2006 January 12


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Editor's Introduction

I open this week's issue with the announcement that ORBIMAGE has bought Space Imaging and renamed the new combination GeoEye. More on this big story next week. Also in this issue, I bring you two interviews: one with Autodesk's Sunit Lohtia, about his company's role in the development of LBS, the other one with RMSI's CEO, Ajay Lavakare, on his company's place in the global geospatial marketplace. Plus one answer to my question, last week, about GIS and mining and my usual roundup of news from press releases.

— Matteo

Orbimage + Space Imaging = GeoEye

This morning, ORBIMAGE Holdings Inc., headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, announced that it has finalized the acquisition of substantially all of Denver-based Space Imaging's assets. The combined company, which will now do business under the brand name GeoEye, is the world's largest commercial satellite imagery company with a pro forma combined revenue for 2005 of approximately $160 million. According to a company press release, the purchase price was approximately $58.5 million less amounts which were paid by Space Imaging on its existing debt as well as certain other adjustments.

Matthew O'Connell, previously the president and chief executive officer of ORBIMAGE, will now serve in the same capacities for GeoEye. The company, in addition to its large staff, has national and international resellers, more than a dozen regional affiliates around the globe, the world's largest commercial archive of satellite imagery, and large value-added geospatial imagery processing capabilities. According to Lt. Gen. (Ret.) James Abrahamson, GeoEye's chairman, "Governments can be assured, especially the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community, that the commercial satellite imaging industry is here to stay."

GeoEye operates a constellation of three remote-sensing satellites — including OrbView-3, IKONOS, and OrbView-2. OrbView-3, the most recent commercial satellite on orbit, offers 1-meter panchromatic (black and white) and 4-meter multispectral (color) digital imagery, which can be down-linked to customer ground stations around the world. IKONOS, the world's first commercial high-resolution satellite, produces 1-meter panchromatic and 4-meter multispectral imagery that can be combined to create a 1-meter color image. OrbView-2 offers 1.1-kilometer resolution with a wide 2,800 kilometer swath taking multispectral imagery of the entire Earth every day.

Additionally, GeoEye plans to launch a satellite in early 2007 to service a contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). According to the company, it will have an unprecedented ground resolution of 0.41-meters, and will be the most advanced sub-half-meter commercial imaging satellite in the world. It will collect both panchromatic and multispectral imagery simultaneously and will be able to down-link imagery to ground stations around the world.

Interview with Autodesk's Sunit Lohtia on LBS

This week I discussed the progress of location-based services (LBS) with Sunit Lohtia, Chief Technology Officer for Autodesk Location Services. (Last March I had interviewed Joe Astroth, now Executive Vice President of Autodesk Location Services.)

Autodesk's Location Services division, an offshoot of the company's GIS division, provides wireless carriers with authentication and privacy services that allow end-users to control who, when, and under what circumstances may have access to their location information. "That permission is very extensive," Lohtia told me, and includes such variables as time of day, day of the week, who wants to know, etc. "We didn't see any players out there offering a privacy framework integrated with a GIS-based platform for wireless carriers" — so Autodesk saw an opportunity and developed such a platform.

When an LBS-enabled application tries to locate an end-user, Autodesk ensures that the request is legitimate and meets all of the end-user's criteria. In the past, Lohtia explains, LBS was mainly about finding maps, locations, and directions. His company, he says, it now taking LBS to the next step: location-enhanced services. It may seem like a subtle distinction... Lohtia clarifies it with an example: online dating and chat services may use use ZIP codes to determine the distance between their members. However, members often travel outside of their home ZIP codes. Therefore, a chat service works better if it can locate its members in real time. This also applies to "all kinds of other data services, such as mobile games and mobile search that can generate incremental revenue for wireless carriers as well as content service providers," Lohtia says. Therefore, they would all benefit by building location into their services.

Whose street data does Autodesk use? "In the United States the two principal data providers are TeleAtlas and Navteq. We work with both." Some of Autodesk's clients have a preference as to which data provider to use, depending on considerations of data quality and cost. Either way, Autodesk converts the data into its own proprietary format. This makes its platform vendor- independent and allows users to easily switch data provider.

