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2006 February 2


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Editor's Introduction

This week I continue last week's discussion of remote sensing by interviewing executives of a software company, a LiDAR company, and an aerial survey company. I also have a response from a reader to an interview in last week's issue and my usual roundup of news from press releases.

I have posted the six-month calendar of geospatial conferences and other events to our website and I plan to keep that updated, with your help. Please send me corrections and additions.

Finally, I want to remind you again about our Reader Survey. I will give you a link to it next week. Please plan on taking a few minutes to fill it out.

— Matteo

Interview with Jody Jeffrey of PCI Geomatics

Continuing last week's focus on remote sensing, this week I spoke with Jody Jeffrey, Marketing Manager for PCI Geomatics. The company has been developing image-centric software and geospatial solutions for nearly 25 years, specializing in the areas of remote sensing, photogrammetry, and GIS. According to Jeffrey, the four words that best describe the company are "automation, extensibility, integration, and scalability," and its principal clients are those who need to "view, process, archive, and disseminate geospatial data." The company provides those capabilities with a suite of tools, from "desktop to advanced automation solutions."
     I asked Jeffrey how his company relates to providers of aerial and satellite images. "We are very experienced in both data types," he told me. "Our software and solutions work with all types of geospatial data" — including aerial photos, digital orthophotos, satellite oblique imagery, and satellite digital orthophotos.
     What are the roles of satellite and aerial imagery? "Satellite imagery presents new and exciting opportunities for the geospatial industry. There will always be a place for aerial imagery; however, there is an increasing demand for change-detection and feature extraction in the marketplace, both of which are best achieved using satellite imagery." Using aerial photography to update areas of change can be expensive and time consuming, he explains, because it involves a series of steps, including detailed flight planning and flight map generation, surveying control points, scanning and storing. Because satellites can cover vastly larger areas than planes in a given period of time, and can acquire data in panchromatic, color, or color infrared concurrently on a scheduled basis, they are extremely useful for environmental change detection, flood hazard mapping, and disaster response.
     While Jeffrey acknowledges that there continues to be demand for the higher resolution that aerial imaging provides, he points out that many applications do not necessarily require sub-meter resolution due to the enhanced processing techniques and algorithms made available by software such as his company's. "Imagery has come a long way, so too has the software required to analyze it," he told me. If demand for satellite imagery continues to grow, why are satellite companies still struggling? "As more and more satellites are launched," Jeffrey explains, "competition grows, prices drop, and so do profit margins."
     What has been the impact of Google Earth's popularity on the demand for satellite and aerial imagery? "We firmly believe that any mechanism which emphasizes the advantages of geospatial imagery, and helps to grow awareness of our industry is a positive thing — Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth have done just that," says Jeffrey. This mass exposure, he explains, drives demand, as more buyers understand the importance and potential applications of the imagery and begin to understand the capabilities of geospatial solutions providers like PCI Geomatics. However, he concludes, "at the end of the day, accuracy has its place," as does metadata, so most professional users still require professional products.
     From his perch, what other trends does he see in the industry? "We are excited about some of the new opportunities provided by Oracle, Microsoft, Google, etc. As more data becomes available and less expensive to acquire, there are going to be challenges with regards to processing, storing, and accessing this data - that's where PCI Geomatics' solutions come into play." What will be the next big development in the industry? "Largely, enterprise integration and adoption," Jeffrey says, sounding confident. "As Google, Microsoft, and others demonstrate some of the capabilities made possible by geospatial data," he argues, "more non-traditional users will evolve and will begin to use and store this data inside of the enterprise. This is why partnering with Oracle has made sense for us. PCI Geomatics built the first GeoRaster loader for Oracle 10g not too long ago; our focus now rests on building complete, robust geospatial applications that truly empower the enterprise."

