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Today, GIS Monitor is coming to you from San Diego, California. Next week, if all goes well, it will come to you from Cambridge, England, where I'll be presenting the keynote at the Laser-Scan User Conference. While I'll make every attempt to stay on schedule for Thursday publication, if there are technical difficulties, the issue may be delayed. I apologize in advance if that happens.
Since the Laser-Scan conference begins on Thursday, look for coverage of that event in the following week's issue. Next week I hope to include additional coverage of the ESRI conference, that didn't make this week's issue.
Thanks for your continued support.
ESRI EDUCATION USER CONFERENCE
This is the third year ESRI has included a special conference focused on K-12 schools, universities, and libraries, in tandem with the general user conference. It was my first experience with this "conference within a conference." While the ESRI conference can seem overwhelming, this more focused event, with about 500 attendees, seems more manageable. Members of ESRI's schools and libraries team were clearly proud to announce that every state in the U.S. was represented, along with 25 countries.
The team also highlighted the state of things within this arena of ESRI. The term of choice would be "busy." Mapping Our World is in its second printing, and the team is working on state correlations [that is, matching state requirements to the books' contents] for Louisiana and California (Texas is complete). New books on community geography were just announced and the Orton Family Foundation is making its Community Connections tools available to educators. GIS Day and the Community Atlas are growing, as is My Community, Our Earth, now in its second year. There are 112 ArcLessons online (many on ArcView 3.x are ready to be upgraded to 8.x). UCGIS has produced a "straw man" curriculum and is looking for feedback. ESRI's GIS Educator publication is looking for stories. A new book on GIS in business geared to education is coming soon. There's a new FAQ on site licenses online, and there are new "timed out" version of ESRI software in the works, specially geared to students.
And to be complete, the ESRI team has a new member, Ann Marie Masangcay who'll be working with universities. That brings the staff to 6 with Mike Phoenix, Charlie Fitzpatrick, George Daily, Angela Lee and Ann Johnson rounding out the group. I bring this up because these same people have been entrenched in this work for many years, with no apparent decrease in energy or enthusiasm. I for one have always been amazed at ESRI's continuing commitment to education, and the fact that this group has stuck with it, and grown, only underscores its importance.
This first day of EdUC, whether on purpose or by chance, had a theme, at least for me. It started out with Dawn Wright's (Oregon State University) keynote. She used her own work focusing on geography, GIS, oceanography, and existing programs to illustrate how we as researchers need to reach out to students, K-12 instructors, and the general public. She acknowledged that she's not an education person per se, but rather a researcher. She's traveled to the bottoms of most of the "warmer" oceans to explore and map them. But, she acknowledges, the National Science Foundation and others have recognized the importance of melding this research with teaching. One challenge she noted is that this is not a "normal pairing," that these two things don't naturally fit together.
She illustrated her point with a tale that I found quite telling. The story goes that a Nobel laureate was asked to explain some complex aspect of physics. He offered that he'd take some time and write a freshman-level lecture on it. In the end, he couldn't do it. Wright noted that perhaps we don't understand some things as well as we think we do, or that we need to take extra time to make them accessible to groups like students and the public. She referred those looking for help on this topic to the Stanford University I-Rite and I-Speak programs.
She did, however, do some things in discussing her own work that will help those trying to make that leap from "science for the scientist," to "science for students and the public." When she described boat-mounted multi-beam sensors now used to map the ocean floor, she noted that researchers could see items as big as a school bus. Submersibles could detect items as small as beer cans. Just that use of language makes the whole discussion more accessible. She went on to note that one current submersible, ABE, was modeled after Star Trek's Enterprise, complete with NCC-1701 designation. The shape apparently works quite well underwater! She also noted how characters like SpongeBob and Nemo can play a key role in drawing students into science. (I was disappointed that when she asked us "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?" that I was one of the few who responded, in rhythm, with SpongeBob's full name.)
Sessions and Random Meetings
During the day I met Robert Weih from the University of Arkansas. He told me about a CD he'd put together of state data and ArcView scripts to easily access it. He also told me about a website that provides DRGs of the state and allows them to be found with ease. Again I saw the distinction between the resource for scientists, Arkansas' well-respected GeoStor, and these specifically "made-for-education" products. Why do we need two separate efforts? Can't there be a single repository, but perhaps with different interfaces?
I attended a session on Service Learning and Internships. The first presentation outlined the Student Conservation Association, its mission, how it works, and some of its connections to GIS, especially in the context of fire prevention. The second paper focused on a class project at Metropolitan State College of Denver that focused on mapping a nature reserve with cost sharing provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The instructor, Stella Todd, noted that GPS is "wonderful way to teach mapping" and that these types of projects help students appreciate the "translation between what's real in the field to an abstraction (the map)."
While still weighing the pros and cons of this type of group work against traditional individual senior projects, Todd found that the interaction with refuge staff helped the students grow a sense of ownership and stewardship for the refuge. One student has since volunteered time there. Another big benefit: the student's work helped raise refuge staff awareness about the contributions that GIS could make in its work.
