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Esri UC 2020, First Virtual Conference – Overview

Esri UC 2020 Jack Dangermond Virtual Event

For many years, Esri used to organize its annual User Conference (Esri UC) in July, at San Diego Convention Center. This is the Biggest GIS event worldwide. Thousands of GIS Technology users & professionals from all over the world come to San Diego to attend Esri User Conference. Everyone is eager to know what is new in Technology. that is beside networking, attending workshops, meetings, and many other activities.

This years, Esri decided to keep organizing the Conference Esri UC in July. However, due to COVID-19 Pandemic, it was a Virtual Conference! This means both attendees and hosts attended remotely from behind screens.

In this article, I am giving an overview about Esri UC 2020, Esri’s first virtual conference. How it was … and what is new in technology.

For a quick into about GIS & Esri you may read GIS, Cloud & Life

Jack Dangermond, Esri UC Plenary Session

Jack Dandgermond ESRI UC 2020

As usual, the conference starts with the main Plenary session, which is hosted by Jack Dangermond. This year, Jack appeared standing alone in empty theater. However, Jack conducted his presentation as usual. He highlighted some of the successful case studies, gave credits to some organizations, and a presented a high-level overview about what is new by Esri this tear.


A new addition this year is addressing the efforts to fight COVID-19. Many GIS professionals & users worldwide used GIS technology during the pandemic. ArcGIS online is already filled with maps and dashboards to track corona virus. Many organizations used GIS analytics to support decision making regarding the resources distribution, impact on operations, and actions to be taken.

Additionally, Jack announced that team of Johns Hopkins University (JHU) were awarded “Making a Difference Award”. With the start of COVID-19 pandemic, there was a famous dashboard by JHU that is updated daily to monitor the status of the virus worldwide. Individuals & media around the world used this dashboard to track the virus status.

Johns Hopkins University - JHU - Making a difference award Esri UC 2020

JHU Dashboard for COVID-19
JHU Dashboard for COVID-19

Esri UC – A Virtual Conference, means more attendees

As a virtual conference, attendees didn’t come to Convention Center. They watched the conference on screens from their remote locations. This gave the chance to lot of people worldwide to attend the conference without the need to travel, and without the capacity limitation of Convention Centers.

Esri published this map for the attendees worldwide. it shows that there were virtual attendees from almost every country of this planet.

Esri UC 2020 Worldwide virtual attendees

So … How many people attended this year?

Jack announced some statistics about this Esri UC. According to Jack, attendees were 86,482, from 180 countries.

Esri UC Statistics

Is it a big number?

In 2008, Esri UC attendees were around 15,000 … in 2019, they were around 18,500  …

This means in 11 years, the grows was about 23% … Then, when the conference became virtual, attendees increased by 367% in one year. In other words, attendees this year are more than 4 times the attendees of last year.

ESRi UC Attendees

How did they attend?

Many attendees worldwide just watched the conference from their homes. Others watched from groups. In New Zealand, where corona virus is under control, people watched the conference in a cinema!

Attendance New Zealand Cinema

Not only attendees …

In additional to the attendees, key conference guests attended virtually and talked with Jack from their remote locations. Moreover, Esri teams in other countries (and even in USA) attended virtually as well.

Accordingly, the main challenge here was the Technical Sessions…

Each year, Esri organizes many technical sessions that provide more details to attendees about the Esri Technology. This year, sessions were completely virtual. This means that even Esri team members who conducted the sessions were doing that remotely from their homes. So, both presenters and audience were attending from home.

Esri Team UC 2020

What is new in GIS technology from Esri?

So, let’s go to the core of the event … what is new? … I selected some of the key points from my point of view.

Going to Cloud

Cloud is a clear trend worldwide. Therefore, each year, Esri adds new capability to cloud based GIS.

This year, Esri presented ArcGIS Analytics for IoT. This new product that allow users to handle IoT (Internet of Things) feeds on the cloud without the needs to invest in a complicated infrastructure on-premises.

ArcGIS Analytics for IoT receives IoT feeds such as sensors, GPS, and wearable devices. Then, users can visualize & analyze the feeds in real time. and take actions as well.

This is in additional to continuous enhancements in ArcGIS Online, Esri’s cloud based GIS. Esri presented some new features in ArcGIS Map Viewer. For me personally, the one I liked the most is the new “Blending” feature which allows you to have better appearance for two layers at the same time. you can see this and other new features in the below video.


Artificial Intelligence

It is a global trend. Esri keeps enhancing the spatial capabilities for machine learning & deep learning.


Community Contact Tracing & Indoors

Esri presented a set of capabilities across multiple products for supporting the efforts of fighting COVID-19. I liked the new Community Contact Tracking. Also I liked the new enhancements in Indoors capabilities. These advances are not limited to COVID-19. They will be useful in other scenarios as well.


More Analytics …

More analytics capabilities … that includes 3D Voxel layers & Co-Location Analysis.

The conference presented much more … in the coming days, Esri will release part of conference content for all.

Esri UC Map Gallery

Each year, Esri users can share their maps in Map gallery and participate in Map Gallery competition. this year, this was done virtually as well. You can access the results for map gallery competition of Esri UC 2020 virtually here: Map Gallery Results


You may also read:

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GIS & Corona Virus

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