How does Autodesk's authentication process work? There are two steps. First, it verifies that the application that is requesting the end-user's location is authentic — and not, say, just a hacker on the street. Second, it verifies that the request meets the end user's criteria for authorization. The end-user can set up the privacy authorization either from a headset or through an Autodesk website. The authorization process can allow all requests that meet certain criteria, deny all requests, or ask the user for permission each time it receives a location query. Only in the last case would the end-user be notified and asked to make a choice. In short, according to Lohtia, the process is very flexible.

Because location privacy is the greatest concern for users of LBS, I pressed Lohtia further on this issue. Armed with a court order, would a law enforcement agency be able to use the system to track a subscriber to a location-enhanced service? It depends, he told me, on how often a subscriber uses the service. He assured me that Autodesk's system does not track users minute-by-minute and store that data, if for no other reason than the fact that the amount of data would be enormous, even by the standards of large telecoms. However, he admitted, the system can track the user in real time if a law enforcement agency requires the wireless carrier to do so. In general, the paltform does cache location information for a brief period of time, so that it is available to answer multiple queries that might come in from different applications during that time. Furthermore, it keeps a log of all "transactions" — meaning, in this context, the location queries.

Why is LBS — which has been discussed for years — finally taking off now? In the past, according to Lohtia, there were two inhibiting factors. First, there wasn't a privacy and authentication framework: carriers were skeptical and worried about a backlash if privacy was not safeguarded. Before launching LBS they wanted a privacy framework in place. Second, handheld devices were not sufficiently powerful. GPS receivers had a big impact on battery life. In the last one and a half to two years hand-held devices "have improved ten times" compared to what they were five years ago.

With more powerful handheld devices and more LBS available, adoption is rapidly expanding. "People now are starting to use more data services and the usage is growing at a very fast rate. People who were not even aware of these services are now using data services on small devices."

What are the remaining obstacles to the full flourishing of LBS? "There are not as many technical challenges as there are adoption issues." Right now GSM networks are still not fully on board with A-GPS. However, "that is going to happen in the next 12-13 months" and "having a unified technology across all carriers and networks" will give LBS a huge boost.

What's the impact of Google Earth on LBS? "One thing that both Google and Yahoo have done is to greatly increase public awareness — of GPS, of navigation systems, and of location services. They have done us a great favor."

Interview with RMSI's CEO, Ajay Lavakare

This week I had a long conversation with Ajay Lavakare, CEO of RMSI, a global IT services company that provides geospatial solutions and application software services. Lavakare co-founded the company in Silicon Valley in 1992 together with fellow alumni from Stanford University. RMSI now employs more than 950 software, data, and technology specialists and is owned by one of the UK's largest listed companies, the Daily Mail and General Trust plc.

ML: As we start 2006, what is your business outlook?
AL: Obviously, I feel that the industry has had a couple of difficult years. We felt the impact a little later than traditional IT companies. We actually had our best years in 2001-2 and had a harder time in 2003 and 2004. Recovery started in late 2004. Now there is optimism across vertical markets. So, I have a very good business outlook as we enter 2006.

ML: What is your company's focus this year?
AL: This year we are looking at expanding our geographic markets to continental Europe (which is actually many different markets) and the Middle East and to diversify our markets. In terms of domains, we are trying to focus on a few vertical markets to give us a competitive advantage. We are focusing on land information, such as country-wide land registries in the European Union. In the United States, post-Katrina, insurance companies have renewed their interest in using quality geospatial data for underwriting decisions. Working closely with RMS, we help them in their underwriting decisions. We are also working more with utilities, which are increasing their spending on geospatial technologies.

ML: What do you see as your core competencies?
AL: We have three axes. We have a horizontal set of competencies: remote sensing and updating geospatial databases. We are developing new geographic markets, in continental Europe and the Middle East. And we are expanding in vertical markets, increasing our expertise in land information systems. Utilities is a new market for us, though it is a traditional market for the geospatial industry. As a business, we have three core competencies: First, our ability to process disparate geographic data sets and create new ones from data sources (an example of this would be our work with TeleAtlas). Second, our ability to create significant process automation in large data processing projects. We use automation whenever possible — and then use our labor arbitrage advantage whenever automation is not feasible. Third, our ability to rapidly Web-enable business solutions that have a geographic component. We have developed a framework of components that allow us to rapidly create Web-based solutions for our clients.
     Our supporting competencies are our ability to partner and the world-class application software development capabilities that we have — not just in the area of GIS, but also with respect to Oracle, .net, and Java. These are becoming increasingly important as we are seeing the mainstreaming of geospatial technology into IT.

