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Why GE Looks Confusing to GIS People
I sent out the first issue of GIS Monitor the day after General Electric bought Smallworld. I did my best to guess at what the acquisition might mean for the industry. At that point, in August 2000, Smallworld was a player to be reckoned with, having been very successful in the electric and utilities GIS arena and having made a play for government customers. Then things got quiet. Smallworld would appear at GITA, but I for one noted how hard it was to "find" the once well-known Smallworld brand. It was hidden within the giant GE umbrella. I recall thinking that was a shame, as the original Smallworld marketing team had done such a good job creating the brand as well as a classy advertising campaign to go with it.
So, I was pleased when this past year GE Energy began advertising the roll out of Smallworld 4 at GITA in Seattle in April. I received a card in the mail last week thanking me for "taking the time to learn about the" product, which got me thinking again about how Smallworld still seemed to be a bit invisible within the GIS world.
Then I got a note from a reader that described a set of literature he'd received from GE that described a successful ESRI implementation, and another that touted an ESRI ArcPad/Trimble application for mobile field units. That made him scratch his head, even though he knew GE purchased MJ Harden (an ESRI partner) for its pipeline expertise last year.
To the GIS practitioners a software vendor (which is how GIS users would perhaps see GE) that promotes competing products (Smallworld products and ESRI products) is very odd. It's even difficult today to find resellers, forget developers, that choose to (or are given the opportunity to) offer more than one vendors' products.
So, what's going on? Here's my guess, based on what I'm seeing (and not seeing) from GE. GE is in the solutions business. In fact, the company is in the process of redefining itself, removing such names as GE Network Solutions and using just GE Energy as its moniker in that space. Within GE Energy, Smallworld products are part of the Geospatial Asset Management and SCADA/EMS/DMS Software offerings and MJ Harden's are listed under Pipeline Integrity Services. (There are ten other GE business areas that sit alongside GE Energy.) As part of this larger organization Smallworld and MJ Harden appear very different to the GIS community than they did.
Considering the way GE is organized and does business, it's not that odd that GE would "tout" two apparently competing solutions. While Smallworld solutions are used in pipelines (I recall one very large user from reading the GITA report), GE offers Smallworld products mostly in other areas. GE's solution for pipelines is MJ Harden's, which is sometimes built on ESRI technology.
Is that good or bad? I'd maintain that it's business, something about which GE knows quite a bit. From a marketing standpoint it also puts GE in a position to offer some platitudes, should it choose to do so. First off, it can argue that the company selects "the best tool for the job" even if they are from competing vendors. Second, GE can explore how or if their customers' systems need to interoperate, and use its position in the market to ensure that happens if needed.
Lots of GIS publications do surveys - some weekly, some monthly, some annually. They are for different purposes and alas, few reveal the number of people who responded. (Kudos to those who do; it matters!) I was disappointed that the latest Autodesk User Group International (AUGI) survey didn't publish the number of respondents. Still, I found some of the results pretty interesting. (You'll need to be a member to access the website and the survey.)
The survey asked which Autodesk products members were using. For each product, respondents could select one of two choices that basically boil down to "the latest few" or "version x or previous." Sometimes "the latest few" included just one recent version, sometimes up to four. I'm not sure of the logic behind the choice of these categories, but will note that of the professional products (that is, leaving out AutoCAD LT) just about 70% were using the newer version or versions.
The lowest percentage that had not upgraded was the Autodesk Map group. Sixty-four percent are using Autodesk Map 3D 2005 or Autodesk Map 2004 and 36% are using earlier releases. The other Infrastructure Solutions Division (ISD) product on the list, MapGuide, showed a striking contrast with Release R6.5, R6, R5, or R4 (the "latest few" releases) in use by 90% of respondents.
Autodesk also found the results interesting and shared some insight into the apparently low upgrade percentage for map.
"The results for Map at 64% on a recent release are misleading when compared with other Autodesk products.
"1. AUGI did not include the Map Series [a "bundle" from a few years ago -Ed.] and a number of Map users were not included.
2. AUGI gave some products a much longer time period. For instance, Inventor R5 was released in late 2001 whereas Map 2004 (the earliest Map release offered) shipped in March 2003, about 18 months later.
