November 11, 2004


• A Letter from GISCI
• JPEG Foreshadows JPEG 2000?
• Election Wrap Up
• Department of Corrections

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Letters, Points of Interest, Kudos and Conundrums, Week in Review (Announcements, Contracts, Products, Events, Training, People) Back Issues, Advertise, Contact, Subscribe/Unsubscribe

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A Letter from GISCI

Earlier this week I received a letter in the mail from the GIS Certification Institute (
GISCI). It said the Board of Directors had recognized me as a leader in the GIS profession and invited me to support the important movement in our industry by attaining my professional certification. Two other times in the letter I was asked "to consider pursing certification" or "strongly encouraged" to do so. I was told that my past work has proven my worth as a GIS professional but that the "symbolic action" of certification will "speak volumes." I was also reminded that I can get "grandfathered" meaning a more streamlined process, and still get the same GISP designation.

The letter gave me pause, perhaps because I'm not used to the idea of certification in any area of my life. I take that back, I was certified in CPR and Basic Rescue and Water Safety by the Red Cross years back. The Red Cross never invited me to become certified; I chose to get trained and take the required tests. Moreover, those certifications were part of my personal life, not my professional life. (I suppose if I were a lifeguard, I may have considered them professional.)

In my professional life, I've been asked to participate in geospatial organizations, write for newsletters, help organize conferences, and other duties. I like to think I nearly always said "yes, of course, I'll help." The requestors weren't soliciting symbolic acts, they were real acts, helping grow both me and my chosen profession. This request to become certified, it could be argued, also helps grow my chosen profession, though I confess the connection is a bit less clear to me. For more on that topic, and for some solid information to help you decide on whether certification is right for you or for the profession, I urge you to read Rebecca Somers' latest article, "Demystifying Certification."

The GISC letter did prompt me to look at the current list of GISPs. I know several of the GISPs personally. Of that subgroup, I'd suggest nearly all got their certification for "symbolic reasons." It's hard for me, as someone in the field, to take it seriously that one of the names both in and on the GIS textbooks is certified, or that a professor active in GIS is certified. In fact, to consider these people putting GISP after their names seems sort of silly. These people are very well respected and have fabulous resumes.

This letter, I suppose, is part of a viral marketing scheme of sorts. "Being certified is cool, you should be too. Oh, and tell your friends…" is the message. At this point, unless some of you, my colleagues and readers, can convince me otherwise, I'm going to continue to "opt out."

JPEG Foreshadows JPEG 2000?
Last week I noted that LizardTech has appealed the latest ruling in its case against Earth Resource Mapping. I also reported that Earth Resource Mapping feels that should LizardTech win the suit, the decision would mean that all users of JPEG 2000 would have to pay LizardTech royalties.

A parallel story to the suggested royalty situation has been playing out for a few years and has reared its head recently. This week the radio program MarketPlace had a look at it, as did a recent article in Newsweek.

It's the story of another open standard JPEG, "regular, old" JPEG and a company called Forgent. That's what the company is called now; in 1986 it was called Video Telecom Corp. and it made video conferencing equipment. It didn't do too well. Eventually it changed its name to VTEL and bought Compression Labs in an effort to make it into the mid 1990s. When almost all was lost, a board member read a book called Rembrandts in the Attic: Unlocking the Hidden Value of Patents. The basic premise was this: look at your patents, you just might have a gold mine there! And, VTEL tried it. It turns out that Compression Labs did have some interesting patents. One in particular appeared to include algorithms underlying the compression in JPEG. (It's patent number 4,698,672 if you want to have a look.)

So, the company changed its name, sold off most of its business areas, and made a deal with its lawyers to split revenue for its intellectual property pursuits. The first step: tell the world about its patent, and start demanding payment. Sony (who paid about $16 million) and other firms settled raising some $90 million for Forgent. More recently Adobe and Macromedia settled, but the terms were not disclosed. Others didn't rush to settlement, prompting Forgent to sue 31 companies including Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Xerox, and Canon in April of this year. The suit is still pending. Another suit, brought in August named Google and Yahoo among others.


The JPEG patent has yet to be challenged in court, but Jay Peterson, Forgent's chief financial officer and vice president of finance, expects the existing suits to be consolidated and tried in the next year or two. The patent expires in 2006, but the company can sue for past use.

Another image format was also subject to this fate: in the late 1990s, Unisys and Compuserve began seeking royalties on LZW compression, part of the GIF file format. That patent expired in 2003.

