August 7, 2003


Metadata Crosswalk Explained
Earth Observation Summit
The Name Game

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The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) posted a "heads up" about a public review of proposed ISO-19115 Metadata Crosswalk. When I looked at the discussion on the FGDC website I didn't understand what was going on. I contacted Sharon Shin, FGDC metadata coordinator, to make sense of it.

Here's the deal: many of us use the FGDC metadata standard to store our precious metadata. That's all well and good. However, we must prepare for the onset of the international metadata standard. Here's what's happening: FGDC is a member of InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) Technical Committee L1. INCITS L1 is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI, a U.S. backed standards organization) for geographic information system standards. ANSI through INCITS has adopted the International Standards Organization (ISO) metadata standard, ISO 19115. FGDC's membership in INCITS L1 does not oblige the use of ANSI standards (which, after all, are voluntary); however, OMB Circular A-119 directs Federal agencies to use voluntary consensus standards such as ISO-19115 whenever possible.

Does that mean that we'll all be using ISO metadata soon? Not immediately, says Shin. She goes on to say that if you are using the FGDC standard, you should stay the course and wait for the U.S. implementation of the ISO standard. And that's what's behind the "crosswalk" document that's currently available for public review. The idea of the document was to literally map the elements of the FGDC metadata structure to those of ISO. A handful of very savvy metadata users (both FGDC and ISO flavors) sat down to see how well the two formats matched up. In the end, there were a dozen or so elements that exist in FGDC metadata that don't have "homes" in the ISO version. On the other hand, there are some in the ISO standard that don't have corresponding items in the FGDC version.

As an example of the former, Shin noted "baud rate." That one, she feels, will likely be "retired" since almost no one is moving data via a phone line these days. As an example of the latter, ISO has a field called "language," something FGDC does not have. While some U.S.-centric fields may be retired, others that are still popular in the U.S. may get their own "homes" in a North American/U.S. profile of the ISO spec, which provides places for "us" to put "our stuff." [As someone who was involved with writing the competition rules for the American Kitefliers Association (AKA) and melding them with the International Rulebook, this sounds very familiar to me. AKA kitefliers publish and use an AKA Appendix where we put our special rules, ones that are only applicable at our events.]

The public review of the "Crosswalk" document, in effect until September, first asks that those in the GIS community review the FGDC-to-ISO mapping and see if they have any concerns as to how it was done. Are there other ways to do it that might make better sense, for example?

Shin was disappointed that a metadata workshop planned for last winter didn't happen, but is anxious to set up another one in early 2004. She wants to work on one very important topic for many U.S. metadata users: the number of mandatory items. Some users feel too many items are required, making the process more cumbersome than perhaps is necessary. These metadata users are advocating for what Shin calls "a more compact" form of metadata.

At the workshop Shin also wants to introduce participants to Unified Modeling Language, UML, in which the ISO standard was originally documented. While Shin understands the potential apprehension, she's also a believer in the UML diagrams, once users have some training. She speaks fondly of "when the light bulb went off" for her during a UML class. While the ISO-19139 implementation standard will be delivered in XML this fall, she feels it's valuable to see its source in UML. The implementation standard will, according to Bruce Westcott, a metadata specialist, provide an "unambiguous implementation guidance that will give us a prayer of being able to have automated generation and validation of many metadata content elements." Basically, that will mean less pain for those of us making the transition and hopefully, some technological magic to remove potentially tedious conversion work. Westcott also points out the importance of metadata "for OGC, GOS, and other initiatives. You can't have interoperability, you can't have a portal, you can't have registries, catalogs, repositories, and Web mapping without metadata."

Shin is genuinely pleased to be working on metadata at this level at this point in time, rather than several years ago. (She'd been a metadata trainer for several years previous to that.) Now, she says, "People are using metadata and talking about it. Just a few years ago, it was kept to oneself." She was surprised to hear attendees at the ESRI conference talking about it in the halls! What caused the change? She pointed out that we'd reached a tipping point, and had overcome the inertia-"It's too complicated, painful and I don't see the return..."-so that while few "love" metadata, it's become a "must have" in most organizations.

Shin shared to two key metadata failures that have helped keep accurate metadata a priority. In 1999 the Mars Climate Orbiter was lost due to two teams using different measurement units: one used English units (inches, feet and pounds) while the other used metric units (centimeters, meters and kilograms). The other failure, in May of 1999, involved an out-of-date image that ultimately led to the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

While those are not the most pleasant reminders of the importance of metadata, the vision of a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), a Global DSI (GSDI) and interplanetary SDI, are perhaps more hopeful visions.

