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2005 March 3


Editor's Introduction
GIS Wish List
Letters to the Editor
Briefly Noted
Department of Corrections

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Editor's Introduction

This week I called two dozen GIS managers and technicians in a variety of fields and asked them all the same question: "What new features or capabilities in GIS technology and products would most help you in your work?" In other words, what is at the top of your wish list? As intended, this open-ended question elicited a wide array of responses and dropped me right at the center of the day-to-day concerns of GIS users — which is where I want to be to write this column.

Last week I gave ample room to the comments by Dimitri Rotow; my twin goals were to generate a lively debate and to clarify some of the key issues regarding open source code, proprietary development, and international standards. As the two knowledgeable ripostes I include in this week's issue demonstrate, I succeeded in meeting my first goal. I hope that, taken together, my original question and the exchange that followed succeeded in meeting my second goal as well. Anyway, I do not wish to turn this publication into a moderated list serve; therefore, I will not pursue this thread any further for now.

Also in this issue, I bring to your attention two Scientific American articles and a few upcoming conferences; I report how ESRI would prefer that we pronounce EDN; and I do the usual round-up of news from press releases. As always, I welcome — nay, I strongly encourage — your comments.

— Matteo

GIS Wish List

Ask two dozen GIS managers and technicians what new feature or capability they would most like to have and you will get two dozen different answers — reflecting the variety of GIS applications, the different stages of development of GIS projects, and different institutional cultures. Overall, the impression I get from this very small and totally unscientific survey is that GIS technology is heading in the right direction but end users, under pressure to produce results, are always a bit impatient and wish for new capabilities to be implemented more quickly than they are.

More specifically, the three wishes I've heard the most are easier data sharing, reducing data redundancies and misalignment within agencies, and better and cheaper data sets. Three additional ones are more portable products for mobile applications, better handling of large files (especially images), and easier Internet publishing and interactive visualizations.

Andy J. Goretti, the mapping project manager for the
Land Use & Environmental Services Agency of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, told me that his agency is an active partner in the NCOneMap project. An offshoot of the National Map project, NCOneMap is a single Web site into which municipalities and state agencies can feed data and users can zoom in to view their community and pull data from their server. "We are trying to request that applications be developed from the technology that is out there and that goes into NCOneMap. We have the potential to develop applications that use WMS (Web Mapping Services). We have put a lot of effort into customer-driven applications, trying to eliminate duplication; anything to eliminate duplication is key."

As for day-to-day issues, Goretti would like to explore easier plotting and product output/generation. Data sets, he points out, have become very large and "we would welcome any innovation that would reduce their size while maintaining their accuracy and value, especially for mobile applications." While he acknowledges that that is already the direction in which this technology is going, he'd like these developments to be "faster and better." He would also like more server-based applications.

What Christi L. Becker, the member market area manager for Best Western International, most wishes for is "time to explore all the opportunities for using GIS within [her] organization." "We are constantly finding new uses for the tools we already have," she adds, "we just do not have the time to delve into these possibilities as deep as we would like." Her small GIS department is also looking for improved data sets — in particular, street data for the Caribbean and MSA (metropolitan statistical area) boundary files from the U.S. Census Bureau. Her company promises its members that it will not put another Best Western hotel within less than a certain distance from their hotel. That distance ranges from a quarter mile to five miles, depending on the hotel's classification.

Becker's shop uses GIS to implement this "territory protection program" by mapping member hotels and their market areas. The company used GPS receivers to geocode all of its properties (approximately 2,500 hotels in North America), while Geographic Data Technology, Inc. (GDT), Becker told me, "has geocoded 50,000 hotels in the United States and 7,000 hotels in Canada for us, so that we can map our competition." Becker and her colleagues use ArcView 8.3, Business Analyst, BusinessMAP (to do maps on the fly), ArcGIS Publisher, and ArcExplorer Web. "We would like more exposure to the business users," says Becker, who attends the big ESRI annual conferences and finds them "very interesting but not necessarily business-oriented." She is looking forward to attending ESRI's annual Business GeoInfo Summit, in April.

Tony Sammur, senior vice president of Gen Re Intermediaries and head of the CAT modeling group, thinks that the new geo-technology feature that would help him most in his work is "the ability to overlay real-time updates of natural peril catastrophe events — such as hurricane storm tracks or earthquake seismic areas (possibly from NOAA or the USGS) — on maps of insured exposures." He is in the reinsurance industry and the ability to overlay insurance exposure with areas affected from real-time developing events is of critical importance to him.

Paul Zundel is the I/T Deputy Director/GIS for the mapping arm of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the state's environmental regulatory agency. His shop makes maps and uses different kinds of imagery for background, as well as satellite remote sensing and image classification. They use the entire suite of ESRI products, plus Leica Geosystem's ERDAS Imagine Remote Sensing/Image Processing software. Zundel's biggest wish: the capability to do 3D modeling faster and easier, e.g. for plume analysis, in support of a plan to create fly-throughs in response to toxic releases and other emergencies.

