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Latitude Geographics & Geocortex in 2015… and 2016 (Part 1)

On January 15th we held our Annual Kick-Off – a conference-style event at our headquarters in Victoria – where each team at Latitude Geographics shared their strategies for the year ahead and we set our 2016 plans into motion.

Of course, we let ourselves have a little bit of fun after the event as well.

As we looked back on 2015, we realized just how big a year it was. We welcomed 26 new Latituders to the company (which led us to take over an additional floor in our head office’s building), established new programs to share our technology with educational and non-profit organizations, built targeted, industry-specific solutions, launched more features and capabilities in our core product than ever before (we also added a new product while we were at it!), and made some important new partnerships.

Here’s a Top 10 list, in hotly contested order, of the notable developments at Latitude Geographics in 2015 that will have a big influence on the work we all do with Geocortex in 2016. (Well, this post actually contains the first five entries in our list... we will post the second part next week.)

10. Geocortex Viewer for HTML5 and Feature Parity (+)

When Google definitively deprecated support for Silverlight in their Chrome web browser in September 2015 faster than anyone expected, we were closing in on our goal of feature parity with previous-generation technology. A huge number of client migrations took place in 2015, and aggressive development of Geocortex Viewer for HTML5 features was our #1 focus over the year.

2015 saw two massive releases of our HTML5 viewer (2.4 and 2.5), with 40+ new capabilities and enhancements, including (for example): visualization options for point features including heatmaps and clustering, out-of-the-box buffering support, accessibility enhancements for end-users with disabilities, using geolocation/GPS to create features, the addition of a fully pre-configured toolbar with context-sensitive tools and stateful toggle buttons, drill-down map tips for all devices, and a brand new UX for handheld devices.

In the coming weeks, we will ship Geocortex Viewer for HTML5 2.6, which includes an improved “save/open project” feature, and brings us to primary feature parity with our Silverlight viewer. Some features are no longer required, while others are niche and flowed into the product as a result of specific professional services work.  Many features have been enhanced and enriched for next generation, and there are a bunch of completely new features for customers to get acquainted with.

9. Geocortex Support Center Upgrade

We launched a completely overhauled and modernized the Geocortex Support Center in September 2015. New features include improved search capabilities, the ability to post ideas (including up/down-voting), and the ability to submit and monitor support cases more easily. Customers can also contribute to the community and find information related to specific products, which have their own forum, knowledge base, code gallery, video, and product download sections.

8. Geocortex Decision Support via a Houston Advanced Research Center Collaboration

The Environmentally Friendly Drilling Systems (EFD) Program, managed by Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), focuses on providing unbiased science and developing solutions to address issues associated with oil and gas development. HARC, the University of Arkansas, and Latitude Geographics collaborated on a multi-year project, which completed in November 2015, to help create software for accessible geodesign related to well pad placement.

Our work with HARC resulted in the development of Geocortex Decision Support, which is centered on a collaborative, familiar interface that allows project team members to interact with GIS data without needing to be GIS experts. Users can share maps with other users in the organization, provide input on siting decisions via comments, and view/respond to tasks assigned by others.

While the impetus for this project was to help the energy sector make environmentally-conscious decisions, it is clear the foundation of Geocortex Decision Support can help any industry that has a need for project teams to collaborate with spatial data. Some exciting customer conversations have already begun.

7. Geocortex for Educational Use & Geocortex for Non-Profit Organizations

Esri provides amazing, no-cost access to ArcGIS technology for use by K-12 institutions, and low-cost access for post-secondary educational use. Inspired by this, we rolled out a complementary program in 2015 to help remove barriers to access for educators and students who’d benefit from integrating Geocortex technology into their curriculum and research.

At the same time we launched the Geocortex for Educational Use Program, we also created the Geocortex Non-Profit Organization Program. We believe deeply in the importance of organizations that strive for positive social and environmental change; there are many organizations in the non-profit/charity sector that have talented people and great mandates, but as registered non-profit organizations, have limited funds with which to procure software like ours. Our hope is that this program will make it easier for them to do their valuable work.

You can inquire about the Geocortex for Educational Use Program or Geocortex Non-Profit Organization Program by emailing us at education@latitudegeo.com and nonprofit@latitudegeo.com respectively.

6. Schneider Partnership & ArcFM Web

In July, we jointly announced our partnership with Schneider Electric at their user group meeting in San Diego, with news that our Geocortex Essentials software would soon be integrated into Schneider Electric’s ArcFM™ solution. This partnership allows utilities to develop useful, targeted applications to quickly empower field workers, streamline business processes, manage assets and analyze data.

