Has it only been a week since this great event wrapped up? As I browse through the Esri Map Book (provided in my registration kit), my third observation about the conference is pretty self-evident.
It's the maps.
I saw more maps in one place than I'd ever seen before. Maps showing public safety and policing applications (lots and lots of those). Maps depicting flood plains and flooding probability. Maps showing sophisticated and extensive integrated systems for the public sector, such as the Abu Dhabi Spatial Data Infrastructure project. There were maps showing asset management in every kind of grid imaginable, as well as maps driving urban planning. I saw amazing maps modeling and predicting weather. There was an award-winning map showing very clearly the impact of the recent economic disaster across the USA. In a somewhat more fun vein, I saw an imagery-based virtual 3D fly-over of Pasadena California, with buildings and infrastructure rendered in unbelievably crisp, realistic views.
As a long time devotee of business intelligence, I truly believe that this physical or "spatial" view into virtually any kind of data is something that everyone who works in the world of "data" should take a little time to investigate. I've seen what happens when people see their data rendered for the first time in this way. Their eyes light up. They want to show their bosses, like, right now! They're like kids in a candy store -- they want more.
Why is that? Well, we all live in the physical world. We all work and play in the physical world. For business, we all market, buy, and sell in the physical world. For the public sector, we support and service constituents that live in the physical world. And even those of us not strictly devoted to "data" are all too aware of it in today's FaceBooking, Twittering, e-mailing, texting, mobile world. The spatial view of our data makes us comfortable with it in the context of that physical world. It provides a comfortable, easily understandable and familiar frame of reference. And it opens up whole new veins of analysis and understanding.
The next time you look at a map, imagine the data that matters to you represented on it, and how that would empower you to understand something about that data, and maybe yourself as well.