ML: What are your competitive advantages?
AL: The first one is our location: our access to a large pool of highly qualified personnel allows us to ramp up quickly. That is clearly a competitive advantage, but it is not unique to RMSI, it applies to all India-based companies. The second one is unique to our company: our expertise in data, modeling, and software. Examples are flood models, which are pretty highly GIS data-intensive but also require engineering and modeling expertise. We can build sophisticated risk assessment models. The third is our cost advantage, particularly for labor-intensive work — for example, manual flood determination work: companies try to automate the geo-coding of properties with respect to FEMA flood maps; when you can't geo-code automatically, you try and find the properties on a map manually, and you need to call local government agencies if you can't find the property on the map. All this can be done very effectively out of India. Any company in lower cost areas such as India has this advantage.

ML: What kind of competition do you face around the world?
AL: The competition is different in different geographies. Chinese companies have an advantage with Japan, because they use the same Kanji characters and because of their cultural proximity. Japanese companies either work with Chinese ones or set up their own near-shore companies. In Europe, Eastern European countries have similar advantages with regards to Western European countries: they have similar cultures and languages and geographic proximity. The nature of the competition is quite different in each region. Chinese companies have an advantage when it comes to labor-intensive projects, especially ones that need to scale up quickly (e.g. large photogrammetry projects). Eastern European companies are strong in the area of application development. They have smarts. The competition there is often from "boutique" firms that are pretty innovative. The hallmark of Indian companies is skill, rigor, and quality. They are very quality-oriented. Our company is ISO 9001 certified and our software group is assessed at CMM Level 3. We follow standard quality procedures in all the work that we do. Few countries can compete with India: they don't have the human capital that India has. Indian companies are also building their own off-shore development centers, for example in China. I definitely see the cost advantage reducing over time, though not in a couple of years.

ML: How do you help your clients generate revenues?
AL: We partner with our clients to generate revenues via third parties, especially in the United States, the UK, and Japan. We've converted from being a cost center to being a revenue generator for our clients. For example, in the UK we work with Landmark Information Group. A lot of the products that they license out are geographic. First we helped them develop some of their data products; now we work together with Landmark Solutions on several large government projects, such as a digital land registry for Ireland, a project with the Welsh Agriculture Department, and one with Sport England (their mission is to promote sport among residents in England). In Japan we work with OYO Corporation, a large civil engineering consulting firm; they were sub-contracting a lot of their GIS work to us and now we are working as partners.

ML: Last year Bill Gates warned companies not to outsource their core business functions and staff. He cautioned that companies should beware of outsourcing for cost savings alone and should keep their key engineering and intellectual property resources at home. "If you rely too much on people in other companies and countries... you are outsourcing your brains, where you are making all the innovation," he said. Are any U.S. or European companies "outsourcing their brains" to RMSI? Should they?
AL: U.S. companies should be definitely looking to outsource brains as long as they are not outsourcing their core competencies. For example, take RMS: its core competency is modeling natural hazards. Would they ever entirely outsource modeling? No. But they do outsource all their GIS support. We might also have a team of modelers that help them validate their data and calibrate their models when they are resource-challenged. We might also look at building dedicated teams for a trusted partner.

ML: When your company is mapping another country — for example, providing content for TeleAtlas' Dynamap project — how do you check your work against the realities on the ground? Do you send your own staff or do you rely on your partners?
AL: In most cases we would rely on partners or clients for ground truthing. Sending our own staff can be dangerous, because of national security. If you had Indians walking around Washington, D.C., taking measurements with GPS receivers, or Americans doing the same in New Delhi, they would probably be stopped by security forces. Sometimes, however, we need to send our own people. For example, we were helping a Thai telecom network expand in Bangkok. Sitting here in India it was hard for us to distinguish dense urban areas from sparse urban areas, just by looking at satellite imagery. So we started the project, then we visited Bangkok and updated the data based on our field knowledge. When we do crop identification we sometimes send out teams to do field validation, then we retrain the system.

