GIS Monitor Aug 16, 2001
-Autodesk’s Point A Adds GIS Data Finder
-New Ways to Track Your Car
-Who’s Behind Telematics Success?
-GIS Monitor Birthday Wishes
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POINT A ADDS GIS DATA FINDER
Autodesk’s Point A GIS “doorway” got a bit of a makeover in the past few
Point A now has sponsors: EarthScan and Kodak are pushing their remote
sensing and earth imaging products, respectively. But as far as I know,
Autodesk does not sell software that can do image analysis so Autodesk’s
portal is a curious place to advertise. While CAD Overlay is a fine
AutoCAD add-on package for viewing, clipping and other “editing” imagery
functions, it does not do change detection or other high level analysis I
associate with this type of data.
The Data Finder is another new addition to the site. It is intended to
find data to use in Autodesk’s products. Autodesk notes that data in the
Finder is available in a format compatible with the company’s products, so
you don’t have to “waste time converting data.”
I can’t speak for all of the data or products offered but I do know that
to use the SDTS DEM data available at the GIS Data Depot there is a
conversion. The SDTS format must be imported, that is, converted using
the GIS Data Transformer Extension. Furthermore, Autodesk is not currently
listed as one of the vendors supporting the “new” SDTS format, so I’m not
sure how those data would be used. Perhaps Autodesk is suggesting that
users will not need to move outside the Autodesk product family to work
with the data. There may still be a conversion, but it could be done using
an existing Autodesk product or add-on.
Currently, one can only search for US data, and I found a total of 9
companies listed, mostly selling imagery. The database does note whether
the company provides e-commerce but fails to mention when data can be
I’d consider the Autodesk GIS Data Finder to be a work in progress.
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NEW WAYS TO TRACK YOUR CAR
As more and more states use transponders to allow cars using toll roads to
speed through and “pay later,” the concerns about privacy are mounting.
Here in Massachusetts we have “Fast Lane” which allows a
transponder-equipped car a 5 mph trip through the tollbooths on the Mass
Pike and tunnels to and from the airport. The transponder can also be used
on roads and bridges in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and West Virginia.
In use since 1988, this system has billed users in advance or at the end
of the month. It also captures the date and time of each charge.
Recently, a court forced the Mass Turnpike Authority (MTA) to turn over
usage records to the state. This is the first time this data has been used
for law enforcement in Massachusetts. Despite the MTA’s promise to keep
all data confidential, a state court forced the organization to turn over
data for an unspecified driver. The court denied an MTA motion to notify
the driver in question.
Meanwhile, neighbor state New York has used its EZ-Pass system to
prosecute several cases. Since the states use the same hardware, many
Massachusetts residents have purchased the transponder in New York, at a
discount. The MTA doesn’t think New York will start subpoenaing
Fast Lane account holders in Massachusetts, some 280,000 people, generate
6.5 million transactions each month. The MTA is still figuring its
This worries privacy advocates. A privacy expert commenting on the
Massachusetts case says one issue is how long the data will be kept.
Ideally, data should be used only for billing purposes. He argues that 60
or 90 days is likely long enough and that older data should be purged.
Other fears, such as the use of the transponders to track speeders, is
keeping many “old technology” coin tossers active at tolls.
WHO’S BEHIND TELEMATICS SUCCESS?
A Frost and Sullivan report says the expected growth of telematics
(predicted to reach $7 billion in 2007) comes not from consumer demand but
rather from car makers’ “push” marketing.
Products such as GM’s OnStar, for example, are already in use by
technology-elite vehicle owners who tend to value round-the-clock
communications, satellite navigation and access to roadside services.
However, to make telematics a “must have” feature for all vehicle owners,
automakers will have to strengthen their marketing. A recent print ad, a
two-page splash, includes a full-page, full-color graphic of Batman
asking: “Ever wish you had someone like him around whenever you needed
help?” as the OnStar logo shows “wish granted.” This, to me, suggests
OnStar is some magic, luxury service, not something for everyday folks.
“It’s like having your own personal super hero!” touts the ad copy. The
examples of service are about needing car repairs, or being lost. Instead,
marketers might consider something more dire, such as finding help if you
or your child is ill or injured. THAT would make telematics a must-have
Hopefully, telematics marketers will soon realize that it’s time to market
to the individuals who have cell phones – regular people. What reason did
you give to get a cell phone? Many people I know didn’t get one until
their wife/daughter/friend was pregnant or because Dad would worry about
their ability to safely get help on the lonely highway. This element of
safety distinguishes the “must haves” from the “want to haves.”
