December 2, 2004


Special Autodesk University Issue

• ISD Update
• A Trip to Las Vegas Valley Water
• Plenary

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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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ISD Update
While much of what was shared with the press on Monday of this week is under non-disclosure until March of next year, I did get the ok to share some of the comments of Chris Bradshaw, the VP of the Infrastructure Solutions Division (ISD). Bradshaw reinforced many of the ideas shared in past years, but with a bit of a simplified twist.

Bradshaw had pretty much one thing to say: that it was time to move from the "old way" of data sharing to the "new way." The "old way" is all the "boxes" in an organization having their own data and sharing it with all the other ones. Updates are typically handled "manually." The "new way" involves a "central and open" datastore in the center of the organization, which contains all the spatial data. Updates are done once and automatically published to all. "It's a data sharing/data management problem really," he noted.

The biggest cost to make the transition, he said, is not technological, but process-focused. Said another way, it's about changing how people work.

He shared some interesting market research. ILM (infrastructure lifecycle management in Autodesk speak) means little to the market, the company learned. But the concept of it, that is, keeping track of data on infrastructure from design, build through maintenance, did resonate. Users are very savvy about the need for CAD/GIS integration. "Everyone has a work around," the company learned. Finally, the company learned that the Autodesk brand is considered one that can successfully tackle CAD/GIS integration.

Simon Timmons of Thames Water explained its Oracle-based solution and Bradshaw reviewed a smaller user implementation in a city of 15,000. That story will be introduced in the coming weeks.

At the ISD breakout session later in the week, we saw two Autodesk staffers dueling on Land Desktop and Civil 3D. The bottom line? Land Desktop got killed, which is pretty much what I expect will happen to the product in the long term. Other tidbits from the demo and Q & A:

Envision (one of my favorite products) is likely to get a huge overhaul in the future, but there were no details at this point. Recall that the product is typically aimed at the data viewer/field user of various types of data.

Support for Autodesk Map client access to ArcSDE is now available via Safe Software's FME, but functionality is coming in an FDO (feature data object). That essentially means it will be "in the box."

The most insightful thing I heard regarding the state of ISD was a comment from a staffer at a civil firm. He said basically that Autodesk needs to take a backend database similar to that of Inventor or Revit and put it in the civil/mapping products. The challenge? Inventor and Revit, products for mechanical design and building design, respectively, are not built on AutoCAD, while the core civil and mapping ones are.

A Trip to Las Vegas Valley Water
On Tuesday morning a bus took some 20 journalists to a "show and tell" at Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD) headquarters. The idea was to have the long-time AutoCAD user organization share its success in implementing a CAD/GIS integration solution.

We learned that Las Vegas is growing rapidly - one new person is moving in each hour. That translates to some 60-80 new field projects per month for the district. The District manages 90,000 hard copy documents. While one goal of the past 10 years was to move to digital files, the District also needed to manage the paper docs. This was the first time I'd seen an organization tout how they "rearranged their closets." It turns out that hanging large sheets vertically saves lots of space. In the case of LVVWD the new arrangement meant that a proposed new building for storage was not needed.

While organizing the hard copy docs, the District learned: 10% of documents were duplicates, 20% were mislabeled, and 20% had never been scanned. Worse yet, workers spent 43% of their time looking for documents and just 10% reading them. A document management system linked to GIS and a wireless solution for field workers changed that situation dramatically.

One of the goals of the modernization was to avoid data input being repeated or worse yet, being done by GIS staffers, rather than drafters who are most familiar with the data. The first field users of the system were locators, the folks who mark the pavement for digging. Their productivity jumped two times with access to maps on laptops in their vehicles. A second set of field users, inspectors, saved 60% of their time using GPS to create redlines (as-builts).

The underlying backend system, it turns out, is built on ArcSDE/Oracle (not Oracle Spatial). A slide that illustrated that the ArcSDE solution with edit access from ESRI's ArcMap (not a product but part of ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo) was labelled proprietary. When LVVWD added tools to allow editing and posting access to and from ArcSDE from Autodesk Map, the solution was labeled non-proprietary. From what I understand, LVVWD used ArcSDE's API (which is published) to build the tools required. (I think I have a different understanding of proprietary than the staff at LVVWD.)

The LVVWD Web applications are all built on MapGuide and were very fast connected to the local network. These included work order tools, navigation tools for inspectors, and real-time GPS tracking.

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This is the twelfth edition of Autodesk University (AU). And as technical evangelist Lynn Allen noted, the event is all about the user. The three terms of the week she promised we'd hear over and over were: create, manage, and share. As for sharing, Allen suggested that in terms of what is learned, what goes on in Vegas best not stay in Vegas (some classes are being taped to be placed on the Internet).

