Takeaways from the 2020 ESRI Virtual User Conference

Blog Post created by PHohl-esristaff Employee on Jul 29, 2020

A Virtual User Conference

The first ESRI virtual User Conference July 13-16, 2020 (UC) is now over. The theme, How GIS is Interconnecting Our World struck a chord with over 86,000 people. As the hundreds of on-demand demonstrations, technical sessions, user presentations, and partners unfolded, it was clear that understanding precedes action. Furthermore, the best way to gain that understanding is with what is arguably the most powerful technology in the world – GIS.


Normally in San Diego, Esri would expect under 20,000 attendees. The virtual format opened the impressive content to new viewers and many additional people from customer organizations. 71% of participants were first-time attendees, and involvement from outside the US was significantly up over prior years.


For the first time, users had ready access to virtually all the ESRI staff in every discipline at UC. This was a fantastic opportunity to answer every question and chat with experts.

At the plenary sessions, everyone had a front-row seat! Jack Dangermond inspired viewers and showed several captivating videos that demonstrated how ArcGIS is being applied around the globe. The plenary sessions can be viewed on YouTube.  

The virtual map gallery is publicly accessible and continues to be a big hit showing some of the best digital cartography at UC. Anyone can get a crisp ESRI T-shirt at the new online Merch Store without traveling to San Diego and waiting in line at the convention center.




It wasn’t the same as a live gathering, but in some ways it was even better. How else could you get to every session you want to see? And, review it again later?


Trends in GIS

Reflecting on the week, several trends emerged.

  1. GIS applications are becoming dramatically easier, more powerful, and more available. The true power stems from frictionless access to virtually everyone – utility employees, executives, field staff, customers, regulators, and the media.
  2. Geospatial Hubs are organizing information sharing - improving relationships, collaboration, and cooperation.
  3. GIS systems are becoming more interconnected creating a geospatial infrastructure to address business and societal needs and create value.
  4. GIS is becoming more real-time, connecting sensors, the IoT, and remote sensing. This boosts situational awareness from the control room to the service truck in the field.
  5. Geographic science is gathering more knowledge. It helps understand more data inputs and greater complexity. Most importantly, it applies additional knowledge to solving real problems and meeting strategic business objectives.

New Developments

It would be impossible to capture all the exciting new developments. Here are a few that caught my special attention:


ArcGIS Pro is more tightly connected to Autodesk tools like BIM360. Users can now connect to CAD data stored in the cloud, use CAD within GIS, and even push CAD updates to GIS including #UtilityNetworks. Non-spatial objects in ArcGIS Utility Network accurately model complex fiber networks, conduits in duct banks, and other forms of connected information. Deilson da Silva explains this starting 6:25 in this video.


ArcGIS LocateXT extracts location information, text, and dates from unstructured documents and adds it to maps. Think about MSWord, email, csv, txt, pdf files, and all the useful information they contain in your organization. 


ArcGIS Pro Time Series Forecasting Advanced tools ingest space-time data like energy usage and use machine learning techniques to make accurate predictions about the future.


ArcGIS Analytics for IoT – Suzanne Foss explains how to work with big data, data in real-time, or near real-time, to drive insight and take action.


Video Game visualization engines are being used for stunning immersive visualizations like wildfires.


Field Operations got a lot of attention from utility users with new capabilities and the streamlining of workflows in the new ArcGIS Field Maps.


Site Scan for ArcGIS is taking off as a cloud-based solution for automated drone flight planning, and image processing and analysis, that leverages the existing GIS. Drone image data immediately available throughout the organization. It can be published on a map to ArcGIS Online to communicate and share. ArcGIS can now work with stacks of imagery to perform trend analysis, prediction, and change detection.



Thank you for being our customers and business partners. Esri was founded to help solve some of the world's most difficult problems. We support our users' important work with a commitment to science, sustainability, community, education, research, and positive change.


Please consider joining the Esri GeoConX event in the fall. The 2020 GeoConX Conference is going virtual. The world's largest and leading utility and telecom GIS conference will be an immersive virtual experience for the GIS community.


Let’s all look forward to the great work we will review together next year at UC in 2021.