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The 23rd annual GIS in the Rockies took place from Sept. 15-17 at The Ranch in Loveland, Colo. The event theme, “Endless Opportunities for the Next Decade,” struck a positive tone for a lively interchange of applications, solutions and in-depth workshops. This regional gathering of users in the intermountain west of the United States drew more than 400 attendees with a heavy focus on applications rather than specific technologies.

The 23rd annual GIS in the Rockies took place from Sept. 15-17 at The Ranch in Loveland, Colo. The event theme, “Endless Opportunities for the Next Decade,” struck a positive tone for a lively interchange of applications, solutions and in-depth workshops. This regional gathering of users in the intermountain west of the United States drew more than 400 attendees with a heavy focus on applications rather than specific technologies.

An opening keynote by Peter Batty, founder and VP of Ubisense, set the tone for the meeting. Batty last addressed this group in 2002, and the changes in the interim provided the focus for his talk.

The disruption of Google for pervasive and easily accessible geospatial capability was mentioned as the biggest phenomenon. Consumer-driven innovation is also driving change, with the iPhone and video game technologies as major change agents. Another force is OpenStreetMap (OSM), where free software and free map data are driving interesting map creation efforts. The simplicity of OSM data creation efforts that make mapmaking much more accessible to the masses. Geospatial analysis is also becoming more mainstream and accessible, with free tools such as those on GeoCommons and Mapzen.

Batty mentions that many traditional GIS users don’t know about many of these developments, and that many of the new mapmakers have no idea about the full suite of GIS functionality. There is a need to bridge the two groups.

The event was preceded the evening before by the Ignite Spatial of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo. This informal free gathering, with beer donated from a local brewery, drew a festive crowd of more than 200 people, both local and from afar. The event was even live streamed online. The short five-minute presentation format of these talks packed a lot of good content into a short time span. The addition of a geography quiz and drawing kept the crowd engaged.

Overall, the quality of content, and the well-represented local community provided a nice spark for a rather lackluster conference year. The networking sessions proved to be lively, and there were good discussions and questions in the break-out sessions.

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