After lunch I attended a session that examined online GIS learning. Patty Drews spoke about the recently launched Northwest Missouri State University online classes. One big challenge: ensuring students have access to ArcGIS for the length of the program. Other challenges revolve around bandwidth (shall I provide video of lectures? Not at this time) and providing large data sets (for now the choice is to mail CDs instead of asking students to download them). Drews noted that biggest expected challenge would be trouble-shooting lab problems. She plans to create a "Frequently Encountered Problems" document to encourage students to solve them on their own.
Beth King of Penn State drew a distinction between online courses with instructors and those without. Penn State has a "special edition" version of a Virtual Campus course that adds projects at the end of each module, as well as an instructor. While the "Penn State Edition" classes tend to be more difficult than the "regular" Virtual Campus courses, because students can begin whenever they like, there's little "class" interaction. In the Virtual Campus there is no interaction as students are not in a "class," and don't have an instructor. Contrast those options with Penn State's World Campus courses which not only have an instructor, but class-based chats and, perhaps most important, exercises that are released one by one over a ten-week class. That means that class members are working on the same material at the same time, which seems to encourage discussion and interaction between students.
In between sessions I ran into Lyn Malone, one of the co-authors of Mapping Our World. As we spoke she noted that "GIS has a great potential to change education," by which she meant education in general, not just GIS or geography education. She's a firm believer in learning as a "need to know" activity, or what's termed "context based learning." The idea is not to learn GIS to learn GIS, but rather to learn the bit about GIS that you need to answer a specific question or examine a situation. That's the basis of Mapping Our World, and the session she'd just presented, "Teaching Mapping our World in Social Studies." A heads up for K-12 teachers in the Northeast: Malone is heading-up the education track for NEARC (Newport, RI) and plans a single day focused on just that group - with very accessible fees.
The final session I attended focused on technology transfer. I learned about South Dakota's participation in UMAC EdParc, which used a technology workshop program for K-12 teachers to spread the word about GIS. I heard quite a bit from one of the organizers (I believe) and only a small amount from one of the participating teachers. I might have chosen to do it the other way around.
I learned about New Mexico's Project-Based Science (PBS) workshops for teachers. It tackled a real problem for that part of the country: the high rate of skin cancer. Teachers measured UV radiation around their schools and mapped the results. While the teachers enjoyed and were empowered by PBS (and I'll suggest students would be, too), the presenter made it clear that the challenges were many (such as the lack of basic computer skills, no statistics experience, hardware challenges, to name a few). Moreover, this type of teaching requires "changing everything" in the classroom, which may be more than many teachers are willing to do.
Brian Culpepper of the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST) finished up by illustrating the success of CADIS, a spin-off of EAST, which puts 4-6 high school students at CAST to tackle real world Arkansas GIS problems over a ten-week period over the summer. Based on what I saw of their work, some of you might want to hire these kids!
The Monday plenary started out with John Lennon's "Imagine." The music of the Sixties tied into the evolution of this company and the ultimate realization of many dreams. The statistics play out this way: there are more than 11,000 attendees from over 135 countries. As Jack Dangermond showed off this year's crop of maps used to underscore what users do, the words "changing policy" kept coming up over and over. He also focused on how users do "real things" and how maps find "unintended consequences."
This year's theme, GIS Serving Our World, uses the term "serving" in two ways. The first essentially reflects how the things users do serves our world, while the second highlights the role that hardware servers and GIS services play. Dangermond highlighted that we need to take more responsibility for our planet, and not just at the local level.
Much of the next section of his talk involved abstractions, in particular, that what we do is abstract what goes on in the world. Dangermond used the idea that the dictionary is basically 140,000 words that abstract human experience. In GIS we abstract what we see in the world, but as these abstractions move toward digital storage they move further from their real world objects and ideas. In essence they become alienated from what the represent, something we have to be conscious of in our work.
A GIS, Dangermond offered, includes five abstractions: maps and globes, geodatasets, workflows, metadata, and data models. And, a geodatabase is a managed environment for those five abstractions. ("Managed environment" is a term I associate with Bentley.) Dangermond described data models as filters that allow generic data to be accessed and used in a meaningful way. That was an analogy I'd not yet heard, but one that made good sense.
Dangermond gave a short overview of the state of ArcGIS 8.3 with its focus on compilation and editing, support for linear referencing, extensions including ArcScan, Business Analyst, Survey Analyst, ArcSchematics and others. Of more interest was ArcGIS 9.0, which Dangermond noted would be in beta next week. He referred to 9.0 as "the ArcInfo release" meaning it would bring ArcGIS to the level that traditional ArcInfo users require. The key ideas for version 9 include an emphasis on servers, ArcGlobe, geoprocessing tools (400+ new ones), high quality annotation, Mapplex support, 3D analyst support, developer tools and new ways to access commands, customize workflow and create script.
