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Unrestricted Licensing of DigitalGlobe QuickBird Imagery for State and Local Government
Today DigitalGlobe announced new licensing for its state and local government clients that will take effect September 17, 2004. Basically, any QuickBird imagery licensed from the company by these users will come with no distribution restrictions. That means a county might share the data horizontally (to other counties, say) or vertically (to towns or cities). It means data can be shared with the public, in print on online. It means imagery can be shared with contractors and non-government organizations. It even extends to products the government or DigitalGlobe might create with non-DigitalGlobe data (say a county's own DEM or control data). And, should a government entity, by law, have to "sell" imagery or created products for a fee, that's ok, too.
The change, says David Nale, senior vice president of commercial markets for DigitalGlobe, is part of the evolution of the industry. Nale himself came to DigitalGlobe two years ago from the aerial imagery business. He was president of Aerial Data Reduction, (ADR, now part of BAE Systems) and later eMap International, now a subsidiary of DigitalGlobe. The aerial industry, was at one time considered a competitor of the commercial satellite industry. Now, Chuck Herring, DigitalGlobe's director of marketing explains, the relationship is complementary. In fact, DigitalGlobe (and the other commercial vendors) have many aerial partners that offer complementary products and services to those of the satellites.
Nale identifies two key challenges that state and local governments bumped into when exploring satellite imagery products in the last few years. First, a state or county had to be able to share data to the lower levels, counties and townships. Otherwise, a buy was simply not practical. Second, and equally importantly, civil governments needed to be able to share the data with citizens for a variety of purposes. Not only were these products valuable for sharing information about land ownership or planning, but also, citizens want access to what they pay for with their taxes.
In the last few years DigitalGlobe in particular has been adjusting itself to better serve the civil user. I recall an announcement two years ago that readjusted pricing and some licensing issues for state and local government. If that announcement was the sound of one shoe falling, this announcement of new unencumbered licensing, is the other. As Nale puts it, "The commercial satellite imagery industry is changing with the demands of its users." At least DigitalGlobe is; expect the two other players, Space Imaging and ORBIMAGE to follow suit soon.
What does Nale expect the new licensing to mean for DigitalGlobe? More states knocking on the door to look at statewide licenses. (The company is anxious to meet with attendees at NSGIC next week.) More opportunities for governments to tap into DigitalGlobe's services to create new, shareable products from existing DEMs and other data. More counties looking seriously at the 2 foot satellite data. DigitalGlobe currently boasts of 10 county clients from Pennsylvania, to Alaska and Hawaii. (That's a natural color, 60-centimeter (2-foot) high-resolution QuickBird satellite image of Waikiki beach on Oahu, above.)
This type of change has been in the works for some time. I've heard the topic mentioned regularly at gatherings of imagery folks, most recently at GITA panel on the topic held last fall. Said a then representative of Space Imaging, "In general our licensing is less and less restrictive, especially with the government customer."
Autodesk Civil 3D
We received a few e-mails here at GITC America from Autodesk asking for time with editors to discuss the new Autodesk Civil 3D 2005 (Civil 3D), which was announced earlier this week. Recall that Civil 3D has been mentioned numerous times in the past year or so. The "big" demo I saw was at Autodesk University, last December, though I believe Autodesk was previewing it even earlier.
The latest story on Civil 3D includes some insight in price, packaging and availability. Civil 3D is yet another bundle of sorts. The base version includes the functionality of AutoCAD 2005, VIZ Render, and Map 3D 2005. But, says the product manager, "certain Autodesk Map 3D features cannot be used with the civil objects provided in Autodesk Civil 3D. For example, you cannot use civil objects with the Autodesk Map 3D Query or Drawing Cleanup commands." That package will be available later this quarter in the U.S. and later, worldwide.
In the U.S. Civil 3D includes a "companion license" for Land Development Desktop and runs about $7000. Civil 3D is also available for purchase with a Civil Design license, a package called Civil 3D Professional. Word from Ralph Grabowski is that Land Desktop and Civil Design will be phased out in the coming years.
The big deal here is that Civil 3D is a 3D package. You work in 3D and design in 3D. Then when it's time to create the sheets needed for approval and construction, they are magically created in 2D. The magic is provided in part by smart 3D objects. I remember that vision being outlined by Softdesk staff with windows and doors many years ago.
So, what's the role of Map 3D which is integrated into Civil 3D? I'm going to guess that it will be mostly used for data access. You'd use it to project other GIS (most likely, ESRI) data or convert it into a form for use in the Autodesk world. I'll be frank: I've been waiting for many years (12?) to see what specific GIS functionality a civil engineer uses. I don't yet have the answer. Readers?