Does the LizardTech patent threaten JPEG 2000? I don't know. That may well be for a court to decide in the near or long term. Most likely, the JPEG issue will come to trial first.

Try FME Suite 2004 ICE Today!

Election Wrap Up

I'm sure readers worldwide are weary of election coverage and election mapping coverage, but there are few notes I did want to share this week.

First off, more than one reader wrote before election day to note that "one of our own" was running for an Assembly seat in California. Earlier this week, Steve Poizner conceded defeat to Ira Ruskin. Poizner funded his own campaign to the tune of some $5.9 million in what's described as a gerrymandered seat. Poizner is the former CEO of Strategic Mapping (Atlas GIS), and SnapTrack (GPS technology for cell phones).

Second, while some geo-savvy critics have complained about the simplicity and relative blandness of maps and analysis of the election, at least one design-savvy watcher gave NBC's ice map and electoral college fabric graphic, both in the network's Democracy Plaza, thumbs up. Anne Van Wagener, design editor at and a member of the Poynter Institute adjunct faculty (it's a journalism school) explained, "The simplicity of these graphics is what made them effective visual symbols. Anything more complicated would not have translated well in ice or on the side of a building. Applause to NBC for trying unique and interesting ways of delivering information."

Third, if you missed ESRI's maps on TV (I did) you can relive them online. I watched one of the Flash animations (the other was not working) and had quite a time trying to read the legend (which by the way, said "legend" on it, something I was taught was a "no no" in cartography) before the map changed. If this really appeared on TV as is, I'll bet it confused as many people as it enlightened.

Fourth, if you are looking to read more on maps and the election I have two suggestions. This article, "Maps and Cartograms of the 2004 US Presidential Election Results," by Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman of the
University of Michigan, provides cartograms and analysis. You can even download the software they used. By the way, the article itself is provided under Creative Commons license, meaning it can be freely reprinted and used in derivative works, so long as the authors are acknowledged. Other publications have already re-published it. A second article, "Newsweek used misleading county-by-county map to declare 'A Red-Letter Day'" chides Newsweek for visually overstating the republican vote via its maps. It too points to cartograms as a better solution.

Department of Corrections
A few corrections were pointed out in last week's issue by readers. In last week's article about the current state of litigation between LizardTech and Earth Resource Mapping, I mistakenly noted that in a recent decision, "The patent was ruled invalid after a Special Master was appointed and a Markman hearing (which defines terms in a patent claim) held." In fact, just part of the patent in question, claim 21, was ruled invalid.

I mis-linked two URLs in the grid story last week. They are assigned correctly below.

The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) explains the value of USNG this way: "The national grid will improve public safety, commerce, and aid the casual GPS user with an easy to use geoaddress system for identifying and determining location with the help of a USNG gridded map and/or a USNG enabled GPS system." NOAA even provides conversion tools.

I also had a date wrong in the Google story. I wrote: "Since 1992 (the company was founded in 1998), advertising has provided more than 92% of revenues for the company." That should read, "Since 2002 (the company was founded in 1998), advertising has provided more than 92% of revenues for the company." I found that statistic, and other interesting Google stats, here.

• A reader wrote to in response to my "single grid" article last week.

"I could not disagree more strongly with your statement, 'So, why is it that in 2004 we still don't have a single, worldwide solution for delivering mail, providing location-based services, and supporting first responders from other geographies? The problem is not technology, nor ideas, as these three visions suggest.'"

He went on to provide much detail for further study, but when asked for permission to reprint the contents, the reader did not provide it. Please readers, if you don't want comments printed, please write NOT FOR PUBLICATION at the top of your communications. If you want to make a statement, but not have it attributed to you, please indicate the letter may be used, but only anonymously. As I've noted, I will do my best to secure permission for anything I consider "dicey." But, be aware, not all editors take such care.

• Clifford J. Mugnier, Clifford J. Mugnier, Chief of Geodesy, Center for Geoinformatics at Louisiana State University, had a similar feeling.

"The apparent simplicity of such 'grid' systems is an example of glaring ignorance. Most large-scale (1:24,000) maps in the United States are not on the North American Datum of 1983. They are still on the NAD27, and the MGRS is different from one datum to another. (It's because of the reference ellipsoid change and the whopping apparent change in the magnitude of UTM coordinate values.)

"The same reason goes for Europe and practically everywhere else in the world. The MGRS as proposed by the 'The Public XY Mapping Project' assumes a single geodetic datum. I disagree with their theory that such a system is superior to latitude and longitude and also of the cockamamie contention that it should be taught to elementary and secondary school children in lieu of Latitude and Longitude.

