A few weeks ago, I got the chance to attend the GIS in Education and Research Conference hosted at the University of Toronto. The day started off with a plenary session in the Hart House. Alex Miller, President and founder of Esri Canada, began the conference with a short talk on GIS: the science of where. He discussed how GIS can be used to make a smart city by mapping the most effective transportation network, building healthcare facilities based on proximity to the community and locating structures to best utilize energy. With GIS, users have the power to transform and create immensely productive communities!

The session continued with a presentation by Dr. Cynthia Brewer, the author of Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users. Dr. Brewer focused her presentation around her tool, the ColorBrewer 2.0. Prior to the conference I did not know what this tool was but now I can see why it is so well praised! The ColorBrewer 2.0 is an online tool designed to take away all the unexpected complexity when choosing an effective colour scheme for thematic maps by letting users experiment with a pallet of colours. I look forward to using this tool next time I make a map! With that, an end to the plenary session and onto the next round of seminars!

Not sure where to go next, I ended up at the Transit/Transportation seminar with a few of my fellow ECCE associates from McMaster University. I got a chance to listen to McMaster’s very own ECCE App Challenge participants Karl Chastko and Tasos Dardas present their award-winning app, Conscious Commuter. Matt Brown, a graduate student and fellow ECCE member from McMaster, also gave a very interesting presentation on the temporal assessment of critical links by looking at traffic flow before and after construction of major highways in Hamilton. Presentations from students of other institutions followed and I found the biggest trend in applications is that they deal with big data to solve transportation problems. I was amazed by the complexity of applications and their uses. It looks like GIS has a bright future for the years to come!

A week later, I attended the Esri Canada User Conference at the Toronto Congress Centre. Now knowing a bit more about Esri conferences after experiencing one, I was prepared to take notes and be amazed. Alex Miller gave a great introduction to GIS, saying that the science of where is a fundamental digital language that must be used to understand and manage our world to solve problems and make decisions. GIS is a system of insights, engagements and records. What I really liked about the Esri User Conference were the short demonstrations carried out by Esri associates showing new applications and how to utilize different technology.

One of the applications mentioned was TorontoLive. The app collects data from cameras and sensors to track real time traffic, air quality and street-car/bus arrival times around the city. The arrival times can be texted to a cell phone, making it convenient for transit users to get to where they need to go on time. What an awesome application! Being only a few years away from 5G networks, users will be able to manipulate real life data from sensors to look at GIS mapping not as snapshots, but live maps!

The Esri User Conference was very informative. It showed off new technologies and was a great learning experience. I can’t wait to attend the conference next year and if you every get a chance to attend, it really is an amazing experience.