GIS MONITOR, Aug 24, 2000


A healthy crowd (1,000 in pre-registration) showed up in Orlando, Florida for URISA (Urban and Regional Information Systems Association) -- the premiere GIS show for local, regional and state government.

Many ESRI users came to listen to Jack Dangermond, President of ESRI, as he outlined his companys vision and showed his latest and greatest products at a User Group meeting held Sunday afternoon. Jack expressed that we are perhaps "the geography generation" being the first to grow up with the tools of GIS. The overarching theme, however was that the world is a living system a dynamic and interconnected being and geography is, in fact, the key to integrating all of the various specializations that have grown up to make sense of our world. According to Dangermond, global GIS is emerging its grown from projects, to organizations, with a technology provided by the Web. This global GIS means "well see it (the organization of the global) together." Dangermond concedes that there are issues to achieving this vision: data sharing challenges, new methods and procedures, the need for more GIS professionals, support of public and private organizations, and the need for easier technology deployment.

On the product side, ESRI highlighted ArcGIS, a system of products that includes thick clients on the desktop, thin clients for the web and mobile devices and data or service servers. Desktop products include ArcView (soon to be based on the technology of ArcInfo 8), ArcEditor (name to be determined) and ArcInfo. This new three-tiered desktop places a middle range editor between "viewer" ArcView and "heavy-duty" GIS ArcInfo. There was much enthusiasm for ArcEditor as it will help keep costs down for those not needing the power of ArcInfo. In response to user requests, ESRI will allow users to change which license they use (say switch to ArcView if they are not using the full functionality of ArcEditor) and make that license available to others in the organization. And, Dangermond was clear about ArcView 3.x continuing on with Avenue even as he made plain that many "goodies" in ArcView 8 would NOT appear in 3.x architecture. In particular, projections on the fly, annotation support, ArcInfo cartographic tools, connections to ArcIMS servers and VBA will appear in ArcView 8, but not 3.x. It seems that most users have been listening over the years and are coming to grips with their choices.

One quick highlight, that reminds us how much GIS has moved to the mainstream, was a brief demo from John Calkins of ESRI-Denver. He showed work in progress for a new CBS show called The District about tracking crime in DC. There will be a GIS professional on the team, who uses ArcView to show crime patterns and query results.


URISA seemed to have all of the traditional players: Autodesk, ESRI, Intergraph and many government agencies and consulting firms. As expected there were many folks speaking to E-government, reflecting many of the ideas in Jack Pellicci of Oracles keynote on Monday.

A few newcomers attended. Uclid was showing its semi-automated cogo tools. The user begins with a scanned legal document, or an existing scanned map, the software finds distances and bearings, performs text recognition, and then draws each segment in AutoCAD. Ideally, this prevents transcription errors. With tools to close polygons based on tolerances, one can easily create GIS data in minutes while keeping the source survey data for reference. The demo was quite slick. Coming soon: versions for MicroStation and ArcView.

Terrapoints booth was quite busy. This was in part because they were giving out spongy airplane toys, but mostly because of their LIDAR data capture. Though LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) has been around for about a decade, its use in commercial land mapping is rather new. The laser-based land measurement tool provides full 3-D data. Although it can be costly for small areas (due to large amounts of groundtruthing and set up costs) areas larger than 100 sq miles can be captured for less than traditional photogrammetry.

For more information:





Location Based Services (LBS) could be the next killer app for companies involved in wireless communications. Sitting up and taking notice are GIS vendors, especially those with existing "find the closest" and "give me directions" technologies. Add to this some GPS and your ever-present Palm Pilot and you have what could be the next booming tech market.

The current LBS scenario goes like this: Youre walking down the street, PDA or cell phone in hand and wondering where to find the nearest Italian restaurant, shoe repair shop, etc. But, Vert, Inc., a new company from Somerville, MA has another vision. Vert would like to see this concept applied to video screens on top of taxicabs. Picture a cab as it weaves around a neighborhood eatery, displaying the days specialties. As the cab moves into a Spanish- speaking neighborhood, the language changes appropriately.

Vert has some initial funding and hopes to soon land its first customer. The owners are targeting mom and pop stores to buy the inexpensive and spatially targeted advertising. Taxicabs who have the service, stand to make more than the typical $60-$70/month they currently receive with a static message.

Its unclear whether this venture will play out in the marketplace, but its a sure sign that entrepreneurs are thinking outside the box when it comes to LBS.

For More Information:

Vert Inc. Home Page


Autodesk and Kanotech Information Systems Ltd. announced that Kanotech is the first company to enter the Autodesk Strategic Partner Program serving the local government industry. Through the strategic relationship, Kanotech's CivicCenter suite can begin to integrate with Autodesk Municipal Solutions to deliver complete solutions for local governments.

