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2006 March 02


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Editor's Introduction

This week I report briefly on a fun technology preview for Microsoft Live Local, then more in depth on a new technology that promises to greatly enhance the data-handling capabilities of hand-held electronic devices and on a route optimization program that works jointly with GIS. Plus, my usual round-up of news from press releases.

Next week: a look at some upcoming geospatial conferences, workshops, and trade shows.

Please note: I continue to add events to the calendar.

— Matteo

Microsoft Launches Windows Live Local

This week, Microsoft unveiled a technology preview version of its Windows Live Local, which allows users to take a virtual tour of a city as if they were in a car. It demonstrates the company's "work-in-progress thinking about a rich immersive experience in mapping that also explores local information," according to the website. Microsoft will use this technology for its upcoming consumer local search and mapping site. The initial release supports only the downtown cores of Seattle and San Francisco. The street-side view will supplement aerial, road, and bird's eye views currently available in Windows Live Local.

The technology is being supplied by Facet Technology Corp., whose SightMap technology has already compiled 700 million high-resolution images — a total of 200 TB of data — of geomapped images, taken at 8-meter intervals from vans roaming city streets. In total, the company has photo-mapped more than 516,000 miles of streets and indexed dozens of metropolitan areas around the United States.

In the preview, the top half of the screen displays the views through the windshield and side windows of the virtual car, while the bottom half is reserved for navigation. Between the two is a dashboard and a site navigation bar. You can pick one of three views: "race car," "sports car," or "walk." However, the difference between them is minimal and purely cosmetic.

Much more significant is the choice of modes for the lower part of the screen: "street" displays a collage of the street-level photos, laid out on a map; "road" displays a street map; and "hybrid" displays aerial photography overlaid on a street map. If you stray outside the coverage area, a "start over" link takes you back to your starting point. Turning the wheel on your mouse or using the plus or minus keys on the keyboard allows you to zoom in or out.

I have only two complaints and they are both minor. The first one is specific to this technology preview: the site does not allow you to move the horizontal divider between the two halves of the screen, so as to make more room for the map when needed. The second one pertains to the current Live Local as well: the URL,, is the reverse of the site name. However, I used the site's "feedback" link to bring this news item to the attention of the Windows Live Local development team, so I am sure that the next time I visit the site both of my complaints will have been addressed. ;-)

WindSpring Launches Data Miniaturization Technology

The market for consumer GPS-based navigation devices is expanding rapidly, in three areas: personal navigation devices (such as the Mio DigiWalker, the TomTom, and the Garmin Quest), GPS receivers bundled with PDAs (such as the Dell Bluetooth GPS Navigation System for the Axim X51 and the Bluetooth GPS Receiver for the HP iPAQ), and over-the-air subscription services by wireless carriers. Due to a combination of new technology and manufacturing in countries like China and Korea, the prices for PNDs are dropping rapidly and might even go below $200 in the next 12 months. "It's this move at the low end that we believe is really going to help explode this market — from a billion dollar market to a multi-billion dollar market," says Mark Arman, Vice President for Marketing for WindSpring, Inc., a company that specializes in "miniaturizing" data.

The bottleneck is storage, transmission, and retrieval of very large data files — such as seamless maps of North America or Europe. Therefore, technologies that can make GPS-based devices faster and more user-friendly are critical to the pace of market adoption.

This week, Fine Digital USA, a PND (personal navigation device) manufacturer, licensed WindSpring's Data Miniaturization Technology (DMT). "Products with our technology on board will start to hit the shelves in the next 30 days," Arman told me. He expects his company to sign agreements with several other manufacturers of mapping and GPS-based navigation products "over the next six months."

Fine Digital USA will integrate WindSpring's DMT into its FineDrive 400 PNDs. This, according to the two companies, will improve mapping application performance and enable Fine Digital to reduce the overall cost of devices for consumers and improve device reliability and performance by eliminating the need for more expensive and unreliable mini-hard drive solutions.

Fine Digital USA is a provider of portable in-car GPS navigation products for the consumer market. The company was founded in 2000 as a subsidiary of South Korea's Fine Digital Corp. and has since grown to cover markets across Asia, Europe, and North America. It is currently the leading GPS manufacturer in Korea and across several Asian markets. WindSpring is a privately held software company founded in 2004 and headquartered in San Jose, California. John Archbold, who is now WindSpring's CTO, has been developing the company's core technology since 1996 in Australia. "Our whole purpose for being," Arman told me, "is to continue to productize and commercialize our DMT and also a new category — Micro Data Format, or MDF."

