The Holy Grail of GIS Integrations: 2018 Esri User Conference Highlights

By: Frank Orr


The 2018 Esri International User Conference was held in San Diego last month. As always, it was a veritable tsunami of focused solutions, innovative applications, interesting use cases and technological advancements. And as always, it’s almost impossible to provide a true sense of the scale and breadth of the conference in just one blog post.

Rather than trying to boil the ocean, I’ll focus on what I call the Holy Grail of GIS integrations. This dream integration of the Internet of Things (IoT), BIM/CAD, enterprise asset management (EAM) and enterprise GIS is becoming easier to achieve using the platforms and solutions featured during this year’s Esri user conference.

Facility and infrastructure managers require easy access to authoritative, real-time data to improve decision-making. Huge volumes of this data can come from a variety of sources:

  • Sensors on meters, valves, transformers, vehicles and more
  • Design data in CAD and BIM formats
  • Asset information from EAM systems
  • Spatial information in enterprise GIS

How do we integrate and analyze all this data to achieve results that make sense? Through the development of integrated platforms, Esri and its partners are providing the means to integrate disparate data streams and provide the building blocks for truly integrated solutions.

Real-time Data
Sensor-provided data comes from a dizzying array of sources—and in huge volumes. To handle and make sense of it, Esri developed the GeoEvent Server, which connects real-time data streams to associated map features. Esri also worked with OSIsoft, the maker of PI System, to develop the PI Integrator for Esri ArcGIS, which connects the PI System with GeoEvent Server to seamlessly integrate IoT data with an enterprise GIS.

Design Data
Facility and infrastructure design software may—or may not—integrate well with GIS. In late 2017, Esri announced a new partnership with Autodesk to build a better integration between BIM and GIS. While still a work in progress, this ability to natively share data between platforms such as Autodesk Revit and Esri ArcGIS Pro is a huge step on the path to better operational awareness.

Asset Data
All organizations managing facilities or infrastructure must perform a basic level of asset management. Knowing the location and real-time condition of assets helps field crews prioritize repairs. All EAM systems have some level of GIS integration, and some, such as Cityworks, are actually built on the Esri ArcGIS platform.

Spatial Data
It has been said that location binds all, and GIS can natively integrate all the types of data described above. In addition to GeoEvent Server, Esri has also developed platforms that can serve as one-stop shops for data access and analysis. The ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise platforms, which both include Web AppBuilder and Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS, enable users to quickly develop sophisticated visualization and data interaction dashboards without writing code. Esri is also in the process of rolling out ArcGIS Indoors, which will allow organizations to map and navigate their indoor environments.

These developments are nothing but good news, yet as they say, the devil is in the details. By intelligently integrating these disparate systems and data sources, organizations can develop more holistic pictures of asset performance, maintenance/replacement needs, task assignments and location/navigation details. This is one Holy Grail that shouldn’t elude us too much longer.


Frank Orr, GISP, PMP

Frank Orr is a GIS Program Director with decades of experience in nearly everything GIS. His well-rounded technical expertise helps him monitor minute details—as well as view the big picture and identify opportunities for cross-market integration.


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