As for the new packaging, with all that functionality inside, you can see from the discussion above, it's somewhat complicated. To help clarify in this situation, Autodesk offers a white paper to help users fathom how to use Civil 3D with Land Desktop. Some people will wonder why, say, VIZ Render is in there. For those outside the Autodesk world, back in the day there was a simpler visualization package than full-blown 3D Studio, called 3D Studio Viz, later known as Autodesk Viz or just Viz. This Viz Render is its legacy. It's currently bundled with Architectural Desktop as its renderer. Full gory details on Viz, courtesy of Martyn Day, are available.
MapInfo Acquires UK Infrastructure Management Software Company
MapInfo Corporation has acquired privately-held Southbank Systems Limited, a UK-based provider of infrastructure management software and services for the public sector in the United Kingdom and the Asia-Pacific region. The acquisition, made in cash, totaled approximately $20.8 million. Southbank's key product is called Confirm, a modular tool for managing roads, bridges and structures, parks and open spaces, streetlights, signs, trees and property. MapInfo president Mark Cattini explained that his plan is to take the product into new geographies.
I've not heard of the company before, but note from its website that it supports ESRI's technology. In fact, Southbank was the 2003 ESRI New Partner of the Year and the 2004 Business Partner of the Year. (Typically there are several of each announced, in various geographies, worldwide.) MapInfo is the only vendor relationship distinguished as a Business Alliance. The other vendor relationships (Oracle, ESRI, Microsoft, Sybase) are considered Vendor Alliances.
The UK version of the press release announcing the acquisition notes Southbank's interest in MapInfo's support for the Open Geospatial Consortium, specifically because the company's offerings are multi-platform. Interestingly, there's no indication from the Southbank website that it's used any OGC specifications in its work. (I consult to OGC.)
It's not clear what percentage of Southbank's users host the solution on ESRItechnology. Southbank's client list includes many, many UK local authorities, a good number in New Zealand, and a few in Australia. A few other countries boast but one client.
MapInfo said in its last few conference calls that acquisitions were on the horizon, so this one is not entirely unexpected. I have to believe that some of Southbank's technology will end up here in the U.S. as solutions for GASB34 compliance.
Southbank's user list is impressive, suggesting that the acquisition may be as much about the technology as the client base. The biggest unknown here for MapInfo is the same one Bentley faces in its acquisition of Haestad: How will the other platform providers react to the acquisition? Both MapInfo and Bentley have acquired third party developers that are well respected ESRI Business Partners. Bentley has the added challenge of Haestad's relationship with Autodesk. There are few ways these situations can turn out. Let's take ESRI as an example and explore how it might react to the acquisition of a partner by a "competitor." It could:
- ask the partner to leave its programs completely. While it's possible to build add-on technology without support from its developer, it's difficult. Moreover, if one does not sell the core product (ArcView, say), bringing the product to market means partnering with someone who can. While losing the technical support is a big deal, losing ESRI's marketing support is also quite a loss.
- keep the partner in the program. Different technology providers have different (and often changing) policies about supporting third-party developers who also develop on competing platforms. To keep things simple, many software developers sign short (one or two year) contracts with partners and can terminate them at the end of the cycle without any reason. Why do vendors keep developers onboard who also "support" competitors? In part, I suppose it's the hope that in time they will "see the light" and turn their attention fully to one platform.
- agree to disagree. Keep the developer on as a low-level partner, but acknowledge that at times the two may be competitors.
I suspect there will be more acquisitions that raise this type of question in the coming months and years. I'll suggest that the majority of stronger "one vendor" third-parties have already been acquired, leaving the more broadly based multi-vendor players still up for grabs.
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Department of Corrections
I noted the passing of David Woodward, a historian of cartography last week. I wrote, based on an obituary I read, that only one book in a series on a "wide-ranging cultural history of mapmaking" was published. In fact, 4 books in the series were published by the University of Chicago Press, according to his homepage at the University of Wisconsin.
• More than one reader noted that I'd not included the term "geomatics" in my discussion of names for our industry. Kevin Dixon at NavCom Technology Inc. noted:
"This has been an ongoing issue for the UK Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors - the Land and Hydrographic Division was renamed Geomatics - but members still refer to themselves as either Land Surveyor or Hydrographic Surveyor - never Geomaticians.
"Webster's American does not contain a reference to [the term] but the International edition does. Google returns this definition 'Refers to the disciplines that acquire, store, manage, retrieve, manipulate and distribute spatial or geographically referenced data.'
"Some Universities have been renaming their courses 'Geospatial Engineering' rather than Surveying, [providing] yet more impetus to 'Geospatial'."
• Another reader did a bit of historical research and shared these two points. More info here.
