Code Retreat

Published May 16, 2017 by Jeff Galang

Written by Patrick Scanlon

Each year GISincers from across the United States set aside their project work and get on a plane (or in a car) and travel to Unplugged, our annual company gathering. Unplugged 2017 was held just a few weeks ago in Stone Mountain, GA and featured a new and exciting event for developers: Code Retreat.

Code Retreat is an event focused on practicing the craft of software development. It was started in Ann Arbor, MI in 2009 and since then hundreds of Code Retreats have been held all over the world. We started by reviewing Conway’s Game of Life as the programming problem for the day. Then the group broke into pairs and each pair worked on coding some part of Conway’s Game of Life for 45 minutes. After the timer went off we all stopped what we were doing and discussed what approach we took and what we learned. Then we did something that surprises most people: we deleted the code we just wrote. Then we switched partners and repeated the process for another 45 minutes. Although this process is supposed to repeat for at least 4 hours (ideally Code Retreat would be a day long) we had to break early due to various logistical constraints.

Overall our code retreat was a huge success! Knowing that we were not expected to produce anything gave us the freedom to do focused practice. The importance of focused practice is well understood when learning a musical instrument; students typically spend hours practicing scales in an environment free from external expectations. Code Retreat gave us the ability to sharpen the fundamental skills involved in programming without having to worry about how the code will look or whether it works. We were able to practice such things as unit testing and functional programming principles and I think each developer learned something.

Since this was our first Code Retreat and because it was such a unique event, we didn’t get everything right the first try. We had some trouble scaling down our efforts. I think when we received the instructions to work on something for 45 minutes we all instinctively translated that into an instruction to complete the task in 45 minutes. So instead of focusing on writing a small amount of perfect code the way a piano player would focus on playing a perfect scale we dedicated our energy to banging out a larger chunk of code at breakneck speed. Next time we will focus on quality over quantity.

GISinc developers participating in Code Retreat

To learn more about Code Retreat visit their website: If you like what you see, check out the list of events and see if there is an upcoming Code Retreat in your area!

FREE Webinar – ArcGIS 10.5 – Are You There Yet?

Published May 10, 2017 by Kaitlyn Thomas

GISinc is partnering with our customers to deliver organizational roadmaps for your 10.5 upgrade. We’d like to extend an invitation to you to view our upcoming webinar “ArcGIS 10.5 – Are You There Yet?” on Tuesday, May 23rd at 11:00am CST.

We will be providing insight about the following upgrade features:

  • ArcGIS Pro
  • ArcGIS Enterprise
  • Insights for ArcGIS
  • Portal to Portal Collaboration
  • GeoEvent Server
  • GeoAnalytics Server

View the recording for this webinar at this link:


Getting ESRI’s Default Vector Basemaps into the Basemap Gallery Widget

Published April 18, 2017 by Jeff Galang

Whether you agree with putting a basemap gallery widget into your web mapping application or not, it is one of the most common tasks web developers are asked to perform. At some point in developing spatial web applications you will likely be asked to do this. Fortunately, many APIs come with some type of widget and make this task fairly trivial. The ESRI JavaScript API has had a basemap gallery widget since the early days but new vector basemaps have increased it’s relevance as of late. As such, our applications had a requirement to take all of the latest default basemaps within the JSAPI (which include some vector basemaps) and put them into the gallery.

Vector tile layers have been around for a while but are relatively new in the ESRI JSAPI. Moreover, ESRI now provides a number of vector basemaps available from ArcGIS Online for free that can be added to your application. ESRI makes it very easy to add custom basemaps to an application using either the default basemaps collection or the gallery widget itself. However, depending on where you want to put the basemap, the code is a bit different.

To add a vector tile basemap to the default collection, simply create a new basemap object with it’s collection of basemap layers and add it. Required properties for each basemap layer object include url and type.

  ], function (esriBasemaps, Map) {
    esriBasemaps.myBasemap = {
      baseMapLayers: [{
        type: "VectorTile",
        url: ""
      thumbnailUrl: "",
      title: "My Basemap"

    var map = new Map("map", {
      basemap: "myBasemap",
      center: [-111.879655861, 40.571338776], // long, lat
      zoom: 13

To add a vector tile basemap to the gallery widget, create a new Basemap object with it’s collection of BasemapLayers and add it to the gallery’s constructor. Required properties for each basemap layer object include styleUrl and type.