Dangermond highlighted two of these: the model builder workflow tool and ArcGlobe. The former, which looks to me like FME's Workbench, provides a visual environment for creating a workflow or model. It supports not only ArcGIS tools, but also the inclusion of external processes and programs. Those workflows can be stored and, down the road, will run via the Web. Dangermond then demoed ArcGlobe. We visited fires in the West, complete with live data from GeoMAC reflecting the latest extent of fires, and explored a possible enhancement of lynx habitat in the San Juan's in Utah. Dangermond pointed out that ArcGlobe may be a key tool to bring GIS to the public. He apologized when he started to get enthralled by ArcGlobe noting, you "get seduced into working and playing."
In discussing some upcoming technology he noted an OCX for ArcReader, which generated no response. I'm not sure ArcPublisher and ArcReader have really taken off at this point. ArcGIS 9.0 will include support for a published XML format for moving not only data, but also metadata and scripts, between users. This is sort of an advanced E00. ArcSDE will grow yet again at 9.0; ArcIMS will be synced with ArcGIS. The new products at 9.0 include ArcGIS Server, a tool for developers that essentially allows ArcObjects to run as a server. It will allow for centralized GIS processing via thin clients and should be less expensive in both software and maintenance costs for an enterprise. ArcGIS Engine will make ArcObjects accessible in a manner similar to MapObjects, but with a finer grain than previous ArcObjects implementations. The servers will be cross platform and support .NET and Java.
Even further into the future, between 9.0 and 9.1 Network Analyst should ship. Also due in 9.1 is database cartography (the ability to store cartography rules in the geodatabase).
The company has experienced moderate growth this year, and as Dangermond put it, "It's a good time to be a private company." Dangermond noted 140,000 organizations use ESRI software, totaling over one million seats. 60,000/year are studying in instructor-led classes and there are 50 ESRI Press titles available with 20 more in the works. Dangermond pointed to Tomlinson's Thinking about GIS and the new Community Geography book in particular. Tech support is still growing and changing and one long-time request has been implemented: a searchable bug list. One big area of growth is the business partner program, which now has some 1,500 organizations.
To summarize, Dangermond noted that the world is being affected in serious ways by human activity. The solution is for us to abstract what we know and learn and share that information. In the end, the GIS professionals will serve our world.
David Maguire introduced the products discussion noting that Scott Morehouse, director of research and development, continually reminds Maguire and his team that IT standards trump GIS standards. ESRI, therefore, focuses on the latter. He illustrated ESRI's interoperability noting that ArcGIS supports 62 formats, more with third party products. He showed ArcGIS accessing different databases, CAD, Web Map Service, raster and more. The bottom line: it's not exciting to watch, it just works.
Bernie Szukalski introduced several users to show off their work. The small town of Westerville, Ohio showed five of its applications and noted, "If we can do this, anyone can do this." We looked at BAAE's water/wastewater system's integration with SAP, live from Bogotá, Columbia using Cytrix. We saw sustainable development work done in Bavaria.
ARCGIS 9 AND BEYOND
Maguire returned to the stage after lunch to spend more time on the details of ArcGIS 9. Perhaps the best news for users is that while this is a new numbered release, it builds on what came before so everything created in ArcGIS 8 (data, applications, etc.) "should just work." The product family expanded from just a desktop solution to include the ArcGIS Engine and ArcGIS Server. The desktop products, ArcView, ArcEdit and ArcInfo, will fill out their tools suites with 32, 34 and 193 tools respectively. Maguire outlined the five ways to use ArcGIS: via commands (the command line returns!), via forms (ArcToolbox), via models (Model Builder), via scripts (there was no demo of using scripting language, but understand Python is the language of choice), and via ArcObjects.
A demo illustrated dragging and dropping tools from ArcToolbox into Model Builder and calling and using good old AMLs (scripts written in Arc Macro Language, including INFO calls). It will be possible at ArcGIS 9.0 to save and share toolboxes, and many of the tools delivered with the product will include source code.
The geodatabase will be upgraded to handle large raster files. Performance on 250 G images looked very fast to me. Mapplex will be offered as an extension for the desktop for the first time. Support for 3D and 3D symbol sets will be included, as will enhanced annotation (which received significant applause, including the ability to curve annotation along a feature with one click). ArcGIS Publisher will gain security settings to limit access and a tool to extract and package data to be delivered with the PMF file for use with the free reader or with applications built with the free ArcReader OCX control. The new "packaging" tool may be just what ArcGIS Publisher needs to be more widely used.
ArcGlobe will be part of the 3D Analyst extension. A second demo of the product showed support for all geodatabase-supported file types, 3D symbols, textured 3D models, and a slider bar tool to examine change by moving between two images. ESRI suggests that this is the first 3D visualization and analysis tool built on a GIS. The demo showed 3D buildings and airplanes and even showed correction of a satellite image based on metadata. The most impressive demo used ArcGlobe to test the hypothesis that air travel may have been linked to the spread of SARS. A model using airline data, the size of planes (to estimate the number of passengers) and the numbers of cases in each country gave a visualization of the potential relationship. The data was drawn from several Web services. The data was then analyzed using SAS (via ESRI's bridge to that product) to determine its statistical significance. There was a significant correlation.
