FIG, the International Federation of Surveyors, represents the national surveying associations and their surveying professionals in nearly 100 countries. Every four
years the organization holds a congress. This year's event was held in Washington, D.C. this week, in conjunction with meetings of the American Congress on
Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), the Appraisal Institute (AI), and the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS).
Attendance seemed to be good-I heard numbers in the thousands for each day's total registrants. I confess that I did not attend a single session, so I can't speak to
how papers were received. I will say that exhibitors seem to have made great strides in tightening up their demonstrations. Not once did I find myself stuck in a
long, dull, feature function inventory.
I visited with Visual Learning Systems (more below) and when I let them know I only had 15 minutes to listen, heard the company's "elevator pitch"-a one-sentence
statement of what the product was and how it fit within the market-and got a quick demo. Kodak's Research Systems Inc. took another tactic: they used the theory
that the best demo is one you never give. Despite my suggestions that I'd like to see an example of how the company's ENVI software works, I never got the
Finally, I'll note that as much as things change, they stay the same. Time spent at the National Atlas booth revealed that every visitor to a mapping booth basically
has the same ultimate goal: to see his or her house or region. The big difference between that demand, which I heard regularly ten years ago (when I started
demoing), and today, reflects exhibitors' ability to comply. Today, most vendors CAN show a house (or at least a region of interest) from local or distant servers.
Unfortunately, doing so rarely shows off the specific solution the vendor is trying to highlight, but rather shows the data sets available.
ENVI, from Research Systems Inc. (RSI) is one of those products you hear about, but not so much as others in the image analysis space. Now, after the purchase
by Kodak, RSI hopes to find new users in the many traditional Kodak customers of film and aerial cameras. That said, ENVI already has some 200,000 users
across its many clients, including NIMA, FEMA and USGS. The software is aimed at hyperspectral and multispectral imagery processing. It has tools to process
just the area of interest (or as they call it, ROI, region of interest) and based on the signature of one pixel, pull up a likely candidate for the material from a library.
RSI is excited about a new service, EON (ENVI Online), that allows an organization to host a trimmed-down version of the software online along with the typically
large imagery files. EON is currently in use by NASA Goddard, which hosts a system for Maryland schools to use as part of their remote sensing curriculum.
Kodak is still a film company and there are new films available. Kodak also offers a new service to scan and host existing film archives for distribution via the Web.
Kodak is trying to redefine the imaging industry with a new term: infoimaging. The company even put a colorful advertising insert in the Wall Street Journal to define
the term as the convergence of information and images. It's still not clear how widely used this term is. A quick search shows the term still only used by Kodak, its
subsidiaries and partners. Time will tell if this term sticks.
In addition to the list of acronyms I learned at the Kodak booth, I found the show floor brimming with even more! The four-letter acronym, DIME, explains the
goal of Positive Systems software: Digital Images Made Easy. The software sits between data acquisition and image analysis and does three things: mosaicking,
color balancing and georeferencing. With 14 employees, the company's business model is particularly interesting: the software runs under $1000 but credits for use
are $5. So, it's sort of a pay and you go model or what VP Dale Johnson calls "the cell phone" model. The company's literature describes the investment in terms of
a car purchase: first you buy the car, then you regularly pay for gas. DIME user organizations get as many copies of DIME as they like and use their credits
wherever and whenever they like. The model works well for contractors who bid on imaging and for local governments who can easily budget software costs for
the year ahead.
It took a moment to figure out which company's employees were wandering around in black shirts and blue and black ties. It was Leica doing a bit of a "Men in
Black" look. I visited with Cyra, one of the company's recent acquisitions, and got a first-hand look at the 3D data capture instrument. What I didn't quite
understand until now was that the solution is basically LIDAR. A laser pans across the view and paints a 3D dot cloud into a digital file. This sort of LIDAR is at
the other end of the spectrum from that used from airplanes. In contrast to aerial LIDAR, Cyra's instrument moves slowly across the scene and must be fairly
"close" to the target.
Unlike the aerial LIDAR solutions, the Cyra system doesn't have an integrated GPS system. An external GPS can easily be used to locate specific points in the
scene and interpolate location information. And, just to be sure the crew back at the office knows what the 3D image looks like in "real life," a digital photo is
captured at the time of the scan. The data cloud can then be brought into a design package and used as a backdrop for changes or additions.