WindSpring uses the term miniaturization to distinguish its technology from traditional compression. Unlike compression, DMT shrinks and transforms large mapping and data files into MDFs, while allowing them to retain all original data performance attributes and enabling high-speed access and full manipulation of the data — including seek, search, edit, and display in the miniaturized state. MDF files differ from compressed files in another important respect as well: in order to use MDF files you do not need to decompress them, a process that requires available memory for both the compressed and the decompressed files.

DMT contains a codec that analyzes the original data and creates a dictionary of recurring sequences, organized according to the frequency with which they appear. It then transforms the original data into an MDF, which is an exact index pointer representation of the original data. Operating together, the MDF data and the sequence dictionary perform such operations as high-speed seek, search, edit, and display of the encoded data while in the miniaturized state. In talking to Arman, I compared DMT to a relational database — in which data that is shared by multiple records is stored only once, and relationships between data items are expressed by means of tables — and he told me that it was "a very good analogy."

The sequence dictionary can be used in one of two primary modes, Arman explains: "The first, most common mode of implementation is called the internal or file-specific dictionary. That's where we have a single original file and we create a single MDF file and a single sequence dictionary (SD). The SD and the MDF file travel together and stay together for the life of the file or the life of the application. The second mode that's used — and this is very powerful for throughput-constrained applications — is a shared SD. For example, we might have 1,000 gif images from weather radar data; we develop a single dictionary for that entire suite of files. The real benefit here is that we can get quite dramatic improvements in file size reduction. For example, with the weather radar data, we were able to reduce those 1,000 gif images to one ninth of their size. The reason for that is that we are now in the realm where we are discovering sequences that occur not just within individual files but across a suite of files."

DMT maintains an exact, one-to-one relationship between data in the original file and data in the MDF file. Unlike compression, MDF data is structured identically to the original data and the process is 100 percent loss-less, according to Arman. "You can always recreate the original data exactly from the MDF state," he told me. "What DMT enables you to do is to take almost any type of application data and transform it and miniaturize it into the MDF. Once the application data is in MDF, you still have full access, full control, full manipulation of the data as if where in its original form — except that it is a fraction of the [original] size."

"The sequence dictionary is typically 1 to 2 percent the size of the original data," says Arman. "The reason it is so small is one of our patented techniques, called the multi-index pointer system, which allows a pointer-to-pointer structure. It is an extremely efficient way to capture all of the content that exists in that original file."

Of course, the efficiency of the process depends in large part on the nature of the original data: "The performance obviously excels with more repetitive, more structured data," Arman says. "Text formats for XML or HTML are typically 5:1 to 6:1, so north of 80 percent reduction; documents more like 3:1, or 65 percent reduction; across the range with ESRI, 10:1 reduction." He gave me the following figures, representing the percentage by which DMT can shrink files of various types:

Text formats:
  • XML/HTML, 80 percent
  • Text databases and directories, 80 percent
  • Documents, 60 percent
Mapping formats:
  • ESRI, 90 percent
  • BMP, 75 percent
  • Geo-TIF, 75 percent
  • TeleAtlas, 75 percent
  • Telcontar RMF, 40-50 percent
  • Kiw i-W, 30 percent
Binary formats:
  • Mobile phone internal files, 25-50 percent
  • MS Pocket Office, 50-80 percent
  • PDF, 40 percent
In a demo that Arman ran for me, he miniaturized a map of the New York City subway, which had a lot of white space, reducing it from 6.7MB to 347KB, or about 20:1.

These performance stats make the application particularly useful for use in space-constrained devices (such as PNDs, in-car navigation devices, mobile phones, and smart phones), space-constrained applications (such as Firmware-Over-the-Air, mobile computing, GPS navigation, and mobile games), and speed-constrained applications (such as electronic map updates, FOTA, in-car navigation, and high-speed storage and search). "We are targeting applications that have a real pain point in terms of either space constraint or some kind of throughput constraint," says Arman, "such as access off a disk or throughput across the network. If that pain point exists, we should be able to provide some benefits."

There are four kinds of files, Arman points out, for which DMT does not work well or at all: executables, small single files, single compressed files (such as GIS and PNG images), and lossy applications (such as JPEG, MPEG, and MP3). "We have tested [our] codec on over 80 different file formats," Arman told me, "both industry standard and proprietary formats, and I think we can truly claim that it is truly file-type agnostic. It does work with anything that you throw at it."

WindSpring's process is best done as far upstream as possible. "We work with either the original data provider or the application OEM that takes that data," Arman told me. "It can be done at any point prior to shipment, but we generally work with someone at one of those two levels. We pre-encode the data for these types of devices."

