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GIS USER FORUM IN DUBAI
The GIS Forum held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) was only the second GIS conference I've attended outside the US. The first was in Birmingham, UK in the early 90s. The only significant difference that I recall was that Autodesk served biscuits (cookies) in the stand (booth). The UAE conference had its own subtle differences.
A company whose business is organizing training courses and conferences ran the Forum. The literature in the meeting area for upcoming events included such topics as fixing machinery, customer relationship management (CRM), and other technology topics. The organizer told me that previous, more focused efforts (GIS in Oil and Gas, for example) didn't have enough of a draw and that this broader offering might bring in more delegates. There were about 30 speakers and delegates in attendance, mostly from the Middle East. These smaller, more intimate conferences, are popular here.
Rolf Becker, managing partner at MAPS UAE moderated the first day's sessions. The first session, from Zul Jiwani, who many know as the gentleman who put together the Qatar GIS and later started Orion Technology in Canada, set up the role of the spatially enabled Web portal. He highlighted how portals need to take the lead from portals like MyYahoo and MyCNN to provide customized information. He went on to argue that GIS "missed the boat" by separating itself from mainstream information technology (IT) in the 1980s and should not do so now. He defined data as "reality encoded" and information as what was produced when data was used. His examples of the Visa website and graphics reminiscent of too many ESRI conferences made his remarks seem dated. I disagree with his response to a question about the role of a government leader dictating GIS data sharing. He felt it's the only way to go. I think it can work, as it did in Qatar, however at least in the US with governments changing regularly, a GIS may be more likely to succeed with support from the bottom up.
The Business Development Director from Space Imaging Middle East gave an overview of the company offerings. The questions were interesting. First, a delegate asked how to decide whether you need satellite imagery or aerial imagery. Dewey Marino said you have to work backwards - to start with what type of features you are looking to explore, then see which options are more economical. At least one attendee was surprised to learn that there were satellites taking pictures all over the world - without any restriction. The other big question was whether satellites would ever replace the need for detailed aerial imagery and photogrammetry. Marino argued no, that the two would continue to be complementary.
A presentation on the Lebanon Atlas followed. Jacques Ekmekji introduced a new term: Spatially Enabled Electronic Economy, the SEE Economy. This he said is far more comfortable term than e-government or e-commerce, since it weaves in the visualization element. Perhaps the highlight of the morning was Alaa Zahar's presentation on how Vodaphone (Egypt) implemented GIS in a year. The goal was a practical application that addressed radio planning, network management and site acquisition. My sense of why this worked? These folks did a needs assessment, brought in experienced partners (including one from Lithuania) and had a defined scope. The most interesting thing I learned was that Vodafone sends out mobile phones along with GPSs in cars to monitor signal quality and strength. From that data, they can make maps.
In the afternoon, I caught the end of Unni Krishman, of GISTEC's presentation on new technologies for utilities, telecoms and urban planning. It was more of an intro to ESRI's geodatabase. An intro to Oracle 9i followed. The big question, which was not completely answered, involved distinguishing Oracle Spatial and ArcSDE. Tarek Kazzaz of the American University of Beirut, who's also been a regular visitor at MIT down the street in Cambridge, MA, looked at GIS in urban planning. One issue he raised: that vendors "tell us" what to do. He also pointed out that it may be time to find new approaches to GIS implementation in planning.
The second day began with a session that I'd have called "GIS Data 101" - it was a good overview of what users and creators need to know about data. Next, David Hetherington of Landmark/RMSI talked about how the company (which, among other things, produced risk assessment maps on individual properties) selected and implemented a GIS. They selected Genasys, a system whose name I'd not heard for some time. Two gentlemen from Hyder Consulting gave a detailed analysis of how the Abu Dhabi Sewerage Directorate implemented an asset management system integrated with GIS. They noted that the basemap they used had to be converted from System 9, another system from days gone by.
Rolf Becker from MAPS UAE looked at the process of moving data to information. That topic came up in virtually every presentation. Rolf defined information as the "knowledge required to decide or to act." I like the definition from James Burke, that information causes action. I gave the last paper, predicting the future of GIS.
The most interesting point that came up over and over had to do with data collection and data sharing. In the Middle East there is great concern about sharing data that may be considered sensitive. So, there are few consortia. One delegate from the UK, who'd been in Dubai three years ago, recalled discussing a Dubai GIS organization. There's been no progress on that.
