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2005 April 21


Editor's Introduction
Re-Launch of Earth Observation Magazine
Will Mobile Mapping Change Cities?
The Threat of Tracking Technology
Letters to the Editor

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Editor's Introduction

In this issue of GIS Monitor I announce the re-launch of Earth Observation Magazine, as an online publication; report on one GIS shop's experience with Geo-spatial Solutions' DataXchanger software; muse on a possible unintended consequence of vehicle navigation systems; gripe about the threat posed by tracking technology; and share with you two stimulating letters I received. Plus, my usual round-up of news from press releases. As always, I encourage
your comments.

— Matteo

Re-Launch of Earth Observation Magazine

On Friday, April 15, GITC America re-launched the monthly Earth Observation Magazine (EOM), the publication that puts geotechnologies in context, as an online publication. Freed from the constraints of producing, printing, and mailing a paper edition, the company is aiming to vastly expand the magazine's circulation beyond the United States — and begin to bring its global content to a global audience. GITC America also publishes this newsletter and Professional Surveyor Magazine, the publication with the largest circulation in the surveying industry.

As EOM's editor, I am responsible for soliciting and editing articles by geospatial, imaging, and remote sensing professionals in private industry, government, and academia. I will also write editorials and occasional articles and, in conjunction with the publisher, I will set the magazine's annual editorial calendar.

I am committed to continuing EOM's 13-year history of excellence in illuminating the state-of-the-art in products and applications, while striving to clarify just how these offerings and uses relate to day-to-day users and citizens at large. I am excited at this opportunity and look forward to guiding EOM's editorial development at a time of rapid expansion and integration of geospatial technologies.

If you are interested in submitting an article to EOM, please write to me.


I talked to Mark Chambers, GIS coordinator for the City of Redmond, Oregon, about his shop's use of Geospatial Solutions's DataXchanger software — an ArcMap (ArcObjects) utility designed to improve the process of checking field-based edits (made using ArcPad) back into a geodatabase to, in turn, improve overall data integrity. Licensed per seat, it requires an active ArcGIS license to operate.

The utility allows users to check out data from a geodatabase to a shapefile format for use in ArcPad while preserving domains and subtypes in the shapefile environment. It also automatically generates forms for use within ArcPad, performs QA/QC during data check-in to a geodatabase, and allows for feature- and attribute-level data validation.

The City of Redmond bought DataXchanger about a year ago. Chambers told me that it allows his staff to edit the city's geodatabase in house, while simultaneously checking data out to ArcPad and editing it in the field. "Then," he said, "we can check data back in and validate it against edits made in house."

Before they bought the software, Chambers and his staff had a problem: any field edits that they checked back into the database would override the contents of the database — regardless of whether the field edits were, in fact, an improvement over the previous content. DataXchanger, Chambers explained, now allows him and his staff to compare the data and edit it, either geographically or by attribute. Whenever they see discrepancies, they can validate the field data prior to checking it back into the database. This gives them an additional opportunity to quality-control the data.

By contrast, Chambers pointed out, ESRI ArcPad has no validation, and data imported automatically overrides the data already in a geodatabase. The only other way to accomplish what DataXchanger does, according to Chambers, is to buy SQL and ESRI's ArcSDE, which "is expensive and requires a staff to manage it." However, he hastened to add, ArcSDE — which ESRI
describes as "a server software product used to access massively large multiuser geographic databases stored in relational database management systems" — "does a lot of things besides versioning of a geodatabase." Geospatial Solutions is an authorized ESRI business partner; as such, ESRI empowers it to develop and sell tools such as DataXchanger.

"With DataXchanger," Chambers told me, "we can check out data to up to seven different users and then check it back in one user at a time. They can each be working at a different site and DataXchanger recognizes them. They can have the data out for different periods of time." However, Chambers has a small GIS staff and only two or three of them are using checked-out data at any given moment, for such projects as tree inventories.

Will Mobile Mapping Change Cities?