The DEQ provides information to the public safety officials responsible for making evacuation decisions; it also works with the U.S. Coast Guard to track barge traffic on the rivers, with the railroad companies to monitor the movement of hazardous materials, and with the U.S. Army National Guard, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and local law enforcement. "Louisiana is a hub for the petrochemical industry," Zundel explains. "In order to help prevent accidents and terrorist attacks, and to react effectively in case there is one, we need to know where everything is." Zundel's shop is in the process of establishing a wireless network for its Emergency Response/Emergency Management application. The DEQ has a contract with ESRI to spatially enable the agency's data — including Agency Interests (AIs), such as petrochemical plants, and Subject Items (SIs), such as stacks. "We georeference all that stuff using GPS," Zundel told me. They have a "make-a-map" program (see, which enables the public to make maps of Louisiana, and a map database. Zundel's shop uses ORACLE as its database engine running under Microsoft 2003 server, HP hardware clustering Itanium servers, and HP Storage Area Networks (SAN's) (where it stores over 4TB of data with the capacity to expand to more than 7TB), HP workstations, and HP plotters."

Andrea Westersund, the GIS manager for Multnomah County, Oregon, has two items on her wish list: "Standards need to be developed to allow GIS vendors to exchange Text as a feature class. Also the ability to store a rotation parameter with a point type."

Gerard Reminiskey, GISP, a GIS Specialist with Wilson & Company, an engineering and architectural firm in San Bernardino, California, uses PC ARC/INFO. "We use our ESRI floating licenses company-wide via a WAN," he explains. "A feature of ArcGIS that I've been clamoring for is the ability to check out licenses: to take a floating license out of the license pool and be able to use it while away from the network." The trend in GIS with which Reminiskey is most enamored is the move to industry-specific data models. "My wish list for the future of GIS technology would include the ability to more easily share project-specific maps and data via the Internet with something akin to a 'personal IMS.'"

Tracy Calhoun, a GIS technician in the Public Works Department of the City of Eugene, Oregon, would like the ability to automatically connect GIS map layer features to descriptive tabular data when GIS map layer is imported to GIS display and analysis software. "This capability," she explains "would provide current descriptive data for GIS display and analysis; allow resource experts, who may not understand GIS, to maintain descriptive data; free GIS staff from attribute entry tasks; and reduce or eliminate the need to join descriptive attributes to GIS map layers."

Alan Steremberg, is the president of Weather Underground, which uses GIS to create weather maps, such as radar maps with highways, and for users to search on their Web site by ZIP code. "We use a combination of ArcInfo and tools we've built ourselves to visualize the data we get from the federal government (including the National Weather Service and Tiger data from the U.S. Census Bureau) and from data vendors," he told me. Steremberg and his colleagues then pull this data together and build their database. "We've been searching hard for cheap or better data, especially for city names, postal codes, and highway data for outside the United States," Steremberg says, and adds that data for the United States is easy to find and very cheap.

"Most commercial software tools are too slow. We coded all of our own software," he explains. Weather Underground bought a license to Keyhole, a Windows product — "It is great!" Steremberg told me — and also uses GlobalMapper, from Global Mapper Software LLC. According to Steremberg, GlobalMapper "supports almost any format and is not too expensive. We'll use desktop tools to visualize the data, then GlobalMapper allows us to do some editing; once we know the data is good, we render it to our Web site."

Steve Wallace, a senior strategic planner at the Florida Farm Bureau, would like to have the ability to print and export to "GeoPDF," which he defines as "the ability to export a vector map to Acrobat, which can be zoom layered (content turns on/off based on zoom setting) and doesn't require any GIS." Because Acrobat's PDF reader is free, GeoPDFs could be read by a user who did not have a GIS, greatly enhancing the ease with which GIS products could be distributed. "I am just talking about getting maps into people's hands," Wallace told me, "but in such a way that they can zoom in/out and see more/less detail. This is not possible with a static PDF or other vector output."

Cindi Salas, manager of GIS Business Solutions for CenterPoint Energy, Inc., uses the full suite of ESRI products, plus many utility extensions. "We have an enterprise GIS for all of our gas and electric local distribution companies," she told me, and GIS interfaces in some way with every one of her company's major corporate systems. CenterPoint has more than 4,500 GIS users in nearly every area — including dispatch syncronization, engineering & design, street light operation, gas erosion protection, surveying, corporate tax, revenue accounting, marketing, claims, and line rotating. Salas told me that her top two wishes are more mobile field GIS and more Web-enabled GIS.

"For us," she explains, "GIS is more of a strategic rather than a tactical tool. We use GIS to make strategic decisions regarding our optimization, business risk, and prediction models." To maximize the return on investment (ROI), "we need more integration with other systems." She wants to be able to design tools that will be predictive — for example to analyze weather data so as to predict weather damage and outages and to dispatch crews and inform the public. Salas wants to be able to evaluate whether her company has enough manpower and materials to deal with emergencies and to better inform its public.

Electric utilities are monitored by public utility commissions and have to file annual reports showing that they are making circuits more reliable. For this reason, Salas told me, "we want to use GIS to see whether we are spending in the areas of the ten percent worst circuits. Integration with corporate systems will enable you to get the power that you need. Managers are constantly competing for dollars; therefore, you need to integrate systems so that you can justify your budget request — for example, poles vs. software."

Leslie Cone, who manages the National Integrated Land System (NILS) program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Land Management, is responsible for several applications to meet BLM business needs. "About 74 percent of our business," she told me, "involves spatial data." The BLM has three primary responsibilities (see surveying public land, keeping records of land and mineral ownership rights, and tracking the status of federal land ownership. "I have wanted to have a graphic representation of all of our surveys and land records and status data," Cone says, "and be able to display it and make it available to the public on the Internet." The BLM uses ArcGIS and has been working with ESRI to develop the ability to collect and maintain GIS data to map all of its cases. "You have to know what you manage and we need the ability to have all that data to do the analysis spatially," Cone told me.