Developers will be the main users of ArcGIS Engine and ArcGIS Server. The Engine package includes a development license and licensable run times (think Map Objects). Full read/write support for SDE can be added as an extension. The engines run on five platforms and support five APIs. ArcGIS Server provides a centralized multi-user server, a non-interfaced version of ArcObjects.
The final discussion was about ArcIMS. Clint Brown noted that there were some 25,000 ArcIMS websites online and that they form the bulk of those tapped by GeoData.gov. He also noted that the ArcIMS servers are the most used in interoperability test beds. The goals for the next release include enhanced stability, reliability and scalability, better integration with ArcGIS and more support for interoperability standards, including those of OGC.
In all, the first day didn't leave me with the excitement I normally feel at this point. And, I think I know why: much of the easy and flashy work on ArcGIS is done. This year the work is "behind the scenes." Demos of developing projects with ArcObjects or ArcGIS Engine are not fascinating, but are simply the current phase of development. The "hot stuff," like ArcGlobe, was introduced last year and, while it is "cool," this product doesn't directly apply to most users' day-to-day work.
I asked many attendees if they sensed this sort "calm" in the opening session and received universal affirmation. Some attributed it to ESRI deliberately slowing the pace and focusing on quality. Others noted that the technology is quite mature. Still others suggested that ESRI is so far ahead of other vendors, the breakneck pace can be slowed a bit.
KEYNOTES AND AWARDS
Peter Hillary gave the keynote highlighting the importance of planning for following through on goals. He also noted that it's the 200 anniversary of the Survey of India, led by Mr. Everest whose name is now on that tall mountain. That, along with the 50th anniversary of the first ascent make this a good year to plan and execute a project for one's self, and to help others as well.
The President's Award was given to the Department of Interior, whom Dangermond thanked for its support. David R. Maidment was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on ArcHydro, the data model for water. Perhaps the funniest moment on stage was Maidment singing "GIS Modeling" to the tune of "The Mickey Mouse Club" with Clint Brown, David Maguire, and Dangermond.
The day ended on a serious note with a presentation about Hopeworks, a group in Camden, New Jersey working to teach GIS to at-risk high school youth. One team achieved something that the city had never been able to do: it created a digital parcel map that included 33,000 parcels in four months. The students created applications in ArcPad for community surveys, used ArcGIS to align scanned maps and digitize them, and pretty much did all the work professional GIS people do. After explaining their work, the three students from Camden beamed at the applause. I have to believe that these kids have been recognized before, but hope that the acclamation from their peers was particularly meaningful.
ABSTRACTING GEOGRAPHIC KNOWLEDGE: DANGERMOND LOOKS AT THE STATE OF GIS
I spent some time with Jack Dangermond later in the week to get a sense of where he felt the industry was. Our conversation went right back to his plenary discussion of GIS in general, and ArcGIS 8.3 in particular, abstracting geographic knowledge. For now he suggested, we are abstracting five areas, but down the road there may be more.
He also noted the importance of that abstracting in ArcGIS 9.x, since in time it will be possible to share those abstracted products (data, data models, scripts, maps, etc.) in XML. This idea of sharing I noted really builds on what came before in the ESRI community: sharing E00 files, sharing AMLs, sharing ArcView Scripts and soon sharing models and more in XML. Dangermond noted that the leap from sharing AML to sharing models really is a leap of significant magnitude.
Dangermond also shared how, early in the development of 8.x the idea was to make it "object oriented." However, early on, it became clear that users simply weren't ready for that leap. So, while development continued in an object-oriented way, the company spoke about familiar things: ArcView, ArcInfo, geodatabases, etc. Now, at ArcGIS 8.3 users understand how to use the technology, and it is time to "expose" that object-orientedness.
That's the heart of the new Server and Engine products. These products take the front-end of the underlying technology of ArcGIS and make it available to developers. Server focused GIS is not new, in fact IBM's GFIS was designed that way. It's no longer around in part because of its limited scalability. Still IBM did have it right in that the product was sold to IT organizations. It will take some time for users and developers to tease out the roles of desktop ArcGIS, ArcGIS Server, and ArcGIS Engine. I asked Dangermond to help explain their roles.
ArcIMS, which is not on that list, is really about publishing. It puts out maps, and those maps can be quite interactive. ArcGIS Server has all the geoprocessing power of ArcGIS, so it can put geoprocessing tools on a client machine accessing editing, geocoding and more. I asked how ArcGIS Server seats would fit in with the world of the desktop. "ArcGIS is not a replacement for the desktop; it's an addition," Dangermond explained. Most organizations will have both.
The next question, then, is where you draw the line between a desktop solution and a client of ArcGIS Server. There are, according to Dangermond, many things that should "stay on the desktop" including computer intensive work (lest one client "steal" all the power from the others) such as long transaction type editing, brute conversion work heavy duty spatial analysis, and serious visualization.