Of course, in order to decode the data, a device requires a reader, which comes in two forms. One is a decoder only, that simply allows you to seek, search, or read the data. For many applications, such as PND, that's enough. The other form combines an encoder and a decoder, both of which are only about 16KB DLLs.

WindSpring's application comes in two versions: WindSpring Gazelle, for OEMs and software developers, and WindSpring Mobile, for Consumer and Enterprise VARs. Gazelle works with J2ME, Windows Mobile, Linux, and BREW mobile operating systems and with Windows 2000, Windows XP, Linux, and Java server operating systems. The Mobile version, according to Arman, "works out of the box with most PDA applications," and a Palm version is in the works.

An additional advantage of DMT, Arman explained to me, is that the process also naturally encrypts the file. The SD can, in turn, be encrypted, using symmetric or time-based keys. The encrypted dictionary is then loaded using cryptographic APIs and the data is accessed using WindSpring APIs.

These significant increases in the amount of data that a handheld device can store and in the speed with which it can process large files, if proven in the field, will greatly enhance the viability of mobile GIS.

Automating Route Optimization With Quantm

Not all geospatial analyses are best done in a conventional GIS. Some are best subcontracted, so to speak, to other tools that work in conjunction with GIS — using GIS data as the input and feeding the output back into GIS. Quantm, a route optimization system used mostly for new alignments of road or rail infrastructure, is just such a tool, according to Len Bettess, the company's Manager of Business Development and Engineering. The most unique aspect of this technology, he says, is that it integrates engineering, environmental review, public involvement, and cost considerations into a single application.

"Traditionally," says Bettess, "this type of work has been done by an engineer or a planner manually deriving alignment alternatives with the help of CAD or GIS packages. Therefore, it is a fairly slow and intuitive process that relies on the experience, expertise, and knowledge of the designer to come up with the alternatives. Quantm is more of an automated approach: the project team defines the inputs and constraints and the system, using a series of algorithms, determines various alternatives for consideration." The user then reviews this preliminary set of alternatives and changes the inputs as needed, in an iterative process. Is this an "expert system" — that is, one that cumulates knowledge and rules from one project to the next? No, Bettess told me, but it is a user-driven application.

Traditional CAD and GIS, Bettess explains, are two-dimensional, at least in the their initial stages, and cannot simultaneously consider the complex and often conflicting constraints of a project's engineering, cost, environmental, and social impacts. Furthermore, CAD and GIS, he claims, are very subjective, are not conducive to a consultative approach to discussing scenarios, and cannot demonstrate that all feasible alternatives have been considered. By contrast Quantm, he claims, is unbiased because its algorithms take the user's inputs and constraints very literally.

Pre-Quantm impact: conventionally derived alignments impact the wetlands.

Post-Quantm impact: Quantm enables the planning team to identify alignments that avoid the wetlands and reduce the cost.

The limitation of CAD and GIS, according to Bettess, is that they are not able to consider such complex and conflicting inputs as public and political pressures and are not very helpful when the public or government agencies ask a project team "What if"-type questions. Also, since they cannot demonstrate consideration of all feasible alternatives, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), projects are left exposed to disputes, delays, and legal action. "Quantm," he claims, "enables the user to do that analysis very quickly and efficiently," sorting through the millions of possible combinations.

Quantm, which operates entirely in 3D and considers a project's earthworks footprint, displays the differences in cost and environmental / social impact of different alternatives, thereby encouraging sensitivity analysis. "That sensitivity analysis," he says, "could be on, say, different geometric conditions or it could be on whether you define an environmental zone as 'avoid completely', 'minimize impact' or 'assign extra costs for mitigation.'"

The system's speed, Bettess emphasizes, is very conducive to a consultative process, because it allows users to quickly process the feedback they receive from all stakeholders, thereby maintaining momentum on a project. "You can go to a public meeting and get a series of inputs from the public and go back to the office the next day and literally within two or three days redo the analysis. So, it really shortens the project cycle." Additionally, a built-in audit trail documents all the assumptions that have been made and the alternatives that have been considered.

Quantm is in use in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Indonesia, China, and 14 states in the United States, where the company's first project was at the end of 2001, in California. According to Bettess, during 2002 the United States became the company's prime market because of the large transportation demand and because its application was particularly well suited "in terms of the public involvement and environmental aspects, which aren't necessarily the prime focus in other parts of the world." Most of the company's U.S. business has been with state departments of transportation (DOTs).

"In California," Bettess says, "we've now done nine projects and will be starting a couple more very soon. In Texas we started with the I-69 project: the consultants doing the individual segments are all using our system to do their corridor studies for this project. As a result of that, we received a blanket master purchase order agreement with the Texas DOT, which allows the different districts around the state to use Quantm on their individual projects at a district level." The company also has a statewide agreement with Alaska.