Officially released in November, ArcFM Web extends the capabilities of Schneider Electric’s GIS solutions using core Geocortex technology.

Schneider’s ArcFM solution has long been the industry standard for utilities that are looking to leverage the benefits of GIS solutions. Now, with a little support from Geocortex Viewer for HTML5, ArcFM Web provides customer access across devices. This is a new partnership that we expect will blossom in 2016.

Stay tuned for the second half of this list, which we will post next week!


2010 Geocortex User Conference goes virtual

You'll read it here first:  registration is now open for the 5th Annual Geocortex User Conference, scheduled to take place June 8-9th, 2010.

Due in large part to feedback we've received from clients, we've moved your event online.  With so many organizations straining to justify travel costs for conferences and training, we felt it was appropriate to alter our 2010 conference to cater to these very needs.

As in years past, we'll open the conference with a plenary session Tuesday morning (PST).  From there, the conference splits into technical and business tracks, combining live and pre-recorded content, with live Q&A throughout.  The conference concludes Wednesday afternoon with a wrap-up session and panel Q&A.  Feedback from previous years tells us you derive significant value from user presentations, and these are certainly included.

If you're thinking about a tranistion from ArcIMS to ArcGIS Server or considering the implications of ArcGIS Server version 10, join us for a pragmatic look at the present and future of Geocortex technology, as it relates to your own organization's needs.

Hope you can make it!


4th Annual Geocortex User Conference Concludes

Although there are hands-on workshops continuing for the next couple of days, the core Geocortex User Conference concluded yesterday for many attendees and most Latitude staff.

I think things went well. I leafed through the feedback forms this morning, and most attendees seemed glad they came. Next year, we'll concentrate on providing more user presentations for conference goers.

2009 Geocortex UCSometimes it’s all a bit exhausting on the logistics side of things, but as Steve said during the wrap-up session yesterday, there’s nothing like this event to inspire our team and remind us why we do the work we do. Our users and partners are doing some incredible stuff with the technology.

Attendance was definitely a bit lower (-5%) than last year, but given that lots of conferences out there have seen attendance drop by half this year (travel is one of the first things to get frozen during a recession), I'm pretty happy with the turnout.

We’ve actually contemplated holding the event in Seattle, which I figure might triple attendance compared to holding it here. Travel to Canada is a barrier for lots of our US customers. I guess the international aspect sometimes risks an optics issue for some organizations even though travel/accommodation costs are the same. Of course, we’d have to transport a bunch of Latitude folks down there for a week. Like with most things, there’d be advantages and disadvantages.

Thanks to everyone who joined us!


Ursus americansus as Elephant in the Room

More on the 2009 Geocortex User Conference... we had a planning meeting back in December, and the topic of mascots/motif came up (2006 was the Blue Heron, 2007 was the Orca, 2008 was the Glaucous Winged Gull ).

Someone joked about selecting Vancouver Island’s iconic Black Bear, and everyone quickly agreed that given the current state of the economy, it was probably about the worst motif for a conference happening in 2009. But then we all decided that to address the ‘elephant in the room’ head-on and in a humorous way would be very Geocortex.

So we picked it. Because no matter what happens in life, we don’t want to lose our sense of humor. Besides, we’re designing a 2009 Geocortex User Conference that’ll represent an even smarter investment given the prevailing economic winds.


The 2008 ESRI Southwest Users Group Conference

Laramie, WY October 22-24, 2008

For the last six years, Latitude Geographics has attended every Southwest Users Group (SWUG) conference. From Jackson Hole in 2003 through to Laramie in 2008, the SWUG conference brings together GIS users from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. This year’s high plains geospatial roundup offered up blowing snow and chilly temperatures – a big departure for a guy like me accustomed to Victoria’s moderate climate. But the warmth of the SWUG organizers (kudos to the entire organizing committee for an awesome job!) allowed the attendees to quickly forget about the cold temperatures, and settle into a dose (actually, many, many doses) of Wyoming hospitality!

geo_cortex_Rodeo_v1The SWUG event is not your regular, regional GIS conference. John Calkins, ESRI’s “Corporate Technical Evangelist” kicked things off with an interactive keynote session that engaged the group in a geographic approach to problem solving. Plenty of great user and vendor presentations followed, topped off with an evening keynote by Wyoming historian Bruce Blevins. Aside from all the interesting work-related stuff, I’d have to say that the highlight of the conference was the BBQ, Bluegrass, and Broncs event (disclosure: we were also a sponsor). This was not my first rodeo - but it was undoubtedly one of the most unique I’ve seen. The University of Wyoming Rodeo Team put on a presentation just for us, and we got to enjoy steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing and bull-riding. Yee-Haw! Later in the evening, we two-stepped to music served up by the Zarks, a local country-western band. I reckon the user sessions were a little subdued the next morning, but attendees (AKA SWUG-uhs) seemed to be wearing a collective grin.