"As maps are re-compiled by USGS and are cast on the NAD83 graticule, the UTM grid will finally be compatible with the MGRS or the 'cutesy' new moniker of USNG (what's wrong with MGRS? - it's still a 4-letter acronym).

"I do NOT see that happening in the United States for decades. It is just too expensive to do it in a short order of time.

"Although the geodesists of Europe are touting a 'new' EUREF datum for all of Europe, they still face the daunting task of re-compiling all of the large-scale maps of each country individually to that common datum so that a unified 'MGRS' grid system will work. The United Kingdom has a National Grid, ... however it is not referenced to the GPS Datum, WGS84; it's based on the 'Ordnance Survey of Great Britain Datum of 1936.' Kinda old, wouldn't you agree?

"The United States Army Corps of Engineers established a unified Grid for all of Europe over 50 years ago! It's called the European Datum of 1950 and spans Europe from above the Artic Circle to Central Africa, from the Atlantic Ocean and throughout the Middle East to central Asia. The datum was unified by computing on the UTM Grid, International Ellipsoid and by using the MGRS! Why did the American Army's solution get applied to such an extensive area of the world? We won the war in two theaters. They didn't. Problem is, all of the local individual countries and their colonies only used the system for their military topographic maps. They 'sniffed' and shunned it for their civilian use, and they doggedly kept to their own provincial datums, grids, ellipsoids, etc. What do they have to show for it now?

"What they have to show is the standard European fare: chaos. Grids and datums don't match; a unified grid is still a dream that they shunned 50 years ago, and the 'Euro' is not likely to motivate then to abandon local nationalism for the benefit of 'just getting along with one Grid.' The Balkans still use the Hermannskogel Datum of 1871 for civilian uses and for land titlization!

"The USNG is merely a lot of 'hype' about a well-established alphanumeric numbering system that is useful for military point positioning. Such systems were developed by the Military Geodetic Community long before World War II. The proposition that it should be overprinted on all USGS 1:24,000 scale topographic maps is a gross defacing of cartographic excellence that has been a much-admired trait of the USGS National Mapping Division.

"The Military Grid Reference System is fine for the military and for certain emergency applications. It is not fine for ramming down the collective throats of every user of USGS Topo Maps in the United States.

"Bah! Humbug!"

• A reader wrote in reference to my coverage of the new version of GISConnect from Haestad Methods, noting another product with parallel-ish functionality.

[GISConnect] "is very similar to the new Geomedia ArcGIS Edit [that is] part of [Safe Software's] FME for Intergraph/ESRI suites."

The editor notes: It's in beta; details here.

Points of Interest
Can't Get Enough? Read the latest Points of Interest daily on our

Following up on LBS Ads. We are all expecting to receive location-based spam soon, meaning we soon see those well-hyped ads for Starbucks pop up on the phone as we walk by. But Motorola is going one step further, with an application that tracks whether the phone's owner actually goes into the business providing the ad. The idea is that the carrier can then charge a few cents to the advertiser, sort of like Web ads where the advertiser pays for each click on an ad.

PDF on PDF. Cyon Research Corporation has issued a white paper identifying a solution to the digital data workflow problem in the AEC (architecture/engineering/construction) industry using the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). When I read about the white paper on the Cyon website an Adobe ad graced the screen. When I went to download it, an Autodesk DWF ad did. When asked, Cyon stated in an e-mail that the report was "funded by Adobe (the PDF 'owners') as an independent study by Cyon."

RFID for Video Games. Electronic payments are the only ones allowed in at least one video game arcade in Japan. The owners prefer it at least in part because no change needs to be made, no tokens need to be purchased, and no coins need to be collected from the machines. But also, owners know which players play which game and how much.

ETS New Tech Test. Educational Testing Service (ETS), the folks behind the SAT, announced a new test this week: the ETS ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Literacy Assessment. It's a simulation-based testing program that ideally measures postsecondary students' ability to define, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create, and communicate information in a technological environment. Test takers work online and solve 16 problems (not multiple choice) in two hours. Says ETS: "the test demands that students use technology to perform information management tasks, such as extracting specific information from a database, developing a spreadsheet, or composing an e-mail summarizing research findings." If the test is any good, it might prove useful in evaluating potential entry level geospatial job candidates.

