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The Media and Imaging
Well, the time is right to blame the media. It misleads, fails to question when it should, and often gets things just plain wrong. Who knows, Dan Rather may be out of a job soon! This publication is not immune: I believe I run more corrections in GIS Monitor than all the other geospatial publications combined. Thanks to readers for providing many of those corrections.
We, who are in the know about geotechnologies, have a certain obligation to bring our critical eyes to what the non-geo-focused public reads. I send out e-mails to publications who misstate what GPS stands for or who misrepresent how it works. I do the same regarding GIS, which is often expanded out as "global information system," which from what I understand, is something quite different from our GIS. Most of those e-mails are sent to reporters at small, local papers, with limited resources, who are doing the best they can. Many write back and thank me for the pointers to more detailed info and do in fact correct their stories.
I get especially annoyed when the big papers and newswires get it wrong. I could be wrong, but I like to think they have people to check up on their facts and vet their technology descriptions. Take, for example, this week's short piece from the Associated Press about using satellite imagery to determine insurance coverage. Over at the Modesto Bee, in California, the title of the story was Insurers Use Satellite Data to Study Fire Risk. The article outlines how First American Property and Casualty Insurance Co. uses imagery to determine how close properties are to dangerously flammable heavy brush in dry U.S. states including California, Arizona, and Nevada. State regulators suggest this may create a form of discrimination, but they have no authority to change it. Insurance company spokespeople say using the imagery makes the work more efficient. The insured quoted in the article find the whole thing spooky. Oddly, there's no mention about how imagery and 3D models are used to make flood maps, or how insurance companies routinely use imagery and other inputs to determine rates, and produce damage estimates. There's a whole other side of the story that's missing!
Interestingly, the same story, reprinted at Canada.com and on other Canadian websites, had this title: U.S. Insurance Companies Use Satellites To Spy On Policy-Holders' Property. Spy? Is that what insurance companies think they're doing? There's no detail on what imagery we are speaking of, but I'm confident it's commercially available offerings. The satellite imaging companies can legally capture the images and sell them. And, the insurance companies can do with them what they like. Spy, while it does have a meaning of just "observe carefully," certainly means something quite different these days.
The AP has a second article out this week that outs "a little-known branch of the Defense Department called the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency" (NGA) and details some of its work within the U.S. Says the article, "their work brushes up against the fine line between protecting the public and performing illegal government spying on Americans." The article details how the NGA helps protect critical infrastructure, especially for large events, like Reagan's funeral earlier this year. "Geospatial intelligence" says the article, "is the science of combining imagery, such as satellite pictures, to physically depict features or activities happening anywhere on the planet." The article goes on to talk about how law enforcement sometimes asks agencies for images to support a crime investigation ("Was there a white truck on this road on this day at this time?") but an NGA official says she's not aware of there ever being such data. The folks I speak with at the commercial satellite companies tell me they get these types of calls from time to time.
While I'm certainly not against the media helping the public be skeptical about commercial or governmental goings-on, I'm concerned that the opportunity to inform and educate is too often passed over in articles like these. Why not let folks know about the widespread use of satellite imagery in businesses of all kinds? Or that security cameras in public places (and private ones) are more likely to be used for law enforcement? Or, why not explain that satellites only cover a small part of the Earth at any one time, making the likelihood of "catching someone in the act" remote at best?
Two conferences this year are drawing on last year's successful GEOINTEL as their heritage. This week's Spatial-Tech 2004 was held in Orlando and its first few days coincided with Hurricane Jeanne's passage across central Florida. The hotel weathered the storm and stayed open and the Spatial Technology Industry Association (STIA) assured attendees, speakers, and vendors that the show would go on.
Unfortunately, the Orlando airport shut down on Sunday, preventing many from attending the opening social. Monday's sessions were pushed up to accommodate those who might arrive late that morning. Still, by that afternoon only 75 attendees had reached the hotel and vendors on the show floor had few customers, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
That didn't prevent vendors from issuing press releases. Autodesk, MapInfo, Intergraph, Laser-Scan, and new participant Oracle issued what I expected was an update on last fall's initiative to enhance sharing of data stored in Oracle. What was introduced in September 2003 is now referred to as "a real-world interoperable spatial data management platform." The five companies are encouraging customers to use technologies and techniques that are "data-centric instead of GIS-centric."
