May 8, 2003


• Editor's Note
• What Can Geospatial Technology Learn From iTunes?
• The State of GIS Discussions
• Caution: Read Before You Try
• Updates and Clarifications

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Last week Apple took what seems to be a huge step forward in the distribution of music. The new iTunes Music Store allows visitors to download music at 99 cents per song. The store does not have all the music one could ever want (missing are the Beatles, Stones, Madonna and others), for now only supports Mac platforms, and does have some measure of distribution protection, but sales are strong. Apple reports that one million songs were downloaded in the first week.

Now music is certainly NOT completely analogous to maps. Music is typically heard and not seen. The target audience for music is, I'll suggest, younger. The bulk of revenues come from consumer purchases, rather than "professional" ones. And, I'll guess that there are more bytes of digital music in the world than digital maps. Still, the two industries share some key properties. Both music and map users want information to be inexpensive, accurate, and mobile. They want the delivery to be simple, fast, and available from the Internet.

Will there be a comparable service like iTunes for maps? Unlikely. And I think it's interesting to think about why that might be true.

There are some map services/data delivery websites today that parallel the "traditional" music download model, that is, the one that Apple has updated. The business model requires some registration or account setup fee, typically paid upfront, that allows a certain amount of data downloads. Some music sites even require a fee if you choose not to download music in any given month. GIS Data Depot and MapCard come to mind as using this traditional model for GIS data/maps.

Apple has chosen the "pay-as-you-go" model for its store. The iTunes Music Store has no upfront costs and users are billed 99 cents per song at the time of downloading. Why does this work? I can't speak for the younger generation, or online music downloading generation, but I think there's a certain honesty about it. You don't pay for something you do not buy, and you are not forced to pay for more than you want. Finally, you need not pay in advance. It's like those "pay by weight" salad bars. While the consumer likes "pay-as-you-go," as do some businesses, governments typically do not. Because governments generally plan budgets in advance, the traditional subscription model is likely to continue to be very popular with them.

Another challenge for maps: they do not lend themselves to a type of discrete unit, analogous to the song, as music does. There is no map equivalent to a stand-alone "song." Consumers are always crossing local, state, and country boundaries when on vacation. Professional GIS users in environmental or telecommunications areas find such boundaries meaningless.

Another reason we won't see something like iTunes for maps is that the digital music community has nicely narrowed down the format for distributing and playing music. While MP3 is still out there (and as I understand it, widely used in the "free piracy" world), Windows Media Audio (WMA) has become the leader. That's what Apple uses, the New York Times reports, because it has better fidelity than MP3 and is more compact. In the mapping world, we still have a wide variety of formats, which would make this more complex.

Another challenge, specifically on the consumer side, is that most people don't need that many maps. They do, however, require quite a lot of music. I have a Boston and Vicinity map book in my car and a small national road atlas. Musically, like many of you I imagine, I'm all over the map (no pun intended). I have hundreds of CDs. And new music becomes available all the time. For the consumer, purchasing a new map book every few years is sufficient.

Finally, I think we are moving slowly but surely to a time where maps are not just a product, but a raw ingredient. Songs, I'll suggest, are still a product. Providers do not need to offer software to listen to them (though many do, for free) or tools to get more out of them. Mostly, they are played "as is" by consumers. DJs of course have a different relationship with songs, so I hear.

Today's digital maps function as raw materials more and more. Consumers carry them in PDAs or GPS devices watching the little dot move across the screen. While consumers still use paper maps (which a review of in-car navigation by Consumer Reports suggests is quite acceptable, effective, and inexpensive), the allure of the digital map is growing. We as geospatial professionals are not passive users of digital map products. We change them, merge them, resymbolize them, chop them up and analyze them. They are the raw meat we feed our software. These are not the passively-used downloaded music files or the books bought on Amazon. We, as professionals and consumers expect more, indeed do more, with our maps. That makes vending maps far more complex than vending music.


One of the very first articles I wrote for GIS Monitor in 2000 was about the state of GIS discussion groups and newslists. I think it's time to revisit that topic since things have changed dramatically.

My article from August 18, 2000, touted Directions' then-new Web-based interface to many of the GIS newslists. (See some valuable follow up comments from Bill Huber in the following issue.) Newslists essentially forward all mail addressed to the list's address to all subscribers. While it works quite well, the volume of mail for us on the receiving end can be a challenge, so I, for one, prefer to read such lists online and forego the individual e-mails.