], function(Basemap, BasemapLayer, BasemapGallery) {
  var basemaps = [];
  var myBasemap = new Basemap({
    layers: [new BasemapLayer({
      styleUrl: "",
      type: "VectorTileLayer"
    id: "myBasemap",
    title: "My Basemap",
    thumbnailUrl: ""

  var gallery = new BasemapGallery({
    map: map,
    basemaps: basemaps
  }, "myDiv");

The main thing to notice in the above examples is that the basemap layer object is different. With the esriBasemaps collection, vector tile layers are defined with a url property and a type property set to VectorTile. With the gallery, vector tile layers are defined with a styleUrl property and a type property set to VectorTileLayer. While this difference is documented in the API it’s not highly visible and easily overlooked.

With the above inconsistencies (VectorTile versus VectorTileLayer and url versus styleUrl), simply transferring the default basemaps into the gallery requires a bit of manipulation. Here’s what we did to accomplish this using Underscore (you could just as easily use Dojo):

], function(esriBasemaps, Basemap, BasemapLayer, BasemapGallery) {
  // don't show ArcGIS basemaps since we'll add those from the default collection
  var basemapGalleryParams = {
    showArcGISBasemaps: false,
    map: map

  // create a new basemaps array containing the default basemaps
  var basemaps = [];
  _.each(_.keys(esriBasemaps), function (key) {
    var basemap = esriBasemaps[key];
    basemaps.push(new Basemap({
      id: key,
      layers: || [], function (l) {
          return l.type && l.type === "VectorTile" ? _.extend(l, {
              type: l.type + "Layer",
              styleUrl: l.url
          }) : l;
      thumbnailUrl: basemap.thumbnailUrl,
      title: basemap["title"]

  basemapGalleryParams.basemaps = basemaps;
  var gallery = new BasemapGallery(basemapGalleryParams, "myDiv");

And that’s it…you now have the entire collection of default basemaps in the widget for use in your application. Perhaps in the future, ESRI will host a group containing the default basemaps so that we can make use of the basemapsGroup option.

Esri Broomfield, CO Office GeoIoT Seminar

Published April 17, 2017 by Kaitlyn Thomas

Senior Regional Account Manager, Dawn Siegel will partner with the Broomfield, CO Esri Office to host a seminar on the GISinc GeoIoT Platform on Wednesday, May 31st. Topics to be covered are Geoevent, Esri Insights, Geoanalytics Tools, and the GISinc GeoIoT Story.

Please register in advance for this seminar at this link:

Chicago, IL Area Connect

Published April 17, 2017 by Kaitlyn Thomas

Regional Account Manager, Tyler Prahl will be in the greater Chicago area 5/8 – 5/12. Connect with him here to set up a meeting with him while he is in your area.

GISinc and Pro-West Strengthen Offering with Mentor-Protégé Agreement

Published April 11, 2017 by Kaitlyn Thomas

Geographic Information Services, Inc. (GISinc) and Pro-West & Associates, Inc. (Pro-West), have announced their agreement established through the US Small Business Administration’s Mentor-Protégé Program.

The alliance formalizes the longstanding relationship between the two firms, which share closely aligned skill sets and operational approaches. Together, mentor firm GISinc and protégé Pro-West will present to the market an extended team skilled in the full range of GIS services spanning application development, geospatial data services, and system infrastructure and integration.

For the Esri community, GISinc and Pro-West’s Mentor-Protégé Agreement represents a unique offering within the Federal Small Business Specialty Program.

“My excitement for expanding upon our existing relationship with Pro-West, through the Mentor-Protégé Program, is driven by the unique opportunity to respond to increased market demand by providing comprehensive GIS services and solutions,” said Brad Epker, Chief Revenue Officer at GISinc.

Annette Theroux, President, Pro-West, commented: “Our combined team represents some of the most innovative, widest ranging and most specialized expertise in the GIS industry. We already enjoy an excellent relationship with GISinc, and are now looking forward to working together as a formal team to extend our reach across multiple markets, with a special focus on the federal government sector, and solidify our presence in the markets where we are currently engaged with an augmented group of skilled professionals.”

