Interview with Lawrie Jordan

Director of Imagery, Esri

1. As an experienced leader in the GIS industry and a top executive at the largest GIS company in the world, how do you see the industry evolving? What are the current trends, and what do you think we will be talking about in five years?

Thanks, it’s an honor to be with you and to share some thoughts on our industry, current trends, and visions for the future.

The Geospatial industry is evolving rapidly, and there are three important and positive trends in GIS which I believe are being driven by Imagery which benefits all GIS users: First, speed and simplicity is essential. On-the-fly processing combined with image services, streamlined workflows, and focused apps now enable GIS users who are not imagery experts to get up-to-date information quickly and easily from their imagery. Second, users increasingly tell us they want imagery-derived information products (versus raw pixels) and GIS-ready layers, beyond just a backdrop image. Popular items here include impervious surface layers, change detection polygons, and crop health NDVI graphs. Third, traditional image processing procedures and protocols such as single file processing, intermediate temporary file creation, and FTP downloads, are rapidly transitioning toward dynamic online services. You can think of this as sort of a “dial tone” where you simply connect to an image service that’s there and “always on”. No downloading is necessary, and the image analysis is done dynamically as you access the data.

Lawrie Jordan, Director of Imagery, Esri

In five years or less, I believe we will see a prediction
that I made over 20 years ago come true:  “The Map of
the Future is an Intelligent 3D Image”, and high-resolution,
photo realistic 3D images will become the new face of
GIS – I’m really excited to see this already beginning to
happen.

Lawrie Jordan Director of Imagery, Esri

2. Imagery is a hot topic right now -- lots of satellites being launched. How do you see this market developing over the next few years? 

In the not too distant future, I believe we will be looking at Global Persistent Surveillance, where every square meter of the surface of the earth will be continuously mapped, measured, and monitored by a constellation of hundreds or maybe thousands of satellites and sensors of all types, including UAV/UAS systems, covering the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from multi-spectral to radar, and even Lidar. The current Airbus Defense and Space constellation already provides us with access to an enormous volume of content today. This idea will likely be implemented as a Federated cloud-based capability available to GIS users in near real-time, on any device. My vision for this concept is called “The Living Planet”. I believe social media will play into this as well. The assimilation of all other GIS data into this “Living Planet” would literally reinvent GIS and geography itself.  What could be more exciting than that?

This will also be accompanied by a new set of business models to monetize these services, and Esri is pleased to play a leading role in offering new forms of business models through our ArcGIS online Marketplace.

3. What are some of the most common uses of imagery by Esri customers?

Imagery is the primary manuscript source and foundation data layer for most of the essential elements of any GIS, including terrain, elevation, buildings, roads, and numerous other features such as water, hydrology, land cover, land use, boundaries, parcels, and many more.

Imagery is also the technology of choice for mapping change and performing updates to the GIS. In a sense, you could say that all GIS users are imagery users, and GIS really would not exist without the imagery-derived foundation layers above. So, it’s not surprising that Esri customers span the entire horizon of imagery use cases and applications.

Internally, we view imagery as a horizontal technology that supports all major GIS vertical market segments.  These include state & local government, utilities, oil & gas, emergency response, defense & intel, agriculture & forestry, Maritime awareness, national mapping organizations, insurance & re-insurance, asset management, and conservation & education, just to name a few.

4. As the imagery market continues to grow, do you think the market is moving from pixels to services? Is there a need for both?

Yes, there is certainly a strong trend towards offering imagery as services. This can take several forms, from simply a tile cache for use as a backdrop, to dynamic imagery as a service that’s fully analytic. Some users, such as those involved with emergency response, simply need to get the raw image of an event or disaster as quickly as possible, without further analysis or delay. Many other users, however, have a need to perform on-the-fly analyses such as NDVI for crop health or land cover classification or change detection analysis.  In all of these cases, there is no longer a need to download the imagery, but rather the pixels at any level can be accessed as a service, saving significant time and effort.

5. Speaking of services, Esri has created a World Imagery map service as one of the base map options for ArcGIS users. This is a very high quality imagery product, and we are very happy that imagery from Airbus DS has been recently added. What do users like the most about this web-based imagery base map?

I’m happy to say that the imagery base map is the #1 item people come to ArcGIS Online for, at over 34%, and that imagery related items dominate the rest of the Top 10. This is especially impressive since our users create or access several billion maps every year from these data sets.