Today Directions provides read-only access to 22 different newslists. Seven of them cover ESRI products. Smaller companies/products are also represented: Manifold, GRASS, GE Power (Smallworld), and IDRISI all have their own lists.

On August 3, 2000, Intergraph and Directions set up GeoMedia-L, a list aimed at MGE and GeoMedia users. SpatialNews added an Intergraph-focused list, INGRList, a week later. Intergraph already hosted its own "Techie Talk" forum (now defunct) and there continues to be a USENET group called comp.sys.intergraph.

I visited each one this week. Directions' GeoMedia-L had 7 posts for the week. The last post in the INGRList archive at SpatialNews is from March 2003. comp.sys.ingr had one post this week and continues to host questions focusing on hardware, as it did three years ago. The new addition is an Intergraph-hosted discussion forum for its Team GeoMedia members.

One of the things I do think is happening: the "general" lists are slowing down. SpatialNews launched GISList in 2000, after the demise of GIS-L, perhaps the first real newslist for GIS. While there are still posts on general topics to GISList, the number of posts to MapInfo-L and ESRI-L regularly top its traffic. I think that product- or company-specific lists are being used to address specific questions, to the relief of those looking at broader issues on GISList. Comp.infosystems.gis is also slow, with just a few posts per day.

There are a few other discussion areas worth mentioning. GIS Café and Spatial News host exclusive online discussions. GIS Cafe discussions require a login to post, Spatial News' discussions currently do not. hopes to become the geospatial version of "Slashdot." Posts there tend to be rather technical, often relating to open source and Open GIS Consortium topics. GITA hosts GEOXchange with several topic threads for members and others. Anyone can read the discussions, though posting requires registering.

I think the evolution of our discussions is right on target. These more-focused discussion areas simply reflect GIS' maturity. And, as demand warrants, they will merge and separate to serve the different communities' needs.

If you are a member of the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), you will note that this month's issue of PE&RS;, the organization's journal includes a free trial CD from LizardTech Software of its "Next Generation MrSID." We are all familiar with CDs that come with magazines - those in GIS publications and those in PC World and other general computer and gaming related publications. But this free trial is a bit different. And, it's a good reminder to read your license agreements, including those for trial software, with great care.

After you register on the company website you receive instructions on how to download the 15-day trial. Then comes the licensing agreement. Read it carefully, because it says, in short, that after the 15-day trial you will, within the next 15 days, either (1) return the CD to the company, or destroy it (at the company's option) and delete all files created, and provide the company an affidavit saying you've done so, or (2) buy it.

The license language is: "If You do not opt to purchase an ongoing license to the Software, any files (without limitation) created through Your use of the Software must be deleted or destroyed and You must return or destroy, at LizardTech's option, the Software, as well as sign an affidavit stating that You have completed these actions. If after fifteen (15) days following the end of the evaluation period LizardTech has not received either a purchase order for the Software You were evaluating, or said affidavit, LizardTech will invoice You for the cost of the Software and You agree that You will then be obligated to pay said invoice within fifteen (15) days of its receipt."

See this important update.

Last week I wrote about an agreement between Definiens Imaging GmbH and DATA+, Moscow, Russia, that allowed Data+ to distribute Definiens' remote sensing image analysis and feature detection software eCognition in Russia and the entire area of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). I included the URL to Definiens parent company, not the imaging organization. My apologies.

• This statement in last week's article on trends brought several letters.

"Other integrative GIS efforts, those being managed from above (I'm thinking of the National Map, NSDI, I-Teams) don't seem to have this immediacy. Perhaps this trend of neighbors workign together is the GIS equivalent of "think globally (nationally, at the state level?), act locally."

Jennifer M. Hughes, P.E., Village Engineer & GISCon Vice-President from the Village of Lincolnshire, Illinois saw her group in that statement.

"We couldn't have said it better. 'We' is the GIS Consortium in northeast Illinois. We are a consortium of small- to medium-sized communities who are combining our resources to provide GIS services in communities that otherwise wouldn't have implemented GIS."

Ron Matzner, I-Team Coordinator, wrote to correct my suggestion that I-Teams are a top-down initiative.

"I noticed in your article on trends you referred to I-Teams as being
managed from above. They are just the opposite. The Meckenburg [sic] and Hillsborough examples you gave are good examples of I-Teams. There are no requirements for I-Teams other than that they are open, inclusive, voluntary, multi-jurisdictional and committed to the I-Team process. I-Teams are branded multi-jurisdictional consortia. The process merely expresses the common good-sense best practices that both formal and informal geospatial partnerships have been following for years. I-Teams develop their own organization structures, plan, policies, and implementation strategies. Data access and distribution policies are the province of the individual I-Team."

