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It was one of those busy weeks for announcing earnings. The good news in the geospatial marketplace is that most companies held the line or exceeded it. One company, Intergraph, announced a stock buyback, typically done to help raise share prices. So, on the surface, things are looking good. Here are some details:
MapInfo announced both quarter four and year-end financials. The quarter was a near record (actually 2nd highest ever), bringing in $30 million. For the year, the company lost $1.1 million. Compare that to last year's loss of $2.4 million and it's clear that many of the company's staff cuts and reorgs are doing the job. Revenue was up during the year, too, to $106 million over last year's $93 million.
This marked the second straight profitable quarter after nine consecutive ones that were near flat or losses. The company, despite positive indicators from the U.S. government on the growth of the economy was conservative about next year, starting with a 2-cent profit prediction for the first quarter and just 20 cents per share revenue for the year. Investors voted with their feet, sending shares down on the announcement, but prices have since rebounded.
Intergraph announced (pdf) third quarter revenue of $133.6 million, and $.27 per share (diluted). The totals include an $18 million pre-tax intellectual property rights lawsuit award from Texas Instruments. The numbers are up over the $127 million of last quarter, but are flat with last year. New CEO Halsey Wise pointed to increased revenue in the Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions business unit as the basis for the 5% increase over last quarter.
On the same day, the company announced a stock buyback program. The buyback takes the form of a modified Dutch auction and allows the company to purchase up to 10,000,000 shares at not less than $26 or more than $28 per share. Here's what this means, as I understand it: stockholders can offer to sell their stock. Intergraph will determine the lowest price for which it can buy the 10,000,000 shares from the offers. The "Dutch auction" refers to lowering the price until a criteria is met, versus a traditional auction where prices are raised until a purchase is made. The auction is set to run until December 2 and has already started.
Trimble reported record revenues of $139.6 million for the third quarter ended October 3, 2003. That compares to $114.7 million in the third quarter last year. Guidance was up to $132 million for next quarter. Trimble Field Solutions, where GIS fits, had revenues up 52 percent over last year's quarter, supported by continued demand for the GeoExplorer CE series GPS handhelds. And, this just in, Ron Bisio has just been named America's marketing manager for Trimble's Mapping and GIS Division in Westminster, Colorado. Most recently, Bisio was the senior manager for Web and mobile products at Autodesk, Inc. Before that, he was at ESRI.
Garmin reported $135.6 million in revenue for its third quarter, up 26 percent from the same quarter last year. That sent stock prices to a record high of just over $52. But, net income dropped about 8 percent, to $35.3 million. The company explained (registration required) that loss on the weak dollar in Taiwan, where its consumer products are manufactured. That weakness accounted for a $9 million loss. Without that loss, the company would have shown a profit beyond analyst's expectations. With consumer product sales up 32% over last year's quarter and the positive response to the iQue (a PDA with GPS built in), the company raised its year-end expectations.
DIGITALGLOBE BUYS EMAP INTERNATIONAL
Since when do satellite imagery companies buy consulting firms? Recall that Space Imaging bought Kass Green's Pacific Meridian back in 2000. This week it was DigitalGlobe's turn; it picked up eMap International, which I confess is a company with which I'm not familiar. I am familiar with David Nale, the CEO, who was the CEO at ADR, Aerial Data Reduction (now part of BAE SYSTEMS). Several of my fellow students at Penn State ended up working at ADR right out of school. (This 60-centimeter natural color image of the Pentagon was collected by QuickBird on August 2, 2002. Courtesy DigitalGlobe.)
When I read the press release, which described eMap International as a "geo-spatial consulting practice," I scratched my head. Then I teased out that eMap International is a DigitalGlobe reseller. Then I tried to find eMap International's website, and had a bit of trouble since Google couldn't find it. When I did track down the domain, I learned it was under renovation.
DigitalGlobe's local paper, The Boulder Camera, did its homework. DigitalGlobe's Chuck Herring, quoted in an article about the acquisition, notes that satellite imaging companies have had a hard time making inroads into local government. He positions Nale and his company as the right team to bring them into that space. The article notes that that the acquisition will "allow DigitalGlobe to complement plane-based photographic imagery that has a 6-inch resolution, rather than compete directly with it."