"The FGDC metadata standard was formally titled 'Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM)' back in 1994. A bad acronym, but a clear choice to use the word 'geospatial.'
"Likewise, President Clinton's Executive Order 12906, 'Coordinating Geographic Data Acquisition and Access: The National Spatial Data Infrastructure' consciously named the NSDI, and includes 'geospatial' in its references to the FGDC Clearinghouse, and to the data collected or produced by federal agencies."
Points of Interest
Can't Get Enough? Read the latest Points of Interest daily on our website.
Cartograms and More. A reader from Tele Atlas shared this link about cartograms. It's the next step, I'm told of the work done by Waldo Tobler in the 1960s. Even if you are not big on the underlying issues, the maps are very cool!
More GPS Tracking. Reader Atanas shared a link to a story about yet another fellow who allegedly using a location-enable cell phone to track a woman, in this case, an ex-girl friend. The AP story reports: "Authorities say the phone contained a motion switch that turned on whenever it moved and transmitted a signal each minute to a satellite. Information was then sent to a Web site that allowed Gabrielyan to monitor her location." I suppose if it was a satellite phone it might have sent a signal to a satellite, but another articles note it was a Nextel phone, which uses that carrier's cellular network and traditional GPS to send signals and determine locations, respectively. Since that story broke, the accused has plead innocent.
Microsoft Vs. DeLorme. A review in the Washington Post (free registration required)pits Microsoft's Streets & Trips 2005 and DeLorme's Street Atlas USA 2005 against one another. Bottom line: DeLorme's is far more useful on the road. But, if you don't need the system on the road, the author suggests sticking to MapQuest and its online, free, peers.
No Go for Noah's Ark. Daniel McGivern, president of Shamrock-The Trinity Corp who hoped to search Mount Ararat for remains of Noah's Ark was turned down by the Turkish government for a permit. The stated reason revolved around security concerns. Interestingly, after he revealed his latest evidence of the Ark's potential existence, via DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, others including the Russian government asked for permits to visit. None of them were offered the opportunity. McGivern says he will not try to mount an expedition again.
Do Hotels Block Cell Phone Calls? That's the $64,000 question in a recent New York Times article. With cell phones cutting some 40% of the revenue from in-room hotel phones in the last 4 years, customers wonder if the chains are blocking cell phone use to up profits. While there's no reliable evidence and such blocking is illegal in the U.S., there's a lot of suspicion. The article does point out that should a hotel owner want to block transmissions, and bought the technology, it'd be pretty expensive. The bottom line, says a software upgrade specialist: "Anybody smarter than a pineapple knows that cell phones do not and never have worked everywhere, and that hotel long-distance charges have always been outrageous…So you just go out and buy a phone card, and you carry it everywhere you go. And then you use it when your cell phone doesn't work."
Homeland Security Money. Scott City, Missouri received a $24,010 grant from the Department of Homeland security. It will use $11,370 for police car cameras and the remainder on GIS.
Catch it! A little after noon Wednesday, NASA sent several stunt helicopter pilots to capture a Genesis sample container in midair. Unfortunately, the capsule's parachutes did not deploy and the vessel crashed into the Utah desert. The capture was to be broadcast live on NASA TV and on the Internet. The container has inside charged particles from the solar wind, expected to help scientists understand what's out there. It's not clear how useful the samples will be after the crash. Interestingly, this "catching" technique has been used before, between 1958 and 1986. Planes grabbed spy satellite film canisters in mid-air and helicopters plucked them from the sea.
Kudos and Conundrums
Have you seen something in our industry worthy of kudos? Or that makes you scratch your head? Send it on. You may take credit or remain anonymous.
Kudos (concepts we applaud)
Game Preview is Another Game! Reader Karen (who explains her husband is the gamer in the family) pointed me the ilovebees.com website. See if you follow. Halo2 is an upcoming video game. A trailer for it (like a movie trailer) mentioned the website URL briefly. The website, apparently "hacked", began morphing and eventually displayed a number of GPS locations and times. Turns out the locations are of payphones and "players" are to go to the phone, wait for a call, and reply with a secret code. A list of the sites that were successfully "connected" is here. Exactly where this is all leading is still a mystery. But as a one commentator points out, it's terrific guerilla marketing!
Conundrums (concepts we question/give us pause)
Baltimore and Pictometry. Baltimore paid "$54,075 to photograph every address in Baltimore from every direction" last November. For now the city is using the imagery to find un-permitted roof decks. There's also an effort to use the imagery in the courts. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland doesn't consider (free registration required) the ortho and oblique imagery a problem, because it's updated only every two years. Huh?
Week in Review
Please note: Material used herein is often supplied by external sources and used as is.