Camille Merchant coordinates environmental biology for Springer & Associates, Inc., an engineering and environmental consulting firm that uses GIS extensively. "We would like greater transparency when working with AutoCAD files," Merchant told me, "and a better ability to translate and to edit files without first having to convert them." According to her, the technology is better now than it used to be just a few years ago, but it has not yet progressed far enough. She would also like a better ability to work with large aerial images ("Files about 250Mb or larger will usually crash my printer. I have some workarounds but they are unsatisfactory.") and the ability to print them generating small plot files.

Harsh Gautam manages the GIS development group for the City of San José's Department of Public Works. His department's GIS program is transitioning from an outdated legacy GIS system to a scalable database-centric environment. "As part of our City GIS standards, the City does not endorse any GIS product or vendor," Gautam told me. "Instead, we focus on making the data available in native format and prefer applications that interface natively." This openness and interoperability, he contends, has been key to the success of his agency's GIS implementation. "To make this effort a reality," he explains, "we had to build the system from the ground up."

The first step toward the transition was the development of a robust data model that incorporated business needs identified through intensive needs assessments and analysis. According to Gautam, the City's new GIS Data Model is OGIS- and FGDC-compliant and has logic and intelligence built into the database, thereby enabling constraints and maintaining referential integrity that crosses multiple disciplines. "In addition," Gautam explains, "the new data model includes project, process, and resource management capabilities that make our approach unique. The flexibility and openness of our new environment provide a stark comparison to the legacy environment."

The City of San José's legacy GIS contained "islands of automation," says Gautam, which resulted from the focus on a product-centric stand-alone GIS approach. "As a consequence, there was data translation, redundancy, and data misalignment between various users and datasets." Oracle Spatial, he contends, provides a platform to solve this problem. "We focus on the data and the underlying database, allowing the user to select the proper tools to connect to it." The central GIS staff then feeds the data into several enterprise applications, such as the city's E911 Public Safety Dispatch and its online permit and document management system.

According to Gautam, the implementation also has facilitated the city's joint efforts with the county to develop a regional base map. "We get better return on investment because we are not investing in software but in the data." He acknowledges that there still remain a few challenges to implementations such as this that need to be addressed industry-wide.

The city, Gautam told me, would like to see better synergy among GIS industry leaders, users, and database vendors. "These leaders should work closely with the Open GIS Consortium to push the database vendors to adopt OGIS standards. Oracle currently leads the industry in OGIS compliance, but all must embrace these standards to be truly open and interoperable. We at the City believe that the future of GIS is 'open,' and new advancements and efforts put forth in the open technology environment will not only benefit the City, but the entire GIS community."

Heather is the landbase GIS coordinator for a city in Ontario, Canada. (I do not fully identify Heather and her city at her manager's request.) She works for a section that is responsible for coordinating her city's GIS data; she is responsible for the data part, while someone else is responsible for the applications. "With respect to data," Heather told me, "we are looking for a good metadata tool. This is our biggest requirement, especially given the large amount of data with which we are dealing all the time." Currently, her section stores its metadata in Microsoft Access. "What is required province-wide are metadata standards, to make sure that people are all storing this information in the same way. That is the direction in which we need to be going."

This is very difficult, according to Heather, because of the number of datasets throughout the city that her section must track. "People call us and ask us what we have," she says, "and we have to give them a list and proper metadata. Each of our city's departments does its own thing, but we are now slowly bringing all the data into a central depository. The next step is to get good metadata for the data in the depository."

Bob Skoye coordinates the GIS division for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, in Alberta, Canada. He told me that Wood Buffalo, one of the largest local governments in North America, is three years into its GIS implementation. His small division is charged with implementing GIS technology throughout the corporation of about 500 staff and for the municipality's citizens.

In 2002 Skoye's division looked for a vendor for software and support services, then recruited a program developer and two technologists. "In planning GIS implementation," he told me, "our most important requirement was to have data maintenance processes for sustainability and data stewardship — to make sure that we would be able to keep the data current — and to help break down departmental silos and promote data sharing and accountability. Our recent intranet webtool, GeoViewer, showcases easy, reliable access to secure and accurate corporate information." Skoye and his staff spend a large percentage of their time working on parcel mapping. "Our region is the third largest in Alberta in terms of the number of parcels and this number is growing rapidly due to development of the oil sands projects in the region. Updating information on our cadastral fabric was a key task." Skoye's shop is also working with other business units. For example, it is helping the taxation & assessment unit develop its computer-assisted mass appraisal system, which has a large GIS component, and has recently sent out an RFP for an Operation Management System.

"We have tremendous support from our regional council and senior leadership," says Skoye, and adds that his unit works closely with the emergency preparedness department, the fire department, and the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). As to what innovation would help him most, he told me "We are not necessarily at a point yet where any new technology can help us. Rather, we are trying to implement and manage change in spatial data management and delivery in the organization." However, one need Skoye and his staff do have, is for a quick and inexpensive way to do digital elevation mapping for flood control, because every spring the area is in real danger from the breakup of the ice on the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers. "Ours is an exciting region in which to be implementing GIS technologies and processes."

Letters to the Editor

The comments by Dimitri Rotow in last week's issue generated the following two letters. As I said in this week's Editor's Introduction, now that I've given space to both sides in this heated debate, I will give the topic a rest for a while.