I contacted Herring who clarified what that means with a few examples. Local government city/county projects typically need the high resolution that aerial firms can provide (say 6" resolution) but they also need a lower resolution, say 2-foot resolution, that DigitalGlobe can provide from its QuickBird satellite (at left). It's more economical in that case to use both the resources of an aerial firm and DigitalGlobe for data acquisition. Similarly, while a city might balk at updating 6" imagery each year, updating with a 2-foot coverage from the satellite may be acceptable technically and economically.
Herring also explained that eMap has been doing just this type of work for clients over the years - pulling together the right imagery from aerial vendors and DigitalGlobe - to create solutions for local government. "Now," says Herring, "we are formalizing that relationship further with the acquisition." The new eMap International, a wholly owned subsidiary, will focus first in North America, but in time will move to a broader geography.
Oddly, in the press release, Henry Dubois, DigitalGlobe's president makes it sound like eMap International will be working on the commercial sector: "The acquisition of eMap better positions DigitalGlobe to lead the way in guiding commercial organizations as they begin to fully utilize spatial data as the powerful tool that it is." Herring explained that DigitalGlobe considers state and local as part of the commercial sector (where clients in business or forestry fit) since the local government buying patterns tend to mimic those of the commercial sector. They are quite different, he noted, from federal agencies, such as NIMA.
On first look this seems like a good move on DigitalGlobe's part. Clearly the company is "tuning into" the local government market this year. Recall that at the ESRI conference the company announced new pricing and licensing for local governments. Now, with the acquisition of a "solutions" team, which can tap into aerial providers, along with the satellite imagery, the company is making an even stronger play for these users.
ADVANSTAR BUYS CADENCE
Last week Advanstar (publisher of Cadalyst and Geospatial Solutions) bought CADENCE Magazine and related properties from CMP Media. Cadalyst and CADENCE have been slugging it out for some years, both slowly moving from an AutoCAD focus to a broader CAD focus (that's Vertex Systems' CAD package at right). Most recently, CMP decided to cut print subscriptions and offer electronic versions to "non-managers." Several people I spoke with simply stopped receiving the magazine and didn't bother to track down the electronic one, so that strategy may have backfired. Sara Ferris will head up the editorial staff of the new Cadalyst, which will put out its first issue in December. An FAQ for advertisers is available here. Advanstar publisher Dana Fisher, in an interview at TenLinks.com, noted that "the merged circulation will not be increased since that would mean an increase in advertising rates." That, she offered, is what the market prefers.
Many of you know that I started my GIS career making maps with AutoCAD, so I spent a great deal of time with those two publications early in my career. In fact, I wrote my very first published article for CADENCE in 1996. It was about raster to vector conversion, something I knew nothing about! I continue to keep an eye on the CAD marketplace, not only because it intersects with GIS (most recently epitomized by the Bentley/ESRI relationship and Haestad Methods new CADConnect product) but also because I consider it to be a few years ahead of GIS in its adoption and diffusion. I think in some cases what happens in CAD can foreshadow what may be ahead for GIS.
CAD, from my perspective, hit the top of the adoption curve perhaps around 1996/1997. In those days CAD users read the magazines for tips and trips, and user group meetings drew nearly 100 people per month, at least here in Boston. Hard core users spent eight hours per day in front of CAD (my then boss called it an "operating system") and the brave learned LISP and wrote utilities for their peers. Of late, I've had the feeling that there were few "new users" to be had. Most, though certainly not all, architects, engineers, and construction folks (AEC) now have some CAD tools, be they very high end mechanical design tools, PC-based desktop CAD (AutoCAD or MicroStation) or any of the many low cost solutions (DataCAD, TurboCAD). The market today is close to saturated. In other words, it's now very expensive for vendors to get new users and typical marketing tactics involved in switching users from one product to another.