Kanotechs influence has been weaving in and out of Autodesks GIS group since before they had a GIS group. Spatialist was one of the first AutoCAD based GISs, long before Map. Some of Kanotechs staff and vision became part of AutoCAD Map during early development. In May, Kanotech owner/founder Lance Maidlow sold the company to Don Chapman, once of CADPIPE fame, and took a position at Autodesk as Government Industry Manager. Maidlow hopes to bring the success of municipal GIS in Canada, especially that on the Internet, to the US.

Although Map itself has many users, development on top of the platform has not taken off. Perhaps with Kanotech as "new blood" other developers will come on board.



The service will enable Web sites to offer MapBlast! maps, driving directions, and BrandFinder(SM), which helps users find their favorite stores, restaurants and services anywhere in the United States. Several of the most popular sites on the Web, including Lycos Travel (, and have signed up for the service.

The idea here is to extend the maps/directions model to include key destinations along with way. These are perfect for travel pages, especially business travel. This type of combined offering gives MapBlast! the edge over other "just directions" offerings.



We received comments from Bill Huber, Contributing Editor at Directions Magazine, who hosts an ArcView list, regarding last weeks comments on GIS mailing lists.

Wed noted: "Just to put things in perspective, MapInfo-L is consistently the most active mailing list. This past week it sports 165 messages, with ArcView-L (ESRI) a distant second at 130."

That is a useful perspective, but it needs elaboration. These two discussion lists operate differently. MapInfo-L is what I privately refer to as a "free for all" list, meaning that subscribers tend to post public responses to messages. (I do not at all mean to use this term "free for all" pejoratively: such lists can be a lot of fun and when well run, as is MapInfo-L, are as useful as a list in any other format.) Thus, if one question engenders ten answers, eleven messages appear on the list. (Two to forty answers per question is typical for lists like these.) In contrast, ArcView-L (as well as my ArcView list) use a "summary" protocol, meaning that subscribers are requested to send private responses to the original sender of a message. The original poster then summarizes all valid responses in a later follow-up message. Whether a question engenders two answers or forty, there will just be two messages posted to the list: the original question and its SUM.

Incidentally, list traffic rates do not appear to be proportional to list subscriber population sizes. On average, each subscriber to MapInfo-L or ArcView posts a message once every three months or so. By contrast, it is rumored that ArcView-L has many thousands of subscribers. (I have heard rumors of up to 15,000, but ESRI isn't saying what the number really is.) If the rumors are true, it means that on average each subscriber posts a message once every year or two. I believe this mean-time-between-posts statistic speaks to the high level of interest and involvement of MapInfo-L and ArcView subscribers, another sign of high quality in these lists.

Another thing people should pay close attention to is response time. When I started ArcView a year ago, it typically took twelve to 72 hours for a message to appear on ESRI's ArcView-L after it was sent. ArcView-L was (and still is) a moderated list, requiring a human to review every message before it appears publicly. ArcView and MapInfo-L are not moderated and therefore offer much faster response. Many subscribers to ArcView have noted quick responses and indeed plenty of SUMs appear within twenty to sixty minutes after the post! (ArcView-L has reacted admirably to this example by greatly decreasing wait times during the last four months; the one- to three-day waits of last year are down to less than a half day now, due to amazing diligence by some nameless but dedicated soul at ESRI.)

Finally, an established high-quality list generates hundreds or thousands of really valuable messages in a year. People need to find that information later. An organized, easily searchable archive is a truly useful complement to any list.

You have asked whether anyone needs four Intergraph lists. That is just the right question to ask in general, because the number of GIS-related lists is going to burgeon in the near future. Based on the discussion above, I can offer four strong differentiators: quality (SUM versus free-for-all), subscriber interest (short time between postings for the average subscriber), responsiveness (minutes between sending a message and receiving useful replies), and the availability of a searchable archive. These things, among others, will determine which lists eventually matter to people.



Autodesk has regularly changed its "user meetings" over the past few years. There was once Autodesk University, a week-long, all encompassing event, that included its user group (AUGI) events. More recently, there were multiple Autodesk Universities around the country, which users did not think matched the completeness of a single event. And, this year, a single Autodesk University is back in Las Vegas at the end of November. Autodesk now announces a single industry GIS event in September 2000.

Autodesk is not alone. Earlier this year IGUG, the Intergraph Graphics User Group, would split off its GIS meeting in 2001 along with other industry meetings. Bentley, the other player in both CAD and GIS, holds a single conference in September, though it did hold several GIS Summits in recent years aimed at management.

How will Autodesk GIS 2000 fare? Its realistic to think that the first meeting will be small. Its taken ESRI twenty odd years to gather 9,000 people and determine the best mix of speeches, sessions, participation of corporate personnel, exhibits and parties. Autodesk has timing working against it first mention of this event crossed our desk not more than two months ago. Further, a post-Labor Day date with the kids just back in school may keep many parents at home.

On the other hand, Autodesk deserves credit for trying to make the event accessible with a very generous pricing structure, which encourages students and international visitors.


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Adena Schutzberg
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