Telemorphic's Maplicity is the technology behind websites dedicated to publishing maps of the David Rumsey collection online. The company's Java solution for
ArcIMS puts a host of powerful GIS tools in the hands of a user with a browser. My favorites include the ability to easily create and then intersect a buffered road
with underlying data and various tools to examine imagery by changing translucency. Telemorphic is looking forward to a new version, which should include even
more imagery tools and a more robust software development kit (SDK).
Also on the horizon is Maplicity Enterprise, a tool to share data created with the browser tools with other users by hosting it on the server. This product, which
adds onto the core functionality, solves the problem of how to easily add vector data to a server for group access. Down the road Telemporphic wants to move
exclusively into the toolkit business. One way to think of the Maplicity SDK, at this point, is as a junior version of ESRI's MapObjects Java.
Intergraph was showing a variety of products, but most discussion seems to turn to GeoMedia Web Map. The new version (5.0) is expected in July and boasts a
Java client which is smaller, lighter, and more secure than previous plug-ins or controls for CGM. CGM is the vector delivery format for Web Map. The new
version will also include support for the OpenGIS Web Map Server specification, allowing data from GeoMedia Web Map servers to be integrated with data from
others servers implementing the specification.
Visual Learning Systems product Feature Analyst won the Most Innovative Solution Award at the recent ESRI Business Partner conference. So, is it innovative?
The answer is an unqualified yes. Feature Analyst is very "smart" feature extraction tool that sits on top of ArcView 3.2 or 8.1. It finds features in any type of
ArcView-supported image, and creates shape files to illustrate them. The process of "teaching" the system about the target feature involves digitized a sample area,
then setting other parameters-such as describing it as vegetation or pavement-that help the system tease out the properties of signature. There are tools to let the
system know how far from the object to look for context. The reps highlighted the accuracy of the system and I have to say the trees we sought from a 6"
resolution aerial photograph had the odd shaped crowns that scream "natural." Further, by teaching the system with care, including pointing out errors, it's able to
distinguish between sidewalk and road, where other systems only see pavement.
On Wednesday, I attended the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS) breakfast. The speaker was Scott Cameron, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Interior who positioned Geospatial One-Stop (GSO), one of the 25 e-government initiatives in the President's management agenda. The goal
of all of these is to provide a "quantum leap in value" for the public. GSO is the next step in Clinton's NSDI, but this time the goal is to look at and encourage
external input. NSDI, Cameron suggested, had more of an introspective vision. The main concepts for GSO are simplification and unification. In terms of
simplification, for example, he pointed out that if potential players in GSO don't follow standards, it's an indication that perhaps we are offering the wrong
standards. Unification refers to interoperability.
One of the more interesting things Cameron suggested was that USGS consider not "filling in" all the holes in national coverage in certain products. Instead, he
argued, it may make more sense to work the localities to provide data that is useful. For example, maybe it makes little sense to cover New York City at 1:25,000,
but coverage at 1:4,000 would be welcome.
When asked about how to "follow" Geospatial One-Stop progress, Cameron noted that representatives from various agencies would be selected in the next week
or so and that they could provide insight. He also said the federal geodata acquisition plans should be finalized in late spring or summer. Local governments are
encouraged to post theirs, too, to create a marketplace of demand.
Cameron also highlighted the government's initiative to support competitive outsourcing. The idea is to use the competitive model of the private sector for
government work. The goal is to have 15% of jobs selected this way in '03 and then head toward 50% in coming years.
MAPPS itself has taken a hard line on some legislation. At the breakfast, attendees were asked three or more times to call their elected officials to try to vote down
an amendment to the Prison Industries Reform Bill, which would allow prison labor to compete with the private sector in many arenas including mapping. I haven't
seen a professional organization that is more active in supporting its members' interests.
THE REST OF THE STORY ON BOEING AND IDELIX
The demo at Boeing was eye-opening on two fronts. First, I realized the significance of the company's choice to integrate IDELIX PDT (Pliable Display
Technology) into its photogrammetric software, and I learned quite a bit about the state of the photogrammetry software marketplace. Last month IDELIX
sponsored a little contest asking website visitors to guess which GIS/mapping company had licensed its technology. A news release in March revealed the licensee
was Boeing, but did not provide all the details of how the company would use the PDT technology. At FIG, Boeing was showing off the rest of the story.
Boeing's software is used to capture engineering accuracy data from stereo images, basically digitizing from 3D imagery. Boeing has an exclusive license to use
PDT in the stereo arena. Recall that PDT is really a lens that allows detailed, undistorted detail inside a defined box and distorted, but contextually correct
information around it. The idea is to provide a high "zoom" level on the inside, but not give up "the big picture" around the edges. The lens in Boeing's software
shows the stereo, 3D image inside the lens, giving the operator the detail needed along with the context. (You do need to wear special glasses to see the third
dimension.) The lens is transparent to the software's commands, meaning that the commands (such as 'digitize a line') work whether the lens is "on" or "off".