Attendance is up 30% to 4,400. Those numbers meant that some attendees stayed offsite at neighboring hotels. Another indicator of the size? My favorite seat at the back of the hall for the plenary (on the floor) was not available; chairs were set up against the back wall and along the side walls, as well.

Carol Bartz

CEO and president Carol Bartz opened the event by telling the crowd how much she loves the users. She thanked the user community for having opinions; "having opinions means you care," she explained. "Making the world [what users do]" is very difficult, she went on, because users are "agents of change." In short, users run into process challenges.

Part of the solution is ensuring that data is digital from creation on to final (and long-term) use. That was essentially the theme of last year's talk to this community.

Bartz, by the way, looks great. She's trim, energetic, with shoulder-length hair. (I share that in part because my mother asks about her each time I visit AU. Bartz was treated for breast cancer some years ago.) Bartz walked through each market and highlighted its products. Mechanical's big winner, Inventor, continues its growth and is the top-selling 3D product in its space. In Building Design she highlighted both Architectural Desktop and Revit, a product the company bought a few years ago. While the two products do address the same space, attendees I spoke to seemed sure Revit was not going away. Over in ISD, she highlighted Survey, Map3D, Land Desktop, and others. Civil 3D, which was shown last year, was identified as a "breakthrough" product.

"We have fabulous AutoCADs coming," she said, looking into the crystal ball. More collaboration tools are on the horizon, too. Autodesk is just at the beginning of exploring that arena, she shared. But it's not the products alone that make a difference, she warned "it's the mindset." The "mindset" involves "making users able to make the change. We want you to be able to change in small easy to do implementations." Those changes, she went on, should yield quick returns on investment.

The analogy to illustrate this "return on investment" involved picking apples. Competitors, she described, would have you build scaffolding and involve many consultants and not get any apples picked any time soon. Autodesk, instead, would provide basic tools to pick the "low hanging" fruit and perhaps use one of those simple "pole pickers" to get at high hanging apples. The basic idea? The users should be able to manage change in small, digestible bits and see quick return.


Scott Bourdin, Chief Technology Officer, showed some previews of new technology ahead. One goody? Dynamic input - the ability to see what are generally "command line" feedback data, at the cursor. There's no need to take an eye off the design area to look down at the command line. Another? The ability to use "smart" extendable blocks, "dynamic blocks," that can be stretched. So instead of a long list of blocks representing tables of different sizes, now there's one that can be modified as needed. A third? The ability to make and populate a table from block attributes. The example involved building a table of lighting fixtures from data in the drawing, including summing the prices and quantities of each. That's called "data extraction."

A demo of Civil 3D illustrated how changing a profile changes the cut and fill. Because it's built on a single model, all the values are automatically updated. Another change caused new drains to be added. Next, we saw layouts using the 2005 sheet set manager. There were also hot things highlighted in Revit, Inventor, and DWF Viewer.

Dean Kamen


Dean Kamen is most famous for inventing the Segway. Kamen started out by noting he's not a professional speaker. And, he's not, but that really didn't anything away from his talk, a highlight of the event. He made it clear at the outset he speaks ("makes an ass of himself") exactly because it helps him further his work with FIRST (and beg for support, which rounded out his talk). Autodesk is in fact one of the key supporters of FIRST.

While he didn't get to what FIRST is until later, here's the statement off the website: "FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. FIRST inspires in young people, their schools and communities an appreciation of science and technology, and how mastering these can enrich the lives of all."

Kamen was asked to speak innovation. Here are some highlights:

You learn a lot about people from their technology - more perhaps than from their art. The south pointing chariot from China is a good example. It's a tool to kill people. Actually, it's a type of compass to help you go straight (and it's also a summing machine, many years before Babbage's machine). The Chinese needed it to get to a place in the Gobi desert, at night, to maintain the element of surprise against enemies. The issue? Well, the Chinese had loadstone (which they knew could be made into a compass) years before. So, the chariot was not such a great invention, really.

In fact, "great technology alone rarely constitutes innovation," Kamen stated. Innovation is about the impact. (The Chinese used gun powder for celebrations and printing presses for art. In the west those resources were used for killing, and printing books and money, respectively.)

A Suggestion on Innovation: "If you are going through hell, keep going." Winston Churchill said that. If it's bad, it can only get better, is the way Kamen put it.

Get used to: risk, failure, and unpredictability. Here's how:

Fall behind early. It gives you more time to catch up. (Oddly, that's something I hear a lot in training with my running club.)

Invent as a last resort. Invention is really the "art of concealing your sources." That is, look to other industries for ideas. For example, Kamen used an idea from a helicopter (from a company he owns) to make a new stent (something that holds open a vein in the body) for an insulin pump (another product of his).

