Geo Grandfather ESRI Makes Strides on the Web

Phil Leggetter
Aug. 23 2010, 08:30AM EDT

Most of the time we write about mapping, it admittedly includes Google Maps (we list over 2000 Google Maps mashups). However, ESRI, the biggest supplier of geographic tools for the enterprise, has made huge strides this year with its tools, including its own web mapping platform, ESRI ArcGIS JavaScript API.

Earlier this year ESRI released ArcGIS Server 10 and in the the past few months a stream of associated updates and new releases have been announced including version 2.0 of their JavaScript, Flex and Silverlight/WPF APIs. ESRI has also announced the release of a compact ArcGIS for JavaScript version designed for building applications where slower Internet speeds and network latency is an issue, such as mobile phones. They also plan to release a native iPhone API (ArcGIS API for iOS), which is slated for the third quarter of 2010, and an ArcGIS for Windows Phone API down for mid-August as part of version 2.1 API releases.

ArcGIS for iOS

"It's exciting to hear news of ArcGIS Server instances in the cloud, coupled with the new mappings APIs," Rob Dunfey, who has previously worked at ESRI and now works at Shell, said of the new tools. "We can start to deliver easy to use apps which answer business problems with a geo component. For example, the iPhone app for the CEO which downloads local sales stats as they move from site to site."

The version 2.0 API release adds new functionality and exposes a number of new features available in ArcGIS Server 10:

  • A features service which expose access to vector feature geometries and attributes.
  • Geometry service updates to facilitate Web editing.
  • Time aware layers to allow you to query or display time-aware layers using a particular slice of time.
  • Network analysis.
  • Bing Maps support updates.
  • Geocoding updates.
  • Mapping enhancements.
  • Built-in support for touch gestures in the JavaScript API.

For a full list of features see the What's New sections of the guides for ArcGIS Server 10, ArcGIS for JavaScript, ArcGIS API for Flex and ArcGIS API for Microsoft Silverlight / WPF.

The ESRI mapping APIs, which are freely available, differentiate themselves from the plethora of consumer focused mapping APIs out there in their depth of GIS analysis they support, their ability to ask complex questions of spatial proximity and topology. However, to access this extra functionality on your own data you need to buy a license.

The implications of all these APIs means that the accessibility to commercial-grade GIS technology is much greater and as developers become more familiar with GIS they could potentially start bidding for development projects that were previously only accessible to GIS development houses. It also means that platforms and devices that were previously only used by consumers can potentially be used in the field.

With platforms such as the Web (JavaScript, Silverlight and Flex), desktop (WPF and Flex using Air) and mobile (JavaScript, Silverlight for Windows Phone and iOS) covered, and with an extra level of GIS functional, ESRI appears to have everything in place to continue being the go-to company for GIS map-based application development.

Phil Leggetter Developer Evangelist at Pusher, Real-Time Web Software & Technology Evangelist, team leader, product developer, micropreneur, managing director of a real-time web and social media software company, blogger and twitter user (@leggetter).

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