It’s events like these that make me appreciate the industry we work in, given its great mix of knowledge sharing, professionalism, and appreciation for local cultural activities!


The first Geocortex user group

Our customers and partners have long asked us to kickstart Geocortex user groups where there were a concentration of users around them. A combination of busyness (building the technology) and platform penetration have hindered this before, but no longer...

We (and more importantly, our users) are pleased to announce the first Geocortex user group - California. The Golden State is home to the largest pool of Geocortex users anywhere, and based on ongoing interest, its time to bring them together.

Our first meeting is scheduled for Thursday October 16, 2008 in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County has generously offered to host this event. So far, our draft agenda includes introductions, a "Geocortex Technology Update" section (courtesy of me!), user presentations, Q&A and more.

If you're a customer or partner and think you should be home to user group #2, contact your account manager!

For more information about the California User Group, please contact me. Hope to see you there.


The Monk and the Riddle

Speaking of the "Latitude Library", I just finished reading an interesting book recently added to our inventory, "The Monk and the Riddle". Written by Randy Komisar, self-described virtual-CEO and technology entrepeneur, the book is quick to reveal the roots of its unusual title (no clues here though!), but slow to reach its point: its the journey that matters, not the destination. Set within the context of new technology ventures, Randy presents the central premise of his book (and the driving force behind new arrivals to Silicon Valley and the so called SPDs at Bear Stearns) as the "Deferred Life Plan"; dedicate every waking hour to work today in order to enjoy life later with all the commensurate toys. Having lived the Silicon Valley lifestyle for several years, I could immediately relate.

Overall, I found the book largely readable due to its intriguing anecdotes about Randy's numerous technolgy ventures - I'm a sucker for business non-fiction. Dissecting the successes and failures for technology ventures is infinitely more interesting than anything fiction writers could come up with! Conversely, I felt the premise of the book missed its mark - the "Deferred Life Plan" is a well worn cliche. Or is it? For those reading the book, perhaps it will beg the question: "Am I doing what I'm truly passionate about?" Regardless, I recommend checking it out.


Books: A Top Performing Investment

I just read Peopleware for the first time last night. It's a classic I should've read years ago.

People are generally pleased with a 15% return on an investment. For me, business and technology books provide a return on investment that is often orders of magnitude greater. In fact, at Latitude, we have a bottomless book budget because we’ve learned the insight gained from a single chapter can provide a massive ongoing ROI. Indeed, the books we’ve read have profoundly influenced how we function as a company, our business strategy, and how we relate to the world.

I sometimes go online and order a dozen books at a time. The only cost I consider with a book is my time to read it; I can get through an average book in an evening or two. While it can be hit and miss, the Internet makes it fairly straightforward to distinguish the wheat from the chaff (similarly, I won’t even consider watching a movie now without first reviewing the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes).


Regional Training

Our training team has become overtaxed of late given the significant amount of things our clients want to learn! This is great from the perspective that our clients are looking to become self-enabled (we do every thing we can to make our users self-sufficient); bad when you consider the amount of travel and overhead this involves as we try to manage our growth.

Solution: bring workshop oriented Geocortex Essentials and IMF training to locations close to our users, using ready-made training facilities provided by ESRI.

We're announcing three dates and locations to start; a pair of workshops in the United States and one in Europe. Our goal is to see what kind of response we get and go from there. Things are looking positive so far; early feedback seems to suggest we need to add some more rooms and dates!

To learn more and to register, visit our new training page.


Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

I've always been fascinated by the Hollywood game "the six degrees of Kevin Bacon". Its a pop-culture version of the well known "six degrees of separation" idea - we're all seperated from anyone on the planet by, at most, six people. Except, in the "Kevin Bacon" version, you interconnect Hollywood stars via Kevin Bacon.

I'm in Corpus Christi, TX right now at the ESRI SCAUG conference, and was thinking of this concept as it relates to my predicament: I flew here on American Airlines and narrowly averted getting stuck in Seattle as their MD-80 fleet was grounded for FAA inspection earlier this week. With the cancelling of so many flights, surely everyone would know someone this has affected? Well now you know one more (or the first) - me.

I just checked the American Airlines website for information related to my flight home tomorrow and it won't load - presumably becuase the other 100,000 or so displaced passengers are looking for the same information I am! Anyways, I hope I make it home tomorrow - but I can think of worse places to spend a weekend.