ML: Can companies and local and national governments in developing countries afford your company's services?
AL: If we are working in other developing countries it is usually with multilateral funding, for example from the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, or the Asian Development Bank. In the private sector, our clients tend to be multinational corporations. For example, in Cambodia we work with Ericsson. It is a double-edged sword: often with multilateral funding we are required to work with local partners; for example, in Malaysia we had to train up a local firm and we were more like the project consultant. The flip side is that we don't want to create our own competition... Should Indian IT companies train Chinese companies in systematic software development or help them get CMM certification? Right now nobody is against it, but the day that the threat of competition becomes more real there here will be a re-think.

ML: What do you see as the impact on your company of Google Earth and of other mass-market, free- or near-free geospatial services? Do you feel any trickle-down effects?
AL: Google Earth has definitely produced a much greater awareness of geospatial technology among the public. We are a business-to-business company, so we are not directly affected. But there will be an impact: some of our customers play with these technologies at home, and then they say, "Now, how can I apply this at our work place? Let's call RMSI!"

ML: Conversely, some will conclude that if they can get 80 percent of what they need for free that's good enough...
AL: I agree with you, companies will have to work harder to justify client spending money on them. It's a great challenge to have. I'm not loosing any sleep over it. If our value can so easily be eroded by freeware, then we as a firm don't have a right to exist.

Letter to the editor

Last week I asked two experts about the use of GIS in mapping mines and received two seemingly opposite answers. Reader Jim Hall, a mining engineer and Project Manager for Smart Data Strategies, Inc., in Franklin, Tennessee, sent me his thoughts on the subject.

Just my two cents on the reason for the two answers to your question. It may have more to do with the nature of the deposits mined.
     Coal is mined in seams that are typically thin and flat, but very extensive. The miners in the Eastern United States even have a letter naming system for them as they cover vast areas in the coal mining states of Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. These flat layers run for miles and the miners are not much concerned with the area above or below the seam they are working, hence the flat CAD mapping.
     For the metal miners in the Western United States the ore which they are after is often above or below them. It is almost never predictable, and so complex models are developed to make the best engineering decisions, hence the GIS mapping.

News Briefs

Please note: I have culled the following news items from press releases and have not independently verified them.


The City of Lynchburg, Virginia, has selected Timmons Group, a geospatial and engineering services company, to perform an evaluation of the use of GIS and other geospatial technologies across all relevant departments. Forty-five municipal staff, from nineteen departments and divisions, are collaborating with Timmons Group in order to document the current status of their GIS.
     The city envisions utilizing GIS technology for comprehensive critical services to its citizenry, including emergency response; property assessment, location and management of critical infrastructure; tracking of land use and zoning information; and planning of new development, streets, buildings, and services. Existing departmental GIS technologies will be reviewed, and a current geospatial data catalog will be developed. The final project report will highlight recommendations for improved citizen access to the City's GIS information, standardization of GIS technologies, opportunities to utilize enterprise data sources to support multiple departments' GIS technology needs, and reduction of redundant data maintenance across the government.

Intermap Technologies Corp. has partnered with 3DVU Ltd, a developer of three-dimensional visualization technology, to jointly market their products and services, with a specific focus on the automotive, personal navigation, and Internet mapping markets.

The New York State Department of Transportation has contracted with Leica Geosystems to supply GPS reference stations and networking software under a statewide plan to create a network of permanently installed Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS).
     Leica Geosystems will supply 36 GRX1200 GPS reference stations, along with Spider GPS network control software, which will be incorporated into an integrated network of base stations deployed at strategic locations across the state, providing high-accuracy RTK data for a wide range of surveying and construction applications. Earlier this year, Leica Geosystems also supplied 84 System 1200 dual-frequency GPS surveying instruments and GeoOffice post-processing software to the New York DOT.
     The GRX1200 incorporates Leica Geosystems' SmartTrack GPS measurement engine, which acquires all visible satellites within seconds, provides clean high-accuracy code and phase measurements with excellent signal-to-noise ratios, provides reliable tracking to low elevations, suppresses multi-path, and resists jamming. The units are designed to operate around the clock, unattended, in remote, hostile environments. They are built with a rugged magnesium housing and meet MIL-STD-810F specifications.
     The Spider GPS software is designed to fulfill all requirements for the management, operation, and continuous monitoring of a network of GPS reference stations. It handles all aspects of configuration and control for local and unattended remote GPS sensors, periodic data downloads from sensors, data archiving and distribution, system monitoring, and data logging. Incorporated in the new Spider GPS software release is the SpiderNet module, which provides enhanced real-time network and analysis and error modeling over all reference stations, utilizing the new RTCM V3.0 network correction message standard based on the Master-Auxiliary Concept (MAC).