Solving the solution is often the problem. Kamen explained that we get sidetracked from the original problem. For example, an old style dialysis machine had unreliable, big, expensive valves. But really, the problem was more basic. It demanded designing a completely different machine. The client that brought the "valve problem" to Kamen did indeed fund the new design, which in time became the market leader for home dialysis.

What we know inhibits us. What we know that's "wrong" gets in the way. But truth is not constant - phones used to have wires, now, they don't. TV used to come via airwaves. Now, it comes via cable. (As every kid knows…)

Innovation is not a spectator sport. It requires management. And, leadership. Those to things are very different: management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. (I recall this from total quality management training in a previous job.)

Why is the U.S. so innovative? For one, in our personal lives, we forgive people when they fail. In companies, that's not always the case or policy.

Timing? Start innovating early. (Noah started the ark before the rain began, right?)

One final note: Kamen presented the entire talk while on a Segway.

• Stevan M. Coleman, P.E. of Hugo Reed & Associates, Inc., took me to task for one offhand comment in this Point of Interest from last week.

Self-Driving Cars in Your Future. That's right, the technology is almost ready. Even those in DARPA's challenge who made it only partially through the course believe such vehicles are closer than most people think. The U.S. Department of Defense aims to have 1/3 of its transports use automated driving techniques by 2015. One glitch? Some people actually like driving! But, they alas are the ones who get distracted and injure themselves and others.

"…But, please, leave the commentary regarding driving to those who know something about it. The last line in the paragraph [above], I suppose, was meant to be funny. Speaking as someone who LOVES to drive, let me assure you, it wasn't. Nor was it accurate."

The editor replies: Sorry - you are quite correct - that sentence was poorly put together and didn't really say what I meant. Neither Stevan nor I were able to find statistics to prove or disprove the statement. Do be careful out there, whether you love or don't love to drive. In somewhat related news, a recent New York Times article (free registration required) suggests that "hands free" gadgets in cars give drivers a false sense of security and may not be much safer than their handheld counterparts.

Points of Interest
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Donald at AU. I attended the Autodesk User Group International (AUGI) meeting. In addition to highlighting its good work and thanking its board, AUGI leadership recognized sponsor HP. The company received a token of appreciation and introduced Donald Trump (an impersonator) who was looking for contestants for his HP Intern game, to be held later in the week. The winners might take home iPAQs. A fellow in front of me got one during the meeting. I think he was the only one who knew the latest person tossed off "The Intern" TV show.

Tracking Confusion. RFID and other tags are used to track people and goods. The problem is, many people are confusing the technology with GPS. That's led to some challenges in Australia, where a AU$600,000 system to track minimum security prisoners inside the prison, has been criticized since it can't track them outside. The head of the prison notes that the tags are doing their jobs: authorities knew right away the two men were missing. Others argue they were misled about the system, arguing it's useless if escapees can't be tracked.

New Meaning for GPS. Be on the alert, GPS doesn't always mean what you think. Consider that GPS also means Global Persistent Surveillance, "The current definition of GPS is: 'the ability to know something of intelligence value about everything, on demand and on our terms, and have the capacity to dive deeply into the fine-grained details of specific issues to support timely political and military decisions.'" The key, say many, is the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). UAVs typically use the other GPS, too.

NGA Protest Tossed. ORBIMAGE Inc. announced Tuesday that it has received notice from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that they have dismissed the protest of the NextView Second Vendor contract awarded to ORBIMAGE from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The protest had been filed by New SI LLC, the competing bidder under the program. ORBIMAGE believes New SI is an affiliate of Space Imaging.

Geography Olympics. The Geography Olympics is a website where anyone can take a test that involves locating randomly selected countries. Scores are summarized for countries. Guess who wins? Belgium and Italy consistently beat out the competition, and the United States, well, it doesn't do so well. Roger Andresen created the game that's drawn more than 300,000 players from 186 countries. There's a leader board for countries and U.S. states.

Studying Cooperation. If you are at Stanford, or not, you can participate in a class exploring and mapping cooperation in a variety of areas. Part of the class involves a game, and there are blogs and more. The class begins January 5 and will be webcast in real-time. Readings are by luminaries including Peter Kollock, Elinor Ostrom, Steven Weber, Garrett Hardin, David Reed, Bernardo Huberman, and Howard Rheingold. This should be an interesting way to look into the future.

New MapServer. MapServer 4.4 was just released. Some of the new additions: Web Coverage Service (WCS) support (server only), support for time dimension in WMS, lots of fixes/improvements to the OGC Web Map Service (WMS) and Web Feature Service (WFS) interfaces (too many to list here), FastCGI support, connection pooling (implemented for SDE, Oracle, and PostGIS), improvements to SWIG MapScript API and docs, support for i18n encodings in map labels. Tested with Chinese, Japanese and Thai, ability to produce rotated maps (i.e., North is not at the top), completion of SDE versioned query support. According to those in the know, MapServer 4.4 passes all the tests of the OGC WMS 1.1.1 test suite and is ready to be certified.