A media advisory noted that Florida's Lt. Governor Toni Jennings was to participate in an executive briefing on Monday morning, then go off to tour areas impacted by the hurricane. She did and the topic was impacts of this season's hurricanes and the industry's involvement in tracking the storms and mitigating damages. Jennings suggested that "when Florida hosts its annual funding conference next month to make recommendations for use of about $100 million anticipated for Florida from the Department of Homeland Security" furthering geospatial initiatives will be on the list.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced, via video at the conference, nearly $4.9 million in grants is being made available to train workers for careers in the geospatial industry. Says the release, the "announcement was made to over 1,500 geospatial, defense and homeland security experts." I suspect the release was written before the event. Grants will go to the Spatial Technologies Industries Association, Nortel Network Kidz Online, the William F. Goodling Advanced Skills Center, and the Rancho Santiago Community College District and will be used to improve outreach and recruitment of workers and increase the training options available to workers entering or continuing geospatial careers.
I'm not really familiar with any of these organizations' outreach or training expertise, so I had a look at each one's website. I didn't find specific reference to STIA programs involving outreach or educational projects on its website. STIA has, however, been working with the Department of Labor lately. It's worth noting too that the last time I spoke with USGIF it had quite a lot of interest in growing an active educational outreach and certification program.
Nortel Network Kidz Online is "a non profit educational organization whose goal is to make technology education fun, easy, engaging, and readily available." It hosts materials for teachers to use in teaching technology including lessons on Web page creation, animation, security and ethics, and PowerPoint. There's a special focus, it seems, on highlighting women who use technology. Teachers access video to learn about the technology but can rely on Nortel resources to support kids in their work. I found just three lesson plans that currently support geography, but clearly that will change!
William F. Goodling Advanced Skills Center is in York County, Pennsylvania and "is a training factory that embodies a system of workforce programs and services affecting area employers and workers." The center offers courses on everything from welding and printing to CAD/CAM and information technology. Among its partners are Penn State York. Interestingly, in January the Center hosted a session for educators titled, "Educational Applications in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) & Homeland Security." It noted that, "In the very near future our York County high school students will have the opportunity to earn National Certification!" That certification is not the GISCI one, but rather I suspect, the one from DigitalQuest, which was one of the presenters in the session mentioned above.
Rancho Santiago Community College District in California is home to Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College and serves what it calls "the world's most affordable college education to nearly 49,000 students annually leading to associate degrees, certificates, and university transfer units." At SAC you can currently get a Geographic Information Systems/Survey/Mapping Sciences Degree and Certificate or a Geography Degree.
Roger Tomlinson ("The Father of GIS") wrote to share his thoughts on the recent discussion regarding the term geospatial.
"There have been many synonyms attempted for the work of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I can recall 'computer mapping,' 'land information systems,' 'geo-info systems,' 'computer graphics,' 'spatial information systems,' 'geo-engineering,' 'geomatics,' 'geo-spatial,' 'topographic systems,' 'computer-aided design,' 'conceptual surface analysis,' 'urban planning systems,' 'geographically referenced data storage and retrieval systems, 'land use and natural resources systems,' 'interactive composite mapping systems,' and many others. Some have different shades of meaning, but the overall term 'Geographic Information Systems' serves us well. It has clear meaning, uses real words rather than manufactured words, and has a relatively long history. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent successfully putting it into the public mind. 'GIS' is recognized worldwide.
"The strength of the term comes from its fundamentals. 'Geography' as a term is not going to go away. It has been in use for hundreds, some would say thousands, of years. It is not new. It means 'earth description.' That is our business. That is what we do. Geographical data are those used to describe the earth. That is what we handle. They may be gathered using various sophisticated techniques, e.g., ground survey, air-photo interpretation, GPS, photogrammetry, remote sensing, image analysis, population census. The result is geographical data. Geographic Information Systems accept all types of geographical data, store them, and analyze them to produce information for decision-making purposes.