The Essex, Connecticut Planning, Zoning, and Health Departments have implemented a GIS Online Property Viewer for use by Town staff and the general public. Applied Geographics, Inc. (AppGeo), of Manchester, Connecticut, worked with Town Hall staff to design and build the site.
     The system is oriented towards parcel mapping and enables the overlay of a wide variety of data layers, including zoning, wetlands, FEMA floodplains, village boundaries, and aerial photography. The system presents basic property information and includes an automated abutter's identification function. The application produces letter-size maps that are geared to the needs of the general public for small format printing. The website features a direct link to the Town's Vision Appraisal Assessor's Online Database. AppGeo is hosting the Online Property Viewer Web pages on behalf of the Town.

The Gas Company, Hawaii, has selected Intergraph 's G/Technology to manage its geofacilities data network, including full gas infrastructure data integration at all levels of systems, applications, and views. G/Technology's gas-specific solutionware will seamlessly manage the utility's planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance functions, simplifying projects and processes.
     The contract includes migrating existing gas network data from the company's legacy proprietary commercial GIS into a G/Technology-based geofacilities management system. G/Technology's commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) architecture mitigates implementation risk, while its open architecture will facilitate enterprise data access by facility designers, Web users, and employees involved in compliance, cathodic protection, and marketing.

EarthData International mobilized to Little Rock, Arkansas, last week to kick off its recent $1.3 million contract award with the Arkansas Geographic Information Office (AGIO) for updated orthophoto mapping. Using multiple digital cameras, EarthData will acquire aerial imagery over the entire state — approximately 52,100 square miles — in a single flying season. Governor Mike Huckabee authorized the program funding and is a longtime champion for the development of GIS technology and data in Arkansas.
     The project marks the first all-digital statewide orthophoto mapping program in Arkansas history and involves simultaneous collection of natural color and color-infrared imagery for generation of 1-meter pixel resolution orthophotos and a 5-meter grid digital elevation model. All products will be delivered to AGIO within one year, faster than previous programs completed using conventional film photography.
     Five counties have also exercised an option to upgrade to 1-foot pixel resolution orthophotos over selected areas through the statewide program. Totaling an additional 2,500 square miles, the higher resolution products will serve a variety of end users within these counties and cities, from property appraisers to city engineers to law enforcement personnel. Once completed, project data will be made available to the general public through GeoStor, the state's popular online GIS data clearinghouse.

York County, Pennsylvania, has renewed its license agreement for software and updated aerial imagery of the county with Pictometry International Corp., a provider of digital, aerial oblique imagery, and measuring software. The county, which encompasses over 900 square miles and has an estimated population of over 400,000 residents (2004 Census), is experiencing rapid growth.
     Pictometry's software enables users to access up to 12 different oblique views of any property, building, highway, or other feature in an area. The software also enables users to obtain measurements such as distance, height, elevation, and area directly from the oblique imaging process as well as insert GIS content and other data.
     Using ESRI's suite of products — including ArcInfo, ArcIMS, ArcView, and ArcSDE — York County GIS professionals can view Pictometry oblique images launched from their ESRI products. This also enables parcel data such as property lines, centroids, and other GIS data to be viewed in the Pictometry images. Pictometry's georeferenced imagery used with ESRI data enables multiple agencies to benefit from the combined solution. For real property applications, this means verifying addresses and property data with the ability to view all the way around land and structural features of a given property. This has saved county agencies significant time and financial resources since agencies are now able to preview land and property details without having to drive out to pre-inspect properties. For the county's public safety and first responder agencies, the visual data provides onsite tactical assistance and preplanning.

