microsoft Power BI also extends to light spatial analysis in the form identifying geographic patterns and relationships. Heat maps and clustering functions allow for the aggregation of data into overarching groups and regions, while location pins and drive time analysis help to evaluate smaller localities around individual assets. The maps editor even features support for temporal animation with a field that transfers time data into a dynamic map sequence.

Understanding the Geography of Business

Large companies with numerous clients, facilities, and/or assets often receive vast amounts of spatial data that go completely unused. ArcGIS Maps for Microsoft Power BI allows companies to harness the true potential of asset location in order to improve their business revenue and productivity.

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This program takes data connection and shared business management to the next level. Any interaction or data selection within the ArcGIS Maps tile reflects in corresponding changes to data visualizations across all other analytical tiles. Collaboration is also easier than ever before, as Power BI allows users to share everything from individual figures to entire dashboards with just a few clicks.

Blue Raster is currently developing a Power BI dashboard and map application to visualize, analyze and track data and information for an important health project. The Tracking with Recency Assays to Control the Epidemic (TRACE) project is a new initiative that will contribute to the global fight to reach HIV epidemic control. Because the dashboard application needs to be accessible and usable by many users in many scenarios, the Blue Raster and TRACE teams decided on the ideal combination of Microsoft Power BI and Esri ArcGIS Online.

We are excited to grow our Power BI team and enhance our clients' business intelligence with the power of location data using ArcGIS Maps for Power BI.

Let Blue Raster kickstart your organization’s spatially integrated business dashboard. Contact us today!

ArcGIS Solutions for Emergency Management Workshop

Emergency Managment Disaster Response training

Both man-made hazards and natural disasters significantly impact populations across the globe. Advanced preparation is becoming more critical than ever, especially within the government entities that manage crisis response and emergency management. To answer this demand, Esri has organized a new category of out-of-the-box toolsets designed to mitigate the risk of hazards and delegate resources in the wake of disasters.

ArcGIS Solutions for Emergency Management encompasses a range of products that help emergency management officials to manage response resources and visualize events as they occur across time and space. Earlier this month, the Blue Raster team attended a workshop on this program set at Esri’s Redlands Campus in Southern California. This event focused heavily on the Emergency Management Operations Gallery group, which features seven applications with seven unique maps and 33 total feature layers.

Emergency Management Disaster Response training
Emergency Management Disaster Response

Our team gained significant experience with each of the applications, from configuration to deployment. We were particularly impressed by the cross-component integration and real-time feature updates. Once properly configured, this toolset features an extremely user-friendly interface with numerous options for customization of outputs and data visualization. Furthermore, one-click data inputs and feature updates result in fast and efficient communication of changing conditions.

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Blue Raster is excited to add ArcGIS Solutions for Emergency Management to our continuously growing line of GIS professional services. We look forward to being able to contribute to emergency management preparedness and disaster response efforts.

ArcGIS Urban: Take City Development Further

Blue Raster Project Manager Megan Gottfried took her ArcGIS Urban skills to the next level at Esri’s "Deploying ArcGIS Urban" training. The training, held in San Diego just before Esri’s annual User Conference, included other Esri business partners, distributors, and advanced level users from around the world.

ArcGIS Urban is gaining significant attention in the GIS and City Planning & Development industries. The platform is a complete solution allowing municipal planning departments and development-focused NGOs to improve urban planning practices and decision-making on a city-wide scale. Users can use ArcGIS Urban to create 3D renderings of city landscapes, proposed buildings, and compare proposed site projects across key stakeholders.

ArcGIS Urban case study

Megan Gottfried used San Francisco as a study area for development and used ArcGIS Urban technology to assist the city’s urban planners with the growing issue of overcrowding. Key program features such as theoretical population and employment projections helped officials to understand the regional severity of the problem and work to find innovative solutions, while 3D building renderings with zoning and building setback details gave realistic building city scapes for user exploration.

San Francisco City
"Today's advanced GIS software can now model cities in 3D and integrate the full planning workflow, thereby dramatically enhancing efficiency and effectiveness."

- Scott Edmondson, Senior Strategic Sustainability Planner for the City of San Francisco

Other highlights of the training session included a product demo and an overview of the ArcGIS Urban system. in addition, Megan Gottfried was able to learn both the back-end and front-end ArcGIS Urban platform and provide clients with tips and best practices for deployment. Megan tested the many features of the ArcGIS Urban program and created sample projects & planning files for the San Francisco area. The event concluded with a Q&A session where Megan and her colleagues were able to ask questions about the program and troubleshoot some of their problems.

ArcGIS Urban Site Project

Learn More

Blue Raster is excited to begin offering ArcGIS Urban solutions for our clients. Are you interested in harnessing the power of informed planning for your business or municipality? Contact us today!

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