Here's a thought I've had for a few years: as an increasing number of people will find businesses they need via online searches (by category, geographic area, price range, etc.) and be directed to stores and offices by vehicle navigation systems and PDAs, will this change land use patterns? (Notice that I wrote "vehicle," not "car." Personally, I drive a motorcycle, with a GPS receiver attached to the handlebar.)

Specifically, if a business no longer needs to be visible from main thoroughfares in order to attract traffic, does this mean that retail and office space on side streets and back alleys will become more valuable — as long as it is easily accessible and close to other attractions and parking? Speaking of parking, first-time customers are much more likely to patronize a business if their navigtion system shows them where they can park near it.

I think that, over time, Main Street locations will loose much of their allure and premium value. (Boy, will I get
mail about this one!)

The Threat of Tracking Technology

The editorial in the May issue of
Scientific American, titled "Human Inventory Control," recalls how the Brittan Elementary School in Sutter, California, "raised hackles far and wide this past January when it tagged students with the same [RFID] technology used to determine the whereabouts of cattle and to keep tabs on toilet paper rolls at Wal-Mart."

The magazine points out that, while the technology per se is neither good nor bad — it can be used in ports to detect dirty bombs hidden in cargo containers and Brazilian business executives have taken to implanting radio-tracking chips subcutaneously in response to a rash of kidnappings — attitudes toward it depend, in large part, on the degree of control that people can exercise over it. "[U]nlike the Brazilian empresários," the editors wrote, "students in Sutter had no choice in the matter. … [T]agging junior high kids becomes a form of indoctrination into an emerging surveillance society that young minds should be learning to question." This includes the U.S. government's aggressive push to embed radio tags in passports and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's strapping of ankle bracelets onto more than 1,700 immigrants applying for permanent residency.

The editors conclude: "Some segments of U.S. society have always had a visceral aversion to a national identity card. Those instincts are sound and should be reinforced. Widespread adoption of human-tracking devices should never be embraced without serious and prolonged discussion at all levels of society."

I second that! While concerns for privacy and personal freedom are paramount, there are also pragmatic reasons for the GIS community to resist inappropriate uses of geospatial technologies: a public backlash, just when GIS is finally becoming widespread, would hurt us all.

Already the public has mixed feelings about two key geospatial technologies: GPS and remote sensing, especially aerial photography. The former is widely misperceived as a "tracking" technology. I've spent considerable time over the past four years explaining to fellow journalists that a GPS receiver only reports its position to the user — unless it is connected to a transmitter, such as a cell phone, that conveys that positioning information to a monitoring center. The real issue, again, is the user's understanding of and control over the technology. Attitudes also depend on the uses to which the technology is put: truckers for large shipping companies, for example, initially resented and resisted the installation of GPS-based tracking devices on their rigs, until a few well-publicized cases in which they were used to locate and rescue drivers in distress.

In the case of aerial photography, Barbara Streisand is not the only one complaining about what she perceives as a violation of her privacy. Public reaction to Google's recent addition of satellite and aerial photographs to its mapping tool is still building.

Even more directly related to GIS is the debate over placing increasing amounts of public records on line. I entered a friend's address into Portland, Oregon's Portlandmaps site and, in addition to showing me a map of the lot (50' x 100') and aerial photographs with a resolution of a few inches, it told me, among many other things, that her house is classified as "single family residential," has an area of 2,676 square feet, has "one full bath, one half bath," has forced air heating, and has a market value of $458,820. While putting this information on line makes it much cheaper and convenient for the city to provide and for a wide range of people to use, users will increasingly include burglars and stalkers. In this case, I side with those public officials who have decided to improve access to public information — but I urge them to do a much better job of informing citizens about the reasons for this choice and what the data does not show. For example, they should make it clear that all the information now on line was already available to anyone at city hall for only a nominal fee, no questions asked, and that aerial photographs are not displayed in "real time"!

Forty years ago, the pioneers of GIS understood the theoretical possibility of "tracking" the locations of people and objects through time by storing that information in a geographic database. At the time, however, there was no sensor to do the tracking, databases were primitive, and data storage was expensive. Now that we have GPS receivers the size of a dime and with an accuracy of a few feet, commercial satellite imagery with the same resolution, sophisticated relational databases, and the ability to store data cheaply by the zettabyte, the political questions raised by these technologies are no longer theoretical.