"It is pretty clear to me that the overall process is that of earth description; in short, it is Geography. It had been demonstrated beyond any refutation that in human decision making geography matters. As [ESRI's] Jack Dangermond put it recently, 'GIS is the language of geography.'
"In any successful and expanding endeavor such as GIS, there are those who want to 'hitch a ride.' Land Surveyors adopted the term 'geomatics' to rebadge their discipline. 'Geo-spatial' is a recent addition to complexity, principally by government and publishing agencies attempting to define a marketplace for their products. I come across a new one at least every month. It is very difficult for a student or an organization that needs to identify something to invest in for the long term.
"Now is not the time to dilute the recognition and acceptance of our work. Geography and GIS have the demonstrated capability of helping us describe our earth. Their adoption gives us tools that may not only describe but also lead to a better understanding of that world."
Animal lover and reader Steve Lackow answered my questions on pets and scanners posed last week.
"On the RFID for pets issue, most shelters in larger cities and a number of rescue groups have the readers these days, and all pets are routinely scanned when they are picked up or trapped. What really fascinates me is the possibility of combining long-range RFID technology with GPS, and what that could mean for rescue and all the bad things that happen when animals and their caregivers are separated. Now, take one small step, and think about kids on milk boxes... have you any idea how many kids go missing every year? We work in law enforcement and it still shocks us.
"I'm waiting for an RFID cat door that will keep the possums out
Points of Interest
Can't Get Enough? Read the latest Points of Interest daily on our website.
Slashdot on Conn. FOI Case. The Connecticut State Supreme Court case I mentioned recently has made Slashdot. What are interesting are the comments from regular folk, who make some good points, even if they don't have the whole story or understand that the Freedom of Information legislation in question is not the federal version, but a state version. Also worth noting is this plea from someone who didn't understand the acronyms: "I'm sure the headline makes sense to some people, but not many people are going to understand FOI or GIS. I can't be the only person who thought this was about Google image search data and images at first glance."
NGA to Pick NextView Recipient. According to the Rocky Mountain News, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is expected to disclose this week if Space Imaging or Orbimage will get the "other" NextView contract worth some $500 million. DigitalGlobe got the first award. Last week word leaked that L-3 Communications, a defense contractor, was working on a deal to buy Space Imaging from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, who together own more than three quarters of the company. Space News reports the acquisition will only go forward if Space Imaging wins the contract.
Phone Tracking By Autodesk. Autodesk, Inc. launched Autodesk Mobile Resource Manager, a new location-enhanced service "which enables businesses from a wide range of industries to easily locate, manage, and communicate with their mobile workforces." GIS Monitor readers who visit the website daily learned of this last week. The distinguishing factor? It's less expensive than others. Autodesk was founded on an "80% of the functionality for 20% of the price" philosophy and used that idea to make AutoCAD successful. These days, the company is not known as a low-cost provider. I don't hold much hope for this offering which comes to market far too late. Also disappointing: at launch there was no mention of the service on the company website. Material has since been posted.
Quote of the Week. "CACI launches first true Internet-based Geographical Information System." From a press release from CACI, Ltd.
World Wind 1.2 Available. NASA Learning Technologies (LT) is a NASA R&D; effort for the engineering of teaching tools that deliver NASA content in the most engaging and dynamic manner possible. LT builds the pipeline and the delivery point for unencumbered access to the best data NASA has to provide. Its latest goodies include a new version and frequent updates of an application that allows users, with a mouse, to navigate SRTM, Landsat, MODIS, and other data. The World Wind software is all open source. A recent post to Slashdot has slowed some servers to a crawl, but it's nice so many are so excited about this website. That's Landsat of NASA Ames Research Center, home of World Wind.