GIS User Forum
ADDRESS POINTS: NEW GEOCODED DATA
I ran across a new data offering a few weeks back called Address Points. The data, from GIS Data Resources, LLC, provides the locations of buildings as points. The company also provides enhance address ranges, based on the points, and a variety of attributes, as needed. This was the first I'd heard of data provided in this way, so I dug a bit deeper by asking Tony Alex, VP Business Development at Address Point, some questions about how the data is developed.
How do you create these databases? Is the "point" associated with a building at its centroid?
Address Points is created via a proprietary, patent pending process. The "raw materials" include parcel mapping, aerial and satellite imagery, tax-assessor information and other local data sources. In some areas, where necessary, field collection is performed.
Address Points is mostly a client specific product. Requirements may change from client to client and therefore source materials and attributes also vary. At minimum, Address Points provides geo-spatially accurate building locations (x,y coordinates) with the physical address along a spatially accurate street centerline file.
What is the cost vs. "traditional" geocoding info from say a GDT or TeleAtlas?
Address Points does not compete with the traditional street centerline providers such as GDT, TeleAtlas and NavTech. Address Points methodology provides geocoding at a completely different level of accuracy. Geocoding is performed to the building level, accurate to within 10 meters of the building. With traditional street centerline geocoding, a geocode is usually accurate only within hundreds of meters and can easily be miles off.
I see you support several Fortune 25 companies. Any local government or insurance references?
The first installs are going in this quarter. A primary focus has been in the E911 vertical market where Address Points will be used to help save lives, providing pinpoint locations that allow emergency vehicles to reach people in need efficiently.
What format do you deliver in? Any
limits to how small an area can be developed?
Address Points is available in all major GIS formats. Address Points can be developed for any for any area, small or large in the US.
What sort of coverage is available off the shelf?
Address Points is a client-driven product, usually delivered to the client within 30 days. Whether the product is 'off the shelf' or is created via our proprietary process, ensuring the map is up-to-date to the month purchased is critical.
INTERGRAPH HAS ANOTHER GOOD QUARTER
Intergraph showed its continued commitment to economic health posting net income of $4.4 million on revenues of $123.1 million. That's 8 cents per share, a bit below plan, but quite respectable. Revenues are lower than last year due to sales of Middle East interests, less and less hardware income, and the continued spending slowdown following 9/11. Operating expenses are down and monies are beginning to come in from the sale of the graphics division. Next quarter that sale should be final, and income from the Intel settlement and the Bentley IPO may kick in.
The company started an Intellectual Property Division to keep an eye on patents and royalties. It may seem a bit late, but in the long run, I'd argue that this is a good tactic.
Intergraph will likely sell off some of its Bentley shares and should the IPO go through, expects full payment ($15 million remaining) on a term note still payable by Bentley.
The company is working hard to lease existing real estate since sale at this time is unlikely. 72% if the space is currently under lease.
The Mapping and GIS Division was about on par with last quarter and last year (taking out exceptional incomes). Software sales were down, but were made up by services. Since most clients are in the public sector, and that sector is still slow, next quarter's results are expected to be roughly the same. The release of GeoMedia 5 in the coming month may help sales along.
Intergraph Reports First Quarter 2002 Results
A reader wrote in response to the Bentley IPO:
"Gartner, which used to produce the best figures for the GIS market size always included Bentley, until they stopped monitoring the market in 1998.
"The only analysts really collecting numbers now are Daratech. When I asked why Bentley's GIS figures had not been included in the 2001 GIS Markets & Opportunities report, they told me that Bentley had explicitly asked to be excluded from the survey, as they didn't consider that they were part of the GIS market."
POINTS OF INTEREST
• The first ".info" domain I've seen in GIS is http://www.uscensus.info, owned by GeoLytics, a company that provides census data.
• The US Federal Communications Commission put new rules into effect for organizations that are donated new or used cell "911 only" phones as emergency communications for victims of domestic violence, the elderly and others. The rules try to mitigate challenges, including the fact that most of these phones do not receive incoming calls. A special phone number 123-456-7890 alerts dispatchers that this is the case. Some are not too keen on the whole idea, including John Melcher, incoming president of the National Emergency Number Association, who notes that a call back may well be necessary to locate the individual to send help.
• Draft Parcel Management Use Requirements for the Bureau of Land Management's National Integrated Land System project are online for review and comment. A new section called Survey and Measurement Management has been added with information specific to the tasks of surveying and measurements.