Letters to the Editor

Alec Millett, who asked me to identify him simply as a reader in Australia, wrote:

Interesting to read that Intergraph re-thought "its core philosophy" in the 1990's with a move to something more "open" or, as they put it, to allow "GIS to grow out of its box". Predating this revelation by almost ten years was a company called GeoVision. In the early 1980's, rather brazenly at the time, it based its product architecture on Unix, Oracle, X-Windows, and COTS hardware to produce its cost-effective AMS/GIS product (with an open archive format, called GINA) whilst Intergraph and ESRI persisted with their proprietary solutions — Clipper- and Henco-based, respectively.

GeoVision won some strategic sales but ultimately paid the price for entering an immature (yet CAD-knowledgeable) market too soon with their rather prophetic product line (the GeoVision IP was subsequently passed around a few companies in the 1990's, like SystemHouse and WorldCom I believe). Pity.

It's comforting yet painful and frustrating to read of (marketing) comments about advances in architectures and theories with the understanding someone else had the idea well before and it's a case of "reinventing the wheel" when the market is ready for it. Off the bleeding edge, as it were.

Richard Pratt (Visy Industries) once commented that "Timing isn't everything — it's the only thing". With respect to GeoVision, they were a bit early at the time. I have no idea where it may be these days other than '"overtaken by events," or, more to the point, "others have caught up."

Cheers and keep up the great work with GIS Monitor!

For full disclosure, I asked Millett whether he ever worked for GeoVision. He wrote:

Yes, I worked for GeoVision Australia P/L in North Sydney for a fantastic and dynamic fours years between 1987 and 1991. I started with Technical Support then grew to Senior Application Specialist and attended many trade shows where both Intergraph and ESRI were in attendance. That is where I built up my knowledge of those products at the time for comparative analysis (acting a bit as a Mystery Shopper). I also managed quite a few trips to Ottawa to GeoVision's head office for extended technical tours, which was a bit of a bonus!

It was a great few years with some great people but it was obvious the market in general at the time was relatively immature and conservative — for any product — apart from some large progressive government organizations and those private organizations who were a little more prone to "taking risks" as it were — or visionary!

Apart from battling the CAD thinking, propriety exchange formats (DXF was the de facto standard being met by market share), extolling the benefits of database backends, and coping with a general lack of perceived immediate benefit, it was (and still is I guess) hard work. Looking back at all the years since then, I wonder what has really changed. Sure, service delivery has changed, the knowledge of the customer base has increased, and there are advances in digital data acquisition, but I still read in GIS-related journals of issues popping up that were around more than 20 years ago — especially around spatial data management.

It's a great industry, full of 'characters' and those with a real drive to make it work. Sometimes though, it seems like advances are driven solely by the vendors and marketing (including churning old ideas), rather than by the customers. Having said that, sometimes the vendors can't afford to wait for the customers to catch up. It's a fine line and if you can manage it effectively, it will work to the collective benefit.

In response to one of my interviews in last week's issue, Mark Warren, MPW, wrote:

The comparison by Mr. Cassidy, of Tele Atlas, of TIGER vs. Tele Atlas to Schwinn vs. Bianchi bikes begs another comparison: affordable for the average user vs. not affordable. Chalk it up to one more elitist in control of things.

News Briefs

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


City of Fargo, North Dakota, has awarded a new contract to update local and regional photogrammetric mapping and digital orthophotography for 282.5 square miles in and around the city to Merrick & Company, a provider of LiDAR, digital ortho-imaging, photogrammetry, and GIS mapping services. Merrick will provide aerial photography, digital orthophotography, LiDAR data, 1-foot contours, and updated planimetric data. The city is expecting to receive final project deliverables in February 2006.
     Acting as the project lead, the city is coordinating the project, whose participants also include the City of West Fargo, North Dakota, the City of Dilworth, Minnesota, and the City of Moorhead, Minnesota, Clay County, Minnesota, and Cass County, North Dakota, the Metropolitan Council of Governments, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the North Dakota Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration.
     The updated geospatial data will be used for planning, flood plain analysis, engineering design and studies, and public works projects.