The Server belongs in "information systems" arenas similar to setting up work orders or delivering SAP reports. There are whole sets of these type of needs in the geospatial arena. Utilities, larger municipalities and federal agencies are the likely first users of the Server. Most, Dangermond offers, will use a mix of client seats and true desktop ArcGIS seats.
The Engines will be the basis of desktop applications, much like MapObjects. The main difference is that the Engines have far more power under the hood. The other subtle, but important point is that ArcGIS desktop, ArcGIS Server, and ArcGIS Engine have the same underlying business logic, something that can be important in larger deployments.
ESRI has been growing as an IT organization since it installed SAP some years ago. I asked how ESRI had to change to serve this "new" type of IT customer. "We don't change," Dangermond said, "We add."
The highpoint of the conference for Dangermond, perhaps, is the launch of GeoData.gov. As he put it, "Monday was like the launch of the Internet." The portal and future technologies, he suggests, mean we are ready for one hundred times more sharing than we see today.
ON THE SHOW FLOOR
I spent some time with Mike Gerling, the president of Geographic Data Technology (GDT). He explained that the company is working to leverage its investment across multiple markets to keep production costs and customer costs down. First we discussed the company's vision of its collaborative process with customers. I was familiar with Community Update - the company's program to work with local communities to provide data updates to GDT, which in turn, GDT returns to the communities. It turns out the uptake has been limited, perhaps because localities have so many other responsibilities. Another group of users, commercial customers and states, have been more responsive. The Pennsylvania State Police, for example, have plugged into the program. Gerling suggested that these organizations are really data creators and that GDT can act as compiler and steward of the data, something these organizations choose not to do.
When he said "steward" I thought about stewards of public lands and about the new GeoData.gov portal. How, I wondered would communities participate in the portal which offers a perhaps less-defined return if they didn't take GDT up on its offer which has a more defined return? Gerling responded that indeed GDT might become a "broker" of this local data to portals like GeoData.gov. Where would the money come from? He suggested in the end it might make sense for the government to pay for this "service."
We discussed the challenges of the data market, including judging when to create and provide data sets for emerging technologies such as location-based services (LBS) and navigation. GDT has a pretty fair record in the game, having provided "block face" geocoding when that was "good enough," and now providing accurate geometry for more demanding applications. Don Cook, the founder, felt the aim was to provide data "just in time" for its users.
I asked Gerling when he thought LBS might "kick in" and he said he couldn't really be sure. He does feel that portable navigation systems (like iPAQs or phones) would likely be more popular in the U.S. than car-based ones. I asked why. The main reason has to do with timing. When in-car navigation first grew it was due in part to practical challenges: the systems needed good bandwidth, lots of power, and lots of storage space. The car could provide all three! Now, of course, handhelds have come quite a long way in matching those requirements. He also observed something that I found most interesting: In the U.S., users like maps for navigation. In the rest of world the preference seems to be for step-by-step directions. Neither of us could suggest why this might be so. (Any thoughts are welcome!)
Then I brought up Web services (the company just announced that its data would be available via ESRI's ArcWeb Services). For GDT Web services are really another delivery mechanism. The most rewarding part for GDT: it will be easier to distribute updates to users in a timely manner. Now data updates typically happen quarterly. GDT sends CDs or DVDs to customers, who may then need to merge the data or set aside a chunk of time to load it into their systems. That means that while GDT may provide updates quarterly, in reality updates can happen far less frequently.
The merging or knitting together of data is a real cost to users. Most online services use a combination of data from GDT and its competitors (TeleAtlas and NavTech) and weave together different data for different parts of the coverage area. That takes time, and so does deciding whose data to put where. The good news is that all three companies are looking to providing a single dataset that will meet clients' needs across the required geography. That would mean that clients can choose a "sole source" solution. The clients, Gerling argues, don't want to be in the knitting business. Moreover, GDT, by eliminating the knitting to save the clients some headaches, time, and money, can perhaps raise its prices a bit, but still save the client money in the end.
I've written about MetaCarta before and got a quick update on their work. Recall that the company provides solutions to link locations mentioned in documents to the map. I think of it as "geocoding" documents. The company has developed an extension to ArcGIS that puts the MetaCarta tools into the ESRI user's space. ESRI users can search their own documents and user their own geographic data, data from the Geography Network, or that from MetaCarta. Searches are saved as layers in ArcGIS.
I've also written about Mapping Science before. The company makes software to read and write JP2, the standard, non-proprietary JPEG2000 format and offers its GeoJP2 encoder, a tool to include georeferencing information in the file. Many of the usual suspects in the GIS community are licensing the company's technology to support this new format, including ESRI. For now many users are choosing to move existing data in other formats to JP2, but in time data may be collected in JP2. Work is underway to use JP2 as a collection format for sensors, for example.