AOL Reorg. AOL has been reorganized into four units: Audience (Advertising, and AOL IM, Moviefon, MapQuest,, Access (dial-up, high speed), AOL Europe (for the foreigners), and Digital Services (Premium services, phone and music subscription). What does it say that MapQuest is in with movies and portals?

Friends Support Whitaker. Some of the details of the "friend of the court briefs" filed in support of Stephen Whitaker's lawsuit to gain access to Greenwich Connecticut GIS data are outlined in article in the local paper. While Whitaker argued for using the data for personal gain (that is, reselling it) the filers "argue that making the entire GIS database public will best serve the greater good."

Cars are Like Water. U.S. finance company Hampden Group, Inc. has announced a new way of financing cars via its They'll pretty much finance anyone's car, but here's the catch, there's a GPS and other goodies inside monitoring where the cars goes, how well it's maintained, and if payments are not made, the car will simply not start. "Just like a utility payment, if it is delinquent, service is disconnected," the company said in a statement.

GIS Day. Next Wednesday is GIS Day and I'm lucky to have many activities to choose from here in New England. This year I'll be heading up to the University of New Hampshire to visit an event featuring astronaut and author Jay Apt. I look forward to meeting any readers who might be attending and/or exhibiting.

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)

In the Midnight Field. Tracking deer, raccoons, and turkeys with transmitters, researchers at Purdue are producing a map of visits to farmlands for a bite. Night vision cameras keep tabs on who did the munching and who took the blame. The biggest surprise? Turkeys, who were often found in fields in the morning, did virtually no harm to crops since they ate from the ground, not the plants. Largely nocturnal deer and raccoons did most of the damage, leaving the turkeys to take the rap.

Conundrums (concepts we question/give us pause)

TrafficCam on the Phone. One of the best discussions of LBS I ever heard was from the Open Geospatial Consortium's Carl Reed at an Intergraph event a few years ago. He made it clear that one of the killer apps was traffic reporting. I'm not sure if the new service available in D.C. is what he had in mind. Subscribers to TrafficLand can view images (free registration required) from Web cameras stationed on roads throughout the District and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. The service is $59 per year or $8 per month. Oh, and you are not supposed to look at phone pictures when you are driving. The issue here is how helpful is a single picture in deciding a route? Besides, how long will it take to you to get there? Will the traffic be cleared? What's missing? The interpretation, the turning of data into information!

Week in Review

Please note: Material used herein is often supplied by external sources and used as is.

• Announcements
The Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA) announced that it has begun work on a joint research project, "Business Case Development and Return on Investment Methodology for Geographic Information Technology," with the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, Denver, Colo., and GeoConnections Canada, Ottawa, Ont. The project will capture basic project data from water, wastewater, gas, and electric utilities; government agencies; and pipeline organizations in order to define best practices and provide tools to support geospatial information technology (GIT) business case development. Survey statistics will be included in a handbook for GIT investment analysis. The book, expected to be published in the spring of 2005, will include comprehensive examples and templates for benefit and cost estimation and financial analysis as well as results of an extensive literature search.

GITA's 2005 Awards Program will recognize the stewardship and leadership afforded by individuals and organizations that share their experiences, serve as mentors, and push geospatial technologies to ever-higher levels of functionality. Nominations for the awards are accepted in four categories. Nominations are due December 3, 2004.

Pictometry digital aerial oblique and orthogonal images as well as related software, announced that its software and high-resolution imagery have been incorporated as part of an executive level fire training course at the United States Fire Administration's training facility in Emmitsburg, MD. The USFA, part of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, is tasked with providing leadership, advocacy, and support to reduce the impact of fire related emergencies.

OS Locator enables users to find and identify a specific location using the road name or number in conjunction with a locality, settlement, local authority, county name, or postcode sector. It has been specifically designed for use with 1: 10,000 and 1:25,000 scale raster map data and OS Street View., an online mapping services company, has announced an agreement allowing to access maps and imagery hosted by Under this license agreement, will be able to distribute data from the mapping library including USGS topographic maps, BLM public land maps, enhanced USGS DOQQ aerial photos, and color satellite imagery.
(That's NOT the free, but the other one that provides paid downloads.)

ESRI announced the availability of Project Center, a new extension of the ESRI online support center. The Project Center is available free of charge to all ESRI users. "The mission of ESRI's new Project Center is to provide customers with an enterprise GIS framework and a 'one-stop shop' information portal to a wide range of GIS information, resources, and ESRI services," says ESRI President Jack Dangermond.

