GIS Monitor Aug 9, 2001


-Planet of the Apes: The Most GeoSpatial Movie? -GPS and GIS Make Bus Riders Smile -APCO Conference Highlights Newest Tracking Devices -GIS Monitor at 1 Year

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Planet of the Apes, the new film is, for reasons not completely clear, taking full advantage of geospatial technologies. In the early “hype” weeks before the film opened, Fox, its producer, began a worldwide treasure hunt, Project Ape, using GPS receivers to give away props and other goodies from the film. Geocaches were hidden worldwide with additional clues added day after day. This week’s cache, in Australia, was set and found on August 3rd.

This week, GIS Networks, the ISP hosting the film’s website, announced that it is using Quova’s GeoPoint to direct the correct information to visitors from different geographies. In particular, the site uses the GeoPoint-determined visitor location to provide the correct premiere date for the film in that area. Marketers are pleased that a single site can serve the entire world – with different information provided on the fly based on geography. They also feel that they are getting far more detailed information on which geographies are interesting in their film.


Although many argue that location-based services are destined to become the killer app for mobile devices, I’ll suggest that the convergence of GPS/GIS/Internet/wireless will have an even bigger impact on day to day living via its use in public transportation. Here are some of the highlights that make bus commuters across the US smile:

-In Los Angeles, buses use transponders to affect stoplights to get the green light, making routes 25% faster. Signs in stations count down to the next bus arrival.

-In San Francisco, buses can be tracked online in real time. In Seattle you can be emailed when the bus passes a particular landmark.


APCO is the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, International. The organization’s annual meeting is this week in Salt Lake City. And, like any conference, that means a flood of press releases for products.

Since public safety is tightly bound to finding the person in trouble, many of the products are GPS related. Traxsis is showing off a new advanced GPS accessory for cellular phones. The company hopes to get a jump on the slow implementation of cell phone tracking by licensing its GPS enabled phone battery accessory to wireless carriers and others. They have a window of opportunity as most carriers ask for extensions on their plans for cell phone locating.

CyTerra Corporation is adding GPS to two-way hand held radios often used by field personnel. The RadioTrac system uses a GPS attached to the radio and a base station either indoors or in a vehicle. The company says its solution is very affordable: $899 for the base monitor and $599 for each mobile unit.

Other locational hardware vendors had announcements outside the show. Thales (who now owns Magellan) introduced the Magellan Meridian series: a line of GPS handhelds that offer Secure Digital Memory Card capabilities expanding flash memory capacity for storing and downloading data. The new products have larger screens, deliver better than three-meter accuracy and hold up to 16 MB of built-in US map data. Trimble has enhanced its AgGPS TrimFlight 3 system, which provides Global Positioning System (GPS)-based guidance for aerial applications. Trimble notes that the enhancements allow apps to meet specifications to bid on USDA-APHIS boll weevil eradication contracts.


GIS Monitor will celebrate its first birthday next week. The first issue on August 18, 2000 delivered the headline “GE Buys Smallworld.” The publication and readership have come quite a ways since then. Subscriber numbers have grown from 100 to nearly 4,700. The layout changed a bit, but it still goes out as plain text (as opposed to HTML). Plain text still does the job.

I want to share a bit of what I’ve learned putting together a weekly opinionated discussion of GIS, location services and related industries. First off, many readers love an opinion. Others think this should be an “objective” publication. At least one reader who felt this way unsubscribed. This has also led to some ruffled feathers at companies large and small. Despite this, even the ones with “ruffled” feathers have told me that even if they disagree with what I’ve written, GIS Monitor is worth the time to read. I can’t think of a bigger compliment.

I’ve learned that press releases are often intended for financial analysts, rather than the press. Some are completely undecipherable. Far too many omit key details – such as the fact that the product only runs on top of another product! Some releases fail to include the company’s URL. Other press releases are distributed with 1 or 2 MB images. I’d rather have them tell me an image is available for download on the company website. Other press releases simply don’t tell me anything. I don’t publish those.

I was surprised that there is plenty of material in the geospatial industries to fill up this newsletter. The emerging location-based services industry, GPS, asset tracking, GIS software, handhelds, geographic data collection and other topics are tightly woven into the “regular” news. I’m amazed how much coverage of these topics finds its way to Wired, the BBC, and the general technology magazines. I’m hopeful this bodes well for our segment of the economy.

I look forward to year 2.

GIS Monitor, Premiere Issue


-For $400 you can add a pager-sized device, TravelEyes2, to your car that will not only track its every move, but how long it visits destinations. The captured information can be downloaded to a computer.

-While we in the US fear advertisers bombarding our cell phones with ads based on our location, UK’s Zagme has begun providing coupons via short messaging service (SMS) to cell phones. The difference is that those who want the coupons must sign up and tell the service when they are likely to be at one of two malls currently served. No real locational information is shared. If plans change, users will get coupons, but at the wrong location, and thus would not be able to use them. Sounds like a lot of work for the consumer.

-“.info” is currently in its sunrise period. This means those with existing trademarks can get first dibs on the new domain slated to go live in September. Lots of folks without trademarks in place are also claiming generic domains such as and are claimed by the owner of is claimed by Autodesk. But, if you think you have claim to “” or “” speak now – they are still unclaimed.

-Tom Wallace, once of ESRI, GE Smallworld and LizardTech is heading up Idelix’s Olympia, Washington effort.


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Adena Schutzberg
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