GIS MONITOR, Sep 7, 2000


-Convergent Group, Rochester Electric and Gas Partner
-GPS May Drop Car Insurance Rates
-Autodesk iDesign
-Spatial Plus Reopens
-GIS Industry Loses an Champion: Obituary for Bill Slinkard
-Week in Review


In what may be the first of many such announcements, Convergent Group outlined a partnership with Rochester Electric and Gas. The plan is to implement the Digital Utility, an Internet-based business system. Convergent went public in August, opening at $7 per share, but has since fallen to $5.

In the quiet period required before its IPO, Convergent noted more than $100 million in new contracts, many for this proprietary technology. This is a big increase over $65 million in contracts made during the whole of 1999.

According to International Data Corporation, the U.S. utilities industry is expected to spend approximately $2 billion on Internet services by 2003, a significant increase from the $345 million spent in 1999.

Convergent has had an interesting history from consulting, to ownership of GDS and then back to pure consulting. For now, that suits them well. Partnered with both ESRI and Smallworld (recently purchased by GE), Convergent seems to have hit its stride. Further, their commitment to two markets utilities and local government - gives them a mix of the potentially volatile and relatively stable clients.


Progressive Insurance of Ohio is looking to GPS and cellular technology to lower car insurance rates. By installing the Autograph device in their cars, drivers agree to let Progressive keep an eye on where they travel, how much and when. This, they hope will encourage drivers to avoid dangerous areas. Testing in Texas resulted in 1,200 drivers lowering their insurance by 25%.

This will no doubt raise a privacy question: Will drivers want to share their whereabouts with their insurers? And can this information end up in the wrong hands?


Autodesk has announced 65 online seminars throughout the month of October. Those with a GIS interest will find 21 recommended seminars. Many of these have a definite marketing focus. That said, several appear to be well worth a listen:

The Future of Geospatial Technology
- October 10, 2000
- 12:00 P.M. Pacific Time
- John Hughes, Editor, GeoWorld Magazine

If this is anything like the lively discussion John hosted at GIS2000 in Toronto, you wont want to miss it. GeoWorld columnists are not shy about offering their opinions.

Data on Demand: Delivering GIS Information Over the Internet
- October 25, 2000
- 11:00 A.M. Pacific Time
- Jack Lloyd, GIS Manager; John Dickinson, Senior GIS Analyst, Pima County Department of Transportation

Pima County has been on the cutting edge of municipal GIS/Web GIS for some time. It will be interesting to see what they have learned.

Case Study: The Internet and Demining Efforts in Croatia
- October 5, 2000
- 8:00 A.M. Pacific Time
Jim Lawrence, U.S. State Department, Jerry White, Land Mine Victim Committee (Nobel Prize Winner)


After a shutdown that lasted several months, Spatial Plus unveiled its retooled site with one major change: all products available from the web site are now free. Spatial Plus focuses on the needs of MapInfo users.

This is a brave move. Spatial Plus gives no hint as to how the company hopes to make money. But that is not the users worry -- at least for now.

More and more GIS vendors are realizing that one of the least expensive ways to attract customers is to give them a free sample. The most commonly delivered GIS freebie is a viewer. ESRI made the most noise in 1995 with their "royalty free" ArcView 1.0. They followed up with a more modern ArcExplorer (now at R2 and R3) and most every GIS vendor was forced to follow suit. Blue Marbles Geographic Explorer, MapInfo's ProViewer, Intergraph's GeoMedia Viewer and others jumped into the fray.

ESRI mixed its societal message of a "desktop GIS for Everyone" with a nice growth path ArcExplorer becomes the client to their ArcIMS Internet solution. Other vendors, like MicroImages, provide a lite version such as TNT-lite as the perfect "taste" to entice users to step up to their desktop products. Many vendors also hope that having a lightweight viewer will solve some of the needs of users taking data into the field until a full-fledged solution is released. All of these companies know that many individuals will use the freebies and NEVER pay a cent for other products or services but will choose to attribute that to cost of marketing.

And, that cost can be substantial. How much of salespeoples' time is spent, at the clients request, trying to weave a free product into a solution to keep costs down? How much staff time at tradeshows is spent demoing a free product? How much documentation and support must be created and delivered? How are enhancement requests handled? The "free" product requires a product team just like other product with a price.


Bill Slinkard of ESRI passed away Aug 27th. Before joining ESRI Bill was at Texaco/Aramco among other places. Most recently Bill was ESRI's head of industry solutions. Perhaps his most noteworthy achievement for GIS was corralling the oil companies together, as a united front, to push GIS technology for their industry. He organized an active ESRI Petroleum User Group (known affectionately as PUG, along with an appropriate doggy mascot) which brought together oil and gas users. The group produced well thought out requests to ESRI for needed functionality. The PUG gained so much influence that top members of ESRI development and management teams annually spend several days meeting with the group in Houston. The PUG has since served as the model for other ESRI industry user groups.

Within ESRI Bill was known as a doer. If you worked for him, as I did, you always heard the same question: What can I do to help you get your work done? Bill saw it as his job to clear barriers for his charges, using his influence to get hardware purchased, or code written or individuals hired. He assured the industry managers that we knew our industry better than he, and insisted that we set the direction, not him. As a more junior industry manager, I found that important to hear.

When you run into GIS being used in oil and gas, its likely Bill had something to do with it. He will be missed.


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