Transforming How We Think and Act

Esri president Jack Dangermond always extends a very warm and genuine welcome to delegates at the Esri User Conference when he delivers the opening keynote address, and this year was certainly no exception.  Acknowledging the achievements of the thousands of GIS professionals gathered at the event, he explained how GIS – ‘The Science of Where’ – is transforming the way that we think and act. 

However, we didn’t need to take Jack’s word for it. 

The conference proceeded to showcase an amazing array of stories from customers, who talked about how they are transforming the way that they make decisions, manage their business operations and engage with employees, partners, customers and citizens.  Three customer presentations in particular really captured my imagination and together demonstrate not only the power of GIS, but also its versatility in helping diverse organisations address very different but equally challenging business issues.

Transforming the sustainability of shellfish farming

Nial Taylor, a fifth generation shellfish farmer, took to the stage with Erin Ewald to explain how Taylor Shellfish Farms is using GIS to capture the wealth of knowledge that has been handed down from farmer to son over hundreds of years, and make it accessible via easy-to-use and sharable GIS apps.  While the company only started using GIS less than a year ago, the technology now plays an integral part in almost all aspects of the business, “from tide to table”.  It is used to help farmers understand the environment they are working in, locate optimal growing areas, demonstrate commitment to sustainable farming and make real-time operational decisions.  In this way, GIS is completely transforming one of the most ancient of industries and revolutionising it for generations to come.  

Watch the Taylor Shellfish presentation  here

Watch the Taylor Shellfish presentation here

Watch the Oakland County presentation  here

Watch the Oakland County presentation here

Transforming the delivery of public services

In another fascinating presentation, Phil Bertolini, the Deputy County Executive of Oakland County, and his staff explained how GIS is transforming the shared services that it delivers to public sector organisations in Michigan.  In support of its ethos to “build it once, pay for it once and share it with everyone,” Oakland County is using GIS to “reimagine” public services across healthcare, local government, public infrastructure, taxation and almost all other local municipalities in the county.  The organisation has been proactively developing and rolling out a creative range of apps, recognising that every time it finds and inspires a new GIS user, he or she has the potential to go on and inspire hundreds more.   


Transforming operational planning to save more lives

Watch the STARS presentation  here

Watch the STARS presentation here

Another memorable presentation was delivered by Kevin Hatch, Telecommunication Specialist at Shock Trauma Air Rescue Services (STARS), a Canadian organisation that uses GIS to make rapid decisions in what are literally life-critical situations.  Kevin explained what happens from the moment someone calls the emergency response centre and how ArcGIS is used to deploy medical crews to the right location.  STARS has transformed its paper-based Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) manual into a dynamic, GIS-based app that tells responders exactly what they need to know, when they need to know it, so that they can respond more quickly and more appropriately – and ultimately save more lives. 

Transforming our world for the future

Watch the 4-H Tennessee presentation  here

Watch the 4-H Tennessee presentation here

I was impressed not only by the range of companies that presented at the conference and the diversity of their GIS apps, but also by the enthusiasm of the individual speakers.  There are very creative, talented and passionate GIS users in the commercial and government worlds, in the third sector and indeed in schools, who are using GIS apps to adapt to the challenges of today and transform for the future.  If you want to feel encouraged for the future of GIS, take a look at the presentation delivered by three young students from Tennessee and see how they have used ArcGIS to address a health issue that is as concerning in the UK as it is in the USA. 



Share your transformation story

Another highlight for me was undoubtedly the excitement of having three customers from the UK speak at the Business Summit, which takes place every year on the Sunday before the User Conference opens. Daniel Irwin from Crossrail, Theo Malzieu and Bruno Moser from Foster and Partners and Ian McGinnis from Knight Frank all took to the stage to share their stories with senior executives from around the world interested in understanding the business value of investing in GIS. 

Since joining Esri UK as Head of Marketing, I’ve had the honour of working with GeoTrailblazers like these, from all sectors, who have been willing to share their story with the GIS community and wider public at our conferences and in the media.  Their passion for passing on their knowledge and expertise is what brings the ArcGIS platform to life and motivates others.  So, if you’ve been inspired by any of the customer stories from the Esri User Conference 17 and would like to share your story then I would love to hear from you. 


Lorna Nightingale