Interview with Art Silver of LiDAR Services International

LiDAR Services International Inc. (LSI) is a Canadian-based LiDAR (light detection and ranging) survey provider based in Calgary, Alberta. The company's core employees pioneered LiDAR data collection services in the mid-1980s, well before the technology became as popular as it is today. LSI manufactures its own helicopter and fixed wing-mounted LiDAR system, called HELIX, which integrates four main technologies: scanning laser, GPS, IMU (inertial measurement unit), and digital imagery sensors.
     A few days ago I spoke with LSI's Vice President for Sales & Marketing, Art Silver, about the company and its place in the geospatial industry. While some industries, such as electrical utilities, have been using LiDAR for years, he told me, others are just now discovering it. "The electrical utility industry is clearly our biggest industrial sector and year after year we are seeing a continued growth for LiDAR services in that industry." LSI has a strategic alliance with Manitoba Hydro, through their Worldwide Integrated Rating Enhancement (W.I.R.E.) Services combined business initiative, which provides transmission line thermal rating and re-rating services for the utility industry. When flying down a transmission line corridor, laser hits are obtained from the wires, towers, ground, buildings, trees, and vegetation. Basically any Earth surface feature below the survey helicopter is detected in the LiDAR data. Combing this data with meteorological and load data collected at the time of LiDAR data capture will produce a very accurate engineering model or "as built" model of the transmission line corridor. From this data the actual maximum thermal operating temperature of the line can be determined based on wire clearance above the safety zone and the clearance of wires to trees and vegetation. A re-rating analysis can then be done to identify spans that have problems and to determine what can be done to correct and thereby increase the thermal rating on the entire line. "It's all about providing utilities with engineering quality data to make informed decisions," said Silver, "this technology has really changed how electrical utilities now look at their infrastructure."
     Since 2002, W.I.R.E. Services / LSI have flown more than 15,000 linear kilometers of existing transmission lines for clients in Canada and the United States. In addition to rating and re-rating projects, W.I.R.E. Services promotes LiDAR data collection for new transmission line route surveys providing accurate bare earth digital terrain models (DTMs) that utility engineers can use for actual tower placement and line design. "In 2005, we completed the first ever U.S.-Canada cross-border LiDAR survey for a new transmission line," said Silver, "flying from Great Falls Montana to Lethbridge Alberta." "Through W.I.R.E. Services," Silver says, "LSI will continue to supply our high-quality LiDAR data collection services to the utility industry and we are pleased that in September of 2005 Manitoba Hydro and LSI signed a five year LiDAR services contract extension." Besides working in the utility industry, LSI has performed many projects in other industry sectors, such as oil and gas, mining, highways, and forestry.
     According to Silver, another industrial sector that has taken a big interest in LiDAR is mining. "We completed a number of mining-related projects from open pit surveys, to new mine site and processing plants, to slurry pipeline routes, to flying over tailings areas for volume determination, and even surface deformation studies using LiDAR." "LSI was awarded a very interesting project in 2005 in Madagascar for a new nickel mine," said Silver. "We flew the new mine site in the highland region of the country and the new processing plant site on the coast, plus a slurry pipeline corridor one kilometer wide and more than 200 kilometers long. The LiDAR bare earth digital terrain models and the high resolution imagery we collected will be used to plan all aspects of the construction of this new mine."
     Silver also mentions that in the province of Alberta oil and gas companies have been using LiDAR for all aspects of exploration. "We are promoters of what we call life cycle data," said Silver. "Once LiDAR data has been collected over a oil/gas concession area, the data can be used for initial road access, environmental monitoring, seismic surveys, well site locating, plant site placement, pipeline corridor routing, and finally remediation once the project has run its course."
     All of these projects involve the collection of huge volumes of data — the laser is cycling at up to 100,000 pulses per second, then there's the data from the IMU, the GPS receiver, and the cameras — all of which has to be processed. "We use commercial off-the-shelf processing software written specifically for LiDAR processing," says Silver. "But, we've also written our own proprietary LiDAR and IMU processing software." If a client wants ortho-rectified imagery, LSI drapes the imagery over the LiDAR-derived bare earth DTM.
     "We have done some very unique projects in our short history," Silver says proudly. As an example he cites mapping a new highway corridor high in the Andes Mountains, in Ecuador, and collecting LiDAR data in the extreme high arctic region of northern Canada. "We build our own systems here," says Silver. LSI currently has three airborne LiDAR systems and it is building its fourth. "Late last year we became the first airborne LiDAR company in North America to purchase the next generation of laser technology — a digital waveform laser from Riegl in Austria. It is where the technology is going. We stepped up to the plate." The company, he says, is very busy, though still very small, with a staff of only 11 people. Future prospects for LiDAR are good, according to Silver: "We are seeing continued growth not only in North America for the technology but the international market is growing very fast and we expect these trends to continue as industries become aware of the benefits of the technology."