Donald Marino, the technical lead for the Operational Tools Group in the Data Systems division of DigitalGlobe, Inc., wrote:

I feel compelled to respond to the remarks in the letter you excerpted from Mr. Rotow at Manifold systems, because his is pure, unadulterated FUD. [For a history of this term, see What Is FUD? — Matteo] I am hoping that you posted his inflammatory remarks to create some debate about what is actually happening in the Open Source GIS arena, since Mr. Rotow is obviously not up to speed on this domain whatsoever. Hopefully you will be willing to listen to someone who has not "drunk the Kool-Aid," so to speak.

My company has been having great success in implementing GIS systems using the very Open Source GIS technologies that Mr. Rotow so casually wrote off as, at best, useless. I'd say, in reading comments such as Mr. Rotow provides, please consider the source. In fact, Manifold uses the Microsoft platform as a strategic point. Here's a quote from Manifold's Web site: "Manifold is the first and only professional GIS and mapping application to achieve the coveted 'Designed for Windows XP' status."

I'd say that Manifold and Mr.Rotow have a strategic interest in convincing users that UNIX and Linux are "obscure operating systems". Statements like "There are no open source projects of any merit" prove that Mr. Rotow is not only ignorant of what is actually available in the Open Source domain, but is actually trying to dissuade users from checking this out for themselves.

His criticism of OGC and the Web Mapping Standards show that he is also short-sighted. There is no excuse for criticizing the OGC because it is an open process and Manifold could just as easily participate in it and steer it to something more to Mr. Rotow's liking. However, FUD works best when you just attack, attack, and ignore the facts.

Also, how is this not a straight-up sales pitch: ".. it is the ubiquitous availability of PC clones running Windows that anyone can afford coupled with the emergence of full-power, best-in-the-world GIS applications like Manifold that sell for under $250." I am surprised that you would publish this, as I'm sure ad space in GIS Monitor is not free generally.

How about this? Take that same "PC clone" and run Linux on it, add GDAL, GEOS, MapServer, PostgreSQL, postGIS, and GRASS, and you'd still be $250 and a Windows license fee away from the fabulous deal Mr. Rotow is obviously trying to convince you to buy. You'll be able to do all of your GIS work just as well — if not faster. And if you happen not to be shilling for Microsoft, you can run any and all of it on UNIX, Linux, Mac, or Windows. How is that not a plus? I guess we'd all be better off if we forgot about UNIX, Linux, or anything other than the products Mr. Rotow is tasked with developing. I suppose that Mr. Rotow has not heard of Quantum GIS, JUMP, UDIG, MapServer, or any of the other fine tools that work just as well on Windows as they do on UNIX and Linux. Either that or they know they cannot compete with the beer-free software that does exist out there and is of very high quality.

Please provide some actual news about Open Source GIS in your magazine. This kind of FUD is not welcome or useful, but can be very harmful when people blindly believe it.


Valerio Luccio [Yes, we are related: he is my younger brother and, as he pointed out after reading my introduction two weeks ago, he gave me my first GPS receiver, for Christmas in 1999 — Matteo], who manages the information systems for New York University's Center for Brain Imaging, sent me his comments on several of Mr. Rotow's statements:

> Regardless of how anyone feels about it, 98 percent of the world uses Microsoft
The figure is inflated — it ignores the growing popularity of GNU/Linux and the very successful Mac OSX — and only applies to desktop machines. Desktop usage accounts for only a fraction of the computing cycles used in the world. When using a desktop, you are also using many computers that are not desktops, accessing Web sites, email, or databases. Only a minority of public web sites use a Microsoft operating system and many of those that do, use Apache (open source) as their Web server software. Microsoft's presence in mail and database servers is even smaller. Virtually all large accounting software (such as those used by banks and brokers) does not run on MS Windows systems. Large simulations and calculations (such as those performed in manufacturing, weather forecasting, and research) do not run on Microsoft Windows systems.

> Open Source advocates … create products for operating system environments that (statistically) no one uses.
Taking into account all computers, not just desktops, the other operating systems are not statistically insignificant — in fact, they represent the majority.

> If they wanted lots of people to actually use their products, they'd create them for Windows.
There is plenty of open source code that runs on Windows, including most of the GNU products (such as Emacs and MySQL), OpenOffice, Apache, OpenSSL, OpenSSH, Mozilla, and Thunderbird. None of these look "threadbare compared to very polished Windows products." However, they do differ from their Windows counterparts in one key respect: they are much safer and more reliable and crash a lot less. Some programs do not run on Windows because to do so would require a total rewrite, since almost nothing in Microsoft platforms is standard.

> [O]pen source communities have proven unable to muster the density of programmatic development capabilities equivalent to what commercial companies can focus on a project.
The quality of support is very uneven for both closed source and open source products. There might be some companies that produce closed source software that are particularly good at responding to problems (Microsoft is one of them) and others that are really bad. There are some open source projects that are quite active and have good response time (such as GNU and OpenOffice), while other ones lie dormant for years. Successful open source is developed by companies that offer free support, which is slow, and fee-based support, which is fast.

> Open source advocates are fond of stating that they have the advantage of parallelization, applying lots of people each doing a small bit here or there, but that's not how elite software development works.
That is not how open source projects are managed. The software is actually produced by a relative small number of highly skilled and trained software engineers. When people around the world spot a problem and/or produce the solution, they submit it to the development team, which evaluates it and may adopt all, some, or none of the proposed fix.

> [O]pen source has been somewhat successful in reverse engineering the (obsolete) operating systems of the past, such as the UNIX to Linux reverse engineering effort.
The idea that UNIX is obsolete is laughable and can only occur to someone who hasn't set foot in a data center in years. The same can be said of the statement "absent the benefit of a sophisticated user interface": all major open source operating systems have included graphical user interfaces for more than ten years.