DNA Used to Map Ivory Trade. Using DNA from elephant dung and tissue, scientists have mapped specific alleles to specific geographies. That means when poachers are found with ivory from tusks, the animal's "home" can be determined with a high degree of accuracy. That data, policymakers hope, will help make enforcement more effective.
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)
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. An Australian company has received AU$2.7 million from that county's Defense Department to fund development of a camera capable of seeing through fog, smoke, and dust storms. The camera basically captures three images at once and "subtracts" the small particles. The technology, from work done at the University of Melbourne, is being brought to market by Iatia Ltd. The first use will be military, but the system has applications in medicine and industry.
Conundrums (concepts we question/give us pause)
Insensitive Selling of LBS. A short post at the Mobile Technology Weblog takes on the folks attempting to sell tracking technology. In short, mentioning that there's no "electric shock yet" to penalize employees who are not where they are supposed to be, the writer argues, is not the way to sell the technology. Terms like "insensitive" and "stupid" are also part of the discussion.
Week in Review
Please note: Material used herein is often supplied by external sources and used as is.
The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) announces that the OpenGIS Catalog Services Specification 2.0 (zip file) has been adopted by the OGC membership. This specification documents industry consensus on an open, standard interface that enables diverse but conformant applications to perform discovery, browse, and query operations against distributed and potentially heterogeneous catalog servers.
The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) is announced the following officers of the association. Lynda Wayne, GISP (GeoMaxim, Asheville, NC) was elected by the Board of Directors to serve as GISCI President. Nancy Obermeyer, GISP (Indiana State University) will serve as the association's Secretary, and Peirce Eichelberger (Chester County, PA) will serve as the GISCI Treasurer. The other members of the GISCI Board are: William Huxhold, GISP (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee); Karen Kemp (University of Redlands); Tom Tribble (North Carolina Center for Geographic Information & Analysis); and Lyna Wiggins (Rutgers University). The announcement comes as the number of Certified GIS Professionals exceeds 400.
Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions (EIGS) member company Digital Quest's STARS Certification is a key component to support the Department of Labor's pilot of the Geospatial Technology Apprenticeship Program (GTAP) at The University of Southern Mississippi.
NAVTEQ expects to complete its initial mapping of seven eastern European countries by the end of 2004. This accelerated build plan is part of the company's effort to offer a comprehensive navigable map of Eastern Europe that will facilitate pan-European routing.
Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service was presented with an Award of Excellence at ESRI Canada's seventh annual ESRI Regional User Conference in Regina.
The Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions (EIGS) announced that member company NVision Solutions has been selected by Louisiana Governor, Kathleen Blanco, as the 2004 "Innovator of the Year." NVision Solutions, Inc. is a small, minority, woman-owned firm that specializes in geospatial solutions and Web applications.
Avencia announced the availability of REX for the Philadelphia market. REX, the Real Estate eXplorer, is a Web-based real estate decision-making tool targeted at prospective home buyers, homeowners, and developers. It's a subscription service.
geoVue announced its most recent data vendor partnership with Synergos Technologies Inc., producer of STI PopStats population estimates
URISA announced the winners of its ESIG (Exemplary Systems in Government) awards. They will be given out at the annual meeting in Reno in November.
Pennsylvania is one of only 12 states to receive a Federal information technology grant to enhance its homeland security efforts. The $603,220 award will be used to build an enterprise geospatial technology (GT) data architecture to implement a common operating picture that will be critical to homeland security response systems and to foster geospatial data sharing among all levels of governments. It'll use OGC standards.
NovaLIS Technologies added Woolpert LLP to its Business Partner Program.
GeoVantage, Inc. announced that it is capturing high-resolution digital aerial imagery of the coastlines affected by Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Jeanne. The release does not explain who, if anyone, contracted the company to do the work, nor how the data will be distributed.