Interview with Casey Wasielewski of Digital Aerial Solutions

Digital Aerial Solutions, LLC provides high resolution digital aerial imagery, visual information, and geospatial products. The company owns and operates two Leica Geosystems ADS40 Airborne Digital Sensors. These are "pushbroom"-type scanners capable of delivering photogrammetric accuracy and large area coverage as well as multispectral data. A few days ago I spoke with Casey Wasielewski, the company's Marketing/IT Director. When I asked him to define his company's niche in the geospatial industry he said "We do a bit of everything." and cited FEMA hurricane assessment and county and state-wide projects as examples. "We don't have a set niche."

Click on the image to enlarge it -- then click on it again to enlarge it further..

What drives the aerial imaging industry right now? "The end user," he told me. "Everybody wants higher resolution. However, you also need throughput, software, and data management to manage the data tsunami that these machines deliver." Each of the company's ASD40 cameras has a 580 Gigabyte hard drive, compressed 4:1; soon the company will upgrade them to 900 Gigabytes. "We basically fill up the hard drive, take it back, and download the data," says Wasielewski. Therefore, downloading and processing speeds are the key.

Click on the image to enlarge it -- then click on it again to enlarge it further.

What are the tradeoffs of film v. digital? "Digital saves time," and can get resolutions down to 5 centimeters, but the technology "is not as mature" as film. Still, he says, "more and more we're seeing the end user requesting digital as opposed to film." Though they are still too expensive for most companies, digital airborne sensors have revolutionized the industry. What about satellites v. aerial? They are complementary. Satellites cost much more up front, "but they are always up there," as opposed to aerial platforms that fly on a project basis. Also, satellites cover a much greater area in a given unit of time. Still, "we are more versatile," he says. For example, planes can fly beneath cloud coverage.
     Will we see any consolidation or shakedown in the aerial photography industry? "It's a small industry as it is. With the evolution to digital, smaller film companies will drop out, some will go digital, and some will consolidate."
     Have you felt any effects from the popularity of Google Earth? "Not one bit. The demand was there before Google Earth came out, though not from the average Joe." On the whole, he concludes, the more imagery is out there, the better for everyone in the industry.

Letter to the Editor


Interesting discussion with Richard Green of Ten Sails/Ubisense, especially his comments regarding privacy concerns. I think the employees he mentions that pick a tag randomly from a bucket are duped into thinking that their individual movements cannot be tracked. For the tracker (employer) it just adds an extra step to the process to figure out which tag ID "Joe" has today. But that's fairly simple if "Joe" is like many of us. When I get to the office every day I sit down at.... MY desk! All the tracker needs is a floorplan to match the tag ID to the employee's work area, then precise tracking can commence for the rest of the day.

Keep up the great work on GIS Monitor.