> [T]hose very few open source projects that have been done that involve sophisticated user interfaces have either been done at glacial pace by one or two people working very closely together, or they are really fake open source in that they are commercial projects done at a place like SUN but for competitive reasons released as open source.
Open source does not mean "work for free from home in the middle of the night" (this is a common misconception among those who have little or no knowledge of open source), and the terms free software and open source software are not synonymous. For example, Adobe's AcrobatReader and RealNetworks' RealPlayer are free, but they are not open source. There is no such thing as "fake open source": open source is a business model and people involved in it make a living from it. Just to name a few: RedHat, Apache, SUN, and IBM (which has just announced a $100M investment over the next three years in open source development) make money off of their open source products. The idea behind open source is that the earnings do not come from the initial software development, but rather from training, customization, and add-on products. Incidentally, this is similar to the early history of the computer business: through the 1960s, manufacturers like IBM used to give their software for free in order to sell their (very expensive) hardware.

> [T]hose people who, for political/competitive reasons are trying to revive the idea of a "network PC," in competition to Microsoft-based desktop environments.
Large computing facilities run either computer clusters or computer farms, both of which can be called "network computing." There is no need to revive the idea because it never went away.

> In the 1980s and 1990s people still bought minicomputers from the likes of DEC and Data General. Those companies were obliterated by the rise of mass-market PC clones like Dell.
Dell PC's running Windows did not replace DEC VAXs or Data General hardware. For computation and servers DELL sells Intel workstations running RedHat Linux. The term PC clone derived from IBM PC clone and was dropped from the lingo more than 15 years ago.

> In the 1980s people used "word processors" like Wangwriters and IBM Displaywriters for $15,000 a seat. Those products, and all of the companies or business divisions selling them, were obliterated by the rise of mass market, inexpensive word processing software running on desktop PCs.
Their downfall began with the marketing of Apple's desktops (the term PC is usually understood to mean Intel-based desktops) and the use of Wintel machines expanded when Microsoft stole the principles of the Mac operating system from Apple.

For a detailed comparison of the market shares of open source and proprietary software, see

Briefly Noted

  • In the February issue of Scientific American, the article "Seeking Better Web Searches," by Javed Mostafa, includes a section on systems that would "take into account a person's location." While I welcome this explanation of the role that location can play in retrieving information, I question one of Mostafa's statements: "Unfortunately, the positional error of GPS-based systems (from three to four meters) is still rather large. Even though this resolution can be enhanced by indoor sensor and outdoor beacon systems, these technologies are relatively expensive to implement." While sub-meter accuracy is essential for certain applications, such as automated vehicle navigation systems, an accuracy of a few meters is certainly sufficient for the purpose of identifying nearby points of interest.

  • In the March issue of Scientific American, the article "If Smallpox Strikes Portland" by Chris Barrett, Stephen Eubank, and James Smith, describes an epidemiological simulation to test the effectiveness of different responses in advance of disease outbreaks. It discusses how modeling the movements of every individual in a large population produces a dynamic picture of the social network — the same network of contacts used by infectious diseases to spread among human hosts. The article contains the following account of a precursor to GIS:

  • "Long before the germ theory of disease, London physician John Snow argued that cholera, which had killed tens of thousands of people in England during the preceding 20 years, spread via the water supply. In the summer of 1854 he tested that theory during an outbreak in the Soho district. On a map, he marked the location of the homes of each of the 500 victims who had died in the preceding 10 days and noted where each victim had gotten water. He discovered that every one of them drank water from the Broad Street pump, so Snow convinced officials to remove the pump handle. His action limited the death toll to 616."

  • As location awareness goes mainstream, here's the text of a spam e-mail message I've been receiving lately:
Current Matches:

1. Emily Stapleton is within 26 miles from your location. She is married, but her husband is away almost every weekend and some weeknights.

2. Victoria Coleman is within 13 miles from your location. She is married but looking for another relationship while her husband is on the road.

Department of Corrections
ESRI has brought to my attention that because EDN, when pronounced as "Eden," could be construed to have a religious connotation, they are trying to consciously remember to call it E-D-N when saying it out loud.

Last week I reported on the annual GeoTec Event and mentioned GITA's Annual Conference 28 (in Denver, this Sunday through Wednesday the 9th) and the ASPRS 2005 Annual Conference (in Baltimore, from March 7 to 11). Here are a few more upcoming conferences.

In Washington, DC, at the Washington Hilton Hotel, on April 14 and 15,
GITA, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the International Association of Emergency Managers present "Emerging Technology Summit III: Advancing the Sensor Web."

Sensor webs are the next generation of sensor technology. They are used to detect and monitor a wide variety of threats, such as unauthorized entry or the release of toxic agents; to protect critical infrastructure, such as power generating plants; to predict the weather and warn of impending hurricanes and other natural disasters; to route and track vehicles and other assets (in this case, GPS receivers are the key "sensors"); and for other defense and intelligence tasks. Combined with wireless and Internet technologies, sensor technologies, according to the conference's organizers, are "resulting in countless location-aware sensors providing near-real-time observations and measurements of the real world through applications that leverage the power and scale of the Web."

The American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), the California Land Surveyors Association (CLSA), the Nevada Association of Land Surveyors (NALS), and the Western Federation of Professional Surveyors (WFPS) are jointly holding a conference and technology exhibition at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, from March 18 to 23. The conference will include technical sessions on, among other topics, GPS, Geodesy/Surveying, GIS, history of surveying, LIS, mapping, and water boundaries.