Frost & Sullivan presented Hewlett-Packard (HP) with the 2004 Mobile Business Solution of the Year Award last week. The award was in recognition of the company's location-based services (LBS) solution, which provides the mobile carrier the ability to deliver a standards-based end-to-end solution to customers from infrastructure, applications, content delivery, integration services, and support. The solution includes HP technologies such as the OpenCall Position Determination Entity, as well as technology from key partners such as Openwave, Autodesk Location Services, and Cambridge Positioning Systems. I didn't know HP was in LBS.
Ten Sails Consulting and LavenSoft Consulting have announced a strategic partnership to increase sales and market penetration for Spatial IT services in the utilities sector. This partnership will combine the experience, market knowledge, and key relationships of both firms to bring Ten Sails' premier consulting services to more utilities throughout North America.
Contracts and Sales
GE Energy's oil and gas division is extending its partnership with one of Germany's leading research centers to develop new technology used in pipeline inspection tools through October 2006.
PCI Geomatics has been awarded a $1.2 million contract to supply software, services, and training to the Malaysian Centre for Remote Sensing (MACRES).
Kinetic Solutions was recently awarded a contract by the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, to convert their Integrated 2D map viewer software into a GIS feature map.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources recently purchased 18 scenes of DigitalGlobe QuickBird Basic and Standard imagery products covering 1,300 square kilometers - or roughly 320,000 acres - over the Haines State Forest and adjacent lands to inventory forest holdings.
Webraska Mobile Technologies announced that its SmartZone Navigation solution has been selected to power the navigation offering within the "Toyota Hub." The "Hub" is Toyota France's consumer telematics services portal.
Houston's Midtown Management District has hired Burditt urban forestry and sustainable resource consultants to develop an inventory, evaluation database, and prescription for maintenance of the trees growing in the right-of-way, or the public spaces between curbs and sidewalks, in central Midtown.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) selected GeoDecisions to develop an easy-to-use, Web-based spatial data portal, to assist in the development of the Virginia Transport Information Portal (VTIP). VTIP will quickly and efficiently provide access to static and real-time transportation information.
GeoAnalytics, Inc. has been retained by the Southwest Florida Water Management District to facilitate the design and development of a comprehensive Land Resources Information System. Varion Systems, the software development and value-added reseller division of GeoAnalytics, Inc, has been hired by the City of O'Fallon, Illinois Public Works Department to implement Azteca Systems' Cityworks software to manage their water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, and transportation assets.
ESRI Nederland B.V., has been awarded a contract to provide the Dutch National Mapping Agency (Topografische Dienst Kadaster) with a new, ArcGIS-based production environment.
iSECUREtrac Corp. a provider of secure electronic wireless GPS tracking and monitoring solutions announced that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the largest investigative arm of
the United States Department Homeland Security, has signed an agreement to use iSECUREtrac's GPS Monitoring Systems to track those who need to be closely monitored. The CEO says, "iSECUREtrac has the only wearable wireless GPS monitoring system that can be used to track, monitor, and locate the physical location of an individual through a secure Internet connection. "
Cinergy MetroNet (CMN) selected SPATIALinfo's fiber design and management software. It will be used to design and manage CMN's eleven city Fiber to the Home initiative.
FUGAWI SkyView software (right) uses height data derived from Intermap's NEXTMap Britain survey. Aimed at the consumer market, FUGAWI SkyView delivers a real world view of the terrain from the sky. Four products cover England and Wales.
The City of Topeka, Kan., Public Works Department recently selected Woolpert LLP to provide implementation planning, systems design, and application design for the development and execution of the department's information management master plan.
tekVizion PVS, Inc. a systems integrator, and Ekahau, Inc. have signed a partnering agreement under which tekVizion will develop converged, location-aware services for the voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) market based on the Ekahau Positioning Engine.
GeoLytics' latest product - CensusCD 1980 in 2000 Boundaries- includes complete U.S. coverage of the 1980 Census at the 2000 block group, tract, and MCD level.
HP is working with ESRI to simplify the printing experience for GIS users who produce complex maps and information sets such as those used to fight forest fires, find new sites for fast-growing companies, and support optimal land use planning. Recognizing that GIS technology must constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of business, industry, government, and education, the full line of HP Designjet large-format printers are now integrated with ESRI's ArcPress for ArcGIS 9.0 software, allowing for the production of faster, more reliable, higher quality prints.