At GeoSpatial World, Intergraph's annual international training and management conference, Laser-Scan will demonstrate how its Radius Topology product works in combination with GeoMedia and with WebMap. The presentation, titled "Radius Topology Enabling Data Quality and Interoperability in a GeoMedia Environment," will take place on April 28, from 10:30 to 11:15 AM.

The Yampa Valley Electric Association (YVEA) has begun a subscription to iNetSpatial, the on-demand geospatial application offered by Hitachi Software Global Technology, a software, data, and solution provider for companies seeking to make extensive use of spatial information.
     Offered on the application service provider (ASP) business model for an annual subscription fee, iNetSpatial will allow the YVEA to implement full-scale enterprise GIS functionality through a high-speed Internet connection. By using the iNetSpatial CAD and Web clients to retrieve their hosted data and data model, YVEA will reduce its enterprise GIS costs.

The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) has awarded a contract to Cadcorp, a developer of digital mapping and GIS software, to provide its Cadcorp SIS (Spatial Information System) software, together with implementation and training services.
     Cadcorp will deliver and implement both desktop and Web-based versions of its digital mapping/GIS software suite, including the Cadcorp SIS OS MasterMap Loader software for loading and managing Ordnance Survey MasterMap data. LFEPA will use Cadcorp SIS Map Editor and Map Modeller to provide specialist users with desktop GIS and mapping applications to support risk planning, emergency and operational planning, property and resources management, community fire safety initiatives, and "hotspot" analysis.
     In addition, Cadcorp GeognoSIS.NET Web-based software will enable non-specialist users to access standard data sets, such as incidents by date and/or type, via the LFEPA intranet, and to combine these with standard overlay maps, such as London borough or fire station boundaries. It will also give them the ability to print high quality maps locally and to add, for example, custom symbols and boundaries.

To aid relief efforts in Indonesia, following the devastating tsunami that affected hundreds of thousands of people in the Indian Ocean region on December 26, San Diego State University (SDSU) is using high-resolution satellite imagery from QuickBird, owned and operated by DigitalGlobe.
     SDSU's Immersive Visualization Center (or "Viz Center," for short) used the imagery initially to help establish refugee camps and to provide medical outreach. SDSU was one of the first to acquire before-and-after QuickBird satellite images of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, the area most affected by the tsunami. The "after" images, collected on December 28, show striking damage to the coastline, buildings, vegetation, and roads.
     John Graham, a senior research scientist at the Viz Center, processed the QuickBird imagery and worked with GeoFusion to load it into the new Geomatrix streaming tile server. He also wrote software to compare the before-and-after images, created 3D fly-throughs, and made the images available on a secure server hosted at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) for access by relief workers and decision makers. The digital images were also provided as poster-size prints flown to Indonesia and hand-carried to Banda Aceh.
     The SDSU Viz Center is now processing the tsunami images into GeoFusion's Geomatrix format by Silicon Graphics Prism, a new IT visualization system from SGI that enables the distribution of terabytes of satellite imagery.

DM Solutions Group, an open source and open standards Web mapping solutions company, has created an interactive carpool mapping tool with the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG), a University of Waterloo student-funded and directed non-profit, for The Jack Bell Foundation's Ride-Share program. is a free portal that assists commuters to find and plan ride-sharing possibilities across British Columbia. Through the Ride-Share Web site, members can interactively browse online maps of locations of other commuters and join a carpool that matches their daily commute.
     DM Solutions Group built the mapping application based on MapServer and Chameleon, both open source technologies. The former is a development environment for creating Web mapping applications; the latter allows users to create customizable Web mapping applications. WPIRG incorporated the mapping functionality created by DM Solutions Group into's Web site and created an interface to accompany the mapping application.