That maturity has played out in publishing, too. And while this acquisition seems like a huge data point on the timeline, consolidation has been happening quietly in other corners of CAD publishing in recent years. As Rachael Dalton-Taggart notes at CADWire.net, other CAD publications have "submerged" or moved to digital. She does inventory and notes that there are now just two BPA-audited qualified print publications for CAD: Cadalyst and Desktop Engineering. (BPA auditing is method for confirming how many subscribers there are, how long ago they subscribed, and how they subscribed. It's typically used as a tool for advertisers to measure the circulation quality and market reception of a publication. There is auditing for online publications, too.)
Before looking into the crystal ball regarding GIS, consider that the CAD space is at this point much bigger than the GIS space in terms of seats (Autodesk, for example, claims 2 million AutoCAD seats vs. ESRI's claim on its website that on any given day more than one million people use its software [I think that might include users on the Web, though I can't be sure.] and that some fraction of CAD seats are very expensive (particularly those for mechanical design). Consider that in a recent survey (free membership) AUGI (Autodesk User Group International) asked: "What are your main sources of information about new Autodesk-compatible (add-on) products? Indicate all that apply." The results included these two responses:
"Articles or advertisements in print magazines - 51%"
"Articles or advertisements in e-zines - 30%"
The top response: "Autodesk" (61%), the bottom one "my supervisor" (7%).
Those figures would suggest there's perhaps room for two CAD publications, in terms of advertising revenue, especially two that cover a variety of products (not just AutoCAD). On the other hand, consider that Cadalyst and CADENCE, at least to me, seemed to be basically identical in recent years - covering the same topics, in the same way.
What does that say about the geospatial publishing space? Are there likely to be changes in the print and online publications as the industry matures? Certainly. Note that many, many GIS print publications have already folded (generally specialty ones addressing particular industries or specific geographies). As in the CAD market, we now have a host of e-mail publications and GIS news websites. Is there overlap? Are some redundant? The market will let publishers know, just as it did in the CAD world.
Cheryl A. Chase at Rhodes Communications caught a funny typo last week: "slow plows" instead of "snow plows." She asks:
"In reference to your article on the unhappy slow plows
what about the happy speeders??"
John Baleja of ESRI, who lives in the area threatened by wildfires in California, shared some other useful fire websites.
"I read with interest your comments on the fire maps. As an at times somewhat frantic mountain property owner, the two sites that provided the best information during the last week were rimoftheworld.net where a team of folks monitored the emergency scanner traffic and reported near real time where the fire was (check out "scanner listening teams" under Bulletin Board). The other site that I found very useful was fireupdate.com (check out the maps) which made a wonderful attempt at providing structure status within the burned areas. Both of these are great examples of local websites providing a much needed information resource to the community in during the crisis."
My perhaps not-so-clever title "Bringing 3D to GIS or GIS to 3D?" for the article about Skyline Software last week, brought this discussion of 3D GIS from Andrew Zonlai.
"3D in GIS can mean three things:
- draping of data on DEMs, some call that 2.5 D because there are no breaklines or overhangs. In other words, two Zs for one XY is considered to violate integrity constraints for a given topology. This may however include objects and texture-mapping (projection of images on said objects, say, photos on buildings), and renders very fast in games for example.
- projection of the above on a 3D globe, with data themselves still 2.5 D. This is what has been shown for example in recent TV newscasts and is discussed [last week]
- 3D data in the topology, with full description and integrity checks in 3D. This includes advanced visualization such as virtual reality (say, above-ground: atmospheric and radiation, and sub-surface: environment, petroleum and mining).
"There is, however a trade-off: Not only is it particularly acute in 3D due to performance and realistic rendering. It is also part of the general distinction among custom and COTS applications, which includes these questions:
- Do we optimize data and applications, and make them work well only for given situations? Though done for performance and price in the past, that is changing fast. This includes consumer products mentioned above (games and TV).
- Do we keep said applications as open as possible, for example in coding through published APIs, and access through data models and standards? This includes most of the major GIS vendor and users communities' efforts.