3. Autodesk also uses special campaigns, bundles, or promotions that boost the upgrade rate. Map has had no such promotion for the past few releases."
uLocate, a tracking provider, has teamed up with private company Teen Arrive Alive (TAA) to offer parents the ability to track young people on foot and in the car. TAA offers a simple, inexpensive bumper sticker option which includes a "How's my driving?" phone number for other drivers to call should they choose to do so. The plan optionally offers a free phone (Nextel only) for the teen. With it, and the parents ok, the teen can be notified if anyone calls to complain about their driving. The parent is notified of any complaints, too.
The GPS option, with a higher cost, includes the free phone, but provides the parent with tracking abilities via phone or Internet. That can be used with teens of driving age, or even grade-schoolers.
The main limitations of the program, as I see it, are the limited number of phones and carriers supported and the limitations of the NEXTEL service area. Still, this is a far more valuable service, I think, than finding the nearest pizza place.
Eric Mauviθre of EMC3 wrote to describe his company's work with Flash.
"We have also been working on dynamic Web mapping with Flash for 5 years,
(See here) particularly for governmental and statistical agencies in France, Europe, USA or Canada."
John P. Thomas of Lafayette Indiana shared a Flash Map of Purdue University.
Ralph Grabowski, editor of upFront.eZine (on which GIS Monitor is shamelessly based), wrote to share his explorations into differential pricing in the marketplace.
"There always has been differential pricing based on geography. In the 1980s, I was shocked to learn that my German relatives paid double for Lotus 1-2-3 over the U.S. list price. On the other hand, BMWs cost twice as much in the USA than in Germany.
"The practice continues today, where Autodesk and other CAD vendors artificially charge far more for their products outside of the USA. Coupled with unfavorable exchange rates, AutoCAD LT costs about $2,200 in New Zealand (in NZ dollars). Needless to say, customers in New Zealand are furious; hence the popularity of cheaper alternatives.
"You can see the differential pricing at [Autodesk's store]
AutoCAD LT 2005 - $899 in USA
- £934.12 in England (about US$1,700) tax incl.
"Or at [Bentley's store]
MicroStation v8.1 - $4,795 in USA
- $7,435 in Canada (about US$5,550) + tax.
- £4,595 in England (about US$8,3623) tax incl.
"(Exchange rates available here.)"
Martin von Wyss, principal of vW Maps (and former Manager of Digital Cartography and GIS at the Boston Redevelopment Authority), has some issues with the online U.S. language atlas I noted a few weeks ago.
"The Modern Language Atlas violates the two most important rules for mapping quantitative data. The map is not equal-area and the data hasn't been normalized. I've been contemplating for quite some time how computer mapping is undoing the years of research and improvement in choropleth mapping. This atlas sums up how Internet map servers are taking map design from the hands of cartographers and the result is the worst kinds of carto-crimes, as I call them. Great data, great idea, terrible execution!"
Regarding my Point of Interest last week titled "Free vs. Paid Weather" a reader wrote:
"Wow, I sure hope I don't have to start paying for rain, since I live in the desert!"
Dr. Duane Marble shared some historical perspective on open source in the GIS community.
"Your comments on open source software neglected to mention the most important historical contribution. That was Dana Tomlin's software created in support of his map algebra -- a concept that is now incorporated into almost every GIS. Dana freely made his FORTRAN code available and it evolved into several versions as others cleaned it up and enhanced it. One of these versions was created by a number of my students (including Jay Sandhu and Sherry Amundson) first at SUNY at Buffalo and later at Ohio State. Several editions of this open software, most generally known as 'OSU MAP-for-the-PC' were distributed over the years and the software was utilized in a substantial number of GIS teaching operations around the world.
"Alas, the DOS-based 'OSU MAP-for-the-PC' no longer is being distributed but I still receive several inquiries every year that indicate that it is still running somewhere! The open nature of this software was very important in teaching advanced students how GIS worked (and sometimes did not work) on a programming level."
Points of Interest
Can't Get Enough? Read the latest Points of Interest daily on our website.
Track Mail? Go to Jail (in France). I wrote about Didtheyreadit.com a few weeks ago. It allows an e-mail sender to track if and where a recipient read a message. Internet Week reports that CNIL, the French data protection authority has declared the service illegal in France. Anyone found using it may be subject to five years in jail. The service breaches restrictions in privacy legislation set down in 1978.