I asked if Boeing had to do anything special to integrate the technology into the products and got an interesting reply. Boeing had to set up two lenses to maintain
the stereo effect: one for the left and one for the right. In reality it looks like a single one, but down deep inside, it's really two.
Todd Ham, a senior product manager at Boeing who gave the demo, made it clear that adding PDT is all about increasing productivity. The lens removes much of
the zooming in/zooming out during digitizing, which makes it easier to locate ground control points and also makes quality assurance quicker. Because the greatest
cost in developing data from stereo images is labor, anything that bumps up analyst's speed is welcome. PDT will ship as part of the latest versions of the
company's Kork Digital Stereo Plotter (KDSP) and SoftPlotter products.
I then started asking Ham about the state of data capture and photogrammetry, and in particular about the relative popularity of traditional film vs. digital media. I've
asked this of other vendors and have gotten a fairly consistent answer: film camera use far outweighs digital use. I naively thought that since digital cameras are
ubiquitous in the consumer and even professional photography market, they'd also be invading aerial imagery.
What's the hold up? The big challenge has been to get digital imagery to the same level of accuracy as film. And, most everyone I spoke with conceded that digital
cameras and imagery products are there or are just about there. The challenges of using film include the chemical laden developing process-which at least in the US
means meeting Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations-and the need to scan the imagery, should one want to use software tools for
extraction. But getting away from film also means buying new equipment, defining a new process, and extensive training. In short, those using film feel that since the
process using film is not broken, there's no need to fix it. Down the road however, I expect that as processes improve and prices of digital equipment come down,
the speed of change will pick up.
I spent an hour with Terry Bennett, a Senior Manager at Autodesk. He was filling me in on the company's vision for integrating the work of surveyors, civil
engineers and GIS users. He reinforced many of the ideas I'd heard from the GIS group in the past. The big focus is on the data and using the data in multiple ways.
Bennett perhaps used more of a business argument than I'd heard. He spoke about how there was a need to insulate the ultimate customers of software users from
the costs of data integration, something that costs quite a bit of money in the life cycle.
He told a scary story of a company that collects survey data, brings it into CAD, and finally, prints the results out for digitization by the GIS group! The big news
for me was not the wonders of the release of Civil Series, which I understand runs about $9000, but the progress on LandXML.
LandXML seemed to go dark about a year and a half ago. But, fear not, it's back on track. LandXML encodes not just graphic data, but design information. The
1.0 document is expected to receive final approval this summer, but even now many companies implement early versions (0.8 for example as well as the draft of
1.0). To date, 130 companies have been involved with development and implementation of the format. When I asked about how this fits with GIS, I learned that
there is a tool to move LandXML to GML. The two formats don't hold exactly the same information, but much of it can move across and be used in GML
The big news on LandXML is to be delivered today (I left the conference on Wednesday). It involves an implementation of the Green Book, which is the American
Association of State Highway and Transportation Organization's guide to constructing roads designed for a maxim of capacity, speed, convenience, and safety for
automobiles and trucks. The new "application" version will accept LandXML designs, and produce graphs and charts illustrating how well the proposals meet
guidelines. Typically this process takes days of comparing the design to the book; the software solution should take mere minutes.
MapInfo Lowers Loss, Reorganizes
Several weeks of rumor and speculation were put to an end on April 18 as MapInfo announced a smaller loss in the second quarter than the first quarter and
confirmed an anticipated reorganization. The loss was only two cents compared to eleven cents last quarter. Revenues were $23.5 million, a 3% increase over last
In the US telcos, mostly big telcos made up 45% of revenue with government and other verticals making up the remainder. Europe's revenues were up 13% over
last quarter but are still low. Asia Pacific revenues were down 8% over last quarter and were weak in China and Japan, but strong in Australia. Worldwide data
accounted for 42%, software 48% and services 10%. I, for one, must continue to remind myself that MapInfo is still very much a data company! Forty-nine
transactions were valued over $50,000 and totaled about $5.8 million in revenue.