GISinc, celebrating 25 years in GIS, is an employee-owned company located in Birmingham, Alabama, with offices throughout the United States. GISinc has a passion for delivering customer driven location technology solutions to federal, state and local governments, and commercial organizations. For more information, please visit, or call (205) 941-0442.

Pro-West was established 30 years ago in Walker, MN, and is 100% employee owned. It specializes in making its clients successful by providing GIS data services, analysis, application development, integration, and training for federal, state, and local government, and private industry. Simply put, we make what you do better with location technology. Visit or call (320) 207-6868.

For more information:

Lori Page, GISinc: / (205) 941-0442 ext. 224
Jenny Miller, Pro-West: jmiller(at)prowestgis(dot)com / (320) 207-6858 (direct)

Future of Lidar

Published April 4, 2017 by Jeff Galang

Written by Will Byrne

Is Lidar a dying technology? Not necessarily. It’s evolving and our industry needs to find the right applications for the technology to optimize its current uses.

Is it the best way to acquire elevation data? Not this point in time. I would argue photogrammetry is the easiest and most cost efficient way of creating elevation data sets. The word “phodar” (or “fodar”), an industry acronym for photogrammetry detection and ranging, has been popping up across the surveying and mapping field. However, this is a misrepresentation of what detection and ranging means in practice. The sensor used for photogrammetry is a camera and does not operate with regard to detection and ranging, unlike with Lidar or Radar technology. So why do people use these terms incorrectly? At a glance, Lidar and photogrammetry point clouds look the same, and not to mention Lidar sounds similar. So, it is easy to see how some might confuse the two ideas.

When determining which datasets to use, you must think of your end goal. Am I doing vegetation analysis? If so, Lidar would be optimal since the data is already classified when the LAS file is created. A manual process for classifying photogrammetric point clouds exists but it is more complicated. Software like Agisoft Photoscan and PIX4D are now adding options to classify the ground, which would allow for point filtering and surface creation.

With recent releases, such as the solid state LeddarTech Vu8 sensor, I predict Lidar will make its way into photographs. Lidar units are becoming smaller and easier to use. Where do i see this technology going? Though Lidar will not substitute the flash, it may work in the same fashion to measure the depth of the sensors surroundings. An extra band added to an RGB image would be a good way to store the elevation information. With all the advances in photogrammetry and drone technologies, we will find the right applications for Lidar. The competition between Lidar and photogrammetry can only be good for the evolution of the industry.

Here is an example of a photgrammetric point cloud created with pictures taken from a drone.

Esri Public Sector GIS Conference – West Palm Beach, FL

Published March 31, 2017 by Kaitlyn Thomas

On April 11th, Esri will kick off their first Public Sector GIS Conference in West Palm Beach, FL. Director of Sales – State & Local Government, Kevin Stewart and Regional Account Manager, Wendy Peloquin will be representing our company with a sapphire sponsorship at this year’s show in booth #114. They will be focusing on promoting our ArcGIS 10.5 implementation capabilities for existing and future clients and will be presenting with Roanoke County, VA and Hillsborough County Public Works, FL about our recent project application with them.

What’s in a Name?

Published March 28, 2017 by Kaitlyn Thomas

Written By Steve Mulberry

What’s in a name? It turns out everything. Every couple of years Esri has a major release in its ArcGIS Platform, 2017 just happened to be that year. Well, technically ArcGIS 10.5 was released in mid-December of 2016, but if you’re like me you waited until after the holidays to jump into the new release. ArcGIS 10.5 in my opinion brings the most significant integrations with desktop, online and server components to date. What does this mean to GISinc and our customers? Glad, you asked.

Let’s start with a name change. With such a significant release, Esri took the opportunity to simplify the naming of its products. This will help in coordinating components with platforms and architecting the right platform for your organization.

ArcGIS for Server now becomes ArcGIS Enterprise with its 4 components:

  • Web Adaptor
  • Portal
  • ArcGIS Server
  • Data Store

This constitutes the base deployment of now, ArcGIS Enterprise. Don’t worry, the underlying technology is the same, just enhanced with the 10.5 release. And you still have Standard or Advanced Options. Naturally then ArcGIS for Desktop now becomes ArcGIS Desktop, simple and concise.

