July 18, 2002


Editor's Note
Laser-Scan's New Plan

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After spending some time last week deciphering ESRI's plans for managing topology in the database in ArcGIS 8.3, this week I spoke to Mike Sanderson, Managing Director of Laser-Scan, a company which has been managing topology in the database for some 12 years.

Laser-Scan's Gothic solution, the basis for the new Radius family of technologies, comes out of a homegrown object-oriented database designed to "guarantee consistency in the database" according to Sanderson. Large clients who need to manage, and especially edit data sets, such as the Ordnance Survey and Royal Air Force (RAF) are long- time users.

The database server side technology is really the focus of Laser-Scan's work. Sanderson, previously an Oracle consultant for some time, makes it clear where he stands: "I don't believe in GIS, but rather in the business critical systems." But, since he is in fact a geographer, he does agree that GIS data should be part of business systems.

So, it's not really a surprise that in the past year the company has started work to move its solution from its proprietary Gothic roots to the de facto Oracle standard. The first step was integrating Gothic's topology manager with Oracle9i, a project completed this Spring, now marketed as Radius Topology. Radius Topology essentially puts topology in the database.

I wanted to know if Laser-Scan's storage was different from ESRI's. Like the ESRI solution, Radius Topology stores rules about how features relate: "lines within this distance snap together," "there are no gaps between polygons." Unlike ESRI's offering, Radius Topology stores the features in a single database: points, lines, polygons, water lines, sewer lines, trees, hydrants, ponds, town boundaries, etc. Also different: the topological relationships are actually stored in the database. Recall that in ArcGIS 8.3, topology is created on-the-fly from data cleaned up using the defined rules. What's the return on this type of storage? According to Sanderson, an Oracle implementation with stored topology Radius can deliver 500 times more queries than without, or, in other words, the system needs 500 times fewer resources for the same amount of querying activity. That said, the proprietary Gothic solution is even faster than the Oracle implementation.

Radius Topology is implemented natively in Oracle and basically amounts to adding more tables to the database. These hold, you guessed it, the topology. The process for creating a topological database is straightforward. First, the system manager, most likely a GIS person, but perhaps a systems person, defines the rules of topology for the database. If the data is already in Oracle, the DBA or GIS manager uses a graphic interface to identify the column in one or more tables that stores the geometry. That's referred to as "enabling a column in the table." Then, Radius Topology, looking at the rules, will update the geometry (snap things together, for example) and while doing so, store topology information in related tables.

If the data is to be loaded from another system, the tables to receive the data will be set up and the geometry-storing field identified. That way, when data is loaded, a trigger causes the geometry update and the topology addition.

The rules may number as few as one, "all lines within this tolerance will snap together" or they may be many and complex. In a utility, one of many rules might be "only 2-inch diameter pipes within 1 ft of another 2-inch pipe can snap together." Other rules may detail how different diameter pipes do or do not connect. Exceptions can be made by "turning off" one or more rules.

Laser-Scan's strategy is to stick with its strength on the server side and stay away from the client side. What that means is the company is actively seeking to work with GIS vendors such as Autodesk and MapInfo to plug their clients into Radius. Autodesk is already evaluating Radius Topology. How are clients and Radius connected? Laser-Scan is taking advantage of the fact that nearly every GIS client can "plug in" to Oracle via SQL. That connection means that "thick" clients like AutoCAD, as well as "thin" clients like browsers and mobile devices can work with Radius.

From the user standpoint, workflow might look like this: A user working with an Autodesk Map client connected[?] to Radius would use the standard Map interface to create and edit data. After saving information to the database, using the Oracle interface, the user can query the database to see how the rules were applied. The database information is immediately available to any other user within the enterprise, whether they're using Autodesk Map, or to any other client that has direct read/write access to Oracle geometries. Laser-Scan aims to maintain the investment that companies have made in applications and training and only change, nearly invisibly, the back end.

Sanderson made it clear that many view-only servers won't need to store topology, so they are good candidates for other solutions. Those who need to "guarantee consistency in the database" with frequent changes and additions should look to topological solutions such as Radius Topology.

