Reflections on NYGeoCon 2013

The 2013 New York State GIS conference was held November 12-13, 2013 in Saratoga Springs, New York.  Organized by the NYS GIS Association, this is the first year the state conference has been rebranded as NYGeoCon which will be held alternating years with the Geospatial Summit.  With conference registration topping 300, including students, single day attendees, and vendors, the two-day event included a wide range of topics including nearly 30 individual presentations and a dozen workshops/panel discussions.    Among the many topics offered –  mobile technology, shared services, and open data themes – were common conversation points throughout the conference.  The conference also included special efforts to involve college students and contained an Education Tract highlighting statewide higher education GIS instructors.  Conference vendor support was equally impressive with 19 companies exhibiting during the course of the conference.

Beyond the normal opening day conference welcome by out-going NYS GIS Association President Al Leidner and the usual “State of the State” presentation by NYS GIO Bill Johnson, the conference began in earnest with an impressive keynote presentation by Jack Levis who is known to many as “the United Parcel Service (UPS) guy” in the Penn State Public Broadcasting production The Geospatial Revolution.  Levis has keynoted at other GIS/location-based conferences over the past several months presenting the company business message about how UPS used to be a trucking company that used technology, but is now a technology company that happens to use trucks.  His presentation focused on how UPS uses data (much of which is mobile gathered) to support enterprise descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analytics in helping build and refine the UPS delivery model.  Interestingly, Levis feels, in general, much of the available digital street center line files (public/commercial) still need updating and improvement.  It was an excellent presentation which had a major underlying geospatial component.  Levis fielded several questions from the audience after the presentation.  Both the conference welcome and Levis presentation are available for viewing on the conference homepage.

The annual business meeting of the NYS GIS Association, which was held at lunch on the second day of the conference, demonstrated the tremendous growth of the Association as an independent, professional voice and presence in statewide geospatial programs.  The nearly hour-long meeting included several committee reports (Membership, Communications, Conference, Legislative, Private Sector, Education, Regional Groups, and Professional Development) as well as general discussion on issues such as GISP certification, types of membership (professional/associate, etc.) and collective efforts for continued growth and influence across the state.  One of the more impressive statistics taken from the meeting was that nearly one-third of the nearly 500 members of the Association are from the private sector.  A very encouraging number which suggests, for now, that New York State geospatial business and industry representatives are  supporting the underlying efforts and long-term goals of the Association.  The business meeting also included the introduction of incoming President Julie Tolar (Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority) and President-Elect Susan Nixson (City of Ithaca), as well as three new Board members:  Rich Quodomine (NYS DOT), Julia O’Brien (FEMA Region 2) and Mickey Dietrich (Tug Hill Commission).

Looking forward, the Association will hopefully continue to align its professional and conference efforts with like-minded statewide professional organizations which leverage geospatial technologies.  Overall, the 2013 event should be considered a success given ongoing struggles in attendance at similar geospatial conferences in the Northeast.  One of the few speed bumps the conference hit was placing the ESRI Sponsor Workshop – against other ongoing presentations – in the very last time slot of the conference which resulted in woefully poor attendance.  As a conference Platinum Sponsor, ESRI was deserving of much better placement on the agenda.

Kudos to the NYS GIS Association conference committee in organizing the successful 2013 NYGeoCon.  We look forward to the 2014 Geospatial Summit.

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