Intermap Technologies Corporation announced that it will not proceed with the previously announced intention to acquire Phoenix, AZ-based AirPhotoUSA, L.L.C. due to the inability of the parties to negotiate mutually acceptable terms. The company will maintain their existing relationship.

• Contracts and Sales
Bentley Systems, Incorporated announced that SIAPA, the water and wastewater utility for Mexico's third largest city, Guadalajara, has selected WaterGEMS, from Bentley's Haestad Methods product line, to manage its water distribution system.

har*GIS LLC announced that Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. has contracted with the company for the purchase of 30 field information systems.

The Department of Urban Services in Canberra, Australia purchased QuickBird imagery from Sinclair Knight Merz, a DigitalGlobe business partner, for incorporation into ACT Locate, a tool used by urban planners, developers, and resource managers for various mapping and spatial information applications pertaining to Canberra, Australia's capital.

Sanborn has been selected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to demonstrate high spatial resolution landcover and landcover change products derived from aerial digital and satellite imagery acquisition in accordance with NOAA's Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP), a current government-funded program.

Autodesk announced that Gold Coast Water has selected the data capture and spatial data management solution Munsys, provided by Open Spatial Australia and Autodesk, to manage its water and wastewater infrastructure assets.

• Products
MapQuest Services, a provider of software and platforms that empower organizations to location enable Web and wireless applications, announced the addition of street level mapping for major Latin American countries including Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina.

GeoLytics has released the new GeocodeCD 2.0 that is updated with 2003 TIGER/Line Files and offers improved geocoding.

NAVTEQ now has full map coverage of Finland's road network. The fine print: Due to the highly complex process involved in compiling and integrating NAVTEQ maps into navigation systems and location-based solutions, it may take up to one year for consumers to have access to these new maps for their navigation solutions.

Blue Marble Geographics announced the release of a new version of the map display library GeoObjects. GeoObjects 4.0 features new support for Oracle database connectivity specifically for Spatial Data Object (SDO) geometry types.

Earlier this year, INTEC Americas Corp. closed an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in the assets of LAND INFO International, LLC. Operations of the two companies are now integrated into a new company doing business as LAND INFO Worldwide Mapping, LLC.

Orion Technology Inc. launched version 5.0.3 of its OnPoint and OnPoint Professional products.

• Events
GeoTec Media announced that John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, will give a keynote address at the 19th annual GeoTec Event scheduled to take place in Vancouver, British Columbia at the Westin Bayshore Resort and Marina from Feb. 13-16.

Environmental Affairs' Office of Geographic and Environmental Information (MassGIS) will host its annual GIS Day on November 17, 2004 between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM in the Great Hall of the State House in Boston. At noon, Christian Jacqz, Director of MassGIS, will provide remarks on recent accomplishments and upcoming projects at this exciting and evolving agency.

The 2005 Delaware GIS Conference, Creating Information. Sharing Knowledge, will be held on Thursday, April 21, 2005, at The Atlantic Sands Hotel & Conference Center on the Boardwalk, at Baltimore Avenue, in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

• Training
The GeoInformation Group, is offering its third national GeoDATA seminar series showcasing geographic data and the benefits they bring to those within both the public and private sectors. The educational seminars and exhibitions will be held in the UK in February and March.

• People
Herman Kahrs passed away unexpectedly on October 24, 2004. His many friends and business associates will remember Herman for his long career in the utility and municipal mapping profession. Born in New York and a long-time resident of Connecticut, Herman was the face of James W. Sewall Company in the Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York area for 21 years. Prior to Sewall, he represented Vernon Graphics for close to 30 years.

Michael Villarreal has joined Sanborn as senior product manager, and is responsible for product innovation and extension. David Carter joined the company as project manager; he will be responsible for the success of current and future GIS projects. Bill Claveau has joined the Sanborn team as senior program manager.

Tadpole Technology plc announced the appointment of Dr. Mark Ketteman as an executive director. Dr. Ketteman is the CEO of Tadpole's Cartesia division and continues in this role reporting to Mr. David Lee, executive chairman of Tadpole Technology plc.

Dr. Manfred Krischke has been named Intermap GmbH Managing Director. Krischke co-founded and managed RapidEye AG for nearly six years. His primary responsibilities will include the management and expansion of the Intermap GmbH Wessling office.

TruePosition, Inc., a provider of location-based technologies and solutions, announced that Kent Sander has been named President of International Operations. Additionally, TruePosition announced that Joseph Sheehan, TruePosition's Chief Technical Officer and leading expert on the design and implementation of wireless location solutions, has been promoted to President.

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