What's the coolest thing about the Radius Topology? Other disciplines outside of GIS can use it. One example Sanderson shared involved biotech companies that need to manage the shapes of molecules. He pointed out that even though GIS people like to think they own the idea of topology, it's really a mathematical construct applicable elsewhere.


Topology in the Database (Geo:connexion)


• After including letters last week discussing URISA's RFP mail out service for members, I received a follow up letter from GISbid.com's Joe Francica.

"GISbid offered URISA, as it has for GITA, free membership for its members for one year to see the value of our service…both organizations turned [GISbid.com] down, at least for now."

Francica went on to say that the organizations were asked to pay a reasonable corporate sponsorship fee. This offer was the same as that offered to, and taken up by Intergraph for its Team GeoMedia members. GITA and URISA members, would something like this enhance the value of your professional membership? Let URISA and GITA know.


• MapInfo is having a sale on data, geocoding and routing software for State and Local Governments and Agencies effective on August 1, 2002.

CPU Pricing:

StreetPro Display - County - $1000/CPU
StreetPro Display - State (State or County Tiled)- $4000/CPU
MapMarker County - $1200/CPU
MapMarker - State - $2800/CPU
MapMarker Plus - County -$2400/CPU
MapMarker Plus - State - $6000/CPU
Routing J Server - County - $2400/CPU
Routing J Server - State - $6000/CPU

Price per CPU is regardless of number of CPUs purchased. CPU pricing includes quarterly updates for State units of sale of StreetPro Display, MapMarker Plus and Routing J Server. CPU pricing includes semi-annual updates for State units of sale of MapMarker. No updates are available for county units of sale. For details and other offers contact MapInfo.

• Baystate Health Systems, Springfield MA, received the Special Achievement Award in GIS from ESRI. The organization hosts a "Health Geographics and Spatial Analysis Program" which works with local, regional and national partners in applying GIS to injury prevention, disease mapping, and facilities management. The organization believes it is the only hospital/medical center in the US with GIS professionals as employees.

• As long-time readers know I'm a big fan of Google, the search engine. I couldn't live without my Google toolbar. A recent report from the Associated Press highlights another reason to love Google: it was the only site that fully complied with Federal Trade Commission recommendations that require search sites to clearly distinguish between which results are due to paid placement and which are do to objective formulae.

• The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) published a rule amendment to the Fresh Water Protection Act (FWPA) that will increase the buffer zones around thousands of acres of protected wetlands in New Jersey. "Environmental Defense used a Geographic Information System (GIS) to analyze the most critical wetland habitat areas in the state. The data concluded that many valuable areas were not being adequately protected under the FWPA." With all due respect, the data didn't "conclude" anything, the analysts did. Maybe these folks need to quickly review the Five Parts of GIS - one is PEOPLE.

• A stolen phone and PDA were recovered from thieves in Seoul, South Korea by using the phone's GPS according to a report in the Korea Times. First however, the victim appealed for their return via text message.

• According to News.com, Liquid Audio has sued geo-targeting company InfoSplit, alleging the company is using without a license its patented technology for restricting digital delivery to certain areas. InfoSplit argues that it uses an index of IP addresses rather than the "411" type service of Liquid Audio. A discussion of the suit on SlashDot commented on the patent: "… it's hilarious! Liquid Audio basically received a patent for saying that a domain ending by 'co.uk' is in the UK."


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LAND INFO International, LLC, producer of international mapping and geospatial products, has offered its services to Porcher Taylor, a U.S. intelligence expert leading an effort to identify an anomaly on Turkey´s Mt. Ararat. Near the top of the mountain, sits a 600-foot rectangular-shaped object, which many believe is the remnants of Noah´s Ark.

McLean, Virginia based ITspatial, L.L.C. has joined the ESRI Business Partner Program.

Unwiredfactory, a global provider of location-based entertainment for the mobile Internet and CellPoint have entered into a partnership agreement to deliver a complete end-to-end solution to mobile operators throughout the world. Unwiredfactory based in Copenhagen, Denmark, aims to be a leading provider of location-based entertainment.

