GIS Monitor Mar 8, 2001


-Bluetooth for LBS
-Intergraph Gets Good News in Intel Case
-Autodesk Field Survey
-What’s NILS?
-Lasso – Another Spatial Web Search
-Points of Interest
-New Lists at
-Week in Review
-Back Issues

This issue sponsored by:


I fell victim to a Nor’easter which hit New England this past week and did not make it to GITA in San Diego. Still, I’ve been carefully monitoring news from the show. As the snow falls outside my window, I observe at least one theme.

The buzzword is not mobile or wireless as I expected, but asset tracking. ESRI hooked up with AirTrack and Main Course to announce TerraTrak and PortaTrak, respectively. The companies will offer services to track vehicles and other portable assets. 186k Ltd chose GE Smallworld to inventory its assets as it builds new infrastructure. While utilities and others have needed to manage “stuff” before, it’s only recently that that technology -- specifically technology tracking via GPS and cellular -- has come of age.


Despite the fanfare surrounding location-based services (LBS) and GPS location determination, Ericsson has chosen to look at a much simpler model: Bluetooth. The new platform, called Bluetooth Local Infotainment Point (BLIP) is aimed at local, personal LBS challenges. Bluetooth may not be able to pinpoint a location but the key element in Ericsson’s choice may be that “close enough” is good enough. Bluetooth may fit the bill as it is designed for short distance communications without wires.

Extending that idea to LBS means that when a device is “close enough” the ad, or message is communicated to the Bluetooth enabled phone or handheld device. One suggested use is Bluetooth-activated billboards that ask nearby users if they are interested in further information, coupons, etc. Ericsson is pursuing not only in the hardware for this solution, but also in the development of content for delivery.

Because the underlying location determination is much simpler than using GPS or cell tower triangulation, Bluetooth seems to be a simpler and much less expensive way to deliver location-based services. The Bluetooth “box” with a 30ft range will launch in June at about $500. I think privacy activists might feel more comfortable with this type of “non-tracking.”


Intergraph employees must be walking around with smiles on their faces today after Thursday's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit that Intel does not have a right to use Intergraph’s patented Clipper technology. This case will make it much easier for Intergraph to collect on licensing monies or other remuneration should Intel be found using Clipper technology in its Pentium chips. The court confirmed, “Intel is not licensed under these [the Clipper] patents.”

Of course, Intergraph CEO James Taylor was happy. Taylor noted that the future might hold recovery of “the value taken from our employees, customers and shareholders by Intel’s actions." Intergraph shareholders should be smiling this morning, too. Intergraph stock leapt to a three-year high of $10 -- a rise of nearly 40% in a single day, putting the INGR symbol in many online stock discussions.

Intergraph left the PC business in September 1999 and cited Intel’s behavior as part of the reason. A patent infringement suit against Intel by Intergraph in November 1997 covering several areas: illegal coercive behavior, patent infringement, and antitrust violations. The case had taken on a few twists. Judge Edwin Nelson at first claimed that Intel did infringe on Intergraph patents but then reversed his own decision months later. Intel claimed they had access to the patents via a relationship with Fairchild Semiconductor. Intergraph had purchased the Clipper patents and technology in a 1987 acquisition of Fairchild Semiconductor's advanced processor division.

Intel, for its part, has not yet responded. They did note however that the suit only says that Intel is not licensed to use the patents. Spokesman Chuck Mulloy maintained that Intel does “not believe the patents in question are valid or have been infringed."

Intergraph plans to show that Intel has in fact used the technology and will negotiate for repayment for its use. Speculations are that such monies might total billions of dollars if Intergraph is successful. Others point out that Intel will draw the battle out as long as possible to lessen the likelihood of payment. Intergraph appears to be in a far less precarious position than at the start of the suit, but the company has yet to turn any significant profit in 2001.

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Autodesk rolled out its latest GIS product, Autodesk Field Survey. You may not have noticed since it was announced at GITA amid a flurry of other press releases. This product is worthy of note for a few reasons. First off, it’s built on AutoCAD OEM 2000i. AutoCAD OEM is an embeddable, licensed version aimed at developers. My sense is that the OEM program never took off in a big way for Autodesk. The first product I recall using an OEM version, was from Softdesk. It suffered from a very limited interface since at that time Autodesk did not allow access to the command line or much customization of the interface. I am assured that the 2000i OEM used in Field Survey is far more open.

The second reason to take note of Field Survey is the price: $1,395, a nice step down from full AutoCAD ($3,295). The idea is to aim this lightweight product at smaller shops and those focusing on the field data collection and verification. Field Survey has neither the price point nor learning curve of Land Development Desktop ($$$$), making it more easily accessible at several levels.

The third and perhaps most significant reason that Field Survey is worth a look: it supports LandXML. LandXML is an encoding of XML to share land planning data including terrain models, road alignments, and point data. What other packages support LandXML? None at the moment, but Land Development Desktop will soon.

