"The Science of Software"- Esri User Conference 2017 (San Diego)

13 July 2017

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Blog by Chris Morris, Interpret Group Manager

It’s mid-afternoon and I’m sitting in the middle of the exhibition hall, somewhere between the Esri Electric & Gas stand and the Transportation stand. It’s nice to sit down, this morning’s first session started at 7am, anyone who thinks this is a break from work is missing something.

The hall is huge, it feels as though you can see the curvature of the earth, or at least you would be able to if it wasn’t for the numerous banners that hang from the ceiling blocking your view. Everyone is here, (including "HERE"), perhaps 200 vendors selling software, hardware, and services.

But vendors only make up a small part of the picture. Esri as you might expect dominates, taking up at least half the hall. The various business units are all represented with key Esri staff available on hand to talk to. Technical needs are catered for with dedicated product stands, there’s a surgery for your technical support questions, and numerous demo theatres where Esri staff take a deep dive into various products. It’s very impressive, actually its more than impressive, it’s totally immersive. Eight years ago I remember that actually getting to speak to an Esri representative was pretty hard work such was the low ratio of Esri staff to delegates, but now there is no problem.  I haven’t had to queue up once and have always managed to speak to exactly the person I need.

The hall hums with the buzz of conversation punctuated every so often with names being shouted across the hall as old friends and colleagues spot each other. Delegates move from stand to stand looking for the best giveaway (personally I frown upon such practice, the NASA stickers are for my kids, and Safe (FME) forced me to take a pair of their Safe Sockware socks because we are solution partners). To be honest freebies aren’t why most people are here, rather it’s the depth of knowledge, wealth of product information and creative direction supplied in part by the Esri start up corner that creates such an absorbing environment where new partnerships can be formed and business done.

Cityworks, Trimble, Geocortex, and HERE stand out with great looking booths. Others entice you with hardware, drones are in abundance, but PLW Modelworks promoting a VR headset and an interactive mechanical bull/bird that you lie on wins the prize for most interesting stand. Imagine lying on a large table which is roughly shaped like a bird. Strap your arms to its “wings” and as you flap your wings and lean this way and that, you fly around a virtual 3D cityscape which comes to life through your VR Headset. Is it a game, or does it have practical applications? I really don’t know!

I’ve already been here for a few hours and know that before the conference is finished I’ll be spending much more time here...for me it’s the heart of the conference.

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