The big news for Mapping Science is its new image server built with GCS Research LLC. The technology is a .NET assembly, basically a server-side implementation of .NET. It allows a server to hold a JP2 file and serve it over the Web. Instead of using a plug-in to enable JP2 to be read, the server delivers standard JPEGs, which can be directly read by most browsers, eliminating a plug-in. Since the extraction is fast, there's little real speed to be gained by sending JP2. Overall, the 7G TIF image I saw, which was stored as a 350 Mb JP2, sped right along. A tool I've not seen elsewhere allows the user to request "less detail sooner" if, for example he or she is in the field with a slow connection or using dial-up. That sends a smaller, less detailed file rather than a larger more detailed one. The user can choose from a range of options as to how much detail is needed. The server should ship in late summer and will be "competitively" priced.
I met with Karen Morley, LizardTech's VP of Geospatial, and the new CEO, Carlos Domingo. Domingo is from Celartem, the company that recently acquired LizardTech. Domingo is new to geospatial imaging and comes from the graphic arts and document archiving side of the business.
Morley explained that LizardTech recently released MG3 (MrSID Generation three file format) and corresponding compression tools and viewers. ESRI just announced support for the new file format in ArcGIS. This is a new file type that enables several new features.
The biggest change is the ability to save a lossless file. Another feature allows the update of just one section of a larger image, very quickly. There's no need to re-encode and compress the image, saving time. Also added is optimization, which basically separates the encoding and compression steps. Once a file is encoded, it can be quickly compressed to one or more different levels. Compression itself has been enhanced: typically lossy compression ran 20-1, and now can run 30-1. Finally, file size limits, on input and output, have been removed. A new version of the server, 4.5 supports true steaming of the new format in "sidlets." The viewer has some new tools, too, including a preview pane, and a tool to measure distance on the image.
I asked when users might choose lossless compression (which runs about 2-1 to 10-1). Morley explained that it's best used for archiving. A lossy, but visually lossless file might then be used in production.
The demo I saw highlighted these new features and a link to DjVu documents, the company's document format. That product will soon be marketed to the geospatial marketplace and is getting a good trial in DSCE's online Map Gallery. All the files are stored in DjVu format this year.
DigitalGlobe highlighted its new civil government solution that includes a two-foot 1"= 400' scale color digital orthorectified imagery product, as well as a subscription program and a civil government license. The imagery is cloud-free. Every wonder how they do that? The technicians don't remove the clouds, rather the sensor simply captures the area until there are no clouds, or technicians combine images to make the entire area cloud free. Now imagine that you have to promise a client a cloud-free image, how do you know how long it will take to get one? You research historical cloud data! DigitalGlobe has refined its time window as it gained more experience with these predictions.
The subscription program means that after first purchase, follow-on years of imagery for the same area are discounted. The company hopes that this will allow counties to work with local communities to share costs not just for one acquisition, but for a few years.
The government license is the icing on the cake - the imagery can be shared "with anyone you work with" for the life of the project. This will allow local organizations to share their data with states and contractors during a project. At the end of the work, the imagery is simply returned. That's a significant change from previous licensing options. Pricing is quite attractive - 10 mi x10 mi areas (the minimum area) start at $4995. It may be time for government users who've been sticking to aerial imagery to take a serious look at satellite data. The aerial imagery practitioners are not out of the picture for DigitalGlobe. It has partnered with many to capture areas it cannot capture and still meet the contractual deadline.
I'm still getting used to ERDAS as part of Leica GeoSystems, and admittedly, I'm not too familiar with Leica from the GIS side. Robert Morris, American National President of the GIS & Mapping Division set me straight. System 9 was originally a Leica product, before it was sold to Prime. (That was before I was really involved in GIS!) He outlined the blurring and blending that have been happening between GIS and image processing, and GIS and surveying (Leica built Survey Analyst for ESRI) and photogrammetry and GIS (the company also developed Stereo Analyst for ArcGIS). The bottom line, he suggested, is that "innovation is integration."
Essentially, Leica is brining together the workflow to enhance the delivery of data into GIS. Morris, like Dangermond, sees an important role for 3D. Without it, he says, the rest of the world sees us all as "mappers." Once we move to 3D it's more intuitive and more natural. The key, he concluded, is finding the value proposition for 3D in many different areas (for professionals in different disciplines such as foresters and planners) as well as for the public, and providing an effective useable presentation and interface.
• Michael Greer noted that while my team, the Nittany Lions, does play in a conference (the Big Ten) without any geography challenges, it does have a different sort of challenge:
"Penn State and The Big Ten may not have a geography problem but they do have a problem with math. There are now eleven members of the Big Ten."
• Joseph Freund, CEO of Idan, about which I wrote last week, pointed out that I had misplaced my caption.
"'The Zofnat Paaneah' is the one with the yellow background in your article. The other one is a sport/cultural building in a village on the border between Israel and the Palestinian Authority."
• Kingsley M. Allan, Assoc. Professional Scientist & GIS Manager at the Illinois State Water Survey, wrote to share a recent animation of glacial advance in that state.