"We see today the accelerated growth in the sophistication of users, availability of data and need for integration. Users thus eventually hit the proverbial brick wall: an extra dataset that cannot be accessed for a given constraint, but is needed to successfully address a particular situation. My experience is that IT and data standards must be pursued to the fullest extent, in order to give users the fullest opportunity to interpret increasingly voluminous and complex data. Is it not our industry's responsibility then to fully exploit performance increases and price drops, and make openness a non-issue?"
Robert Fowler, Vice President Sales and Marketing at Lasermap Image Plus/GPR Consultants, had some thoughts on DEMs vs. DTMs as well as pixels after my comments last week on what these things are.
"Just a few words on the DTM, DEM controversy. The problem with this terminology is that the meaning varies around the world, and depends upon the personal whim of whoever is speaking. But this is the first time I ever heard of break lines entering the picture.
"I, personally, have always subscribed to the definitions that a DEM, being a digital elevation model, is the generic term for all elevation data, whereas a DTM is a digital terrain model, being more specifically a model of the ground (sometimes called "bare earth"). In comparison to a Terrain Model, the Elevation Model could include points that are not on the ground (i.e. buildings or structures, wires on power lines or the top of vegetation).
Currently, to my knowledge most technologies, except for photogrammetry, do not provide break lines: which can be either firmly fixed - such as road curbs, retaining walls etc., or subjective - such as the tops and bottoms of cliffs which may not have an easily delineated position.
"On another topic in the same newsletter: you mention pixels sizes.
If you have a pixel size of one meter, many people tend to think that if an object is one meter in size you will see it. The reality is that while you may see it you won't know what it is, for you need several pixels for the eye to be able to recognize an object.
"One of these small garden storage sheds of one meter square may just show up as a different color pixel on a satellite scene, with no way of determining what it is. If however it is a six square meter shed there is the possibility of determining that a three by two pixel object which appears in an urban backyard is exactly that. This is why linear features, such as roads and tracks as you mention, even if they are only one pixel wide often show up more easily on satellite imagery."
POINTS OF INTEREST
Sorry, You Can't Race. I wrote about the "race" DARPA was sponsoring for robot-powered vehicles back in March. The idea is for teams to develop remote controlled vehicles to cover a "known-at-the-start" route from Los Angeles to Las Vegas through the southern California desert. At one point it was an "all comers" race and sponsored teams as well as basement warriors were building machines to try to capture the $1 million prize. This week, it turns out, only 20 vehicles will be allowed to race. Some who were asked to explain the change, say there are environmental issues, others say there are simply too many entries.
Blue Spam. We hate spam. We hate unsolicited phone calls. What could be next? Unsolicited Bluetooth messages. It turns out that many people with Bluetooth-enabled phones leave the service "on" and those nearby (recall that Bluetooth only carries a short distance, about 30 feet) send ads or other unwanted missives. The sending of such messages, called BlueJacking, is catching on and a website has appeared to give out advice and tips on how to do it. One big "selling point" of bluejacking: unlike SMS or phone calls, it's free for both parties.
More Ads, Even on GIS Websites. The trends that happen in the mainstream media world eventually make their way to the geospatial world. First there were annoying pop-ups on general websites, then they came to some geospatial websites. (Currently, I use Google's toolbar to avoid them.) Then there were those annoying "intermediary pages" that stood between a clicked link and the destination on general websites. This week, I hate to report, I visited two geospatial sites that forced me to look at an "intermediary" webpage (one was an ad, another a list of news headlines) before moving on to my destination page.
Microsoft and MIT. Microsoft is funding a $25 million initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called iCampus. The "official" goal is to improve the quality of life and explore the use of technology in teaching. Along the way, however, Microsoft is getting some key feedback on Web services, which may lead to increased credibility for the technology. Some of the work underway includes remote use of laboratory equipment (iLab), and GPS tracking of university busses.
Teeny Tiny GPS. How about a GPS chip that's just a bit over a half-inch?