Besides lowering the loss, the company was pleased to lower costs substantially. The company has implemented $4.5 million in operating cost savings and is aiming
to drop another $1.5 million in the third quarter. The company eliminated 38 workers, mostly in sales and professional services. CEO Cattini was careful to note
that few were in development. Headcount now stands at 701 worldwide down from 775 in June 2001. Another cost-cutting measure was closing an office in Japan
by investing in Alps Mapping, the local distributor. MapInfo hold a 49% stake in the business, the exclusive Japanese distributor. The Canadian offices have been
combined into a single office in Toronto.
The company has been reorganized into business units: Location Based Insight (LBI), Analytical Customer Relationship Management (ACRM) and
Location-based Services (LBS). LBI, the "traditional" software market based in Troy, is described as the foundation of the company and now brings in the majority
of company revenue. The focus is on telcos, the public sector, and in taking on renewed interest in homeland security. MapInfo Discovery, a new product expected
in Q3, sounds like an Intranet solutions for sharing location data, which is built on MapInfo Professional. The call positioned it as an entry-level product that would
grow users into MapXtreme, which is described as being too costly for first time implementers. June will bring MapInfo Professional 7.0 and MapInfo Pro for
ACRM, based in Toronto, focuses on integrating and growing the business acquired from Compusearch. The big news is that there is a big win with Seibel to
provide CRM to Ritchie Brothers of Canada, an auction house. The win brought in low six figures according to the call with expected add-on service work. One or
two more contracts like it, bringing in $150,000 or more, are expected this quarter, and perhaps two or three next quarter. The ACRM group will put out Target
Pro 4, which incorporates input for partner Claritas.
LBS is based in the UK taking advantage of the advanced readiness there. The call highlights the Seimens/Vodaphone win announced in March. The new miAware
partner program has some interesting participants: Oracle, Vindigo, and a key game developer.
Michael Hickey has been named chief operating officer, responsible for worldwide sales, marketing, product management and engineering operations. Oddly,
among his listed credentials: a spot on the Editorial Advisory Board of Business Geographics, a publication that was shut down in June 2001!
The reorganization makes sense and refocuses the company. My sense is that bets are on ACRM and LBS and that LBI is receding in importance. I'd feel more
confident about the future of that group if MapInfo began to speak of overhauling MapInfo Pro, its lead product.
MapInfo Appoints Michael Hickey to Chief Operating Officer
MapInfo Announces Second Fiscal Quarter Financial Results
POINTS OF INTEREST
• A reader shared the final numbers from GITA Conference 25 held in Tampa, Florida March 17-20, 2002:
2,754 Total Attendees
1,360 Registered Attendees
245 Exhibitor Guest Passes (blue cards)
1,080 Exhibitor Booth Personnel
69 Other Guests
That adds up to 0.74 exhibitors per registered attendees. About 1/2 of the registrants were vendors.
• Telemorphic has deployed a public access Internet remote sensing/GIS site for
Israel (and vicinity).
• MapInfo is holding its first Mid-Year Partner Meeting at MapInfo's new corporate headquarters in Troy, NY, May 15-17, 2002. Says the invitation, "This
meeting will be like nothing you've experienced. Dramatic changes are taking place at MapInfo and we want you to be part of it." I can only imagine the company
will lay out how the reorganization impacts partners and push ideas to beef up sales.
• URISA Certification Committee has unveiled its latest version of the proposed GIS Certification Program for public review.
The Open GIS Consortium, Inc. and the Automotive Multimedia Interface Collaboration have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at aligning
specifications, programs and processes with the information requirements, specifications and programs of the automotive industry.
Kort & Matrikelstyrelsen, the Danish mapping agency, is using Laser-Scan's technology for generalization in a series of 1:50K scale maps.
The European Commission recognized the Municipal Tax Office of The Hague, Netherlands, for providing citizens and businesses direct Internet access to
property assessment information. The office uses Intergraph software.
ESRI named Woolpert LLP Foundation Partner of the Year in the St. Louis region.
The team of Schindler Elevator Corporation and ESRI has been selected as one of six finalists for the Franz Edelman Award for Management Science
geoVue completed implementation of a new location analysis system for Bright Horizons Family Solutions a provider of employer-sponsored child care, early
education and work/life solutions.
Traffic Pulse Networks is partnering with AccuWeather, to provide one-stop Web-based traffic and weather information to commuters.
Telecom Fiji, the largest user of GIS software in the South Pacific region, is funding the software and training for University of the South Pacific. This is an odd
announcement since it appears that Intergraph is not donating anything to the school.
Mark Kachmar is the winner of the 2002 Space Imaging Award for the Application of High Resolution Digital Satellite Imagery. Kachmar is a student in the
master's degree program in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta. He receives $2000 in imagery.