The earlier Quantm is used in a project cycle, the more beneficial it is, Bettess explains, because "in the feasibility stage, there's more opportunity to look at different alternatives. Then, as you get further into detailed planning and alignment selection, you start to narrow down the corridor options and reduce the amount of flexibility that you have. Probably the best application is in new location projects, where you have a new road or rail alignment, to be studied. It is not really an application you'd use to widen an existing facility, because the location is fixed." The product is most obviously suited for use in hilly or mountainous topography, where it is very difficult to manually combine the engineering and the environmental factors, or for projects with environmental sensitivity and a lot of public involvement issues.

As an example, Bettess cites the Foothill Transportation Corridor-South project, connecting the existing Foothill Transportation Corridor to I-5 in a very environmentally sensitive area in Southern California. "They were having trouble addressing the concerns of multiple stakeholders. This analysis enabled them to integrate all of the concerns, narrow down the options, and demonstrate why some alternatives were preferable to others." According to Bettess, the proposed alternatives selected significantly reduced the project's environmental impact, especially avoidance of wetlands and endangered species, and reduced costs by more than $100 million or more than 20 percent of the construction costs.

Quantm does not use all available GIS layers, "because," Bettess explains, "not all of the data has an impact on where the different alternatives can go." Rather, the user selects the relevant layers to use as constraints. Once the analysis is conducted, the user can export the selected alternatives back out to GIS or CAD or both, to display them or commence the design process. "You can output the centerline of each of the alternatives that are derived in Quantm and the footprint earthworks strings — the extent of the impact. You can export them back to GIS and overlay them on all the other GIS data that you have." The output can be a shapefile, a DXF (Data Exchange File) or in X,Y,Z format. "The system also produces a range of reports on impacts, quantities for earthworks and structures and the costs of each of the alternatives."

I pressed Bettess as to how Quantm differs from a GIS — in particular in regards to assigning weights to different criteria. The basic difference, as I understood him, is that Quantm integrates the geometric requirements and the engineering cost of each alternative, so that the output meets all of the geometric criteria specified — such as design speed requirements or clearance required for railroads or streams. Additionally, it balances cut-and-fill earthworks to optimize the alignment from an engineering standpoint. Constraints can be defined as "avoidance" (no-go), "extra cost" (of mitigation, ROW, or other land treatment), or "earthworks limits" to restrict the depth of cut or height of fill. "This approach is complementary to GIS and relies on it," he stressed. "as [GIS] is often the best source of constraint data. Additionally, your output from Quantm — which is the preferred alternative or alternatives — goes back to CAD to design and document the project and into GIS for any further geospatial analysis or as part of an asset management tool."

Quantm will be releasing Version 5 "in the next few months." It will have an enhanced user-interface and "more of a GIS feel about it, in terms of the way that different data layers are handled."

News Briefs

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


Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB), Oregon's largest public utility, has switched to MWH Soft InfoWater Suite to support its large-scale, enterprise-wide geospatial hydraulic modeling. EWEB serves approximately 200,000 people and businesses within a 238 square mile boundary through a network of nearly 745 miles of distribution mains and 35 miles of transmission pipelines. The system's 27 covered reservoirs store a combined capacity of 97.5 million gallons. The utility draws its water from the McKenzie River and channels it to its full-treatment plant — the largest in Oregon, with a capacity of 72 million gallons per day. InfoWater Suite will replace EWEB's existing modeling system with an ArcGIS-centric solution for managing its drinking water infrastructure.
     Built atop ArcGIS, InfoWater Suite integrates water distribution network hydraulic, water quality, and optimization functionality with the latest generation of GIS technology. The suite reads GIS datasets; corrects network topology problems and data flaws; extracts modeling information; and automatically constructs, skeletonizes, loads, calibrates and generates optimized solutions. Using these tools, water utilities can easily simulate and evaluate various operating conditions; pinpoint system deficiencies; and determine the most cost-effective improvements to achieve optimum performance, ensure regulatory compliance, and meet new security challenges.

Northeastern Rural Electric Membership Corporation (NREMC), an electric utility cooperative in Northeastern Indiana, has implemented Tadpole Technology Group's mobile GIS solutions — GO! Sync (Mapbook) and GO! Sync (Redline). By deploying these solutions, NREMC makes its geospatial information available to its field workers and office support personnel.
     NREMC services a densely populated area where system plant changes are frequent and remotely held infrastructure data rapidly becomes out of date. Without current and reliable data NREMC field personnel lack the necessary information to make quick decisions on site, which has a negative impact on the level of service the cooperative is able to provide to its members.
     By deploying the two applications, NREMC is both able to equip its field staff with a platform on which to view accurate information and can now manage the flow of that information between the office and the field automatically, ensuring that data currency is maintained. Field users are also able to create and share sketches, upload information to the enterprise GIS, and make use of field specific tools such as GPS, network tracing, and searching.