TerraSeer will offer a set of two 1-day short courses in spatial and temporal data analysis methods and software. This training will occur in Ann Arbor, MI on September 12 & 13, 2002.

Municipal Software Corp.'s CityView won the Packaged Application of the Year award. The award was part of the Microsoft Certified Partner Awards.

The French space agency CNES handed over responsibility for commercial operation of SPOT 5 to SPOT IMAGE, which will now be distributing imagery acquired by the new satellite worldwide.

URISA's Draft Code of Ethics is available for review and comment. Comments are encouraged before July 31, 2002.

Software Architect Jonathan Bradley has teamed with several GIS industry veterans to form Mapping Science, Inc. The company is developing new tools and techniques built specifically for the geospatial community using the JPEG2000 standard.

TenLinks, Inc., announced the launch of CADdigest.com, the reading room for computer aided design. With more than a thousand reviews and several hundred tutorials, tips, success stories, editorials and more, CADdigest.com claims to be the largest and best-organized collection of articles for the CAD professional.

Paradigm Advanced Technology, Inc.'s Destinator Division announced a distribution agreement with Computer Marketplace Inc. (CMI) of Tewksbury, MA, a leading systems integrator for advanced software and hardware solutions. Under the agreement, the companies are combining the Destinator system with the Hewlett Packard Jornada or the Compaq iPAQ PDA to offer an easy to use navigation bundle that rivals existing automobile navigation systems for a fraction of their cost.

Rolta India Limited, a company providing CAD Cam and GIS Solutions was the first company I'm aware of in the geospatial industry to be hit with accounting irregularities. According to reports, the company overstated sales for 2001 causing a 20% drop in its stock price.


The Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS) celebrates its 20th anniversary with a special annual conference, a new logo and a redesign of its web site. According to its website, MAPPS' primary objective is to develop strength and unity on matters affecting the interests of its member firms. It is intended to promote a quality, profitable profession, interaction among firms, advance education, both professional and public.

The Regional Municipality of York, the Region of Waterloo, the Town of Oakville, and the County of Oxford have won the Urban Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), Ontario Chapter's Map Gallery challenge and Web GIS challenge. The announcement came from ESRI Canada which congratulated the winners, all ESRI users.

Dr. Fawwaz T. Ulaby, Vice President for Research and the Williams Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, received the 2000 William T. Pecora Award last month in recognition of his achievements as a pioneer and leading authority in the field of radar remote sensing. Sponsored jointly by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), this award is presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions toward the understanding of the Earth by means of remote sensing.

The European Organization for Experimental Photogrammetric Research (OEEPE) is organizing e-learning courses about advanced techniques in photogrammetry, remote sensing and GIS. The first three courses will take place in October and November of this year.

The Ordnance Survey, UK's national mapping agency 2001-02 Annual Report and Accounts, published online shows a turnover on trading of £102.6 million, up by more than 3% on last year's £99.6 million. Ordnance Survey succeeded in beating all the agency performance targets set by the Government for the year.


City of Keene, NH expanded their CityView; 8.NET Enterprise system in order to create an E-city portal.

FleetBoss Global Positioning Solutions, Inc. announced an OEM agreement with the Elgin Sweeper Company of Elgin, Ill. Fleetboss will provide vehicle management software for Elgin street cleaning machines.

@Road has been selected by Verizon to provide mobile resource management services to help manage Verizon field operations.

GeoAnalytics, Inc., a provider of geographic and land information systems (GIS/LIS) technology and management consulting, has been hired by the City of Chicago to design and develop a Web-GIS front-end to the City's Multi-Agency Government Integrated Communication (MAGIC) automated vehicle location (AVL) system.

Space Imaging was awarded a three-year, $800,000 contract with the state of Kentucky's Governor's Office for Technology. Space Imaging will provide satellite imagery and processing technologies to the Kentucky Landscape Snapshot (KLS) Project. A grant from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) funds the effort to monitor, map and assess the state's forests and urban environment.