I felt pretty savvy a few weeks ago when the Earth Observation (EO) Summit was mentioned in a meeting and I actually knew what it was. I wasn't that far ahead since I'd only heard about it the week before when a friend mentioned it. But, I felt better when I heard about it on the NPR newscast this past weekend.

The EO Summit was a high level gathering of world leaders aimed at teasing out a plan for long-term earth observation to address environmental and economic challenges. The daylong event was held last Thursday in Washington D.C. During the next two days the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO), previously the Intergovernmental Ad Hoc Working Group, was to start work on an implementation plan for the next 10 years. I could find no details as to whether that meeting happened or if any progress was made.

There was some interesting dissent at the Summit. According to CNN, "[Colin] Powell suggested creating an international system to make use of space-based measurements of the earth. But Conrad C. Lauterbacher Jr., administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, said one problem was the countries have different systems of collecting data."

According to a Wall Street Journal article, the host Bush administration believes that filling the gaps in coverage will "aid scientific and humanitarian efforts" and produce commercial opportunities. Officials from 35 countries agreed to meet in Tokyo next year. Also in the declaration signed by the attendees was support for cooperation on global observation, exchange of observation data, and assistance to developing countries so they can improve their observation systems.

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting Q&A; on the political, historical and scientific side of the event.

In the past few months the names of at least two products in the geospatial arena have been changed. ESRI's online offering of data and services,
ArcWeb USA, is now ArcWeb for Developers. The other is Sanborn's imagery product, CityCenters, which is now CitySets.

The new product names are clearer. The name ArcWeb for Developers makes it clear those who are not developers "need not apply." Sanborn changed CityCenters to CitySets, which alludes to data beyond the "city center."

Another point worthy of note: the names were changed soon after they were launched. The quick overhaul limited the investment each organization required to make the change, and likely to prevented confusion in the market. Another product that likely slides into this category, though the name change took longer: Autodesk's Envision, formerly Autodesk OnSite Desktop. I noted from day one my concern over the name. Because of its low-key launch, mostly hidden in the Map Series, I suspect little harm was done in the months it was out before the name change.


Garmin iQue Receives Rave Reviews. The
Garmin iQue 3600, a Palm OS-based PDA with a built-in GPS, is shipping. A New York Times reviewer pretty much adores the new handheld. The GPS is "off" until you flip up the antenna, after which it hunts for satellites and presents a map with its current location marked. The iQue comes with two CDs of detailed map data with travel friendly landmarks. Reviewer David Pogue says the data beats the pants off MapQuest. One city's data takes up a few Mb of the 22 Mb of memory available on the device; more memory is available in add-on cards. The iQue will address match and provide audio directions, and unlike many but the most recently GPS receivers, it supports W.A.A.S. (Wide-Area Augmentation System) for extra accuracy. The downside, says Pogue, is the battery, which when using the device for telematics, only runs about two hours.

GIS Means… A publication in Malaysia covered a new printer from Hewlett Packard noting, "The product is highly suited for the geographical information survey (GIS) market."

100, oops 50. The portals hosted by IB Systems, which include GIS Café, are now offering free Web-based e-mail with 50 Mb of free storage. Until recently, 100 Mb of free space was available through the portals. The new system uses SquirrelMail, an open source Web-based mail offering.

Tracking with MapPoint. PCT, the Portal to the Pest Control industry is touting Locarta 2020i, a tracking solution from Locarta Technologies, Inc. Behind the tracking device is MapPoint. Not noted in the PCT article, but on the company website, is support for ESRI's Tracking Analyst.

Best Cellular Coverage in North Central US. J.D. Power did a survey on cell network quality. The winner was Verizon. Of interest to geographers: users in the Northeast reported the worst network quality, with a score of 92 overall. Those in the North Central region had the top score of 104. The Southeast had the second-best quality with a score of 102. The national average was 100.

EU Does E-911. The European Commission adopted a recommendation to help the emergency services locate callers using the pan-European emergency number 112, which is equivalent to our 911 in the U.S. With an estimated one half of all calls in Europe coming from cell phones, alongside the traditional challenge of not finding those in need, are issues of multiple reports of the same event. As of July 25 of this year all operators (of fixed and mobile phones) are to provide locations of callers when forwarding an emergency call to authorities. Of particular interest to those interested in interoperability, the measure encourages that "member States should ensure interconnectivity and interoperability between their networks handling emergency calls within the European Union, which is especially important in border areas where mobile networks do not exactly match territorial frontiers and emergency calls can be picked up by networks at the other side of the border. The proposed harmonized approach is also aimed at minimizing the overall cost of implementation..." Thanks to Jeff for passing on this news.