The Istituto Geografico Militare Italiano (IGMI), one of the national institutions providing the Italian government with digital cartography and integrated feature data, used Intergraph software to aid in the security operations at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
     IGMI's task was to integrate and validate data from multiple sources to assist in securing Olympic venues, which spread across Italy from the city of Turin to the mountains bordering France. IGMI collected, validated, and integrated mapping data to create location-specific information for use by security personnel in the prevention of and response to critical incidents.

Sho-Me Power, an electric cooperative in Missouri, has selected the Tensing SPY Mobile GIS product to expand GIS access to utility field crews. Tensing SPY Mobile GIS is a platform-independent product that runs on any Windows-driven device utilizing the Microsoft .NET Framework or .NET Compact Framework.
     Tensing SPY Mobile GIS allows field staff to review, analyze, and change data in the field. It extends GIS capabilities to crews in the field and gives them access to mapping systems on laptop, pen, tablet computers and PDAs. Data is provided to the field by extracting it from any corporate GIS database via a one-to-one conversion tool that simplifies the presentation of the data. Tensing SPY Mobile GIS now allows the customer to define the same application regardless of hardware platform.
     Sho-Me Power, based in Marshfield, Missouri, expects to experience immediate benefits from extending its GIS data to crews in the field. Most importantly, the utility anticipates that equipment changes and repairs made in the field will be captured in the Mobile GIS and uploaded that same day to the enterprise system. In addition, Sho-Me Power will exceed its requirements to provide data to field crews because the Tensing SPY Smallworld Interconnect enables the users to define the data layers and attributes for complete extraction.
     As for future requirements, the utility expects Tensing SPY Mobile to support locating, repair and maintenance, and planning activities. Tensing SPY Mobile is one of four software packages included in the Tensing SPY .NET suite built on the core SPY technology. Tensing created this suite specifically for end users who do not need a full-blown GIS but require field tools and hardware independence. Other products in the suite include Tensing SPY Development Suite, Tensing Live Connect, and Tensing Gateway.

Merrick & Company — a LiDAR, digital ortho imaging, photogrammetry, and GIS mapping company — has signed a $431,000 contract with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) to provide color digital orthophotography at a 6-inch pixel resolution and a horizontal accuracy of +/-2 feet for more than 1,000 square miles covering urbanized areas in the California counties of Sacramento, Yolo, and Placer.
     In addition, Merrick will provide enhanced LiDAR data collection and delivery for nearly 90 square miles in the same area that will support 2-foot contour generation. Ultimately, the company will deliver more than 400GB of data in this fall for use in ArcSDE geographic information system deployments. The project is cooperatively funded by ten local, regional, and federal agencies.
     Major issues in the region include flood planning and mitigation, general planning for rapid growth, and homeland security.

Palm Beach County, Florida, has retained GeoAnalytics, Inc., an IT consulting firm that specializes in the planning, design, and implementation of enterprise information systems, to analyze and help establish a set of GIS best management practices (BMP). The project involves the creation of a scorecard to evaluate and compare current GIS management practices within the County against similar public sector GIS implementations.
     Through a series of Web surveys and in-person interviews, GeoAnalytics will review a select set of successful GIS implementations to measure and understand how they have successfully evolved toward integrated Enterprise GIS. Of critical concern is "What management practices drove success?" and "How did they influence organizational improvement and advancement.?"
     The primary goal of this project will be to use the results of the scorecard comparison against recognized peer organizations to guide BMP development for implementation by Palm Beach County. The best management practices recommendations will be used to assist the County in the management and evolution of GIS throughout the county. Palm Beach County has been a client of GeoAnalytics for several years.

East View Cartographic (EVC) has signed an agreement with SPOT Image Corporation to become an authorized reseller of SPOT satellite imagery products. SPOT provides a wide range of medium-resolution imagery ideal for uses such as land management, telecom planning, or creating new street level vector data. SPOT satellites have been collecting imagery since 1986. The SPOT archives now include more than 10 million images covering most of the Earth's surface several times over.
     EVC is already an authorized reseller of high-resolution imagery such as Ikonos and OrbView-3. SPOT is an ideal complement to these products as medium-resolution satellite coverage of a larger area can be combined with a high-resolution inset of a particular city or feature. Satellite coverage of a region would be much more expensive with high-resolution imagery. It would take approximately 15 QuickBird images to cover the 60 x 60 km area of one SPOT scene.
     EVC also offers more specialized products from SPOT. Customized satellite programming is available and SPOT has advanced stereo acquisition capabilities that support a variety of 3D products including 30 meter digital elevation models and a worldwide altimetry database.