It would hold true then, if ArcGIS for Server gets a name change to ArcGIS Enterprise, then what used to be extensions would follow suite.


GeoAnalytics Server

Extensions now become server roles and with 10.5 Esri is introducing the new ArcGIS GeoAnalytics Server role. This new server role introduces the ability to distribute the processing and analytics of large vector-data across multiple servers. Data that was once too large to process on a single ArcGIS Desktop and can now be distributed across multiple GeoAnalytics services with access directly form ArcGIS Pro, Portal and Insights for ArcGIS.

Insights for ArcGIS

ArcGIS Enterprise also comes with a series of applications that get continually improved upon such as the numerous templates and solutions like Survey123, Collector and Web AppBuilder. With 10.5, Esri is introducing a new application called Insights for ArcGIS.

I’ve been using Esri technology for 26 years now and can honestly say that Insights for ArcGIS is my top pick for innovated business intelligence reporting and analytics. Insights is a Web-based analytical workbench that integrates with Enterprise Databases; you noticed I didn’t single out Geodatabases. That’s right, Insights for ArcGIS taps into both seamlessly. It’s what I call the 3rd pillar in a platform that now fully supports IoT (Internet of Things). How? Let me explain. ArcGIS Enterprise brings real-time monitoring with GeoEvent Server, Big data analytics and processing with GeoAnalytical Server and an interactive, drag-n-drop analytical dashboard with Insights for ArcGIS; the 3 things you need to collect, aggregate and display IoT information. I look forward to the coming months as I get to implement this new technology for our customers at GISinc.


With the release of ArcGIS 10.5, Esri also took an opportunity to simplify the nomenclature on how to best categorize an organization’s use of GIS. This simplification helps us as a Platinum Business Partner assist our customers to quickly determine a deployment model that best supports the GIS activities throughout the organization. For years, we at GISinc provided our customers with in-depth analysis and system design strategies for implementing the ArcGIS Platform. This new simple nomenclature helps us and Esri better communicate a corporative deployment strategy. Here’s a list of the 5 fundamental personas of GIS users.

Personas are a high level way of grouping like users and should not be confused with actual licensing and specific roles applied to users within ArcGIS Enterprise.

Portal to Portal Collaboration

ArcGIS Enterprise 10.5 introduces true collaboration with the ability to now configure Portal to Portal collaboration within the administration settings of Portal.

This is great news for our customers especially our Federal programs. These large-scale organizations are where Portal to Portal collaboration can shine. Individual regions or departments can have their own private Portals, which can then be shared to the authoritative Portal for easy collaboration and information sharing between regions or departments. This topology of ArcGIS Enterprise allows for regional administration in a way that a single Portal does not allow, while still maintaining the spirit of sharing and promoting GIS content throughout the organization. Later in 2017, Esri will began to release other collaboration methods such as Portal to ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Online to ArcGIS Online.


And finally, licensing. Yes, there is a simple change as well with the release of ArcGIS 10.5. Esri has provided a much larger entry point into ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online through licensing levels. There are now two levels of named user licenses when paired with Online or Enterprise.

  • Level 1 or L1 is a read-only license for everyone that wants to view and interact with content and service that have been authored by someone else. By default, Esri grants 30 L1 licenses to the additional default L2 license.
  • Level 2 or L2 are named users that can create, update and share maps and related content

An administrator of Portal still has control over the roles and groups associated with a L1 and L2 user to give or constrain accessibility to an organization’s content items.


GISinc is excited for 2017 and helping our customers leverage the full potential of ArcGIS 10.5.

SCAUG 2017 Annual Conference

Published March 17, 2017 by Kaitlyn Thomas

This year we are excited to announce that we will be exhibiting for the first time at the 2017 SCAUG & LA RS/GIS Conference. Account Manager Corey Baker will be sharing the stories of three communities we’ve worked with to take a stand against the spread of vector-borne disease, zika virus. The City of New Orleans, LA, St. Tammany Parish, LA and Hillsborough County Public Works, FL have all implemented the GISinc Outbreak Surveillance and Control (OSC) Solution. Ask Corey about each community’s story; learn their challenges and solutions with Zika and find out if your community is prepared for an outbreak situation.