Brian Oevermann
GIS Analyst, Gallatin County GIS
Bozeman, Montana
[email protected]

News Briefs

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


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with RMSI to explore disaster risks in the tropical Maldives archipelago, which lies between Sri Lanka and the Horn of Africa. None of this nation's 1,200 islands rises more than 1.5 meters above the Indian Ocean, making them very vulnerable to inundation.
     Maldives was among the most severely affected countries hit by the Asian Tsunami on 2004 December 26. The Maldives' evidently high vulnerability is due to its particular geographic location, apparent effects of climate change, topographical features, tourism- and fisheries-based economy, and associated trends of population concentration.
     Using GIS and remote sensing, RMSI's team of risk modeling experts developed catastrophe risk models to assess various hazards in terms of their probable maximum impact using scientific principles, probabilistic methods, and global best practices. Furthermore, RMSI also developed a GIS base map of Maldives, which is the first in the country.
     As part of the deliverables, RMSI provided to the UNDP a detailed report as to its findings and recommendations. The hazard, vulnerability, and risk assessments at island level were provided on a 5-point scale — very high, high, moderate, low and very low. UNDP and the government of Maldives can use the findings of this study to plan developmental strategies that will help in mitigating future disasters.

ESRI has formed a strategic relationship with Beijing Capital Company, Ltd., to implement ESRI's ArcGIS enterprise software solution for water development projects in China. Beijing Capital is rapidly becoming the largest water development and operations company in China, and both ESRI and Beijing Capital believe that such a strategic relationship will have a significant impact on supporting efficient water operations and sustained economic development in the country.
     Beijing Capital Company, Ltd., invests in and manages public infrastructure. The company's focus on the Chinese water market includes the urban water supply and wastewater treatment sectors. At present, Beijing Capital has a daily water treatment capacity of more than 6 million tons and provides services to more than 10 million customers.

Pictometry International Corp., a provider of digital, aerial oblique imagery and measuring software, has made its Rapid Response Program available to all of its new and existing county government customers. The program provides for the aerial photographing of areas affected by a hurricane at no additional charge to Pictometry's county customers. The company will also donate the use of its Pictometry Change Analysis software to these customers for their disaster responses as well as provide disaster image processing, delivery, and consulting services as part of its standard county agreements.
     The company has a history of providing rapid deployment services to capture, process, and deliver its high-resolution aerial imaging databases to government agencies that require this level of service. Last year, it provided extensive post-aerial imaging services during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Responding local, state, and federal agencies were able to analyze both before and after oblique aerial images of New Orleans from Pictometry. The company also provided onsite support for its software as well as conducted dozens of Web-based training programs that enabled users to quickly get up to speed on using its software and imagery.
     In 2004 the company provided both before and after imagery for damage assessment following Hurricane Charlie. In 2003 it captured and processed 17,000 high-resolution, digital oblique and orthogonal images, and delivered them to the City of Chesapeake, Virginia in seven days immediately after Hurricane Isabelle. It delivered more than 43,000 aerial photos in the two weeks following the storm.

Telispire, a provider of mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) services, has selected MobileSphere, a provider of global wireless communications solutions, to deploy its international long distance (ILD) solution to Telispire's customers. MobileSphere's CarrierILDT solution has already been deployed by several MVNOs and wireless carriers and is available for widespread adoption. Typical provisioning time is one to two weeks.