Boeing has received a $3.5 million follow-on task order from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to enhance the digital topographic data collected by the space shuttle Endeavour. This award to the company under NGA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) program brings Boeing's total SRTM contract awards to more than $35 million. The task order was awarded under NGA's Global Geospatial Intelligence (GGI) contract that was designed to enhance NGA's ability to provide critical, time-sensitive, intelligence and geospatial information for the Department of Defense. Boeing is a prime contractor for GGI, which has a potential value of $750 million over 10 years.
     This follow-on tasking, known as Void Fill, will update terrain models in geographic locations where Endeavour's radar sensor had difficulty collecting data in February 2000. The enhancements include the removal of certain radar processing anomalies and filling areas with data from alternate elevation data sources.
     Boeing is one of two GGI prime contractor teams that were awarded initial SRTM data finishing task orders. To date, the team has produced more than 9,000 cells of Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED) and enhanced approximately 7,000 cells over portions of four continents with each cell being one degree of latitude by one degree of longitude in size. Boeing is responsible for the overall project management of its team and development of the interactive editing system interface and editing software that is being used to produce the data at Boeing.
     The SRTM mission aboard Endeavour used radar sensors to collect the most detailed and accurate height measurements ever gathered for such a large area. The goal of the SRTM production program is to produce digital topographic data for 80 percent of the Earth's land surface. Automation of most tasks has reduced editing time and minimized production costs, as compared to previous systems for producing similar data.


Boeing has released version 4.1 of its SoftPlotter digital map production software, enabling users to provide more accurate and efficiently produced digital mapping products to their defense and commercial mapping customers. SoftPlotter's engineering-based, map development products drive civil works projects, commercial real estate and highway development, and are used to support the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's Global Geospatial Intelligence program with digital mapping production services.
     SoftPlotter has been providing digital map data products since 1994. Version 4.1 runs on Windows XP and 2000 operating systems and provides support for JPEG 2000 — the image compression algorithm now widely available in digital imagery circles that allows imagery compression with fewer artifacts than JPEG. Digital Globe's QuickBird sensor support for panchromatic and multispectral imagery offers SoftPlotter users sensor model and triangulation support, while digital aerial camera support for the Intergraph Z/I DMC, Vexcel UltraCAM, and Airborne Data Systems digital cameras allow users to process imagery directly from these devices.
     SoftPlotter's new multi-window capability allows all viewing tools to display multiple stereo and monoscopic views of imagery, with geosynchronous cursor movement in all views. New AutoCAD, MicroStation, and ESRI translators are included, and Visual Basic workflow wizards provide streamlined workflow setups for batch processes. Of interest to KDMS users, SoftPlotter 4.1 provides a COM interface that can be called from macros and a database interface for collection of fully attributed vector map data.

Intergraph Corporation has released a new version of G/Technology that provides significant usability enhancements for mobile users and flexible licensing for Web users. The G/Technology MobileViewer supports field-based, round-trip workflows, so that users in the field can create intelligent redline sketches, generate cost estimates related to the designs, and send all this information back into the asset database via automation using XML. MobileViewer also supports pre-configured applications for the field, such as vegetation management and field inspection, with requisite data traveling round-trip to the field and back with changes to the asset database.
     Specific new features of G/Technology address data integration and manipulation, user interfaces, viewing options, tools for precisely controlling data sent to the field, and license recycling to maximize concurrent Web usage.
     Intergraph's G/Technology delivers an integrated geofacilities management system that provides tools to support the facilities maintenance and management needs of utilities and communications companies. As an open, non-proprietary technology, G/Technology facilitates integration with key engineering, operational, and customer-related corporate systems, enabling companies to respond more quickly and efficiently to market opportunities and customer demands.

Open Spatial Inc. has released Munsys 9.3 Standard Edition (Munsys SE), a solution for small utilities and local governments to manage their engineering data. Munsys SE is optimized specifically for the Locator spatial functionality provided in Oracle 9i and Oracle 10g Standard Editions. It uses Oracle's Locator functions to store, retrieve, and analyze utility data in an Open GIS format offering the customer an off-the-shelf infrastructure information management solution. Munsys SE incorporates the same industry-specific data models and business rules found in Munsys Enterprise Edition to ensure that utility information is captured and managed efficiently and accurately. Munsys SE uses design technology with which engineers are familiar to interface with the data store. Munsys SE runs on the full range of Autodesk's CAD products including AutoCAD, Autodesk Map 3D, Autodesk Land Desktop, and Autodesk Civil 3D software.