GeoAnalytics, Inc., a provider of geographic and land information systems (GIS/LIS) technology and management consulting, has completed a Web development project for Missouri City, Texas.
     The project involved enhancing the City's existing Intranet mapping application and developing it into a robust Internet Web map. Development included predictive text recognition, enhanced business and subdivision look-up, a crime mapping component, and support to empower City staff. The City's GIS Coordinator, Jeff Mayhew, was able to further the design of the Web map using GeoAnalytics sample code and expand functionality that exceeds City requirements.


RSI, a wholly owned subsidiary of ITT Industries, has released ENVI RX Anomaly Detection Tool, a free plug-in for ENVI 4.1 and 4.2, that helps ENVI users identify anomalies in geospatial images. This new tool locates areas in an image that are different from the overall image background, allowing analysts to focus on those areas that are most likely to contain valuable information.
     The tool uses the RXD anomaly detection algorithm to extract anomalous features from spectral images. Users need only select the input file and the tool then highlights the pixels that are different from the general image background. No expert knowledge of image processing is required to process images and create accurate and unambiguous results. Following the detection of anomalies, other tools, such as the ENVI Spectral Analyst, can be used to address the identification of the anomalous features.
     In defense and intelligence scenarios, applications for anomaly detection include locating targets such as military vehicles and identifying soil disturbances that might indicate land mines or recent troop movements. Other applications for anomaly detection include identifying locations of crop stress for precision agriculture applications, locating areas of infected trees for forestry applications, and finding rare minerals for geology applications.

Matrox Graphics Inc. has introduced Parhelia Precision SDT, the world's first single-card solution for digital stereoscopic (stereo-3D) monitors like the Planar SD1710. Such displays have two polarized LCD flat panels mounted one over the other and a special glass mounted between them. A realistic 3D view can be obtained when looking at the glass though correspondingly polarized glasses.
     Other graphics cards for such displays require a separate add-in card to mirror the image for the top panel. Eliminating the need for this extra card reduces costs and improves reliability. This product includes hardware-based OpenGL (2D/3D) acceleration with quad-buffered stereoscopic support. For the multi-display support required with many stereoscopic workstations, Parhelia Precision SDT has been certified to work together with other Parhelia-series graphics cards.

MWH Soft, a provider of environmental and water resources applications software, has announced the final phase of development of InfoWater UDF, a geocentric solution for unidirectional flushing of drinking water distribution systems. InfoWater UDF enables users to manage the systematic flushing of water distribution systems to remove stagnant water along with mineral and sediment deposits that have accumulated over time — restoring hydraulic capacity. Unidirectional flushing (UDF) is the most effective and efficient way to clean water mains and maintain water quality and system capacity. It involves the closure of valves and opening of hydrants to create a one-way flow in the water mains that removes built-up sediment.
     Built atop ArcGIS, InfoWater UDF integrates water network modeling with ESRI GIS technology. The application capitalizes on the intelligence and versatility of the GIS geodatabase architecture to help water utilities develop flushing sequences for each flushing zone, quickly identify which fire hydrants and water main valves should be manipulated for proper cleaning while avoiding excessive pressure drops, and maintaining the desired level of hydraulic performance in the distribution system. The program also computes the minimum flushing time, the total flushing volume and pipe length, the flushing velocity of every pipe in the sequence, and the available flow at the minimum residual pressure. The hydraulic impact of each flushing sequence is also checked to ensure that the desired minimum pressure is maintained throughout the system.
     The new InfoWater UDF is expected to begin shipping worldwide in February 2006.


Sanborn, a geospatial solutions company, has named Jill Caporal Jones as Vice President, Government Affairs. She will develop strategy to support federal business for the company, and will be responsible for executing that strategy in Washington, D.C. In her new position, Jones will develop Sanborn positions on U.S. domestic issues and determine where the company will provide early leadership in shaping public policy. She will also manage Sanborn's interactions with Congress and key federal agencies, geospatial and public policy associations, and political activities.
     Jones joins Sanborn having most recently served as a policy advisor and legislative affairs officer for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Her legislative portfolio included advocacy for key future reconnaissance and remote sensing systems. Jones is also credited with co-authoring a report on NGA Management of International Relationships for the agency's Deputy Director. Prior to joining NGA, Jones was director of government affairs with Space Imaging, LLC. She previously served as special assistant for nonproliferation to the Under Secretary of State and as a policy advisor in the Nonproliferation and Political-Military Affairs Bureaus of the U.S. Department of State. She holds an international studies B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.A. degree from Woodrow Wilson School of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia.


The Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA) will present its 29th Annual Conference "No Barriers: Connected. Responsive. Prepared." at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, April 23-26. The conference will focus on GIS and other geospatial technologies as they relate to government agencies, telecommunication organizations, pipeline companies, and electric, water, and gas utilities.
     New in 2006, the conference will feature a job fair and a poster session. The goal of the job fair is to place GIS professionals of all levels with reputable organizations. The fair is free to job seekers who are registered for the conference. The poster session will allow geospatial professionals to exhibit their projects, and all full-conference attendees can vote for a "Best in Show" winner.
     Exhibitors and presenters will cover topics like mobile and wireless technologies, network operations management, leveraging the Web, e-business, critical infrastructure protection, homeland security, interoperability, and much more. Attendees can choose from nine half-day seminars that concentrate on key issues critical to successful geospatial project planning and implementation.
     The technical program will feature more than 100 speakers, who will present conference papers on an expanded variety of geospatial topics to cover the complete spectrum of the industry. Additionally, attendees can browse a 100,000-square-foot product and services exhibition show floor, which will showcase the latest offerings in geospatial solutions.

Applications are now being accepted for a course entitled "Species Distribution Modeling Methods for Conservation Biologists." Models that predict species' potential distributions by combining observed occurrence records with digital data layers of environmental variables have great potential for application across a range of ecological analyses. The course will focus on the theoretical and practical aspects of this approach (sometimes termed 'ecological niche' or 'bioclimate envelope' modeling) and is designed for students, researchers, and practitioners of conservation biology. Using a mixture of lectures, hands-on computer lab applications, discussions, and case studies, course participants will learn to obtain and process data necessary for species distribution modeling; run distribution models using a variety of approaches; validate and interpret model results; and apply these techniques to a range of applications, including conservation prioritization, predicting potential impacts of climate change, and forecasting species' invasions.
     Each participant is encouraged to develop an idea for a project they would like to work on, so that lessons learned during the course can immediately be applied to an example of interest. These projects can be discussed with the course organizers in advance to ensure they are appropriate. If participants do not have their own project one will be assigned to them during the course. Applications are due by April 7 and the course will take place May 22 to 26 at the American Museum of Natural History's Southwestern Research Station in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. The Station is located at 5,400 feet in riparian habitat, surrounded by oak-juniper-pinyon pine woodlands. The local region is of considerable biogeographical interest and the Station provides an ideal retreat for the course.
     The course will be taught by Drs. Richard Pearson (American Museum of Natural History), Catherine Graham (Stony Brook University), and Steven Phillips (AT&T; Labs-Research). The course fee is $1,000 for each participant and includes room, board, and instruction in the class. Payment in full is due one month before the course begins. Unfortunately, scholarship funds to defray course expenses are not available. Participants will also need to provide their own transportation to and from the site.
     Those interested in participating in the course should send a short paragraph with the following information: name, contact details, current position (student, academia, government, etc.), brief statement on why you want to take the course, overview of prior modeling or GIS experience (if any), and a brief description of a project you would like to work on if you have one in mind. Please send applications and questions about course logistics to Diane Smith, Southwestern Research Station, P.O. Box 16553, Portal, AZ 85632.
     For information about the contents of the course please contact Richard Pearson. For further information, please also see the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Remote Sensing and GIS facility website. The website is being updated; the latest change was the addition of a Landsat feature identification key and some new interactive tools.

GeoSpatial Training & Consulting, LLC, a provider of virtual and instructor-led GIS training courses, has released its latest virtual training course, entitled "Google Maps For Your Apps!" The course teaches how to take advantage of Google Maps for websites, including how to create maps, add map controls for user interactions (such as zooming, and panning), programmatically alter the map extent, add points of interest to the map, add custom icons, geocode addresses on the fly, read addresses from a database or XML file, and display aerial photography.