I contacted Woolpert to ask if the group that hired the company was indeed an I-Team. Jim Kiles, project manager for Woolpert GIS/IT group in Charlotte replied, "No model, including the I-Team concept ... was used, but the theory certainly applies."

• Max e-mailed on another use of GPS to track sheep.

"Perhaps the Irish sheep had had GPS envy of their Celtic cousins across the Irish Sea.

"For a period in the mid-1990s, sheep in North Wales were tagged and their grazing patterns plotted. They wore small saddlebags that contained GPS units and data storage devices. Differential GPS was used to get positional accuracy to within a metre and the data was post processed. The hardware and software were designed by scientists at Bangor University, part of the University of Wales. The analysis was
done by an environment and ecology organisation elsewhere.

"The purpose was to identify radioactive hotspots in pasture. Fall-out from the Chernobyll reactor accident in Russia had contaminated many upland areas of Wales and northern England although the contamination was extremely localised. In some instances there were great differences just either side of an outcrop a couple of metres across.

"The sheep were used to reveal the hotspots. First, their grazing patterns was plotted. Then, when they were slaughtered, their radioactivity was measured. By comparing the patterns of sheep that "glowed" with those that didn't, scientists were able to identify contaminated pasture and measure their rate of decay over time.

"I have not eaten Welsh lamb for some time."

• My review of Internet GIS brought this from Kim McDonough from Nashville.

"…I was struck by the grammatical errors reported in your review. I increasingly find that our skills as writers are not being as closely scrutinized as in the past. I could go into a long discourse as to what I believe are the reasons for this. But, what it most probably comes down to in most cases is laziness, both on the part of the author and of the editor. Looking through a composition twice or even three times, particularly by someone who is not the writer, was once standard practice. Yet, how often do we do that now, particularly with email? My point here is that I am increasingly disturbed at what I see as a degradation in language skills. …Your publication is one I make sure to read from beginning to end, partly because it is well written and carefully edited."

The editor replies: The correct grammar and spelling in GIS Monitor must be credited to my editor, Jackie. I take responsibility for the errors, however.

• GPS on the Mountain. Dan Howitt claimed to have climbed up and down Mount Rainier last October in less than four hours.
According to The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) the problem is, his GPS indicates his path was not one that would have allowed that type of speed. During the autumn months it would be covered in crevasses and a field of penitentes (ice spikes). Howitt maintains he did it, but considers the record "unofficial." He also makes it clear he used a new GPS, with which he was unfamiliar, which left gaps in the data.

An update: Since I posted this story on the website, I received this note from "S & C":

"Dan Howitt used a Garmin GPSMAP 76S and did not have it set-up properly. He didn't know how to use this highly complicated GPS unit properly. So, the route lines that the GPS plotted were on the wrong coordinate setting and have very large margins of error. Unfortunately, people like Dee Molenaar and others [who reviewed the data] believe that the route lines that were plotted by the GPS were 100% accurate, while in fact they were not even close to being accurate and instead had up to 150 foot margins of error.

"My group has examined the GPS evidence and have found it to be in error due to the GPS unit being set-up improperly."

• GPS as Evidence. A "bang stick" is a device that shoots a bullet when it hits a fish. These are illegal in Florida state waters (3 miles from the coast) but legal in federal waters (past 3 miles). After identifying potential diving lawbreakers, law enforcement officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confiscated the vessel's GPS to identify their location. I suppose fishermen could just turn off the GPS…

• Planes too expensive? Try GIS. Ripon College in Wisconsin is using GIS to link alumni with prospective students based on location. The idea is to develop a mentoring program between prospective students and alumni. The program helps connect the school with high schoolers. A program to fly students to campus was abandoned due to financial pressures.


• GPS and Hot Springs. Need to find a hot spring? Try, a website with descriptions and lat/long coordinates of naturally-created warm pools. Of course, many bring their suits to test out the pools, too. The maps of the locations are built on the Census' TIGER data. I was surprised to learn that there's a thermal spring in Massachusetts!

• Who's Looking for New Sites? Banks. That's right, online banking has not panned out as widely as some assumed it would, so after two years of slow growth, banks are looking for new branch sites. According to the New York Times, the sites are typically bigger "suburban" models that require lots of parking and a drive-through. The one bank looking to shut branches? Boston-based Fleet, which purchased a number of smaller banks in past years and now owns many branches "across the street from each other."