"'Impact of the Ice Age on Illinois Land and Water' [can be found] in both hi-res and lo-res (still 4.8Mb) versions on our highlights page.
"While the animation is very interesting and educational regarding the subject matter, what is also interesting is that it was created by a GIS professional. While GIS packages are increasingly incorporating 3D views and fly-bys, those packages were not sufficient for the task of moving a glacier across a landscape. Nearly a dozen different software packages were used for various segments of the animation including GIS, groundwater modeling, photo editing, multimedia compositing, and 3D animation software."
POINTS OF INTEREST
Grant Service. ESRI recently launched a unique service that will notify interested people about non-ESRI grants for GIS. Subscribers can choose which categories of grants (agriculture, homeland security, government…) and are e-mailed when a new grant opportunity is found that matches their interest. ESRI monitors several grant services to find offers that specifically cite GIS or topics that clearly call out for its use. The website provides sample text for writing the grant and grant writers are available to offer assistance. One more perk: grant winners are offered special ESRI pricing to make the most of it. In the two months the website has been online, about 1,200 people have signed up. (Just to be clear, you need not be an ESRI user, and you need not spend the grant on ESRI software.)
Cool Moment. I had one of those "user conference moments" on Tuesday night. I was at a vendor party speaking with Steve Lackow of Retail Profit Management (the caretaker of Atlas GIS) and we mentioned Maine. It turned out a high school teacher and her husband from Maine were in earshot and came over to chat. After introductions Steve began giving the teacher detailed instructions of how to find the TIGER data she needed. I was amused by the happy coincidence that one of the people hosting the party was one of the TIGER innovators. Everything seems to come full circle.
5K Winners. While others were sleeping on Wednesday morning more than 250 attendees took to the paths in the park behind the San Diego Convention Center. The complete results will be avaialable on the ESRI website, but I will report on three. Joe Francica of Directions Magazine was 4th overall, and won his age category. I shared the last half mile or so with Gary Smith of Green Mountain GeoGraphics, an ESRI Business Partner. I took first in my age category and Smith took second in his.
WEEK IN REVIEW
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IDELIX provides a demo of its technology highlighting the ESRI show floor.
A recent study of the after-market vehicle telematics industry by Allied Business Intelligence highlights Telcontar's dominance in the market, naming Telcontar customers Audiovox, Code Alarm, Crimestopper, Directed Electronics, Omega Research & Development, and InterTrak as systems possessing the recipes for success.
NovaLIS Technologies and International Land Systems (ILS) are joining forces to provide a GIS-based land titling solution to the North American market. NovaLIS will market, sell, implement, and support Land Titles Office by ILS as part of its integrated land records management solution.
DMTI Spatial has provided complimentary licenses of GeoPinpoint Suite (a geocoding software); FSA (Forward Sortation Area) data; CanMap Streetfiles; and Enhanced Points of Interest for airports, hospitals and schools. According to the participating institutions, these products will play a key role in the effort to map and monitor the spread of SARS, recognize local resources, and identify border crossing points.
INFOTECH Enterprises Ltd. which specializes in GIS, plans to diversify into manufacturing activities. To my knowledge, most of the companies that tried that eventually dropped manufacturing, including Intergraph.
STAR INFORMATIC (Liège, Belgium), a European GIS vendor announced that it has signed an agreement with Esko-Graphics (Ghent, Belgium) to take over its cartographic publishing activity and the Mercator product line, from July 1st on. The STAR has acquired a majority shareholding in APIC SA, the specialist GIS software company, from EADS and LYONNAISE DES EAUX France.
NASA has selected 41 proposals in response to the "Research, Education, and Applications Solutions Network," a cooperative agreement notice known as "REASoN." The selected proposals will expedite the use of NASA Earth Science observational measurements, models, and systems engineering capabilities. Among the winners: Kentucky Governor's Office for Technology Taking GIS and Remote Sensing to the People of Kentucky: Developing an Open GIS Data Viewing and Distribution System for Kentucky.
Definiens Imaging announced an agreement where JEODIJITAL Informatics Technology Limited has become a reseller of Definiens Imaging's products in Turkey.
Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions announced the expansion of the Team GeoMedia Registered Solutions Center (RSC) program with its first member in Africa, Software Engineering Consulting cc, South Africa.
Ekahau has joined to ESRI's business partner program. Ekahau's Positioning Engine is a technology for indoor positioning over WiFi networks.
• Contracts and Sales
Geographic Data Technology, Inc. announced that it is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to enhance location information within the National Bridge Inventory. Also, Vetronix Corporation will incorporate GDT's street and address information into the Vetronix Mastertrak suite of next-generation telematics solutions.
GDT also signed an agreement that will combine GDT's map information with Universal Map's cartographic expertise to create a new paradigm for map production. Under the terms of the agreement, GDT and Universal Map will share map resources for use in both companies' products. Geographic Data Technology, Inc. and ESRI will jointly provide a suite of Internet-based services through ESRI's ArcWeb Services. GDT also announced the annual release of its Matchmaker for StreetMap 2000 geocoding software and updated street and address information. GDT also sent seven educators to the ESRI conference as part of a scholarship program.