Graphic Technologies, Inc. (GTI) celebrates its tenth anniversary this month. Founded in January 1996 as a FRAMME consulting firm, it has become a software developer. Over 3,000 people at dozens of companies are using one or more members of the GTViewer Product family to access and analyze their GIS data. GTViewer has grown from a viewing and redlining application to a GIS development platform. Thematic queries, network tracing and analysis, data collection, and facility inventory are just some of the tasks that GTViewer now supports.

GIS and IT departments across the United States participated in the annual Freeance Applications Awards Contest. From the numerous, Web-based GIS Freeance applications submitted, the following entries received Best Application Awards. The City of Coconut Creek, Florida was awarded "Application Linking To Greatest Number of Distinct Databases." Using Freeance's ability to link to enterprise databases, the City created a GIS Web-based application that links to seven different databases and allows end users to perform searches on water consumption, permitting, property owners, and development projects. The City of College Station, Texas won the award for "Most Innovative Application Link to a Freeance Web-Based Site." By selecting a video camera icon on a map, users can view a streaming video of a City Council meeting's discussion about a specific area of interest. This provided a useful way to geographically index videos so that citizens can easily locate issues for a particular area instead of having to dig through a lot of text records. Henrico County, Virginia won the award for "Best Internal Web-based Application." The GIS Department uses a Freeance-created Web-based application to replace a desktop application that had approximately 200 licensed users. This flagship Intranet GIS application allows for user login and bookmarking, saving redlining, saving images, and accessing up to six different print formats. The application links to the Real Estate CAMA building photos and also links to the County's FileNET product, which is a digital document-imaging retrieval system. Nevada County, California won "Best Use of Geocoding Award." Using Freeance Direct, the County created a public safety / crime application for the Sheriff's Department linked to their RMS database. Containing several specialized queries, the application allows end users to perform searches on the "live" RMS databases, which contains all of the up-to-date reported crimes and then automatically maps them on the Web mapping layers. End users can also export these data for reporting purposes. The City of Tyler, Texas was awarded "Best Application Linking to Enterprise Databases." The GIS department created a browser-based Freeance application that was deployed across City departments and allows end users to access records stored in the citywide HTE IBM DB2 database system. The application was created and deployed within a week using in-house resources and personnel for less than 10 percent of the cost of developing their own solution. The City of Murfreesboro, Tennessee was awarded "Most Numerous Applications Built Using Freeance." A one-person GIS/IT department at the City created seven different custom Web-based GIS applications over the period of several weeks. Applications include a public information kiosk, drainage complaints, a land records application, economic development, planning, and applications for the Sanitation and Engineering Departments.

The producers of December 22nd's ABC Primetime segment testing the return rate of lost items throughout the country this holiday season utilized Teydo Americas' FleetOnline's location-based services solution to track two deliberately lost items. The items — a purse left in the trunk of a rental car and a Tigger doll left in a Hollywood taxi — were equipped with a Trimble TrimTrac Locator, and the program's producers were able to track the movements of these goods via the company's FleetOnline website, which utilizes GPS technology to track the movement of people and assets anywhere on Earth.
     The site tracked the purse, which was returned five days after it was lost. The Tigger doll, however, has been bouncing all over Los Angeles and so far it hasn't been found by anyone looking to send him home. The segment is archived on ABC's website.
     While not ordinarily used to track purses and children's toys, FleetOnline's GPS location-based services solution can track anything that moves. Ideal for small and medium-sized enterprises that need to allocate and track mobile workforce and assets, FleetOnline can help businesses track and recover assets for less than $500 a year.
     The TrimTrac GPS receiver reports its status, position, speed, and direction over any of the four GSM mobile networks in North America (AT&T; Wireless, Cingular, T-Mobile, and Microcell/Rogers). FleetOnline's hosted system receives, processes, and stores the data. Based on the information in the message, the hosted system executes certain particular functions. FleetOnline's system is Web-accessible 24/7 for users, allowing for continuous operation and customer support. Users with FleetOnline accounts can securely access only their own information, which is displayed in a Web browser on a map. Account sign in and Verisign encryption keep data proprietary and safe. FleetOnline allows users to set up alerts that are delivered to the mobile phone, so in case of an emergency the owner will always be informed of any events, such as unauthorized motion, geo-fence violations, theft alerts, or low battery levels.
     Teydo owns and operates FleetOnline, MobiSPOT, TrimTrac OTA; and

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