Latest on New Zealand Patent Fight. The group opposing the granting of a patent for creating isolines (that's a very shorthand description) to Compudigm in New Zealand has grown to about 35 members since I first reported on the story two weeks ago. Now several local councils, government departments, and what sounds like a forestry interest have joined the original band of software vendors and consultants to argue that there's nothing new in the patent, and that the methodology has been in use for more than 30 years. The group received an extension to make its case to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (Iponz). Bob Sykes, manager at the Iponz hearings office, notes that his department is looking over the statements and that sometimes an expert on such matters was hard to find.
More Patent News. Digital Envoy received US Patent number 6,757,740 "Systems and Methods for Determining, Collecting, and Using Geographic Locations of Internet Users," last week. The company is one of several that provides location information on Web surfers' locations. Rob Friedman, Digital Envoy's Executive Vice President of Corporate Development, General Counsel, and company co-founder, said "We feel that no other provider will be able to offer accurate geo-location solutions without infringing on our patent rights. We plan to aggressively defend our patent in order to protect the techniques, methods and applications of this technology that offer so much value to our partners and customers." I spoke with Mr. Friedman in 2000. A very poorly written article at Digital Lifestyles notes that Google, which has been a user of Digital Envoy technology, has offered to up its monthly payment for the service to $12,000 from $8,000.
MS Streets and Trips to Include GPS Locator. Word on the street is that the 2005 version of Microsoft's retail touring product will include a basic GPS device. That brings the retail up to about $130. No word yet on whose hardware is included.
Kudos and Conundrums
Have you seen something in our industry worthy of kudos? Or that makes you scratch your head? Send it on. You may take credit or remain anonymous.
Kudos (concepts we applaud)
What Are Camera Phones For? I confess when the cell phone/camera combination came out I was one of the people who wondered about its "compelling use." A fellow at Intel Research in the UK wrote a paper that suggests some interesting answers. Instead of taking and sharing pictures, the phone and its imaging/scanning interface may become the "remote control" for many different systems that either don't have or don't need a display, or simply are better suited to users "carrying their own" interface. He suggests using the phone as the interface to buy movie or train tickets, etc.
Conundrums (concepts we question)
More Remote Control. Apparently a billboard advertisement in Germany includes the ability to recieve an SMS message or a communication via the company website. These inputs will trigger a sprinkler system to soak a poor soul at the train station at Dortmund. There's a live webcam of the billboard on the advertiser's website. It's a gardening materials manufacturer.
Week in Review
Please note: Material used herein is often supplied by external sources and used as is.
Keith Woodruff is the first Photogrammetric Technologist to complete the requirements for certification under the new American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) certification program for technologists. Woodruff is a compiler and editor for Robinson Aerial Surveys, Inc., a mapping firm of 18 people in Hackettstown, New Jersey. This is the first and last announcement of this type of certification that will appear in GIS Monitor.
CPS (Cambridge Positioning Systems Ltd) and Xion announced plans to collaborate on the development of a new wristwatch-based child safety communicator and locator - the first of its kind to deliver high accuracy location in all environments including indoors. Cambridge Positioning Systems Ltd. won the 2004 Frost & Sullivan Customer Value Award. CPS' Matrix solutions were recognized for product features, price, and the highest ratio of value to cost.
DigitalGlobe's founder and CTO, Dr. Walter Scott, received the 2004 Colorado Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the emerging technology category.
Avenza Systems Inc. announced that live online MAPublisher demos are now available in France in the French language.
LizardTech's MrSID format will be supported in Intergraph's recently announced GeoMedia 5.2 product suite.
Tadpole Technology announced that it will acquire Stream Theory, Inc., a California-based company that makes streaming technology, principally for gaming.
Group 1 Software announced a global alliance with Language Analysis Systems (LAS). Under the agreement, Group 1 will act as a worldwide distributor of LAS's name-recognition technology, which includes a complete suite of tools for parsing, cleansing, matching, and scoring names.