GeometricalGeodesy, a new Mathematica application package for solving fundamental geodesy and analytical cartography problems, is now available from Wolfram Research. Primarily intended for computing coordinates in a variety of datums and coordinate systems, the package is the only one that combines the core elements of geometrical geodesy into a single, comprehensive framework. Complete integration with Mathematica offers significant advantages for accurate numerical computation, exact symbolic analysis, and visual interpretation of results.
     GeometricalGeodesy is for those needing high-precision computations of distances and directions about the Earth or those wanting to explore the consequences of the shape of the Earth on coordinates and the information derived from them. It is ideal for users from a wide range of spatial and earth-science disciplines — such as cartography, photogrammetry, navigation, geology, geophysics, astrophysics, geography, and geographic information science. Specialized functions also enable students and educators to focus on concepts rather than on code implementations.
     Features of GeometricalGeodesy include object-oriented implementation for positions, including type-checking and vector algebra for Cartesian objects; linear and angular units of measure, with system conversions; access to a collection of 24 reference ellipsoids and 18 geodetic datums, which can be user-supplemented; use of geodetic curvilinear (latitude, longitude, ellipsoid height), Earth-centered, Earth-fixed, Cartesian (XYZ), and local geodetic Cartesian (ENU) coordinate systems; transformations among coordinate systems and datums; common geodesy computations, such as forward and inverse problems and coordinate manipulations; and cartographic projections, such as Mercator, Transverse Mercator, Oblique Mercator, Lambert conformal conic, orthographic, and stereographic, for both ellipsoid and spherical implementations.
     The extensive functionality in GeometricalGeodesy far outstrips that of existing coordinate calculators and toolkits, while saving users from the countless hours of custom coding, debugging, and research that would be required to perform the same calculations from scratch or as ad hoc functions. Detailed examples enable users to quickly familiarize themselves with the package's capabilities, and online documentation is integrated into the Mathematica Help Browser for easy reference. GeometricalGeodesy can be immediately downloaded from the Wolfram Research Web store for Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux platforms. Developed and supported by Dr. Thomas Meyer, the package is designed for use with Mathematica 5.1 or higher. All customers can take advantage of a special 25 percent discount through April 30. Academic and government discounts are also available.

Leica Geosystems has introduced SpiderWEB V1.3 — a Web-based solution that allows GPS network administrators to present their GPS Network data for public or internal access via standard Web browsers.
     Leica SpiderWEB allows GPS network administrators to keep track of users, data, and downloads. GPS network users can download GPS RINEX observation data for single or multiple stations with just a few mouse clicks. Leica SpiderWEB complements the Leica Geosystems reference stations software product portfolio consisting of Leica GPS Spider and Leica GNSS QC.


Eric Andelin, Western Air Maps' Regional Manager for the Southwestern United States, has been recognized for his qualifications and achievement in the area of GIS and was awarded his GISP by the GIS Certification Institute. Western Air Maps now has five certified GIS professionals.

WhiteStar Corp. has hired Brad Taggart as Director of Technology. Taggart, who brings two decades of experience related to geographic information and digital mapping in the petroleum industry, will oversee production of WhiteStar's growing line of digital cartographic products for oil & gas, pipeline, and natural resource customers.
     As Director of Technology, Taggart will handle all internal information technology (IT) functions; he will be responsible for implementing and maintaining the processing technologies and workflows that create WhiteStar products and services; and he will also leverage his technical expertise to develop advanced new technologies that WhiteStar will use to deliver additional lines of products and services to its customers.
     WhiteStar has already tasked Taggart with developing a new digital cartographic product that clients will access and utilize directly inside their existing ArcGIS systems. This product is currently undergoing beta testing.
     WhiteStar hired Taggart specifically to assist with the rapid growth the company has experienced with the rollout of several new product lines in the past year. In January, WhiteStar introduced the Lot & Tract Database, an enhanced product and service line based on the U.S. Land Grid. In late 2005, the company unveiled additional CartoBase digital cartographic products for the oil & gas industry. Three new states were added to the existing line — Louisiana, Wyoming, and Utah.