Tadpole-Cartesia and Azteca Systems announced a strategic alignment of their technologies to create centers-for-field intelligence for the world's ESRI-based public works and utility industries. Translation: "The firms will align their Go! Sync field GIS and Cityworks Enterprise Asset Management software and market them as a one-stop package to their respective customers."
Navigation Technologies and The Data Store, which provides mapping, demographics, and remote sensing data to the international GIS market, have expanded their relationship making NAVTECH Map Data available globally for use in ESRI's core routing solutions. Tele Atlas and MapMart announced that the two companies are working together to deliver to consumers - in real-time - maps based on raw geographic data. Finally, TeleAtlas will incorporate its data into Navtrak's fleet applications.
PhotoSat Information Ltd. announced a promotional price of US $425/CDN $560 for all Level-1G Landsat 7 scenes produced from raw Landsat 7 data archived by Natural Resources Canada, the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS). Reduced prices are also available for PhotoSat's Ortho 8-band Landsat 7 scenes and 12.5 metre colour GeoTIFF Landsat 7 scene produced from data archived by CCRS. The CCRS archive of raw Landsat 7 data covers all of Canada, Eastern Alaska, most of the Continental USA, and Northwest Cuba. The promotional prices are available until August 31, 2003.
Leica Geosystems recently posted an update for ERDAS IMAGINE 8.6 to add support for JPEG2000 data including images encoded with Mapping Science, Inc.'s GeoJP2 encoder. ERDAS customers with active maintenance agreements may download the update.
Bradshaw Consulting Services, Inc. (BCS) announced the release of its latest product for public safety operations - RMAPI (Routing and Map API) - an innovative solution that provides complete GIS functionality for today's advanced CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) systems, featuring immediate recommendation of response vehicle(s) based on ETA from the starting point, instant calculation of optimized routes for response and Dynamic Service Areas based on road conditions, travel speed and traffic patterns.
After a five-year hiatus, Azimuth, the GIS add-on for VectorWorks, is now available with a host of new features and functionality.
Snowflake Software announced the availability of the new Enterprise Edition release of GO Loader. GO Loader is Snowflake Software's premier product for designing and building Oracle databases from content delivered in Geography Markup Language (GML).
Tadpole-Cartesia has launched Go! Inspect software to automate the tasks of field inspection and maintenance. The new software builds upon ESRI's ArcPad technology, Cystal Reports, and Cartesia's Go!Sync software to provide field personnel with the same data and applications used in the enterprise.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) released the 2003 edition of the National Transportation Atlas Databases (NTAD), the first complete national database to be developed and distributed that describes Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) boundaries.
IDELIX Software Inc. announced version 3.0 of the Pliable Display Technology (PDT) Software Development Kit which features simplified integration options for OEMs and Systems Integrators. Version 3.0 will be ready for distribution July 22.
LizardTech announced viewing support for MrSID Generation 3 (MG3) in ESRI's ArcGIS product line. The download for ArcGIS is here and one for ArcView 3.x is here.
Spescom Software Inc., formerly Altris Software, Inc. launched eB MAPS, a GIS-enabled software solution that will help officials prepare mitigation and response plans for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
The ADAM Systems Group of Advanced Software Resources, Inc. unveiled its GeoProcessor, a standalone Solaris-based application for satellite and aerial imagery data processing. The ADAM Systems GeoProcessor retrieves metadata and source imagery from customer-specified source files, manages the data ingest process, and generates imagery products.
MapInfo announced the availability of its Insurance Decision Solution Suite (IDSS), a mapping and risk management solution for the global insurance industry. Featuring country-specific data, MapInfo IDSS is initially available for Great Britain, the United States, and Canada, and will enable insurance carriers or reinsurers to see a visual representation of policyholders, thereby improving risk management, underwriting, and customer care.
• Education and Training
The University of Southern Mississippi has been selected to offer a graduate degree program in geography at NASA's John Stennis Space Center starting this fall. Administered by the Department of Geography, the degree focuses on advanced training and student research in geospatial applications, remote sensing, and GIS.
ESRI has announced new lower educational pricing for many software products. Price reductions extend to public libraries, museums, K-12 schools and administrative offices where GIS is used in boundary planning, facilities management, student transportation, and other administrative tasks.
ESRI invites GIS professionals and others to create their own GIS Day event on November 19, 2003, by joining the worldwide celebration and becoming part of this annual tradition.
The International PROGIS Summer Conference will take place Sept. 10-12, 2003, in Egg am Faaker See /Carinthia-Austria.
• Hires and Appointments
Alastair Matthews is to be the new Director of Finance for Ordnance Survey, Britain's national mapping agency.
Eric Mahaffey joined the GIS integration development team at Zekiah Technologies, Inc.
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