Contracts and Sales
Merrick & Company has been awarded the Precision Topographic and Bathymetric Mapping project for the Yellowstone River Conservation District Council. Merrick will provide global positioning system (GPS) and bathymetric surveys, LiDAR data acquisition, one-meter contours, half-meter bathymetric contours, planimetric feature and breakline mapping, color aerial photography, and color digital orthophotography with a 30-centimeter pixel resolution. Data will be delivered in formats compatible with ESRI and Intergraph geographic information system software. The 278-square mile project area includes portions of the Yellowstone River channel and floodplain in the counties of Yellowstone, Stillwater, and Dawson in the state of Montana. The project was awarded in April 2004 and is scheduled for completion in February 2005.
GE Energy was awarded a contract by Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc. of Grand Forks, ND, for multiple XA/21 energy management system upgrades.
Varion Systems, the software development and value-added reseller division of GeoAnalytics, Inc, has been hired by Juneau County, Wisconsin to implement PV.Web 2.0 to distribute GIS data and tools to county staff.
CSI Wireless Inc., a designer and manufacturer of advanced wireless and GPS products used in almost 50 countries, has received $15 million of purchase orders from RHS Inc. for its branded GPS guidance products for agriculture that CSI manufactures exclusively for RHS.
Quova, Inc. announced that Wire Card AG, a leading German technology and service provider for electronic payment processing, has chosen Quova to provide geolocation services for managing fraud risk in credit card applications.
DALSA Corporation received an order from Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions for high performance CCD image sensor chips. The order, worth $2.2 million, will be delivered over the next 15 months and will be used in the Digital Mapping Camera, DMC. The same company provided chips to Intergraph in the past. South East Water has chosen IMGS' G/Water to upgrade the company's existing GIS, which has been in production on Intergraph's flagship FRAMME platform since 1990. A state-owned utility, South East Water provides water and sewage services to 1.3 million customers in Southeast Melbourne, Australia.
MapText, Inc. was awarded a contract by Michael Baker, Jr., Inc. to deliver automated text placement solutions under Baker's five-year $750 million contract with the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Whitley County, IN selected DDTI to provide an intelligent road centerline base map and software.
CSI Wireless introduced GPSteer - a CSI-branded, automatic steering system for tractors and other self-propelled agricultural equipment.
Citygate GIS Inc., developer of ESRI-based commercial mapping software has released version 2 of its E-MAPS Tactical Mapping System. E-MAPS is designed to provide emergency managers and first responders with a map-based decision support tool for use during an emergency.
MapInfo released MapInfo GBPro, an update to its map dataset for England, Scotland, and Wales.
NAVTEQ launched its first map of Hong Kong.
ESRI Business Information Solutions (ESRI BIS), a division of ESRI, announced the release of its 2004/2009 annual updates and projections of demographic data.
Cadcorp, the developer of the popular Cadcorp SIS - Spatial Information System digital mapping and GIS software suite is pleased to announce the development of a Cadcorp SIS-based metadata tool that is wholly compatible with GIgateway's MetaGenie software, the software that enables metadata to be created to the UK's National Geospatial Data Framework standard.
Training and Education
Migrating to ArcInfo 9, the new live training seminar from ESRI Virtual Campus, demonstrates to ArcInfo users how the same or similar editing and geoprocessing tasks currently performed in Workstation ArcInfo can be executed, improved, and streamlined using ArcGIS 9. The seminar will also explore some of the new and productivity tools and methods in ArcGIS 9. There will be three opportunities to view the seminar on July 15, 2004, at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. Pacific time.
Laser-Scan is pleased to announce the dates for this year's User and Partner Conference. The conference will be held in Cambridge on the 15 -16 September 2004.
Dr. Rita R. Colwell will speak about her experiences and knowledge at the Twenty-fourth Annual ESRI International User Conference on August 9, 2004, in San Diego, California. Currently, Colwell is developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world.
The aerial photography company BlueSky has appointed three directors following a management buyout from Getmapping plc. Rachel Eddy, James Eddy, and David Stubley will spearhead the company which is the master reseller responsible for non-Internet sales of Getmapping's Millennium Map; the countrywide aerial photomap that famously attracted the Queen as an investor.
GeoVantage announced the appointment of Michael Nappi as new president and CEO. Nappi brings more than 20 years of management experience in the GIS industry to the position. Nappi most recently served as Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales & Business Development at Webraska, Inc. Prior to Webraska, Nappi was a founding member of MapQuest.com where he held the position of Vice President and General Manager.
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