Tripod Data Systems announced a promotion to give away a TDS Recon data collector bundled with Survey Pro 4.0 software. The package is valued at $2,199. Online registration includes completing a questionnaire and will run until October 30, 2004, or until 7,500 entries are received here.
McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd (MCSL), a provider of digital airphotos, offers 1999 digital airphotos of Vancouver, Whistler and the Fraser Valley, BC for free here.
LandVoyage.com, an online mapping solutions company, has released updated color aerial photos covering over three quarters of the population in the United States. This imagery has been released through a strategic partnership with AirPhotoUSA, LLC, the leading provider of technology-based, nationwide seamless aerial imagery solutions.
Intermap Technologies recently won a special Gold Prize award at the 20th Congress of International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) in Instanbul, Turkey, for its "DEMs from IFSAR" eLearning training course. The award was the result of a popular vote by conference participants as well as a review by a panel committee. The online course is free and teaches students about Intermap's products.
Andrew Corporation is investing an undisclosed amount in CPS (Cambridge Positioning Systems Ltd.), a mobile location technology developer. The investment strengthens the relationship between the two companies and their joint development of innovative high accuracy mobile locating solutions for the global GSM and 3G cellular markets.
• Contracts and Sales
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Federal Facilities Branch has selected GeoDecisions to develop a Web-based, GIS - enabled EPA Knowledge Management Application (EPAKMA).
Reliance Energy Limited (REL), part of the Reliance Group, India's largest business house, has chosen ESRI and ESRI business partner Miner & Miner (M&M;) to provide software and services for a major geographic information system (GIS) implementation in the company.
VARGIS was selected by Jones Onslow Electric Cooperative, based out of Jacksonville, North Carolina, to provide consulting services for their GIS and IT systems. The project involved analysis and recommendations for improvment of the company's exists mapping/GIS systems, mobile mapping applications, interfaces between CIS, OMS, Network Analysis and SCADA systems.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has contracted with PlanGraphics, Inc. for additional services on RIDOT's electronic document management system.
Pictometry International Corp., provider of a patented information system that captures georeferenced, digital aerial oblique and orthogonal images as well as related software, announced that it has secured a license agreement for Union County, NJ for providing software and countywide imagery.
LizardTech, Inc. announced the launch of Express Server 5.0, LizardTech's cost-effective software solution for distributing high-resolution images and documents over the Internet. Key enhancements to Express Server 5.0 include the support for JPEG 2000 and OpenGIS WMS publishing.
Maptech's new CD-ROM, Terrain Navigator 50/50, offers detailed USGS topographic maps for the highest peak and the surrounding area in each state for $9.95.
US Positioning Group, LLC released its new Rhino Rover for ArcPad Package. The hardware and software package is built around a new extension for ESRI's ArcPad that allows the GIS professional to simultaneously record uncorrected positional and attribute information in shapefile format as well as rover observation data in RINEX format for post-processed differential correction (DGPS). After carrier phase or code post-mission processing, the differentially corrected positional and attribute information are saved in shapefile format, ready for upload to the GIS. With relatively short baselines (distance between the reference GPS receiver and the rover GPS receiver) decimeter positional accuracies in the GIS are easily achievable.
The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) announced additional confirmed speakers for GEOINT 2004, including Honorable Larry C. Kindsvater and Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski.
The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) (formerly the Open GIS Consortium), NAVTEQ and the Chicago Geospatial Exchange invite those interested in geospatial technologies and telematics to attend "OGC Industry Day - Geospatial Requirements for Telematics" on Monday, 13 September, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM at the Holiday Inn Chicago - Mart Plaza in downtown Chicago.
Montana Governor Judy Martz will give the keynote address at the upcoming Feature Analyst User Conference on September 14, 2004 in Missoula, Montana. She's fresh off her gig at the ESRI User Conference.
Pre-registration is open for BE Conference 2005, to be held at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland, May 8-12, 2005.
The WebSim Partnership announced that online registration for its "Second Workshop on Web Enabled Modeling and Simulation" is now available. The event is scheduled for October 12-15, 2004 at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.
IONIC announced the launch of its Interoperability Center of Excellence (ICE) Program for institutions of higher education interested in research and training related to OpenGeospatial spatial web services. Members of the IONIC ICE Program have acquired elements of the IONIC RedSpider product suite (e.g., RedSpider Web, RedSpider Studio, RedSpider Catalog) and are using them in their teaching curriculum, research programs or project contracts. Institutions that have become an IONIC ICE are important contributors to the emerging national and global network of OpenGeospatial web services.
Woolpert LLP recently announced the promotion of 15 employees to the ranks of associate partner and associate.
DigitalGlobe has named a new general counsel, Bettina Eckerle, to its executive team.
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