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. announced that the U.S. government, through the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, (NIMA) has contracted with the company's Information Products group to provide RADARSAT-1 products and services, such as near-real time delivery of RADARSAT-1 data. The contract, awarded by NIMA to MDA subsidiary RADARSAT International, has a maximum value of $8 million over the next three years.

The Applications in Coastal Zone Research and Management workbook from Clark Labs is now available for use with Idrisi32.

SoftMap Technologies (2002) Inc., the Canadian developer of GIS software, will offer low cost topographic maps of Canada at a scale of 1/50 000 and 1/250 000 in GeoTIFF format on its website. SoftMap claims to be the only one to offer full coverage of Canada with raster maps.

Earth Resource Mapping is pleased to announce their core products, ER Mapper 6.3 and Image Web Server 1.7, will support Microsoft's latest operating system - Windows XP.

KOREM released a new version of its service, mapWORKSPACE.com. This ASP service gives access to a complete Web-mapping studio for GEObroadcasting on the Internet. Intended for MapInfo users, mapWORKSPACE.com offers four packages available on a monthly or annual subscription. The new version has a new look and a more user-friendly and ergonomic interface.

Safe Software Inc. announces that it has expanded support for ESRI’s ArcSDE by adding versioning support to FME Suite software. Versioning allows users to check out copies of data, manipulate the data using FME (Feature Manipulation Engine), and then check data back into the default SDE layer for sharing.

IcoMap for ArcGIS v1.5 a parcel mapping conversion and maintenance package which creates line and polygon features in geodatabases, shapefiles and coverages is now available from UCLID.

Primus Geographics, Inc. is the exclusive dealer for a new curved text tool for MapInfo Professional developed by Bill Thoen, president of GISnet and all around MapInfo guy. The MapBasic program is available for $39.95.

Vicinity Corporation launched the latest version of its Vicinity Location Server(VLS), Version 3.1. New street level data for Australia and enhanced tools are part of the new release.

Keigan Systems Inc (formerly ThinkSpace Inc) has launched its release of MFworks 2.7. MFworks is a GRID analysis tool kit that combines spatial analysis, mapping and image processing in a simple user-friendly manner. The upgrade is complimentary to all clients that currently have MFworks 2.5 or higher.

Developed by leaders from industry, government, and academia, Arc Hydro is a data structure that provides the capacity to link hydrologic data to water resources modeling and decision-making methods. The book detailing the model is available from the ESRI Press.

RPM Consulting announced the release of the Atlas 2000 Geocoder, based upon 2000 TIGER files enhanced by RPM and the Atlas GIS geocoding engine. The updated Atlas Geocoder features Soundex-type technology, and the ability to apply independent or combined relaxation options for street type, street name, directionals, house number, and ZIP code. Users can also create and maintain custom address structure translation files, as well as centroid files. The product is intended primarily for users who want to take advantage of fast, flexible CD-based geocoding.


     Peter Woodsford

The Buxton company which specializes in market research for the retail industry, announced the opening of its Northeast operations based in Andover, MA, to be headed by Sid Newman, effective July 1, 2002.

Snowflake Software is pleased to announce the appointment of Peter Woodsford as a non-executive director. Woodsford (60) has now moved to a non-executive director role at Laser-Scan, the company he helped to launch in the early 1970s.


July 17 - Challenging New Targets Revealed for Ordnance Survey
Among the six targets: required updates of more than 600 titles in the Explorer and OS Landranger map series.

July 11 - Intergraph Announces GeoMedia Transaction Manager
GeoMedia Transaction Manager 5.0 is a long term transaction versioning, and temporal data management software solution that provides a true enterprise approach to managing spatial information

July 11 - Niagara Falls Hydro Selects Intergraph
Niagara Falls Hydro has signed a contract to replace its legacy GIS with an advanced geofacilities management system from the Utilities & Communications division of Intergraph Corporation.

July 11 - Bexar Metropolitan Water Subscribes to MapCiti
With MapCiti, Bexar will be able to load all of its geo-referenced infrastructure data, including aerial photography, into MapCiti's fully hosted, web-based mapping application and create regional maps of the city's water infrastructure online.


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