Good Deed Department. The Oregon 4-H Youth Tech Wizards Club in Washington County received a $20,000 grant from Intel Corporation in Hillsboro to develop a GIS curriculum for the group. The club is aimed at Latino youth and introduces members to information/computer technology with the goal of helping them succeed in school and life.

Robots Perform Mapping. SRI, taking on a challenge from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA-the folks who ideally brought us both the Internet and the Terrorism Futures Market) is using LinuxWorld as a testbed for sending a team of robots to map an area. The current effort, which eventually aims to map an area where humans won't venture (due to health or other risks), is set in the confines of LinuxWorld. Two teams of robots will map out an unknown area, then track down a stuffed penguin (the Linux mascot). The first robot team is made up of mappers that use laser range finders, onboard computers, sonar arrays, inertial navigation systems, and cameras and can pool their information. The resulting map is passed on to the robot search team, which tracks down the penguin, Tux. To make things more clear to the robots' imperfect sensors, Tux will sit on a pink box. The underlying technology: Linux and Sun's Jini.

Quote of the Week I. FORTUNE's Brainstorm 2003, a session for CEOs, drew out many gripes from the assembled, especially on new government reforms aimed at keeping companies on the up and up. Said, Carol Bartz, CEO of Autodesk, "We're so overburdened with all the bull**** in the system."

Quote of the Week II. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge speaking at the Homeland Security Department Conference held July 28 in Arlington, Virginia shared some good news about the department's first six months: "We moved rapidly to map and protect our critical infrastructure, such as power plants and financial systems…"

Quote of the Week III. "I burned up one GPS, I lost all my waypoints (to find the fishing spots) and my throttle cable broke." That comment is from a competitor in the 33rd Bassmaster Classic fishing competition, in Louisiana, commenting on a rough practice day before the event.

Quote of the Week IV. "ESRI is a leading GIS company, which owns 80 per cent of the GIS market world-wide." From the Gulf Daily News, in a story about Bahrain receiving an ESRI Special Achievement Award.


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Avenza Systems Inc. announced that MAPublisher can now be demonstrated live over the Internet using a new technology from Glance Networks. Live demos can be scheduled online or by calling Avenza at 1-800-884-2555. A typical live demo takes 10-15 minutes but can be extended on request.

CPS (Cambridge Positioning Systems), a location technology provider, announced a partnership with SiRF Technology, a provider of GPS-enabled silicon and software location platforms, to explore development of enhanced mobile location technologies that will deliver faster Time to First fix positions and ultimately higher-accuracy performance for location-aware devices. The agreement calls for both organizations to work jointly to assess feasibility of a hybrid solution that combines the network-based Matrix portfolio offered by CPS, along with SiRF's satellite-based Multimode Aided-GPS (A-GPS) technology.

Garmin announced Q2 earnings: Net income rose to $47.2 million, or 43 cents a share, from $32.1 million, or 30 cents, a year earlier, the company reported today. Sales rose to $143.5 million from $122.8 million. Shares fell as much as 18 percent once news of a calm Q3 expectation was made.

Questerra, a wholly-owned subsidiary of MeadWestvaco Corporation, announced its partnership with Applied Geographic Solutions, Inc. (AGS), a supplier of demographic and marketing databases, for the Web-based delivery of market-leading demographic and consumer marketing data to corporations across a variety of industries.

Through a long-term effort with NASA, the University of Southern Mississippi has received a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Labor to fund a pilot Geospatial Technology Apprenticeship Program (GTAP).

Intergraph Corp. reported second-quarter net income of $794,000, or 2 cents per share, far lower than last year's results which included a $300 million patent-dispute settlement with Intel Corp. Analysts had expected 8 cents a share. Described as a "mapping software developer" in the Birmingham Business Journal, the company's expenses rose, while revenue was up some $7 million over last year's quarter.

Ohio State University will use Laser-Scan's Radius Topology, taking advantage of the company's academic program.

Recent malfunctions of the imaging sensor on-board Landsat 7 prompted American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) Executive Director James R. Plasker to request that the U.S. Department of the Interior and Congress continue support for the satellite, and encourage continued acquisition, even if some parts of collected images are anomalous.

GeoDecisions demonstrated the Geospatial Emergency Alert and Readiness System (GEARS) at the Congressional ITS Technology Fair on Traffic Congestion. The application provides traffic management personnel with immediate access to critical real-time information such as traffic conditions, weather, live cameras, and threat conditions, to facilitate the rapid mitigation of traffic events and manage congestion.