I did a quick check on the progress of Intergraph and Bentley, both involved in the LandXML project. And though I did find a USENET post from an Intergraph employee from September of last year noting Intergraph’s commitment, neither company had any mention of LandXML on their websites. Of course, you can always share data from Field Survey with their products the old fashioned way: using DWG files.

I recalled one software application that already fit well in this space: Carlson Software’s Carlson Survey, based on AutoCAD OEM 14. My Autodesk reps informed me that Carlson had in fact been involved with the development of Field Survey. They suggested that Carlson would not be upgrading their product further.


Little did I know that a press release from Uclid would turn into a detective story. Uclid makes automated data capture tools for taking data from scanned survey documents into CAD. They were announcing a partnership with ESRI and mentioned NILS: “Because of the NILS project, more communities find themselves faced with the prospect of moving from paper records to a GIS,” claims UCLID Vice President of Software Development.

NILS project? I found the NILS website where I leaned:   The National Integrated Land System (NILS) is a joint project between the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] and the USDA [US Department of Agriculture] Forest Service in partnership with the states, counties, and private industry to provide business solutions for the management of cadastral records and land parcel information in a Geographic Information System (GIS) environment. The goal of NILS is to provide a process to collect, maintain, and store parcel-based land and survey information that meets the common, shared business needs of land title and land resource management.

The project dates back to 1999 when ESRI joined as a partner. Right now, no other partnerships are available. Both BML and USFS are both big ESRI users. The plan was to develop a data model based on Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) work and integrate it into ESRI’s ArcInfo 8.1. The solution would be open because the cadastral data model and requirements for the extensions would be provided to the Open GIS Consortium through the FGDC’s Cadastral Subcommittee.

So, who’s involved? ESRI, BLM, USFS, Oakland County, Michigan (1999 winner an ESRI achievement award), Fairview Industries (who’ve worked on the ArcGIS Parcel Model and Oakland County Michigan’s GIS), FGDC, and the University of Maine. The ESRI-centricity of this project helps put recent ESRI partnerships with Leica (survey equipment developer) and Uclid in context.

Professional Surveyor noted NILS several times in articles in the past years or so, highlighting that documents were available for review, and that one of the goals of LandXML was to integrate it into NILS. That occurred to me, too. However there is no mention of NILS on the LandXML page or vice-versa.

One positive step for this project is that the GeoCommunicator part of NILS (a proactive Internet subscription (no fee) Web site for sharing information about data and activities of interest to land managers) is to be hosted by the Geography Network, which is committed to being Open GIS conformant.

While this may be short of conspiracy, I do think that the rest of us who participate in the integration of surveying/GIS and use information from USFS and BLM should be aware of the interests involved.


Just as brick and mortar stores can change over time, Web sites can too. Between the time I found and reviewed LASSO, the company has removed their fine geographic search application. Still, I share my thoughts, since I think this is (was?) an exceptional example of web mapping, searching and display.

I’ve been less than pleased with most of the geographic search engines I’ve visited. But, now I have a keeper: LASSO first asks that you “Lasso” your area of interest. It then zooms in showing the center of your search so you can adjust it. You also get radius circles showing 200 km distances from that point.

Next you key in the search term. I “Lassoed” Boston, then searched on “kite.” Up came 25 results on a list. As I passed the mouse over one of the dots on the map locating a hit, it was highlighted in the list. And, highlighting one on the list, lit up the dot on the map.

Another nice touch: the radius ring colors are matched to the list. Those hits in the inner yellow circle, within 100km on the map, are in a yellow backed part of the list. The hits in the blue ring (100-200 km) are in a blue backed part of the list. Clicking on an entry brings me NOT to the site, but to a quickly drawn detail map with address and phone, and web link if available. Map data are from GDT and NAVTECH and are very attractively and clearly drawn.

The site boasts over 25 million business listings in the Canada and the US, plus over 25,000 websites worldwide. LASSO was founded in September of 1999, and is a privately owned, Canadian-based company. The company licenses their proprietary technology to ISPs, portals, e-commerce m-commerce and private companies.


-Intergraph released MGE 8.0. The release includes numerous fixes and enhancements and was certified against Windows 2000, SQL Server 2000 and Oracle 8.1.7. The MGE Data Client incorporates the GeoMedia 4.0 read/only data servers and is the first release of the Oracle Object Model data server with MGE. It supports MicroStation 7.1 (MS/J I believe) and drops support for MS 5.5 (MS SE I believe). Just the fact that the file describing the release is called “fixes” suggests this is a maintenance release.

-More new domains are available this week as a new idealab!-funded company, rolls out .store, .firm, .mp3, .pic, .movie, .game, .sport, .kids, .chat, .xxx, .euro and .duh. The company, like other alternative top-level domains discussed in a previous issue, rely on alternative root servers. hopes to use a browser plug-in to enable access for those who’d like it. They are also negotiating with many mid-level ISPs to support their new domains. Idealab is responsible for several well-known dead .coms including etoys, and I don’t expect this one to fare well either.


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