LandNet Corp. plans to sell its LandVoyage Internet mapping business and has hired Sarowdin Partners, an investment banking firm, to manage the sale process. LandVoyage is a turnkey online mapping enterprise that competes in the same markets as Google Earth, Yahoo Maps, Microsoft Live Local, and Stewart Title's GlobeXplorer.
     LandVoyage offers advantages over its online competition in three areas: map content variety, functionality, and geographic search capabilities. The company's database of seven digital map layers and five satellite/aerial imagery data sets in an array of resolutions and scales is the most extensive U.S. database on the Web. The site also boasts a proprietary suite of software that includes an Internet/intranet map server, advanced geospatial search engine, and e-commerce solution. In addition, the site features online map drawing, searching, and measuring tools for which an allowance of 49 patent claims has just been awarded and another 92 patent claims are pending.
     Online mapping is one of the fastest growing applications on the World Wide Web. Internet map usage reportedly jumped by 33 percent last year, according to comScore, an Internet tracking services firm. The LandVoyage sale process has been timed to coincide with the awarding of the allowance of patent claims, which occurred in December 2005 after a five-year review process. Additionally, with the recent purchases of Keyhole (a LandVoyage competitor) by Google and AirPhotoUSA by Stewart Title, the time is right to sell LandVoyage to a larger organization with greater resources that can fully leverage the patent claims and proprietary technology to achieve market stature similar to Google Earth, Microsoft Live Local, or Stewart Title's GlobeXplorer.
     Developed in 2000 as an online mapping solution for the real estate and engineering professions, LandVoyage has evolved into a fully functional, content-rich website serving all mapping applications. Subscribers include professionals from the engineering, real estate, agriculture, natural resource, oil and gas, recreation, government, and GIS industries. LandVoyage is one of only a few online sites that can serve map data directly into end users' desktop mapping or GIS applications.
     The extensive LandVoyage digital data library covering the entire United States includes aerial photo data sets ranging in resolutions from one to three feet in color and black and white, depending on the area. Digital maps include USGS topographic maps at three scales, BLM Public Land Maps, soils maps, and aviation and nautical charts. The satellite imagery archive comprises shaded-relief, land use/land cover and regional images for the entire country.
     LandVoyage's functionality comes from the FetchSuite collection of proprietary software components. This technology enables the site to serve digital data, convert data files on the fly to a user-selected format, automatically order custom prints, save map work online for future use, and access map and imagery metadata. In addition, this suite includes patented online mapping tools that allow users to draw customized maps by entering metes and bounds legal descriptions, lat/long coordinates, or GPS data.

ESRI, along with Baynet World, Inc., a provider of real estate software solutions, have implemented ESRI's RouteMAP IMS in Baynet's PocketMLS wireless solution for the residential real estate market. Baynet provides PocketMLS to real estate companies as a branded solution for mass distribution to their agents and uses RouteMAP IMS for adding customized mapping and routing capabilities to its wireless mobile application, PocketMLS.
     PocketMLS is available on any handheld device running Windows Mobile, Blackberry, or Palm operating system. It allows realtors to search listings wirelessly; e-mail listings to clients; and receive e-mail maps, property photos, and driving directions. When out with a client, a realtor can view directions to specific properties, view an area map down to the street level, and plan the most optimized route between properties for efficient driving times. Realtors can also enter a street name and pull up all properties for sale, allowing them to give detailed information to their client right away. Searches can be saved for viewing later, and listing alerts can be set to inform clients of new house matches.
     PocketMLS is the only service that can access a real estate agent's or broker's desktop alerting application system to change contacts and client home searches right from the field. The PocketMLS wireless multiple listing service (MLS) solution creates a true virtual office for real estate professionals. Agents can capture home tour visitors as contacts instantly or set up e-mail notifications for their clients' home searches right from the field.


Leica Geosystems has launched new options for its MC200 Digger Excavator Guidance System, increasing the range of job site digging applications available to the operator. The new options — which include Dual Slope, Rotation Compensation, and Bucket Tilt — extend the company's MC200 Digger modular-based digging and weighing system. When working on a sloping surface, the operator is now able to compensate for any rotation of the chassis and for the bucket tilt. These options provide more flexibility, less interruption, and higher productivity for an excavator operator in his daily workflow. The new sensors also provide the flexibility for quick exchange of excavator buckets and allow for underwater digging with specially designed sensors.
     The Leica MC200 Digger system is the platform for all excavator guiding and weighing solutions. With the various options available as modules, customers can compile their own MC200 Digger and upgrade it later, depending on the application on which they are working. Existing customers can upgrade MC200 Digger to this new dual slope and bucket tilt option, to the weighing option, or even the high-end 3D with GPS positioning system. Leica MC200 Digger System uses a graphical display, which is mounted in the cab to provide excavator operators with real-time depth, reach, and bucket slope information in relation to any reference.
     A high brightness LED light-bar provides a quick reference to the desired level, while an audible tone gives the operator an "on-grade" or "near-grade" indication. When operators have to rotate the chassis or tilt the bucket on a sloping surface, Leica MC200 Digger is able to guide operators in any height or slope with which they are working. When digging underwater or in a situation when the bucket is not visible, the operator gains new levels of precision and control through clear feedback in the display on bucket angle and position. With Leica Geosystems' new quick bucket exchange possibility, it is now possible to switch easily between different buckets without leaving the cabin.