• The folks at MapTech have put many of their maps online. You can look at topos, images, nautical and aeronautical charts, though not all are available for all US locations, and the sources are not all at the same scale. The interface is nice; it uses place names, zip codes, or lat/long. I was surprised not to find metadata anywhere, just a MapTech copyright on each map. The scales are representative fractions (1:30,000) so it's hard to estimate distances on screen. The maps are free to enjoy online or to print. You can even, through a six-step process, annotate maps with symbols and notes.
• Keyhole has put out quite a few press releases in the past year. According to the New York Times (free registration required) the company's product is a 3D online view of the earth packed with detailed image and vector data. Most users until now have been in planning and real estate and paid $1200/year for the service. Come June, the company is working with graphics card maker Nvidia, to bundle a 6-month trial version plus a discounted annual subscription at $79. A commercial subscription will drop to $599. Users must have Windows and a broadband Internet connection, but the imagery is quite nice and the angle of view can be adjusted. To keep up with the location-based services market, Keyhole is adding layers for businesses and other needed information.
• Garmin Corp. has been granted U.S. Patent (No. 6,373,430) that covers the "peer-to-peer position reporting" feature on the company's soon-to-be-released RINO product line of GPS-enabled, two-way radios. As I understand it, this is a patent for any GPS enable radio/device that can send its location to another such device. That's a fairly broad technology and I hope the patent doesn't impede use of this type of technology use for emergency response.
Bergkamen public utilities merged the geoinformation and attribute data into the SICAD-UT network information system. The data had been in DXF and Excel files.
Tele Atlas North America and Teletrac, Inc. announced an agreement to provide Tele Atlas's MultiNet data for the U.S. to optimize Teletrac's product suites including the advanced real-time vehicle location service.
• Contracts Laser-Scan will launch new capabilities at OracleWorld in Copenhagen, June 24-27 2002, according to a press release. Radius Topology automatically adds topological intelligence to data when it is loaded into Oracle; existing Oracle spatial software and GIS applications can continue unchanged. A marketing e-mail noted that Radius Topology is the new name for the product ASPE. I contacted Laser-Scan who explained that ASPE was the project name, which was used over the past 6 months. GDC, a MapInfo reseller in the UK will resell the product.
Service Pack 1 (SP1) is now available for Manifold System Release 5.00 Professional Edition. It's a free download from the website. The company has also started an online knowledgebase and is beta testing an enterprise version of its flagship software, which stores data in Oracle or SQL Server for multiple user access. The company is also holding a poll to determine user interest in a DVD of all 2000 TIGER/Line data for $25.
Leica Geosystems' GIS & Mapping Division announced that it will continue to package its GS50 and GS50+ GPS/GIS data collection systems with IMAGINE Essentials, Leica Geosystems' image and visualization software. Every customer who purchases a GS50 or GS50+ system through March 31, 2003 will receive a free copy of IMAGINE Essentials software.
Media Lab Asia launched an open-source Geographical Information System (GIS) software for handheld computers. The software, GramChitra, has been developed in collaboration with research partner, Centre of Spatial Database Management and Solutions (CSDMS). The software was developed on LINUX and is available for free download.
Telcontar announced the launch of a new version of its Drill Down Server, version 2.5, a software platform for location-based services, with enhanced scalability and performance.
ESRI announced the launch of a multiuser, server-based computing environment for desktop ArcLogistics Route, its routing and scheduling solution. By including Citrix MetaFrame software with the software, multiple users in a given organization can use the same work group license.
Design Visualization Inc. (DVI) announced the availability of Geographic Data Technology (GDT) products in MicroStation DGN format with full attribute data attachments.
Leica Geosystems' GIS & Mapping Division announced ImageEqualizer, a standalone application for correcting image variations such as hot spots, unequal lighting, atmospheric and temporal effects, or color cast, in single and multiple images simultaneously.
The new evaluation version of Blue Marble's Geographic Calculator 5.0 provides full access to the software and 12 free conversions.
The U.S. Census Bureau has recently released the first two major sets of data from the 2000 Census: Redistricting and the "Short Form" (SF1). GeoLytics offers these data in two formats either at the Block level or at the Block Group level and larger geographies.
NAVTECH maps are now available in a voice-enabled format for the United Kingdom.
MapInfo Corporation will release MapInfo TargetPro version 4.0 June 15. The product is described as the first analytical customer relationship management (CRM) solution that enables organizations to tightly link location analysis to CRM systems. Pricing for TargetPro v4.0 starts at $7,500 for a national system.
DCSE, Inc announced the latest release of Map Library software product. This newest release introduces support for Oracle 8 (and higher) and an improved user interface.