• New Hampshire May Make War Driving Legal. It may not be the reason why New Hampshire's famous "Old Man of the Mountain" finally crumbled away this past weekend, but the "Live Free or Die" state may be the first to limit rights of wireless access point owners who chose not to secure their networks. Wired explains that the proposed law would limit the rights of the access point owner to prosecute any wireless "trespassers." (The article also includes a link to more information on war driving and how the term evolved.)

• Inventor of Geographic Profiling Dies. Stuart Kind, who died April 19 at the age of 78, is credited with inventing "geographical profiling," a technique that uses the location of events to identify a criminal's home. He used the idea in 1980 to predict the home of the Yorkshire Ripper who had killed 17 women in Northern England over a five-year period. According to an article in the Guardian, Kind used graph paper to map the murders and determined the killer lived between the towns of Shipley and Bingley. The murderer lived exactly between them and was picked up about two weeks after Kind's prediction. Thanks to Martin for the tip.

• A Personal Server from Intel. reports of a new personal server coming soon from Intel. The idea is a wireless device that "carries all your stuff" and communicates wirelessly (via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) to any device so equipped. As the article puts it: "any computer becomes your computer." More interesting to those of us on the move - it need never leave your pocket and without a keyboard or screen, has less battery drain than other devices. At the size of a deck of cards, you won't notice it. I can visualize walking up to an airport kiosk and using its keyboard and monitor to download mail, or even to work. The article suggests that one day the technology may be installed in cell-phones.

• DHS Speaks on GIS. Steve Cooper, Chief Information Officer for the Dept. of Homeland Security, participated in a CIO discussion hosted by the Washington Post. The entire transcript is online, but there was one question on GIS.
"Frankfort, KY.: How does the Homeland Security Department plan to get all federal agencies to collaborate both between themselves and with state and local governments in developing and implementing effective GIS programs?
"Steven I. Cooper: Do you think bribes will work? :-) Seriously, the way forward is a combination of shared objectives and $$. We must find common ground that state and local governments need every day to run their environments, that we could use in case of a terrorist incident. This way we have a win-win for the fed/state/local/tribal governments."

• Search Engine as OS. Peter Coffee of eWeek argues that a search engine, Google, is the new operating sytem of choice. Some have argued that the browser has become the thin layer on top of hardware through which we look at the world. Coffee says that Google, with its programmability and organizational tools, outpaces the poor browser. I recall when I started in the GIS business, my boss explained that the people for whom we were making software considered AutoCAD to be their operating system. Things have changed.

• Quote of the Week. Charles G. Groat, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, spoke at the Annual Louisiana Remote Sensing and GIS Workshop. "I guess my concern is if a private company decides that satellite imagery like this is not profitable, when will the government step in to keep information like this flowing?"


• Announcements
The Geospatial Information & Technology Association (
GITA) has announced the 2003 Speaker Award winners from its recent Conference 26 in San Antonio. They include: Eric Ackerman of Edison Electric Institute, Pat Drinnan of Aquila Networks Canada, Nancy Lerner of EMA, Inc., William Meehan of ESRI, Jennifer Nieland of Wisconsin Public Service Corp., Ed Parsons of Ordnance Survey, and Christopher Tucker of IONIC Enterprise.

Intergraph Corp. posted first-quarter net income of $8.1 million, or 17 cents per share, up from net income of roughly $4.38 million, or 8 cents per diluted share, in first-quarter 2002.

ESRI China (Hong Kong) built a SARS mapping website which disseminates the latest geographic distribution information on the infected areas and people in Hong Kong and worldwide.

At the recent GIS for Transportation Symposium (GIS-T) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, customers of Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions -Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT), Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) - were honored for their winning entries in the 2003 GIS-T Poster Session.

The Indiana Geographic Information Council recently recognized the Delaware County GIS Department as the most creative and practical county GIS department in the state.

Trimble reported first quarter revenues of $127.3 million, versus $104.0 million in the first quarter of 2002. The company's Field Solutions' division, which includes GIS, saw a 15% increase in first quarter revenue over the first quarter of 2002.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) invites comments from all interested parties on the draft Address Data Content Standard. The public review period is May 1, 2003, through July 31, 2003. This standard facilitates the exchange of postal, physical, and geographic address information by providing a method for documenting information content.

Kija Kim and Jim Aylward, co-founders of Harvard Design & Mapping (HDM) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Arlington, Virginia, were scheduled to meet with President George W. Bush at the White House on Tuesday, May 6, 2003 as part of a delegation from the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC).