The conference will also feature full day workshops on control surveying, datums & projections, GPS vector processing, running a successful surveying business, basic RTK controller, geomapping for data visualization, hydrographic surveying, risk management, ALTA/ACSM land title surveys, practical GIS for everyday surveying, and practical use of state plane coordinates — as well as half day workshops on construction surveying, field procedures, math for surveyors, record research, cadastral GIS, the Interior Board of Land Appeals, unwritten transfers of interests in land, utilities, construction surveying, orthophotography, GPS-derived heights, professional liability, weighted coordinate transformations, metes & bounds retracement, and situational ethics. The complete program is available at

The conference will contain a full program of over 40 workshops, 30 technical sessions and over 60 exhibits. Technical sessions will span everything from applications of GIS and mapping technologies to evolving markets to advanced data types and sources. The conference is expected to draw more than 2,000 surveying professionals from all over the nation looking to hear the latest findings from the field, earn continuing education credits, network and meet old and new vendors. A highlight of the week will be the keynote address by Dr. John Hébert, Chief of the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, who will address the importance of maps from the perspectives of presentation, history, and contemporary importance. The exhibit hall will feature the latest in technology from the fields of surveying, cartography, remote sensing, GIS, GPS, and much more.

A new feature of the 2005 conference is the Technician Workshop Program. Several workshops on Saturday and Sunday, March 19-20, will be geared specifically towards survey technicians. Another new feature is the outdoor demonstration area in which select companies will give live demonstrations of their cutting-edge products. Also new in 2005 is the resurrected Auto-Carto symposium sponsored by the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS). This program will feature three full days of research presentations on the state of Web-based and Internet cartography in the 21st century.

Many professional boards and committees are meeting in conjunction with the conference, including the boards of WFPS, NSPS, CaGIS, AAGS, GLIS, and NALS, and the general memberships of NSPS, CaGIS, AAGS. Finally, the ACSM Awards Reception will also take place at the conference. ESRI will hold its 2005 ESRI Business GeoInfo Summit April 18 and 19 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. The two-day event will include breakout sessions, user discussions, technical demonstrations, and more designed for people who want to learn more about using GIS technology in business. This conference gives business managers, marketers, analysts, CIOs, information technology managers, CEOs, and others the opportunity to meet business GIS vendors and network with other professionals to learn about common practices and issues from industry leaders. The summit will feature a GIS Solutions EXPO, a Map Gallery, and breakout sessions. The EXPO will display ESRI business partners' integrated GIS services, ESRI-based software applications, software application tools, consulting services, and more. The Map Gallery will display maps and demonstrations from companies that successfully use GIS, ESRI software, and ESRI Business Information Solutions. The breakout sessions will be led by ESRI software users who deploy GIS tools and business data.

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park's Conservation and Research Center Program, in Washington, D.C., is offering a course called "GIS & Remote Sensing for Wildlife Managers", April 18 to 22. Increasingly, GIS and Remote Sensing have become important tools for decision-making and applied management of natural resources. Many federal agencies and NGOs rely on GIS and satellite data for their work and are starting to produce their own spatial databases. However, there are few training opportunities for wildlife managers to learn the applications of GIS in everyday management situations. The course offers wildlife managers with hands-on experience in the collection of data, GIS analysis of data, and map-making using the latest ESRI (ArcGIS) and ERDAS software.

News Briefs

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

Under a contract with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Satellite and Information Services Division, Global Marketing Insights Inc., a market research company headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, has launched a comprehensive research study of international remote sensing markets for aerial and satellite data technologies. This study includes a five- and ten-year analysis of the political, economic and technical trends impacting the remote sensing industry globally. The surveys encompass political and economic trend information impacting the remote sensing industry, as well as technology information concerning the aerial film, aerial digital, aerial sensors, satellites, and remote sensing hardware and software sectors. Individuals from all segments of the worldwide aerial and satellite remote sensing industry are invited to participate in the study by logging in here. The final research project will be publicly available and will be completed by the end of 2005.

The U.S. Navy's Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) has selected a team of AXYS Technologies, NavCom Technology, and ITS Corporation, to further deploy its RTK-StarFire solution with the development of an RTK-StarFire GPS buoy system. NavCom's implementation of Solid Earth Tide Corrections into their GPS software algorithm was instrumental in providing real-time, accurate water elevation data from the buoy system and essential in meeting NAVOCEANO's requirements. The TRIAXYS GPS buoys equipped with NavCom GPS receivers are able to measure water levels for hydrographic surveys providing up to 30 centimeters of improved vertical accuracy depending on latitude and solar and lunar cycles.

In addition to increased accuracies, these buoys will reduce the need for installing land-referenced tide gauges. NAVOCEANO's Hydrographic Fleet collects data and provides the Navy and other Federal Agencies with products supporting surface and subsurface navigation, littoral warfare, and ocean and acoustic modeling and mapping. AXYS Environmental Systems, a division of AXYS Technologies Inc., is a Canadian company specializing in the design, manufacture, and installation of environmental monitoring systems worldwide and provides technical field services to train and support customers in the operation and maintenance of their products.

ITS is an Information Technology and professional solutions and services provider to the federal government; it designs, installs, operates and maintains a wide variety of information technology systems, including desktop and mainframe computers and local and wide area networks for the federal government. NavCom Technology, Inc., a John Deere company, is a provider of advanced GPS products for OEMs, VARs, and system integrators needing high performance RTK systems, global decimeter-level GPS satellite corrections, geodetic quality GPS receivers, wireless communication products, and engineering consulting in the areas of precise positioning, wireless communications, and robotics.

