GIS Monitor Mar 29, 2001


-The World in a Box Reviewed
-John Sailor Remembered
-An Elegant Convergence
-Niche Products Appear
-When the Demo Fails…
-Points of Interest
-New List at
-Week in Review
-Back Issues


“The World in a Box” is a one-hour public television program spearheaded by GITA and funded by several GIS and technology companies. The press release from GITA calls it “an unbiased look at the many uses of GIS around the world.” The screenshots do represent a variety of vendors – I identified map snippets from ArcView, MapInfo, MapGuide and GeoMedia. There was little, if any, vendor bias and even vendors who did not provide major funding for the project received screen time.

That said, it took about 15 minutes before the definition of GIS appeared – that’s a little too long for a program intended for the general public. The opening story involved a detailed discussion of the conflict between foresters and environmentalists in the Pacific Northwest. Toward the end of the segment, GIS was introduced but I didn’t feel the producers illustrated the connection between GIS and the grassroots group being profiled.

I think the choice of topics is appropriate; the program covered crime, planning, logistics and environmental issues in the US and abroad. However, the excitement of what GIS is and what it can do did not come through. Most of the talking heads, both users and industry leaders, came across less than lively. Credit Kass Green of Pacific Meridian for standing out with some of the most interesting comments.

“World in a Box” looks like a documentary. Shots of kids at the Boys and Girls Clubs, polar bears in Alaska, and FEMA responding to disasters make it look very familiar. The maps are shown quickly with no particular discussion of how they fit the story. Terms like “spatial logistics”, used in the discussion of a port, were not defined, which I think might turn off the casual viewer.

Despite its dullness, the general message that “GIS is good” did come through, and that is certainly valuable.


The GIS industry is still small enough that a loss of an individual is keenly felt. We lost one key player this past week, in my own backyard of Boston.

John Sailor was a founding principal and Senior Vice-President of Boston-based Geonetics, a subsidiary of the BSC Group. Prior to joining Geonetics, John was Vice President of Engineering for LaserData, where he led the development of software to manage and store electronic documents. He also was a Senior Technical Manager for Intergraph Corporation, responsible for software design and development of map polygon processing, map analysis, and spatial data integrity verification. He died Saturday, March 21 at the age of 45. Frits van der Schaaf, a senior member of the Geonetics team, remembers John.

John provided day-to-day leadership and overall technical and business development vision to Geonetics, a company that embraces geospatial technology to meet the future needs of it clients. He coined the company's motto: "Putting Spatial Data to Work". John had a national reputation throughout the GIS industry for his technical competence and business abilities.

His drive inspired his co-workers and clients. He was generous with his time and made himself available to give technical advice to those that asked. John was a dear colleague that had high ethical standards in the work environment. John's dedication to the company's growth and his adherence to excellence made Geonetics what it is today. He was a multi-dimensional person, a team player and was extremely well liked at both the personal and professional level. John will be sorely missed by both his co-workers and peers.


Kyocera’s new mobile phone is the first product to emerge from all the convergence hype that actually makes sense. The 6035 SmartPhone unit packs a mobile phone, Palm OS, Internet access and email via an internal modem. At $499 it’s roughly the cost of a basic Palm and a good cell phone. (For those of you wondering how you’d talk on the phone and simultaneously look something up on the Palm, I hope Kycera will include some well-designed headphones and microphone.)

My initial impression is that this combination will not go down in flames (like my favorite example of peanut butter and jelly in the same jar – or CAD-based GIS). Rather, joining a cell phone and PDA, if done right, could work beautifully together. Like the clock radio, its value would be greater than the sum of its parts.

This elegant convergence could get out of hand if the Kyocera folks go overboard and try to converge any more technologies. Their new product doesn’t need a digital camera or an MP3 player. If they stay true to the PalmOS, they should keep the device simple and sell quite a few.


Just as Kycera merges two technologies, TeleSpree opened up a new category of cellular phone: over the counter wireless. Their phone is completely voice activated (has no buttons) and uses a replaceable AirClip, a combination of a power source and pre-paid airtime. Ideally, a user picks up a reusable phone and replaces the AirClip as needed. One nice touch: users can store preferences in their Telespree ID that is stored on the network that continue to be available as they replenish or switch phones.

This new product is analogous to “phone cards” and disposable cameras. Both are ubiquitous, relatively inexpensive and quite appropriate for children and travelers, some of the same people that might use TeleSpree.

TeleSpree intends to make the phone available to wireless carriers to boost revenue. A recent partnership with Compaq to support its NonStop Himalaya Platform will help since it is widely used in mobile communications.

Perhaps I’m thinking too far ahead, but a small location chip would make such a phone very helpful to tourists abroad, assuming language support is available.


The big Bluetooth demo, aimed to wow attendees at Germany’s CeBIT show, did not come off as planned. The goal was to form the largest wireless network ever built, including 130 transmitters that would beam information to handheld devices. Instead, the transmitters failed to connect.

The blame for the failure of the two-year old short range, non-line of site networking technology comes down to lack of interoperability. Apparently the standard is defined, but companies are using different specifications, so that products from one company may not work with those of others. There is hope; a new “standardized” version is out with products based on it expected later this spring. They may not, however, be compatible with the older products.

So, what does one say when the demo fails? Marketing people can take spin lessons from one of the event organizers: “If it didn't have problems at the beginning, it wouldn't be great technology,” claims Ulrich Woessner of Lesswire AG.

What was hot at CeBIT? First off, a German electrical utility showed off its new system for delivering high-speed Internet connections through residential wall sockets. It’s more than 3x as fast as current offerings by Germany’s telephone company at two million bytes per second. Second, Motorola introduced a digital camera implanted in a bra-like contraption that allows wearers to video their every move.

POINTS OF INTEREST, the company behind Autodesk’s E-learning website, has ceased operations. The Autodesk site will close down March 31, 2001. A new Autodesk learning site is in the works and due in April.

-The library at Sonoma State University, the Jean & Charles Schulz Information Center, doesn’t need any maps of its archives; the Automated Retrieval System (ARS), a robot, manages the location of each volume. About 25% of the entire collection, the less-used part, is shelved and pulled from shelves, by the ARS. Books are returned where there is space, not in any formal arrangement, so Hemingway may well be beside Einstein. Books are scanned when they are put away, so the system knows where they are.


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Adena Schutzberg
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