GIS Monitor May 31, 2001


-Marconi Acquires Northwood
-More on Intergraph Alliance

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Marconi, a 55,000-employee communications company, is buying Northwood Technologies, best known in GIS circles as MapInfo’s wireless application partner. The purchase price is CDN$42 million.

Northwood’s deciBel Planner software supports wireless technologies such as UMTS and CDMA2000 and the company’s other software is widely used to plan cellular networks because it can predict radio frequency patterns. Northwood also makes Vertical Mapper, MapInfo’s raster solution.

Marconi provides hardware and services to the likes of BellSouth, Coca-Cola and Sprint. Marconi already has a wireless network planning product line and intends to merge the acquired technologies into a new product line. Marconi will open a new business unit for wireless network planning headquartered in Ottawa, Canada.

This purchase drives home the idea that GIS and spatial analysis are really tools to solve industry specific problems. GE’s purchase of Smallworld was another example. On the other hand, some software companies are buying vertical app providers: Bentley owns or has a strong financial interest in all of its “strategic affiliates”. Autodesk has bought Softdesk, Vision, and Gentry Systems.

Do vertical GIS solution providers fare better as independents, or as part of bigger organizations? My sense is that it’s best for GIS technologies to be absorbed into the industries they serve. That way, GIS is more likely to become invisible, somewhat like databases are now.


Last week Intergraph’s IntelliWhere division announced a new alliance whose aim is “to build on industry knowledge, industry standards, and open geospatial software technologies and services to facilitate the rapid deployment of location-based services (LBS), wireless, and Web-based solutions in the energy industry.”

I was curious about how this might fit with existing organizations for the energy industry (GITA) and standards organizations (OGC). Majdi Zahran, business development and strategic alliances manager for IntelliWhere Americas provided further detail.

“The Energy Technology Alliance objective is to create a consortium including energy providers such as Duke; a technology provider, IntelliWhere; and integration partners such as EWTS. We will also encourage industry affiliates (e.g., as-built data processors and industry consultants) and complementary technology providers (e.g., hardware and network vendors) to participate in the Alliance.

“The main focus is on Web-based solutions and the wireless mobile workforce. A key advantage that the Alliance provides that will benefit the energy industry is the ability to take advantage of the Alliance's proposed solution offering without requiring changes or modifications to their existing core geofacilities systems.

“This covers two issues: -We are proposing a solution that is already in production today and was created by the current Alliance members. -Since this offering is geofacilities core neutral, energy providers who wish to deploy this proposed solution will not have to endure the cost and effort of migrating existing data to take advantage of the proposed solution.

“That's one of the fundamental concepts for this Alliance, enabling energy providers to explore new technologies that may best fit their future business requirements.

“Another important goal of the Alliance is to provide a forum where energy companies and industry affiliates (e.g. regulatory agencies) can discuss requirements for open, industry-specific solutions.

“The Energy Technology Alliance does not intend to replace or act independently of established standards organizations such as the OGC and WAP. We do not plan to establish standards for product development or technology standards. The Alliance is focused on exploring and enhancing industry requirements. We are also interested in other energy providers taking a look at what we have to offer today, evaluating the current functionality, and providing us with additional requirements for consideration.

“More importantly, the Alliance is a forum for the discussion and sharing of information that impacts industry requirements and will most likely evolve into more of an "influencer" consortium to those organizations that do drive/implement the industry standards.”


-MapQuest has put together a hard copy atlas – with page numbers coded to its website. So, if you need more info, just key in the page number on the special web page and get more detail on the area. Will it be successful? I think with all the new telematics apps and tools like Map’nGo, Vindigo and others, that this is too little, too late.

-GITA has updated its website. There is now a members-only section. Alas, you must remember an id number to get in. You can change your password to something you will remember, but you cannot change the five-digit number. Argh! Once inside you can search for abstracts of recent conference papers and for other members. If you do not want your personal information on the Web, you can edit your record accordingly. Perhaps with this secure area in place the organization will consider putting their GeoExchange listserve online?

-Autodesk has its telematics solutions for FIAT up and running. To get a glimpse of the “on call concierge” read their article below. As currently described, the service will know your family’s birthdays, your musical tastes, etc. If my car has to tell me when my Mom’s birthday is, I’ll know that I’m working too hard!

On the other hand, there IS a real need for safety services, which few vendors are seriously selling. “Roadside assistance” and “Emergency Services” are 3rd and 4th on Autodesk list of services.

-The word on the street is my favorite “new economy” magazine is going under. Goodbye Business 2.0!


This letter was in response to my comments on a SPATIALinfo press release last week: "SPATIALinfo will deploy SPATIALnet and SPATIALweb to integrate Autodesk and Oracle products into a seamless end-to-end network design and maintenance solution. One wonders if Autodesk will be able to grow its GIS Design Server into this space?"

“The implication in your statement is that this is a loss for Autodesk and a win for SPATIALinfo. The fact is, we are very happy that SPATIALinfo, an important Autodesk partner, has won this business. We know we can't do everything … so we need partners like SPATIALinfo with particular expertise to supplement what we do. If they sold some of their technology in the process of winning the deal, more power to them. There is plenty of business to go around.”

Bradford Sharp Manager of Business Development GIS Solutions Division Autodesk Inc


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