Davis Demographics & Planning, Inc. (DDP), and Education Planning Solutions, Inc. (EPS), with support from ESRI, have teamed up to offer approximately $7 million in grants that foster and support the integration of GIS applications for public school districts in the United States. A total of 250 recipients will receive GIS software, introductory training, and other materials focusing on transportation, enrollment projections, and school mapping in public schools. All applications must be received no later than 5:00 p.m., December 15, 2003.

• Contracts
RMSI, a global IT & GIS services company, announced that RMSI, along with its joint venture partner Landmark Information Group, UK, has been awarded a contract to digitize the boundaries of statutory designated wildlife sites and related features in England.

AirPhotoUSA, LLC, a provider of desktop aerial information solutions, announced that The Staubach Company's retail services division has selected PhotoMapper, AirPhotoUSA's on-demand, seamless aerial imagery solution, to expand its state-of-the-art market research capabilities.

Oneida County has selected Ruekert/Mielke of Waukesha, Wisconsin, to undertake a countywide Parcel Mapping and Database Development project as one of the initial steps towards implementing a county's GIS.

The City of Manassas Park, Virginia has selected Full Circle Technologies' Web-product, VectorEyes to Web-enable its GIS.

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. announced that a new customer has agreed to purchase RADARSAT data. The contract, with the unnamed client is for $1.3 million (CDN) in the first year, with a one-year renewal option.

Research Systems, Inc. (RSI), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eastman Kodak Company, announced that the State of Alaska's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is purchasing RSI's ENVI on the Net (EON) technology to create a new statewide digital basemap for use in multiple mapping applications.

• Products
Hummingbird Enterprise for ESRI, a new Hummingbird solution, offers a Web-based mapping interface for document and records management and queries by linking ESRI's ArcIMS software and Hummingbird DM, an integral component of Hummingbird Enterprise(TM).

Autodesk, Inc. announced the availability of Autodesk Land Desktop 2004, Autodesk Civil Design 2004, and Autodesk Survey 2004 software programs.

The Stereo Analyst for ArcGIS and Image Analysis for ArcGIS extensions are available from Leica Geosystems GIS & Mapping. Stereo Analyst is a reliable solution for creating and maintaining highly accurate GIS data and information that is stored in ESRI's Geodatabase and used for analysis, digital mapping and visualization. Image Analysis is used for preparing 'GIS-ready' imagery, creating 'GIS-ready' imagery from airborne sensors, extracting information from imagery and analyzing imagery to create spatial and non-spatial information.

Thales has launched a new generation of decimetric Differential GPS (DGPS) positioning systems. SkyFix XP, available from Thales GeoSolutions, is capable of accuracies of 10cm in the horizontal and 15cm in the vertical domains.

LocatioNet announced the release of LocatioNet MyMap - an integrated suite of graphical location-based service (LBS) application modules. MyMap allows users to view their own locations, find and navigate to points of interest, and interact with friends in their immediate vicinity.

OpenOSX is shipping the 5.0.2 version of its Grass GIS CD and has published the official Grass 5.0.2 Mac OS X binaries for free and immediate access. The new version brings updated software, a much improved all native (Cocoa-based) graphical user interface, along with additional enhancements and improved stability.

Leica Geosystems GIS & Mapping, LLC announced the Leica Photogrammetry Suite, a seamlessly integrated suite of digital photogrammetry products that empowers users to transform raw imagery into reliable data layers required for all digital mapping, GIS analysis, and 3D visualization. The suite will be available in the fall with previews at ASPRS (this week), the ESRI User Conference and Leica Geosystems' User Group Meeting in August.

• Events
ESRI's 23rd Annual International User Conference will be held July 7-11, 2003, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. The Third Annual ESRI Education User Conference will take place in San Diego on July 6-9, in conjunction with the User Conference. For the first time, ESRI will present a surveying conference concurrent with the user conference, July 6-8.

The 7th International Scientific Conference GEOINFOCAD 2003 will be held May 20-21, 2003 in Vienna, Austria. About 45 top-ranking Russians will attend this conference, which is described as a good opportunity to meet Russian and Austrian key players and decision makers and to initiate business connections.

GeoSolutions 2003 will take place at Earls Court, London, U.K., September 16-18, 2003.

• Hires and New Offices
Pixxures, Inc. a provider of GIS and online mapping services appointed Charles Killpack as the new chief executive officer. Killpack was most recently president of Emerge. Before that he was general manager of ESRI. Killpack has taught yours truly quite a lot about this industry over the past decade.


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