The Town of Arlington, Massachusetts, has signed a contract with Full Circle Technologies, Inc., to web-enable the Town's GIS, using Full Circle Technologies' web-based product, VectorEyes.

Mergers, Acquisitions, and Start-Ups
INPHO GmbH, of Stuttgart, Germany, a system supplier for digital photogrammetry, has established a new company, inphoUSA, Inc., located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to serve as sales and support center for INPHO software products.

Sanborn, a provider of GIS and photogrammetry services based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has acquired the commercial and civilian value-added solutions business unit of Space Imaging, a provider of satellite imagery based near Denver, Colorado. Space Imaging's federal civil and commercial solutions capabilities range from in-depth imagery analyses to customized software applications. Since 2001 Space Imaging has grown the unit from a small group primarily serving the West Coast to a national business specializing in cartography, remote sensing, decision support systems, and geographic analysis.

Approximately 45 employees from Space Imaging's Federal Civil and Commercial Solutions group will be joining Sanborn's solution development group. By combining customized software and in-house cartography, remote sensing, imagery processing, and database analysis, Sanborn will provide GIS solutions to disaster response, security/risk assessment, state and local governments, forestry and ecosystem resource management, air and ground transportation, and wildland fire management. Space Imaging will focus on its defense and intelligence lines of business that include mapping production, R&D;, and system engineering services. The company will continue selling satellite imagery to the civil and commercial markets directly. Neither company announced the terms of the acquisition.

GeoDecisions, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, an IT company that specializes in geospatial solutions, has named Ali Detar marketing manager, to develop and implement the firm's strategic, integrated marketing plans. Detar relies on her extensive writing experience to develop all marketing materials, including press releases, brochures, and in-depth feature stories.

WilsonMiller, Inc., a Florida-based planning, design, and engineering firm, has hired Francisco B. "Frank" Domingo, P.E., as senior project manager in the Sarasota office. His is now responsible for transportation planning and design for public works and private development clients.

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), of Oak Hill, Virginia, has added to its board of directors John T. Werle, Vice President & General Manager, Space & Intelligence Systems, The Boeing Company; Michael M. Thomas, Vice President & General Manager, Geospatial-Intelligence Solutions, Lockheed Martin Corporation; and Christopher K. Tucker, President & CEO, Ionic Enterprise. The USGIF is a Virginia-based not-for-profit corporation dedicated to promoting the geospatial intelligence tradecraft.

The membership of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) has elected Marguerite Madden as its Vice President for 2005. Once she is sworn in as President in 2007, Madden will be the sixth woman to hold that office since the Society was founded in 1934. With the installation of officers at the ASPRS Annual Conference in March, Karen Schuckman moves into the position of president; Kari Craun becomes president-elect, and Russell Congelton becomes past president. Madden is Director of the Center for Remote Sensing and Mapping Science (CRMS), Department of Geography, University of Georgia. Paula Smit, a Senior Systems Engineer for the Raytheon's Intelligence and Information Systems in Aurora, Colorado, was elected as Assistant Director, Geographic Information Systems Division. Robert Eadie, the Northeastern U.S. Manager of Intermap Technologies in Denver, Colorado, was elected Assistant Director, Primary Data Acquisition Division. ASPRS is an international organization of 7,000 geospatial data professionals.

Prof. Dr.-Ing Wolfgang Förstner has been named the recipient of the 2005 Photogrammetric Award (Fairchild) in recognition of his major contributions to the science of photogrammetry, by helping to establish the increasingly important ties between photogrammetry, digital image processing, and computer vision. He will receive the award during the upcoming ASPRS 2005 Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, March 7-11. Educated at the Technical University of Stuttgart and Stuttgart University, Förstner received his Dr-Ing.habil. in 1989. From 1977 until 1989 he was an associate professor at the Institute of Photogrammetry, Stuttgart University, and since 1990, has been a full professor for photogrammetry and the director of the Institute for Photogrammetry at Bonn University. Förstner has been responsible for several major theoretical and practical innovations.

Smart Data Strategies, Inc., a provider of GIS software and parcel data solutions to the land records industry, has appointed Tom Godish as Northeast Regional Sales Manager, covering the middle to upper eastern half of the United States. Godish has more than 15 years of experience selling GIS software solutions, data management solutions, and professional services to state and local government agencies, the federal government, and the private and public utility marketplace. He has extensive knowledge in the areas of GIS application development, data conversion and migration, data integration and management, and providing turn-key enterprise solutions.

Woolpert, Inc., and Fugro Pelagos, Inc., recently completed a bathymetric LIDAR survey of the Yakima River for the United States Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation. The project involved the acquisition and processing of Airborne LIDAR Bathymetry data along approximately 16 miles of the Yakima River near Ellensburg, Washington. According to the company, it represented the first time that Airborne LIDAR Bathymetry technology had been used successfully to map a shallow-water river environment.

This year the James W. Sewall Company, of Old Town, Maine, celebrates its 125th anniversary with a series of educational events. Sewall, which offers aerial photography, spatial information services, forestry, and engineering, has grown from a local family-owned business into a national consulting firm with 175 employees.