Azteca Systems, Inc. will be co-hosting several seminars with ESRI, RouteSmart, and Tadpole Technologies. The half-day seminars, titled "Managing Municipal Utilities Using GIS", will be offered in cities throughout the central United States in April and May. Aimed at public works and utilities managers, the free seminars will offer them insight on using GIS technology and applications to carry out their jobs better and more efficiently.
     At the seminars, representatives from ESRI, RouteSmart, Tadpole Technologies, and Azteca Systems will instruct attendees on how GIS-based software solutions help support information management needs. The seminars will explore applications for asset maintenance management, mobile computing, and industry-specific routing solutions, along with instruction on many other topics. The seminars will be beneficial for utility general managers and executives, public works directors, facilities directors, planning, engineering, and maintenance department managers, financial officers and field crew managers.


The latest release of the ER Mapper product, version 7.0, adds support for ISO standard JPEG 2000 image files, as well as new batch, color enhancement, and image stretch wizards. ER Mapper is used to process imagery for use in GIS, CAD, imaging, office, and Web applications.
     ER Mapper developed support for JPEG 2000 specifically for processing large geospatial datasets. Version 7.0 was used to create the world's largest JPEG 2000 image: a 1,000-gigabyte (1 terabyte) LandSat mosaic.
     ER Mapper 7.0's JPEG 2000 engine is compliant with the military grade specifications set out by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. It fully supports NSIF/BIIF/NITFS and EPJE / NPJE encoding. The product also includes 13 new batch-processing wizards and additional map projections and datums, including the Canadian NTv2, as well as other modifications and enhancements.

Leica Geosystems has introduced a new seismic stakeout application software package for its System 1200 GPS receiver. The company developed the program in response to a need for ensuring that field crews do not intrude on exclusion zones when placing seismic charges and sensors.
     It is critically important in the seismic industry to make sure that underground explosive charges or sonic vibrations do not damage any nearby structures, such as water wells, pipelines, or buildings. The new seismic stakeout application allows users to enter a predefined data set of exclusion zones into the System 1200, which will sound an audible warning whenever field crews attempt to place a stake in a prohibited area.
     The seismic stakeout application was specifically written for the seismic industry by Leica Geosystems' Software Development Centre in Montreal, to support the large number of seismic companies using the System 1200 in western Canada.

Tactician Corporation, a provider of software and service solutions for geographically-targeted resource and investment decisions, has released version 1.1 of TacticianOne, its marketing platform. As an integrated analytic, reporting, and marketing execution platform, TacticianOne is used to power desktop target marketing products, or as a development platform for the creation of customized desktop or online systems.
     The new features include the use of 'Expressions Everywhere' to facilitate update process for time sensitive data and process calculation times; enhanced trade area tools to create buffer areas, donuts, and merges; and multiple libraries for each map or document created, providing access to multiple databases, formulas, import specifications, layers, templates, queries and scripts.
     The new version allows users to transfer map layer settings from one document to another, search for map layers by name, and update previously added map layers. New commands and system variables enable users to create selective displays of sites and territories. Users can manipulate data with new data display tools, including one-click sorting, custom and savable style sequences, named 'views', and more options for saving or printing map images. The company has also released new versions of its Territory Manager and Territory Optimizer programs. The former is an integrated system of desktop and online solutions for the interactive creation, alignment, and management of franchise or field sales territories. The latter contains a sales force optimization model that automatically optimizes geographic components to an unlimited number of territories. Both territory solutions are built on TacticianOne.
     Territory Manager and Territory Optimizer give franchise marketers and/or field sales managers the ability to import data directly to the detail sheets of a territories document; summarize data and address information to provide average, maximum or minimum values for franchises or field sales representatives in a specific ZIP code; and conduct analysis operations on subsets of territories.