The new mapping and location-related tools and services pioneered by grassroots developers, startup projects, and innovative mash-ups, are promising both disruptions and opportunities. To explore this technology frontier, O'Reilly Media is planning the second Where 2.0 Conference, happening June 13-14 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California. The preliminary program has just been unveiled; the rest of the program will be announced in waves in the coming weeks.
     The format for Where 2.0 will be similar to last year's — a series of rapid-fire plenary presentations laced with ample time for the informal "hallway track" where attendees can engage in serious schmoozing. Presentations will be made by the likes of Mike Liebhold (Institute for the Future), Perry Evans (LocalMatters), Felix Peterson (Plazes), Stewart Butterfield (Flickr/Yahoo! Inc.), Steve Lombardi (Microsoft), Di-Ann Eisnor (Platial), and Schuyler Erle (MetaCarta), among many others. The conference will also feature intriguing products from Where 2.0 sponsors, including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, MapQuest, and Telcontar.
     Where 2.0 topics include new mash-ups built on the Web platforms from Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft; security issues, from privacy to spam and national security; case studies of businesses built around map mash-ups; how to build and nurture a community of people volunteering information that will make a business better; what other geospatial barriers need to come down after Web-based mapping; use of mash-up technology within businesses to map and analyze location; information for fun and profit; startups built on the new geospatial platforms, such as Platial; and grassroots location sensors: homebuilt, hobbyist, and hardware hacked.
     O'Reilly conferences are known for bringing together seemingly disparate communities to debate their differences and find common ground to move technology forward. Where 2.0 provides one of the few opportunities for the traditional mapping / geospatial community to meet up face to face with the new generation of developers and alpha geeks who are creating innovative location-aware applications with the potential for widespread adoption. Join the developers, innovators, and business people behind the new era of geospatial software and get your bearings for the future at Where 2.0.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, will be a featured speaker at the MAPPS Federal Programs Conference, March 13-15 in Washington, D.C. The Intelligence Committee has jurisdiction over the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), an important client organization to MAPPS and dozens of its member firms. The committee approves the NGA budget, as well as provides program authority, policy, and oversight of NGA and other intelligence agencies.
     The MAPPS Federal Programs Conference, at the Hyatt Hotel on Capitol Hill, features presentations by Federal agencies on their programs, budgets, and upcoming contracts, liaison meetings with Federal agencies, policy briefings, and meetings on Capitol Hill with members of Congress. MAPPS is the only geospatial organization that has an organized Capitol Hill advocacy program. This conference is for MAPPS member firms only.


An updated version of Mapping Our World: GIS Lessons for Educators, gives teachers in middle and high schools a one-stop resource for adding GIS software to their curriculum. Ideas, exercises, resources, and data fill the pages of Mapping Our World: GIS Lessons for Educators, ArcGIS Desktop Edition, published by ESRI Press. The book updates the material from the original workbook for use with ESRI's latest GIS software, ArcGIS 9 Desktop. This new version from ESRI Press continues to help teachers expand their programs into the world of high-speed computing, vast databases, the World Wide Web, and the "supermaps" of GIS.
     The intent and general design of the lessons include the same standards and assessment rubrics as the original award-winning version. Exercises were only modified to accommodate changes and new tools in the software. This comprehensive educational resource gives educators all the tools they need to begin teaching with GIS. Educators with more GIS experience will find the lessons and data ideal points of departure for more complex and extended inquiries.
     The Mapping Our World package consists of a workbook with seven modules built around different geographic themes. Students can investigate each theme on three different levels: global perspective, regional case study, and advanced investigation. Each GIS investigation has been developed according to National Geographic Society standards.
     The workbook's 19 lessons include detailed step-by-step instructions for the student, well-placed screen captures, and questions that help students acquire broad-based problem-solving skills. The package also includes photocopy-ready teacher instructions, student handouts, assessments, and evaluation rubrics. Companion CDs include a one-year license of ArcView 9 software and geographic data for all lessons. A companion Web site provides additional support.

RMSI, a global IT services company, placed fifth in the 'Great Places to Work Study 2005' conducted by the Grow Talent Company in partnership with the Great Places to Work Institute, Inc., USA and Business World. RMSI received a 4-star status on all the survey parameters — Credibility, Respect, Fairness, Pride, and Camaraderie. The study covered all of India, across all industries — FMCG, power generation, pharmaceutical, insurance, hospitality, consulting, and IT and spanned more than 180 companies and 24,750 employees. A unique employee-centric methodology was adopted to measure the levels of trust, pride, and camaraderie in the organization. Workplaces were ranked on a point scale in a combination of quantitative and qualitative data based on the opinion of employees.
     The Great Place to Work Institute, Inc. is a research and management consultancy based in the United States with international affiliate offices throughout the world. They have been evaluating employers since 1980, to understand what makes a workplace great. Their ongoing research, measurement tools, and educational services have made them leaders in helping build high-trust workplaces.
     Grow Talent is a strategic HR consulting and change management firm that partners large global and local firms in the people side of their business agenda. They have worked for some of the largest global and South Asian firms.

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