ESRI Releases Apple Map App, Reveals “19.20.21 Project” as Annual Conference Begins

At the U.S. Census Bureau, where the World POPClock is ticking, the total population of the world (as of July 10) is estimated at 6.85 billion. But what does that mean, really?

Today, our understanding of what that means comes from the sort of knowledge that only information technology delivers. Now just about anyone with Internet access can zoom in to a satellite-based map of their city, neighborhood, and even their home. Today, with 13,000 people from 110 countries in San Diego set to attend the 2010 ESRI International User Conference, that knowledge is accelerating through advances in geographic information systems (GIS), the mapping technology that integrates hardware, software, and data for specific places—and has the capability of displaying it in layers of information.

As an example of how GIS technology has advanced just from last year’s conference, a free GIS application for the Apple iPhone and iPad released on July 5 had more than 13,000 downloads from the Apple Store by the end of the week, according to ESRI product manager David Cardella. The “ArcGIS for iOS,” which can be found here, is a GIS field-mapping tool for viewing and accessing U.S. topographical maps published by National Geographic, as well as aerial, road and hybrid street maps, custom fire maps, geological maps, land use maps, and others, according to Cardella. The app even enables users to create maps using authoring tools from (the portal to its online GIS system). Cardella says developers can download a beta version from ESRI’s iOS Resource Center .

ESRI is the Redlands, CA-based developer of GIS modeling and mapping software and technology, and to Richard Saul Wurman, this year’s conference represents an opportunity for people with different interests to come together and focus on the map as a means for explaining themselves.

19.20.21 screenshot Wurman, the peripatetic author (he’s written 82 books on topics ranging from football to healthcare) and TED conference founder, is scheduled to give a keynote talk this afternoon to announce something he calls the “19.20.21 project.” As Wurman explained it to me, it is a five-year, multi-media project to use GIS technology to create databases on the 19 cities of the world that each have 20 million people in the 21st Century. Wurman says he’s working on the project in partnership with Jon Kamen, the chairman and CEO of and Jack Dangermond, founding president of the Environmental Systems Research Institute, now known as ESRI.

“In 1800 [when the total population of the world was just 1 billion], less than 3 percent of the world lived in cities,” Wurman told me. “Today, more than half the population of the world lives in cities…We’ve become a world of cities.” And as he explained it to me, his concept for the 19.20.21 project is to create a free website where detailed, extensive, and standardized data—including graphics, maps, videos, and links—will allow users to compare Los Angeles and New York with the world’s 17 other most-densely populated cities. “So the idea is to paint a new definition of the world,” Wurman said.

To help with that definition—and with a myriad of other projects—the ESRI conference includes plenty of sessions about new software tools and other innovations. Some of the highlights that I gleaned from the agenda for the event, which continues through Friday at the San Diego Convention Center:

—Creating virtual cities in 3D, which includes an overview of the primary steps to follow using the latest version of ESRI’s GIS software, including data preparation, authoring the 3D view, publishing the view, and using the 3D viewing application.

—Census 2010 and the data user. ESRI’s Lynn Wombold discusses what to expect and what not to expect in the data being generated by the 2010 Census.

—Using GIS in business, including a session on innovative approaches to advanced decision-making (“Learn how others are building better analytical methodologies and workforce strategies to deliver success in today’s time-critical marketplace.”) Other sessions include using GIS logistics in business, optimizing business territories and districts using ESRI’s business analyst software, leveraging GIS to enhance telecom operations, and a session for “geo-marketers” on how a novel Location Based Services (LBS) platform and mobile location information can be used to target customers.

—A “lightning” session scheduled for late this afternoon includes five-minute presentations on using GIS technology in applications for augmented reality, feeding the city, mapping “Clean the Bay Day,” and to assemble a solar roof cadastre. (I had to look it up. A cadastre is an official register of real estate listings, usually used for property taxation.)

—The agenda also includes technical workshops, such as a session in which ESRI’s Marwa Mabrouk explains how to build a GIS application in the Amazon cloud using ESRI’s GIS software. Another technical session explains how the updated desktop software can be used for accessing and sharing maps and data, as well as editing and mapping workflow.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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