Our Insights

My Top 3 Favorite Announcements from GeoConX

November 13, 2018

By Robert Krisher
Senior GIS Consultant, POWER Engineers

This year’s conference was not only the busiest GeoConX I’ve ever been to, but this was also the most energized I’ve seen folks at this annual utility-focused Esri event. Maybe it was because this was the first GeoConX (or EGUG) that Jack Dangermond has attended, maybe it was the fact that Jack gave the keynote, or maybe it was the fact that attendance increased this year by 24 percent! Before I settle back into my daily routine, I wanted to recap my top three takeaways from GeoConX this year.

ArcGIS User Types

If I hadn’t attended, and someone told me that one of the most exciting announcements of GeoConX was that Esri was going to introduce a new way of licensing called ArcGIS User Types, I would probably be questioning their sanity. Without getting too far into the weeds on this, I’ll give you my top three reasons why this is great news.

  1. The new system makes it easier to assign licenses to users because there is a fixed set of licenses and capabilities that are easily applied to all workers across your organization.
  2. The new system is a seamless replacement for the old system, meaning that if you don’t do anything, you won’t have to worry about any impact to your users or applications.
  3. For customers who have a lot of field editors, they will find that they should be able to actually save money by converting their creators (formerly level 2 users) to field workers. This also means that customers who were hesitant to roll out Collector or Survey123 to their field workers for fear of the cost, now is the time!

ArcGIS Runtime Road Map

Speaking of getting more users in the field, Esri also provided an update to the ArcGIS Runtime roadmap (outside of all the discussions about the upcoming Aurora release of Collector).  Because ArcGIS Collector and custom mobile apps rely on the ArcGIS Runtime this road map is a key indicator of what the upcoming capabilities are for both OOTB and custom applications. What were my top three favorite items on the road map?  I’m glad you asked!

  1. Annotation and reference scales may have started out as a legacy of paper map products, but they’ve since evolved into key tools for users who demand the highest level of understanding and cartographic quality. Esri is planning on adding support for both features to the ArcGIS Runtime in the near term, so keep your eyes peeled!
  2. In the near-medium term Esri is working on improving the editing experience in the runtime by adding support for attribute rules and contingent values. These two items are key to streamlined workflows and higher data quality in the desktop, so it’s exciting to see it make its way into the field.
  3. In the longer term on this roadmap, Esri has finally announced the target for using the Utility Network while disconnected. It’s not happening as soon as I’d like to see but given all the important features they’re adding between now and then, I can see why!

Utility Network

Speaking of the Utility Network, this is what has me the most excited. If you read my blog posts you know I’ve been geeking out over it for years, but this was the first conference I’ve attended where customers were just as excited as I was. What were the top three questions I was asked about the Utility Network at the conference?  I’m glad you asked!

How much work will it take to get my data ready?
This was a question we tackled on a recent webinar hosted by POWER Engineers. The answer to this question is different for every customer, but a good way of thinking about it is that the Utility Network was developed by Esri to support a standard North American utility (electric, gas, water, wastewater, storm). So the more you’ve customized your model, taken shortcuts in your editing practices, or if you’ve just “done things a little differently,” the longer it will take you to get your data to conform to the model or extend the model to conform to your data. One of POWER’s smaller clients who implemented the standard model and followed all the best practices to the letter only had a few weeks of cleanup. Some of the medium clients we’ve been working with are seeing that they have a few months of cleanup, and many of the larger clients we deal with are constantly cleaning up and enhancing data to support all their current projects, so the cleanup is something they’ve just worked into ongoing maintenance.

How long will it take me to implement?
Just like with the previous question, this is going to be different for every customer. The more you’ve customized the application, the longer it will take you to implement.  At our booth at GeoConX, I had many good conversations with customers who are starting to reach out to their software vendors to find out where the Utility Network is on their road map. Even if you could implement the Utility Network overnight, it wouldn’t matter if any of the third-party software you use is supported! On the other side of the coin, I had a lot of good conversations with third parties who are now aggressively pursuing adding support for the Utility Network into their product suite. I even ran into one vendor (Geonexus) who was actually demoing their asset management/GIS integration tool on top of the Utility Network!

Is it ready for primetime?
Once again, this question has a different answer for every customer. With every release, the Utility Network has more features, better third-party support and improved workflows. Every customer seems to have a pretty good feel for where their organization is on the early adoption spectrum, or if they will wait until the product has become mainstream. The Utility Network is definitely in the early stages of adoption by the industry. If you’re a smaller, cutting edge utility, dive on in — the water’s great! If you’re a larger organization who is more cautious in your implementation, I recommend you use the extra time to take stock of your solution and plan a very deliberate implementation that works best with your schedule. While I’m eager to get out there and start building solutions on top of the Utility Network, I recognize that what we put in place today is going to last us the next twenty years, so it’s worth taking the extra time to make sure we do it right!

About the Author:

Robert is a Senior Consultant in POWER’s Geospatial and Asset Management group with over 10 years of industry experience. Robert excels at pushing the boundaries of what is possible with GIS and related technologies at utilities, often by re-purposing proven technologies and methods in clever ways. As an active member of many early access programs across the industry and author of more than a dozen published articles, Robert is a recognized expert with Esri’s latest technology including ArcGIS Pro and the new Utility Network. He loves finding innovative solutions to complex challenges and sharing his insights with the GIS community. If you have any questions or comments for Robert, you can contact him at robert.krisher@powereng.com.