As you know, we recently geo-enriched our world imagery map with Airbus DS imagery for several areas around the world.  This was much appreciated by our users, as the Airbus DS imagery filled in several key gaps, as well as improving the quality and resolution of the map.

6. Esri took an exciting step forward in providing multiple different types of services with the launch of the ArcGIS Marketplace late last year. Since the launch of this web portal, what has been the response to the ArcGIS Marketplace and the services provided?

We strongly believe that ArcGIS Marketplace represents the future of how GIS professionals and non-experts alike will obtain geospatial technology, both in terms of free and for-fee based content as well as apps.

The response to the Marketplace has been very strong from even before it opened last fall. The initial offerings have been greatly expanded, with literally hundreds of new apps, along with a rapidly expanding list of premium content and services, including of course our three new premium content services with Airbus DS.

The business activity in the Marketplace has already doubled in the last few months, with several thousand purchases and hundreds of thousands of inquiries, requests, and trials. We have a large team of people dedicated to the Marketplace, with continuous additions and enhancements underway.

At the request of our users, we will be expanding our imagery offerings to include imagery-derived information products and services (i.e. impervious surface layers, automatic change detection, etc.) for those who want GIS-ready layers. 

7. Who would you say are the early adopters of the ArcGIS Marketplace? Which industries do they come from?

We have a number of early adopters in the Marketplace, both for content as well as apps. On the content side, we see that early adopters like the ability to get fresh imagery quickly through the Marketplace.

Working with Airbus DS, we created a two-level offering within the Satellite Tasking & Archive App, so that users would have a broader range of pricing and delivery options for fresh imagery.

The “Automatic Tasking” option gives users the ability to task and receive data within 30-60 days, when the urgency of the application is not as great. This can be a significant cost savings. There is also access to Airbus DS’ massive archive of imagery. The “Instant Tasking” option allows for very rapid tasking and delivery for urgent situations such as disaster response, including requesting an image on the next overpass or on a specific date to match a participation event or condition.

We also expect to see early adoption of our forthcoming apps for imagery-derived information products, such as impervious surfaces or change detection, by non-imagery experts. 

8. Through a great team effort between Esri and Airbus Defense and Space, we launched three new Premium Content Services in the ArcGIS Marketplace on July 14. Since then, we have received a lot of great feedback on these services, and we are very interested to hear the feedback you have received. What is the most common response from the Esri customers you have spoken to?

Our Professional Services team, led by Tony Mason and Derek Sedlmyer, had outstanding cooperation from the Airbus DS team, and together we were able to stand up the ArcGIS Platform at Airbus DS and begin to offer some very impressive image services. Users at our International Users Conference in San Diego were especially impressed when we used the new Airbus DS Satellite Tasking & Archive App in the Marketplace to task a Pléiades image of the San Diego Convention Center, and we received a beautiful 50cm resolution image the next day!

We’re already underway designing new information product offerings through our collaboration with Airbus DS.

9. We hear the attendance at this year’s Esri International User Conference was larger than ever. Congratulations on a very successful event! Throughout the week, what topics did you see generate the most excitement at this year’s show?

Yes, attendance topped 16,000, setting a new record. Perhaps more importantly, the quality, diversity, and energy shown by the attendees and user organizations was outstanding.  We heard over and over again from attendees that they really felt connected, and that this was our best UC ever.

Some of the topics I think generated great interest at the event included our new collaborative effort with Airbus DS on the “Satellite Tasking & Archive App”, advances in 3D GIS, dynamic analytics such as Geo-Event Processor, and the many new offerings in the ArcGIS Online Marketplace, including our new GeoPlanner for GeoDesign.

10. We are honored to say we have been an Esri Business Partner for 20+ years, and we believe this partnership continues to get stronger each year. In a few words, how would you describe the Esri/Airbus DS partnership?

Long-standing relationships between a company and its employees, customers and business partners is one of the key ingredients to Esri’s success for over 40 years.

We are grateful that the Airbus DS team has been a loyal and reliable Esri Business Partner for more than half of that period, a true endurance milestone. I am especially pleased to see within the last year a strong expansion of this relationship, and I am confident that both the companies and especially our users, will be the true beneficiaries now and in the years to come.

Interview with Lawrie Jordan, Director of Imagery, Esri

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