PlanGraphics, Inc. has been accepted into the State of Indiana Business Partner Alliance. PlanGraphics' skill sets have been accepted in the areas of Information Technology (IT), Planning and GIS.

URISA announced that Dianne Haley becomes President-Elect of the association beginning in October, at the close of URISA's 41st Annual Conference in Atlanta. Most recently the Corporate GIS Business Consultant for the City of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Dianne has left the City after 21 years of service to become the GIS Program Coordinator at the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board.

TeleAtlas first half revenues were up 3% over the same period last year. Revenue in North America was down 1/3, in line with projections. European revenue was up 10% mostly due to navigation demand.

MapInfo's Predictive Analytics confirms that Walt Disney World leads the list as the most popular amusement park according to attendance, among other factoids.

Contracts and Sales
Sanborn has three new contracts in Massachusetts: In Franklin, Sanborn will generate color digital orthophoto imagery, 2-foot contour maps, planimetric maps and utility maps. In Bedford, Sanborn will provide aerial photography, control, and analytical triangulation for the 13.8-square-mile community. In Woburn, the company will provide GPS utility and infrastructure mapping services.

PCI Geomatics signed two separate five-year unlimited PCI Geomatics educational site licenses with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and with the University of Notre Dame. This agreement entitles both the University of Notre Dame and MIT to receive unlimited licenses of the Geomatica Total Educational Suite for five years across multiple departments, campus-wide, and on multiple supported platforms.

Red Hen Systems has secured the single largest order in the company's history, a deal worth $300,000. There's no mention of the client.

MapInfo announced that Agilent Technologies Inc. will use its MapXtreme and StreetPro to offer communications service providers a location-intelligent operations support system (OSS). Under the terms of the agreement, MapInfo location technology will be embedded in Agilent's NETeXPERT GIS solution, enabling users to quickly and easily locate and respond to network problems and offer improved customer service. The company also announced that Ekornes USA uses MapInfo's TargetPro solution to enhance target marketing and advertising campaign efforts. Ekornes USA uses TargetPro analysis tools in conjunction with MapInfo's PSYTE U.S. demographic data to better identify its target customers and their locations, then targets dealers with the greatest market potential.

Z/I Imaging Corporation, an Intergraph Company, announced that Kokusai Kogyo Co., Ltd. (KKC) has purchased the Z/I Digital Mapping Camera.

DMTI Spatial announced that its CanMap Streetfiles data set has been selected by The GeoGraphics Group (GGIS) of Golder Associates Ltd to complete a new Web-based GIS site for Calgary Technologies Inc (CTI) - a division of Promote Calgary Inc.

UCLID Software announced "voice-activated GIS" built by integrating voice recognition technology with GIS software for parcel mapping and attribute entry. The software responds to voice commands and processes data. Voice-activated GIS draws parcel geometry as survey measurements are read. The software will also populate an attribute table or enter data in a text box.

Geographic Data Technology Canada announced the release of a new Dynamap street and address database featuring enhanced street and address coverage and enhanced positional accuracy across Canada.

Exor Corporation, supplier of integrated highways management software, announced the availability of Street Works Manager to local government public works agencies and utility companies in North America. Street Works Manager is a software and database solution that supports the full life cycle of street infrastructure work activities, such as utility excavations and street repairs, to improve coordination and monitoring of street projects, and to minimize traffic disruptions on citizenry.

MultiGen-Paradigm, Inc., a provider of real time 3D visual simulation software solutions, announced availability of SiteBuilder 3D v1.1.1 for ESRI's ArcGIS platform.

PCI Geomatics Geomatica 9 offers new hyperspectral data tools as well as pioneering data compression technology that was developed in cooperation with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

GeoConcept has announced GeoWorld 2003, scheduled for October 16-17, 2003, at the Centre de Conférences Pacific (Paris-La Défense), Paris. This is the first event of its kind and will showcase GeoConcept's innovative technology from sectors as varied as crisis management and geo-optimization.

The GeoInformation Group, publishers of Cities Revealed, will hold its annual User Group Meeting December 11-12, 2003, in Cambridge, UK.

Safe Software is offering free weekly online FME demos.

Education and Training
Visual Learning Systems Inc. (VLS) announced the Feature Analyst On-Line Training Course.

Hires and New Offices
RMSI, a global IT services company, announced it has incorporated, in Silicon Valley, a wholly-owned subsidiary, RMSI Inc. DMG Information, a division of the Daily Mail and General Trust Group owns RMSI. Seventy percent of RMSI's revenues are from the U.S.


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