Esri User Conference 2023 Recap with our GIS experts GK Viswanathan & Meharaj S


18:39 minutes


GK Viswanathan & Meharaj S

In this informative episode, we’re joined by two distinguished experts, GK Viswanathan and Meharaj, who take us on an immersive journey through the Esri User Conference 2023, San Diego. Join us as we explore the multifaceted world of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and its transformative impact on various industries. Together, we unravel the role of GIS in addressing climate change, the influence of AI and automation on geospatial data analysis, and the exciting product announcements poised to shape the future of GIS. This comprehensive overview provides valuable insights and inspiration for professionals in the field.


  • GIS in Climate Change: Explore GIS’s pivotal role in addressing climate change and providing data-driven insights.
  • AI and Automation Impact: Delve into how AI and automation are transforming geospatial data analysis.
  • Utility Network Evolution: Learn about the shift to the robust Utilities Network (UN) and its significance.
  • Indoor GIS and Digital Twins: Discover the emerging importance of indoor GIS and the potential of digital twins in location intelligence.
  • Policymaker Insights: Understand how GIS provides rapid insights for policymaking and enhancing productivity.
  • Global Collaboration: Gain insights into the collaborative nature of the ESRI User Conference, where professionals from around the world shape the future of GIS.

Nisha Mary Verghis: Welcome to the Nest Digital Podcast, your gateway to tech, innovation, work life fusion, and so much more. Join us as we converse with industry leaders, visionaries, and trailblazers shaping the tech landscape. Let’s navigate the digital world together.

Today we have two esteemed guests who have just returned from the ESRI User Conference 2023 at San Diego.

I’m your host Nisha and I can’t wait to dive into the insights and experiences they’ve gained during this conference.

Please join me in welcoming GK Viswanathan, the Vice president of Delivery GIS at Nest Digital and Meharaj, the delivery head of GIS. Welcome, GKV and Meharaj

GKV:  Thank you, Nisha. Thanks for the introduction. Thanks once again for inviting us to this podcast, and yeah, we are pretty excited to share our experiences from the Esri user conference that we attended a couple of months ago in San Diego, US.

Meharaj: Thank you Nisha. It’s a pleasure to be here and discuss all the latest happenings in the GIS world

Nisha Mary Verghis:  Great. Let’s jump right in. The ESRI user conference is always a significant event for the GIS community. I’m eager to hear about some of the highlights from the conference. What were some of the most memorable experiences or key moments that stood out for you?

GKV:  Sure, Nisha, we would be pleased to share our experiences. Yeah, it’s an annual event that attracts a large number of GIS professionals from across the globe. You know, professionals from every industry. Almost every country participating. This year was no exception. Actually, it recorded more than 20,000 delegates from all over the world. Probably a record of sorts I would say, and it was an opportunity for all of us to meet with the partners, all our partners in the US under a single roof. You got to see a lot of products on display and the exhibitors showcasing their work in a variety of verticals. You know, GIS being a horizontal technology, you can build application for various verticals. So everything was on display. There were several interesting sessions too, which we will talk about during this podcast.

We also tend to know where the GIS industry was heading for, what should be our focus area, what steps we need to take to keep pace with the advancement in technology and so on and so forth. Last but not least, you know, this conference is very unique to the GIS world in the sense that, you know I haven’t seen any such parallels in any other domain you bring in so many people under single roof. You know, be it developers, analysts or, you know, business developing people, everyone under a single roof, you know, in one particular location. That’s a mind-boggling thing to organize such a conference. I think full credit goes to ESRI.

Meharaj: So, in San Diego S3 user conference. It’s a place you know where connections are made and you know collaboration thrives. It’s also a place just like GKV told, to reconnect with our partners. You know, our previous Co-workers and other acquaintances made, you know throughout the industry. And the 2023 ESRI user conference underscored actually the transformative power of data driven decisions. ESRI GIS technology allows us to, you know, visualize data in ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends, leading to better understanding and smarter decision making.

Nisha Mary Verghis:  Thank you for sharing those highlights with us. It’s very evident that the Esri user conference provided valuable insights and opportunities for growth in the GIS domain. Now let’s shift our focus to your key takeaways from this year’s conference.