Bentley Systems, Incorporated, of Exton, Pennsylvania, a large software provider, in the latest issue of its user publication, BE Magazine, features interviews with its own Chief Marketing Officer, Tony Flynn, and with Dr. James Hill, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on what Bentley terms "the costly indifference of Autodesk." In the same issue of the magazine, which is electronically distributed to more than 220,000 readers, its editors follow up on a recent NIST study that found $15.8 billion in annual efficiency losses in the U.S. capital facilities industry — all stemming from inadequate interoperability. Narrowing the focus to the high costs of inadequate software interoperability, Flynn argues that Autodesk practices add to those costs, challenges Autodesk to change these practices, and suggests ways for the industry to become more efficient.

At its Business Partner Conference in Palm Springs, California, on February 12, ESRI recognized GeoDecisions, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, an IT company that specializes in geospatial solutions, as the ESRI 2005 Partner of the Year for the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, region. The award recognized GeoDecisions for successfully implementing ESRI GIS software in applications for many public- and private-sector clients. In 2002, GeoDecisions became an ESRI value-added reseller.

Dr. Vincent Tao, the president of GeoTango International Corp., of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, a maker of 3D geospatial visualization solutions, introduced the company's new 'See Anywhere Map Everywhere' (SAME) technology in a keynote address at the 19th Annual GeoTec Event Conference in Vancouver, Canada. SAME, a network-centric 3D spatial visualization and streaming system that allows users to perform 3D visualization and interactive exploration of multiple data sources over a distributed network, uses satellite/aerial images and sensor networks to provide real-time or near-real-time monitoring, surveillance, and mapping of critical infrastructure sites, urban cores and rural regions.

Tao, using a wireless connection to stream high resolution imagery and aerial photography to the display, demonstrated the product as a web client: as a user zooms in, more detailed imagery/maps are displayed. Hotspots — such as webcams and other information sensors — are accessible directly from the displayed imagery/map, giving instant access to these additional data sources.

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), based in Park Ridge, Illinois, has released three new titles in its catalog of Quick Study publications: Building a Geographic Information System Community by Sharing Data, by Janet Jackson and Paula Gee Davis; Primer on Wireless GIS, by Paul Braun; and GIS Program Revenue Generation and Legal Issues in Public Sector Organizations by Pete Croswell, GISP and Alex Wernher.

WebBased Ltd, based in Plymouth, UK, a company that specializes in the design and production of Internet, database, and imaging technologies for education and business, is serving the world's largest image, a 3.9 terabyte (3,900 gigabytes) ECW file, utilizing its Internet-based GIS application InfoMapper and ER Mapper's Image Web Server. The image, of the South West of England, is being served via the Internet to schools in England's South West Grid for Learning. Students use the image across the learning curriculum. For example, in history the image is overlaid and morphed with a map of the same area from 1880, while citizenship classes use the imagery when studying local areas and environments.

The InfoMapper application makes it possible for the user to draw over any area of the image and attach or link to information and digital resources about that area. UKP, Britain's largest aerial photography data supplier, was commissioned to create the giant ECW image, which is comprised of over 24,000 individual 1km tiles of aerial photography. The tiles have a mixture of 10cm and 25cm resolutions. The ER Mapper application was used to mosaic the entire dataset into one seamless ECW image.

NovaLIS Technologies, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, a supplier of GIS-centric land information management products to government, and business partner Timmons Group, a provider of innovative GIS-enabled technology solutions based in Richmond, Virginia, are implementing NovaLIS Land Development Office in Montgomery County, Virginia. The County has been a NovaLIS Parcel Editor customer since 2003, and recently began working with Timmons Group to make Land Development Office, a product designed to automate local government growth management practices, part of its integrated land records management solution.

As part of the Parcel Editor implementation, Montgomery County, along with its Town partners and Timmons, built a county-wide GIS database that provides seamless access to map information across the County. Now the County wants to achieve the same level of service with Land Development Office, which automates workflow practices, ensuring the consistent application of regulations, increasing staff productivity, and improving customer service. ESRI Canada, ESRI Inc., and Leica Geosystems jointly own NovaLIS.

Southern Company, one of the largest producers of electricity in the United States, has completed a three-year project with Space Imaging for the collection of high-resolution IKONOS satellite imagery of large, environmentally-sensitive areas in the Southeast United States where Southern Company has property or distribution assets. The contract for the purchase of approximately $600,000 worth of IKONOS imagery was negotiated by Space Imaging reseller Geographical and Environmental Data Services, Inc. (GEDS). The imagery was taken during multiple seasons and has been used for development, research, environmental analysis, and as a tool for meeting re-licensing and other regulatory requirements allowing the company to reduce internal costs and increase efficiency.

ESRI has announced the implementation of a flagship ArcIMS Web site that spatially enables the Reuters humanitarian news portal known as AlertNet. The Web site provides a geocoded news feed where online visitors can search for stories by geographic region or retrieve digital maps showing locations where stories are taking place. The AlertNet mapping system proved its value during the first days of the Indian Ocean tsunami crisis. Tens of thousands of visitors to the site turned to the interactive mapping feature to find out details of the areas that had been affected. At times the ESRI-powered mapping accounted for more than 20 percent of total site traffic.

ESRI (UK) LTD. Business Partner and systems integrator ESYS (sponsored by the European Space Agency) built the Web site using ESRI's ArcIMS technology. Reuters AlertNet is a humanitarian news network that aims to keep relief professionals and the public up-to-date on humanitarian crises around the globe. It attracts nearly four million users a year, has a network of more than 300 contributing humanitarian organizations, and its weekly e-mail digest is received by more than 13,000 readers.

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