GIS MONITOR BIRTHDAY WISHES
I want to share a few of the good wishes sent for GIS Monitor’s first
“Keep being opinionated. You are the Chris Harlow of the new millennium,
calling a spade a spade.”
Peter Van Demark, Director of GIS Products and Training, Caliper
“Congrats on your first year. Even though I am not in GIS, I enjoy reading
your commentary. After one year, upFront.eZine had just 375 subscribers.
But then, ezines weren't exactly a lingua franca in 1994.”
Ralph Grabowski, www.upfrontezine.com
Editor’s note: Hats off to Ralph for providing a model for the GIS
“…having just read your issue, it caused me to think about the unique
niche your newsletter fills for me and others. For the record, I like the
opinionated version, especially because you never try to masquerade it as
something else. Just wanted to say thanks for the great job you're doing
and I'm looking forward to a new year of the GIS Monitor.”
Eileen Argentina, Information Technology Manager, City of Portland Office
“Congratulations on the first anniversary of GIS Monitor! I'm fairly new
to the GIS industry, so I find it an invaluable source of industry
information. You manage to come up with some really interesting stuff that
so far has never failed to give me a new insight each week.”
Warwick Moyse, Director, Mapping and Beyond Pty Ltd
Thebarton, South Australia
“I always look forward to reading your weekly views, recognize that they
are opinions, and figure that if some feathers are getting ruffled, then
those birds need to learn how to cope with changes in air current. Best
wishes for year 2 (and 3, and 4, etc.)”
Wendy Lathrop, PLS
“Congratulations on 1 year! I really have come to rely on this newsletter
to keep me up to date on what is going on in the world outside the
ESRI-Denver office in the Republic of Boulder! I really appreciate the way
you are able to get the message across so concisely, without a lot of
Esther Worker, ESRI-Denver
“Happy Birthday (or Anniversary) to you.
Isn't year one considered the Paper Anniversary?
Maybe that's not appropriate for a paperless newsletter?”
Bruce Westcott, SMMS Metadata Consultant
POINTS OF INTEREST
-Motorola is foreshadowing. In their latest print ad, a chip for the Palm
will “locate your dog – whether he wanders across the street or across
town.” I’m glad my town has a leash law!
-Another ad of note. Land Rover’s new ad lists the distances to far-off
places: “Yerevan 7013 mi,” “Qaanaaq 3334 mi,” and finally “Mall 2 mi.”
-The newly merged Business 2.0 and eCompanyNow publication recently
rethought their 10 principles of the new economy, which included two
discussing geography. Number 2 on the list, “Distance Has Vanished,” is
described as being true to an extent. The argument that industries still
cluster, for example in Silicon Valley, suggests that some things still
require a “touch.” Number 10, “Every Product is Available Everywhere” is
treated with skepticism. Many Internet users research product purchases on
the Web but actually buy in a “real” store.
-Last week I noted how the marketing of the Planet of the Apes film was
tied into geospatial technologies. Now, for the opening in the UK, FOX has
signed a deal for a tie-in with Nokia: users can download Ape logos and
screen savers for their cell phones.
-Cheap Tickets is shutting down its brick and mortar stores. Cheap
Tickets, which sells airline tickets on the Web, phone and in person,
found that 98% of its revenue came from the wired world. It is closing its
stores and eliminating 50 employees.
-A few new purportedly “hotter than Google” search engines are hitting the
Web. WISEnut has a cute name and does a good job sorting results by site.
It’s good, fast and uses a different context sensitive ranking system than
Google. The thing I miss: Google’s cached version of “old” pages. Teoma
uses a “peer ranking” system but covers fewer sites compared to Google.
Vivisimo, a spin-off company from Carnegie Mellon University, covers
several search engines at a time. The best feature, however, is that it
attempts to put results into categories. So, when I searched on myself I
found topics relating to TenLinks, to Directions Magazine and to kites.
It’ll take some work to pull me away from Google, especially its browser
toolbar plug-in, which I pretty much can’t do without.
- Bill Thoen notes that his site, GISNET.com,is back up and running on
Linux. This is its old domain, GISNET, from about 10 years ago. I note
this since Bill’s site, and his early columns in GIS World, were some of
the key resources available then … and now.
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