GKV: There have been quite a few Nisha. I would say, GIS has become even more widespread in terms of adaptation by others. The core themes were, you know, GIS enablement and Geo spatial literacy, which means taking GIS to industries where location intelligence is just in its nascent stage, which means they are just starting to implement GIS. Those companies who have yet to implement GIS will certainly jump into the bandwagon at some point of time which should surely help them in day to day operations in the long run, given the potential of GIS. Like Meharaj said, data driven insight is another frequently heard buzzword in the conference. And sure, one would agree that the present generation, we are witness to the climate changes that are causing havoc across the world. Even in Kerala, you know we see monsoon playing truant. You know, bringing in copious rains, only around and you have drought next year this year we are experiencing drought and we are almost at the end of the monsoon and we have only 50% of the annual quantum of precipitation that we are received so far. Why this is all happening? It’s climate change. Sure, we will not be able to prevent any disaster from happening. Be it cyclone or earthquake or flooding or drought. But can we use technologies to prevent loss of lives, loss of properties. Or can it help in mitigating the risks? Yes, the technologies are there to help us in all these spears. GIS plays very crucial role in climate analysis. For example, a high precision land cover data along the coastal region can provide acumens that are required to build a climate resilience strategy.

When you have, precise data available, the local governments can see how they’re exposed to climate related hazards. Like Meharaj pointed out GIS allows us to visualize data in ways that reveal relationships, patterns, trends which enable us to make smarter decisions. I’d like to end this with a quote from none other than Jack Dangermond, the Esri Founder and President, who said we recognize the seriousness of the climate crisis and we know well that technology will be a crucial part of the solutions.

Meharaj: The heart of the conference on the technical sessions which covered a wide range of topics. Throughout the UC, it was clear that interest in AI and automation is at an all-time high and rapidly increasing. AI-powered tools are transforming how geospatial data is processed, analyzed, and transformed into actionable insights. Every industry invests in AI-driven solutions to optimize their workflows, reduce tedious tasks, or even enhance the speed, accuracy, and output of their analysis.

Nisha: Fascinating insights, GKV and Meharaj. I agree that these solutions are making a huge difference and supercharging all our geospatial capabilities. Now, I’m curious to know if there were any specific breakthroughs or product announcements that caught your attention, especially those that align with NeST Digital’s GIS capabilities.

GKV: Yes Nisha, here also there have been quite a few! You know, we work mostly with the many utility companies, most of the utility in the Middle East are our clients and we work directly with the few utilities in the US market also.

Also, we are strong in, you know, all the equities, be it electric telecom or water. Currently, these utilities use a model called Geometric Network which is built on our GIS Esri platform. This product, I mean this model would be shelved in a few years’ time as an alternative under replacement. Esri is building another model called Utility Network or UN. This will be implemented shortly. They have released few earlier versions and these are, these version is getting fine tuned based on the user feedback, how they are able to migrate their geometric data, to network data. That is getting fine tuned. We see a lot of potential in this space and I’m proud to say that we have a head start in this because we already started working with the US customer on the utility domain for migrating one set of data to, I mean one set of data from geometric network to utility network.

I would let Meharaj to talk about Indoor Mapping, BIM and Digital Twins which were the other interesting topics that attracted a large audience in the conference.

Meharaj: Thank GKV. The visual language of the GIS is the map. So indoor GIS is now, you know, a very hot area and is a powerful tool that allows organizations to map and manage the indoor spaces. It provides, you know, organizations with a single map that shows all the indoor spaces, assets including their equipments, furniture and other physical objects. And this map can then be plugged or integrated with an enterprise asset management asset management and EMS system that enables organizations to manage their physical assets. The maintenance, time frames, repairs and other critical tasks. Our team here, I’ve been involved in developing indoor GIS applications through our partners the past few years, so we have the head start. And another interesting case that we are currently pursuing or exploring is how to integrate indoor GIS bring indoor GIS into say in one of our hospital here in Kerala now. Now, BIM is nothing but a 3D depiction of the physical and functional characteristics of the building assets. This is an area that we intend to focus more, moving ahead as an extension to our existing GIS data conversion service. This is a very hot topic especially for our Middle East partners and all. The geospatial digital twin goes further than the 3D model when you add the dimension of the time there. Like the systems, they mirror. The digital twin also evolved. See by combining the information regarding the past and the present digital twin can be used to query what happened when and even what’s likely to happen based on the past patterns. The potential of digital twins in the GIS world is enormous, and here also we are working on couple of very interesting projects in the utility domain.