ESRI and the California Fires. ESRI had its obligatory article in the local paper about its work on the fires in California. One interesting point: "Virtually every map that is being produced as part of the firefighting effort utilizes ESRI products in some form, fire officials said." While Jim Geringer is noted in the text as an ESRI employee, a caption reads, "Jack Dangermond, left, Gerco Hoogeweg, center, both of ESRI, and Jim Geringer, former governor of Wyoming, look over the latest map made at ESRI on Tuesday." At right, Lake Arrowhead, California in a 4-meter true color image acquired October 28, 2003. Courtesy Space Imaging.
Inventions We'd Like to See. The New York Times (registration required) asked several "celebrities" to identify products they'd like to see. Two had a geospatial twist. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, wants a tool to track his cat's whereabouts. Patricia F. Russo, Chairwoman and chief executive of Lucent Technologies conjures up a type of PDA that among other things can find and contact her business associates.
County Parcel Data: $20,000. The Geographic Information Systems Policy Committee of Palm Beach County, Florida is going against the Florida Attorney General, and will continue to charge more for some types of data, GIS data in particular, than others. One issue is the state's so-called "Sunshine Law" (officially known as the Public Records Law) that makes public records well, public, and ideally available at the cost of reproduction. The Committee says that GIS data that is to be used for commercial purposes, should be outside that scope. The Committee has asked the County Commission to explore a change in the state law. The county director of environmental resources management wants to "make all GIS data exempt from sunshine."
The good news is that the commission voted to drop the current pricing significantly. For example, the fee for the county parcel shapefile will drop to $750 plus copying costs from the current $20,000 plus copying costs.
A second issue questions whether it's legal for the county to hold a copyright on the GIS data.
NSDI for Taiwan. Taiwan is tapping the public and private sectors to build its National Geographic Information System (NGIS). A six-year plan has been underway since 1998. "This year marks the sixth and last year of the first stage of the plan, and so far we have implemented 32 sub-plans, set up basic infrastructure using information databases shared by central and local governments and private groups," said Chien Tai-lang, an administrative vice interior minister.
More on Landsat Continuity. On October 23, a number of academics posted an open letter at SpaceRef expressing concern over the decision to turn away Resource21's singular bid on the contract to continue the data gathering done by Landsat for the last 30 years. The bid, from their perspective, was technically appropriate and the group challenges NASA and USGS to make plans to ensure continuity. The letter ends this way: "We strongly encourage contacting colleagues, elected representatives and public officials expressing your concerns with the current state of affairs relative to continuing the Landsat heritage."
Survey Success! Thanks to all of readers who participated in our GIS Service Provider Survey. We've drawn ten names to receive the prizes provided by ESRI, Autodesk, and GDT. Winners have been notified and responses are coming in. Special thanks to our sponsors who clearly provided some "good stuff": the responses from two winners who learned of their prizes: "Excellent" and "Sweet." Look for a write-up on some of the results in January.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Intermap Technologies Corporation announced the launch of NEXTMap USA, a program to remap the entire continental United States. NEXTMap USA includes the creation of terrain elevation and imagery data accurate to 1- meter or better covering nearly 7.9 million square kilometers of the United States. The product should roll out in 2004.
The OpenDWG Alliance, a non-profit industry consortium committed to promoting open industry-standard formats for the exchange of CAD data, announced that it is changing its name to the Open Design Alliance. The organization now supports DGN and DWF to a limited extent. In related news, Cyon Research Corporation announced that Evan Yares, a company founder and its Chief Technology Officer, has left the company to pursue projects related to his work with the Open Design Alliance, of which he is president.
India has committed 300 million euro (350 million dollars) to the European Union's Galileo satellite navigation system.
Laser-Scan announced a reseller agreement which allows Intergraph Systems Southern Africa (ISSA) to resell its Radius Topology product.
Manatron Inc. has won a $5.5 million contract from Gwinnett County, Georgia, to provide a comprehensive government revenue management system, including GIS. The GIS portion will be in partnership with Smart Data Strategies Inc. of Tennessee.
Pictometry was asked to fly over Chesapeake, Virginia soon after Hurricane Isabel came through. And, San Bernardino is using its images to plan for response to the recent fires. No new images have been shot there. The work in Virginia is new for Pictometry, which to date has not done "real-time" work, but rather prevention type studies in the past.
Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions announced an expanded breadth of membership benefits for the Team GeoMedia Subscriber Program with no change in the membership fee.
ESRI Canada will be offering a package including a donated copy of ArcView and Certified ESRI Technology training at reduced cost, to communities participating in projects under the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) of GeoConnections.
Herbert Muschel, who created PR Newswire passed away. We journalists owe him quite a debt, as do marketing folks!
Contracts and Sales
Allen County, Indiana has selected Ruekert/Mielke, Waukesha, Wisconsin, to build a GIS website.
Leica Geosystems GIS & Mapping announced that Hokkaikosoku (Sapporo, Japan) has purchased an ALS50 LIDAR system.
MapInfo announced that it has signed an OEM agreement with Siemens Information and Communication Mobile Group (IC Mobile). Under the terms of the agreement Siemens will incorporate MapInfo's miAware "GeoToolBox," which provides functionality such as mapping, routing, and geocoding, within its Location Enabling Server, Siemen's solution for the delivery of location-based services.
The Arapahoe County 9-1-1 Authority, Colorado selected Contact One's ContactMAP mapped ALI software for the implementation of E9-1-1 caller location mapping in their six Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Also, the Las Animas County 9-1-1 Authority, also in Colorado, selected the company to perform GIS data collection and management for addressing.
Marshall, a remote sensing service provider, has entered into a contract to provide LiDAR-based tree canopy cover information to the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation.
GeoLytics, Inc. released the Census 2000 Long Form Release of the Neighborhood Change Database (NCDB). With the NCDB, researchers can examine population transformations in urban communities from 1970 to 2000 from a single CD database.
Sylvan Ascent Inc. introduced PocketTerra, a set of mapping and GPS components for field data collection for the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework. With PocketTerra end users can easily locate features in the field using detailed topographic maps, aerial photographs and GPS at no cost.
Blue Marble Geographics announced a new round of feature/function upgrades to BeyondGeo. BeyondGeo is a simple and complete Internet map server solution that enables businesses and organizations to easily and cost-effectively publish interactive maps on their websites. Blue Marble currently serves more than 120,000 customers in more than 100 countries.
Red Hen Systems, Inc. announced the release of its new VMS 300 GPS-video collection module, designed to provide customers with greater location accuracy, faster satellite reacquisition rates, and a more robust field performance.
Cary and Associates of Longmont, Colorado, announced the availability of a market report, "U.S. Federal Procurement of Geotechnology 2000-2002." The report identifies 117 agencies that have purchased a range of geotechnology products and services from 393 companies.
The GeoPad, a new tool for fieldwork, integrates ruggedized Windows XP-based TabletPC systems (iX104 from Xplore Technologies), small global positioning satellite receivers (Earthmate USB from DeLorme), modern geographic information system software (ArcGIS from ESRI), and 3-D visualization software developed through the GeoWall initiative.
Mapping Science, Inc. announced the release of a Linux version of its popular GeoJP2 Image Encoder.
Undertow Software released MapOCX Pro v6.1, a developers kit for the United States and Canada. The tool allows software developers to add street map displays within any Windows' visual development environment or Internet application. The enhanced features include map rotation, Point-to-Point routing, geocoding, and reverse geocoding provide the perfect tool for advanced programming needs.
The MAC-URISA Regional GIS Conference will be held March 17-18, 2004, at Rutgers University, Busch Campus Center, Piscataway, New Jersey.
Even non-National Park Service (NPS) people are invited to Spatial Odyssey 2003 "Grounded in Technology," an NPS GIS conference on December 1-5, 2003 in Orlando, Florida.
Approximately 5,000 geographers from around the world are expected to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) at the annual conference, from March 14 to 19, 2004 in Philadelphia.
Presentation proposals for Intergraph's GeoSpatial World for mapping and geospatial professionals are being accepted until November 14, 2003.
Hires and Appointments
Ron Bisio was named America's marketing manager for Trimble's Mapping and GIS Division in Westminster, Colorado. Most recently, Bisio was the senior manager for Web and mobile products at Autodesk, Inc. He also held positions at ESRI and Vicinity.
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