CartêGraph Systems — which develops software and provides service solutions dedicated to the collection, management, and analysis of asset data for public works departments — has released Version 6.3 of its software suite, with nearly 100 new or enhanced features.
     Enhancements to PAVEMENTview and PAVEMENTview Plus make it easier to enter and analyze data. In addition, a new MR&R; Protocol wizard guides the user through the process of customizing analysis protocols (the logic used to select activities) and preemptions (activities that should not be performed in the same year).
     Other upgrades include multiple columns in the list boxes, addition of child recordset data to the library displays, and addition of a field selector to the import/export format builder, the filter builder, and the form designer.


Bentley Systems, Incorporated will hold its BE Conference 2005 at the Baltimore Convention Center, May 8 to 12. The conference is focused on those who use MicroStation or other Bentley products in their business.
     Management guru and civil engineer Tom Peters will be the keynote speaker. The conference now has tracks tailored for the industries of attendees.
     The conference program offers more than 350 sessions, and features talks by Bentley executives, including Greg Bentley, CEO; Keith Bentley, co-founder and chief technology officer; Malcolm Walter, chief operating officer; Buddy Cleveland, software senior vice president; Bhupinder Singh, platform senior vice president (MicroStation and ProjectWise); Tony Flynn, chief marketing officer; Brad Workman, Bentley Building vice president; Gabe Norona, Bentley Civil senior vice president; Styli Camateros, Bentley Geospatial vice president; and Jeff Hollings, Bentley Plant senior vice president.
     One session will provide an early look at the latest MicroStation "Mozart" release, due out later this year. Enhancements include a task-based interface, workflow modeling, transparent dialogs, element templates, and increased graphics performance.
     The exhibit hall will feature new products and services from Bentley and from Bentley Developer Network (BDN) and other companies that serve the AEC community.

Open Source Geospatial '05, an international conference addressing geospatial data technologies developed by or of relevance to the Open Source community, will be held June 16-18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The conference will bring together the MapServer, EOGEO, and OSGIS communities, but seeks to be more broadly inclusive. A committee has been working since July of last year to design a program with elements that will interest participants from the novice to the expert. The conference strives to build on the successes and enthusiasm generated by previous, related meetings.


Sanborn has promoted Jay Tilley to senior vice president and general manager of its Colorado Springs office. Tilley, who most recently served as Sanborn's executive vice president of Programs and Products, is now responsible for the business and technical operations of the company's Colorado Springs office. In his new position, Tilley will focus on the management and growth of the company's core mapping business; this includes leveraging digital camera, LiDAR, film, and satellite imagery sources for various precision imagery and vector products.
     Tilley joined Sanborn in 2004 from Denver-based RESOURCE21, where he was a vice president of that company's commercial and civil divisions. Prior to that, he served as vice president of Technology at Colorado Springs-based Analytical Surveys, Inc., a company Sanborn later acquired. Additionally, Tilley has held senior positions at Booz Allen Hamilton, EarthWatch, Inc. (now DigitalGlobe, Inc.), Ball Aerospace Corporation, and the Air Force Phillips Laboratory/Space Division.

Telcontar, a supplier of software and related services for the Location-Based Services (LBS) industry, has appointed Marc Prioleau as Vice President of Marketing. Mr. Prioleau has more than 20 years of experience in technology marketing, including ten years in the LBS market. He will now be responsible for leading Telcontar's marketing and strategic planning functions.
      Mr. Prioleau was previously with SiRF Technology, a provider of GPS-enabled location technology, where he was responsible for the company's consumer and enterprise market segments. SiRF's revenue growth and strong market share in those sectors were significant contributors to the company's successful IPO in 2004.
     Prior to SiRF, he was Vice President of Business Development for Outride, Inc. (acquired by Google in 2001), responsible for commercializing Outride's advanced search technology with leading Internet search engines. Mr. Prioleau also held executive positions at Trimble Navigation and sales and marketing positions at Quantum and Raychem. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Davis and a Masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business.


The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) has launched a semiannual online newsletter, The GISC-Eye, prepared by the organization's Outreach Committee. This is a committee of Certified GIS Professionals (GISPs) tasked with increasing the exposure and effectiveness of GISCI and to enhance the Institute's support of its GISPs. The newsletter will highlight contributions and activities that involve or directly affect certified GIS professionals and the geospatial community.

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