MWH Soft, Inc., announced the worldwide availability of InfoWater Generation V3 for ArcGIS. The new release is designed to further advance enterprise geospatial hydraulic modeling and provide new benchmarks in quality, interoperability, and performance.
MapInfo Corporation launched StreetPro Malaysia, MapInfo's premier data offering. The solution is designed to provide comprehensive, current street and location information that easily integrates with location-based information systems.
3D Geo Fencing offered by EarthSearch Communications (ESC), says the company, detects unauthorized movement of the vehicle within just 10 feet in any direction-up, down, sideways, forward, or backwards. ESC will begin offering 3D Geo Fencing in the U.S. and South America by November 1, on its proprietary device AutoSearch and it will be made available to all of its OEM partners. Other services, it suggests, provide an alarm only if the vehicle moves a mile or so.
Global Mapper Software LLC is pleased to announce the availability of Global Mapper v6.03 for download. The primary purpose of this release is to correct some bugs introduced in the v6.02 release, but several enhancements have been made as well.
eSpatial, a leading spatial information management company, announced the released iSMART v4.3.4 now fully compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS3.
Joan A. Dempsey, Executive Director, President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), Dr. Mark M. Lowenthal, Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production (ADCI/A&P;) and Gilman Louie, President and CEO, In-Q-Tel, Inc., will address key aspects of the future of geospatial intelligence during GEOINT.
URISA will offer seven new URISA Certified Workshops and four significantly updated workshops at its conference November 7-10, 2004 in Reno, NV.
UCLID Software released a schedule of parcel mapping webinars to demonstrate the latest release of IcoMap which is optimized for ArcGIS 9.0.
Working with ArcGIS Spatial Analyst for Geospatial Intelligence, a new course from ESRI's instructor-led training program, focuses on how ArcGIS Spatial Analyst software can be used as a decision support tool for defense, intelligence, and law enforcement applications. In this course, both seasoned ArcGIS users and those with basic experience can learn how to take full advantage of the software's raster modeling capabilities. Another new course, Working with ArcGIS Schematics gives valuable instruction to ArcGIS users about how to produce detailed schematics from linear network features.
There are several new certificates in Geographic Information Science offered at Oregon State. Three different certificates will be offered at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional level, with varying amounts and types of study. They are interdisciplinary programs to be coordinated by OSU's Department of Geosciences, and will tap into OSU's expertise with the evolving field of geographic information science, which incorporates such disciplines as cartography, remote sensing, surveying, computer science and other technology. GIS has many promising applications in land management, natural resource systems, and other fields.
Georeferencing Rasters in ArcGIS, a new free, live training seminar from ESRI Virtual Campus, will instruct ArcGIS 9 users who work with raster data on registering rasters to a known projection. This seminar will take place on October 14, 2004.
TerraSeer continues its 2004 Spatial and Temporal Data Analysis Training Series with courses in November and December.
Dynamix Corp., an SBA HUBZone and Small Disadvantaged Business that specializes in providing information technology, GIS, and relocation services to federal government entities, has relocated its Landover, Md., office to Greenbelt, Md., to better serve clients and accommodate its growing business.
Pixxures, Inc. announced that John D. Russell has come on board as its new Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Russell, former President of Russell Technologies, has been a key player in applying direct digital image processing technology based on Leica's ADS40 digital sensor technology.
Fardosht Amirpanahi has joined EnSafe Inc. as Geographic Information System (GIS) practice leader and manager. He comes from EDS.
IDELIX Software Inc. announced that James H. Frey, former President of Northrop Grumman TASC, has joined the visualization software company's Board of Advisors. Frey will advise IDELIX on its business development efforts in the homeland security, aerospace, intelligence, and defense markets.
Applanix announced the appointment of Rainer Pallaske to the position of Regional Sales Manager, Europe. He comes from Leica.
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