GKV: Just to add one more point to what Meharaj said, you GIS such a technology that gets wedded to any technology very seamlessly, be it digital Twin, AI or IoT. We have already done, you know, quite a few projects in IoT space. AR,VR is another area where you know GIS plays a very important role and we have done quite a few projects in those technologies also. We could see all those technologies in getting displayed across the Conference.

Nisha: Awesome. It’s very clear that Nest digital is at the forefront of some incredible advancements in GIS, and it’s very impressive to see how Nest Digital’s GIS capabilities align with the latest developments in the GIS industry. Now let’s talk about the conference sessions. Whether any particular workshops or talks that stood out for you.

GKV: There have been several sessions, probably running into thousands. It was difficult to pick and choose, but we chose which are of interest to us and which in which we have the capability. So I chose a couple of them and Meharaj chose a few. In the interest of time, I would talk about only a couple of sessions that I attended. One is the utility network migration session. In this session, we were taken through the exciting functionalities that are available in the newly built UN framework like advanced tracing, 3D scenes and network diagrams. If anyone had doubts about this migration from geometric network to UN, whether it is what the time and effort and money. They got an answer, yes it is the way to go. So that created a core factor, the second one was about data analysis in climate resilience. I have a personal interest in this because I worked on a vulnerability and risk assessment project during my early part of the career. This was pertaining to disaster management, specifically Cyclone, 2 decades ago. During that time, you know the data availability was very poor and the quality of the data was not that great. You had only coarser data, not the finer data which is located for any such critical analysis. In this particular session, the presenters explained how climate change, the vulnerability assessment tools that they have built in RGS platform and how useful they are in helping the communities prioritize their climate resiliency efforts in  respect of storm surge and sea level. So I could immediately connect to the work that I did 20 years ago and excited to see how technology has evolved along with the availability of finer quality data, excellent quality data which were, as I said earlier, which were prohibitive. This advancement in technology and data availability has definitely made life easier. For everyone be it the government or the people, or rather everyone in the ecosphere. This is a classic example of  ESRI’s core objective balancing human made systems with natural world.

Meharaj: The big focus for me was also, you know, learning about the experiences with the utility network. So myself and GKV, both you know, attended those. And then for me, was the AI powered geospatial feature extraction, which provides organizations with rapid insights into their assets and existing infrastructure. Now we do a lot of feature extraction project in the Lidar space here and hence this is very import and for us. Then finally And then finally, now there was AI powered tools for productivity enhancement. Another buzz thing for us to have to get more work done faster and thereby able to take up more projects.

Nisha: Great. Thank you, GKV and Meharaj, for sharing your valuable insights and experiences from the ESRI User Conference 2023. It sounds like it was a fantastic event with lots of innovative developments in the GIS field.

GKV: Yes, Nisha, it was definitely a very breath-taking experience for us. This was the first time that I attended such a big conference. I have attended quite a few conferences in India. I mean Esri, but at the global level, this was the first one, so it was definitely a mind boggling experience, I would say and thank you once again for inviting us and it was a pleasure discussing our experience with you.

Meharaj: Absolutely. It was a great opportunity to be part of this podcast and share our thoughts. Thank you, Nisha.

Nisha: Great. Thank you GKV and Meharaj. And, thank you to our listeners for tuning in to Esri User Conference 2023 Recap with G.K Viswanathan & Meharaj. We hope you found this discussion as informative and inspiring as we did. Stay tuned for more exciting episodes ahead!

Thank you for tuning in to the Nest Digital Podcast!

We’ll see you next time for another captivating episode!

Until then, keep innovating, keep learning, and remember that the possibilities are limitless.





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