LeadDog Consulting, LLC has released additional geographic databases of city streets for the following Iraqi cities: Baghdad, Basra, Ad-Diwaniyah, Al-Amarah, Al-Kut, An-Najaf, As-Sulaymaniyah, Hilla, Irbil, Fallujah, Ramadi, Kerbela, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Tikrit. LeadDog's map products are designed to support asset-tracking/GPS, government, and commercial GIS applications by providing accurate and comprehensive base level mapping. In addition, LeadDog's product provides numerous vector layers and attributes, such as streets at 1:10,000 scale, parks and water, street classifications, extensive points of interest, and landmark polygons. Iraq City Streets are available in all major GIS formats. An Iraq Major Roads and Highways product is available at a 1:250,000 scale.

LizardTech, a division of Celartem, Inc. and a provider of software solutions for managing and distributing digital content, has released GeoExpress 6. This new release leads with a set of powerful image manipulation and editing tools. Adding to the existing suite of image manipulation and editing tools for multi-resolution mosaicking and image reprojection, new features such as color balancing and advanced area of interest (AOI) encoding provide the tools GIS analysts need to quickly and easily edit and distribute their raster imagery. GeoExpress can now be used for lossless encoding, which will allow users to save time, money, disk space, and bandwidth when manipulating and distributing an organization's critically important image assets.
     Along with a robust suite of image editing and manipulation tools, GeoExpress 6 continues the tradition of wavelet image compression and now offers customers a choice of either the industry-standard MrSID image compression format or the ISO-standard JPEG 2000 image compression format. The product's image editing and manipulating tools allows GIS professionals to use new and existing imagery, repurpose it as necessary, and quickly distribute it over high and low bandwidth connections.
     The new color-balancing feature and predefined image encoding profiles for JPEG 2000 found in GeoExpress 6 make it easy to deliver geospatial imagery compliant with government requirements and industry standards. Color balancing allows geospatial analysts to correct tonal imbalances using an easy and familiar workflow. Automatic or manual adjustments to brightness, contrast and histograms for each color band within a single image or across multiple images eliminate the need to buy expensive and complex color enhancement applications.


The deadline to submit abstracts of papers for the GeoWeb 2006 conference is Friday, March 31. The conference will focus on the convergence of professional GIS with the Web. Paper presentations will help define the synergies that come from this interaction in terms of business opportunities, technology development, specifications, and business and policy models. GeoWeb 2006 is a larger outgrowth of the succesful GML Days and GML and Geo-Spatial Web Services Conference, and will include keynote speakers, panel sessions, product demonstrations, workshops, and educational sessions.
     Conference papers will be organized around the following key market and technical themes: Nautical and Aeronautical Information Systems; Defense and Homeland Security; Consumer and Commercial Services, LBS and ITS; Municipal Information Systems to Global SDI; Disaster Management and Environmental Systems; and Technology Centric. Presentations should relate to the themes and cover markup, Web services, SOA, or business and policy issues. Abstracts should be a maximum of 200 words and must include the presentation title, the name of the presenter or presenters, the presenting organization, and your preferred theme. Send your abstract to: [email protected].

GeoSpatial Training & Consulting, LLC, a provider of virtual and instructor-led GIS training courses, has released its latest virtual training course, entitled "Advanced Labeling and Annotation with ArcMap." The course teaches how to maximize the labeling and annotation features in ArcMap, including the differences between labeling and annotation, how to place labels and determine visibility, how to use expressions in labeling features, how to set a reference scale, and how to generate annotations.

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