Shooting the Ghosts. GloVentures, LLC, announced the upcoming release of Glofun RayGun, a location game for cell phones. The game premise: A cell phone loaded with RayGun software emits "spectral" energy that lets you attract and track ghosts. Unfortunately, the energy also annoys the ghosts, so you'd better "ionize" them before they get to you. The twist: RayGun is a GPS game, and to play it you have to move through the real world-that is, running around using your real feet. To aim the raygun at a ghost, you move toward it. Moving quickly increases the raygun's range. You can adjust your beam to long and narrow (good for zapping ghosts while they're still far away) or short and wide (good for zapping them when they're closing in on you). The longer you play, the more ghosts you attract, and the faster you have to move to stay ahead. The game has been tested for "funability" and passed. It still awaits Nextel approval, however.

Microsoft Researching Spatial. Microsoft Corp. is setting up a research lab in Bangalore, India, that will focus on areas including computing technologies for emerging markets, according to a company executive. Among the areas of basic research to be tackled: GIS and sensors. Reports indicate topics of interest include compiling satellite imagery, maps, and other data, and then collating and indexing that information geographically, and providing ways of visualizing the information for different requirements. "GIS research will allow Microsoft to understand how to extend its SQL (structured query language) database technology to become a geographical database," said Padmanabhan Anandan, managing director of Microsoft Research India.

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)

Geography of Quarterbacks. In another attempt to help teach geography to kids by piggy-backing on their interest in sports, California University of Pennsylvania professor Thomas Mueller is working with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Activities for K-12 help track teams and soon will help detect patterns of hometowns of great quarterbacks. I suppose anything that catches student interest helps!

Conundrums (concepts we question/give us pause)

Worst Nightmare Confirmed. A schoolgirl from Japan, carrying a location-tracked cell phone was kidnapped in the city of Nara. She called Mom at 5 pm and hung up. Mom tracked her to a park nearby. But later the kidnapper was sending SMS messages to the mother, tormenting her. The girl was eventually murdered.

More Nightmares Realized. A 78-year-old driver near Nancy, France followed the instructions on his navigation system and took a u-turn. He was driving at about 80 mph and ran into an oncoming vehicle. The driver was unharmed, as were the passengers in the vehicle he hit. It's not the first such incident, reported French officials.

Week in Review

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

• Announcements
Exor and Laser-Scan announced a partnership. This is an initiative to provide a comprehensive set of tools and services to merge logical and spatial networks together into a single source in an open Oracle Spatial Database.

LJT & Associates, Inc. announced in October that it has acquired the operations of Andover, Massachusetts-based Emerge Remote Sensing Services, Inc. (EMERGE), a provider of digital orthorectified mosaic imagery products. This addition will complement LJT & Associates, Inc.'s imagery services the geospatial, engineering, and scientific services market.

Over the counter sales activity at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Science Information Center (ESIC), part of the Rolla Mid-Continent Mapping Center (MCMC) will cease as of December 1. The termination of over the counter sales such as map purchases and other USGS product transactions is a result of an overall USGS restructuring plan.

Intermap Technologies announced a new flying program beginning in the spring of 2005 that will extend its NEXTMap Britain 3D landscape map across the whole of the UK. This will mean that for the first time England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man will be covered by a single up-to-date landscape survey.

The National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) recently accepted the GIS Certification Institute's (GISCI) invitation to join the GISCI Board of Governors.

ER Mapper appointed a new Master Reseller, DataNet Solutions (Pty) Ltd. for the Southern African region.

The European Geosciences Union announced Ocean Science a new Open Access (or free on the Web) journal. Ocean Science is fully peer-reviewed and aims to publish papers of the highest quality, covering all aspects of ocean science.

The Utah Center for Rural Life at Southern Utah University and the Utah Rural Development Council have received a $25,000 grant to purchase equipment for SUU's geographic information system/global positioning system laboratory. The grant, announced Nov. 17, has already paid for a wide-context scanning computer system. The funding received was from $15,000 given by the USDA/Forest Service, and $10,000 from the State Community Impact Board.

Ekahau, Inc. announced that it will be collaborating with ORACLE CORPORATION JAPAN in providing Wi-Fi Location Based Services (LBS) and Real Time Locating System (RTLS) solutions for Asian market. Oracle Location Based Services Framework will be using the Ekahau Positioning Engine software and Ekahau T101 Wi-Fi Tags and passive RFID tags for as the platform for Wi-Fi-based location tracking.

GeoAnalytics, Inc. signed a business partnership agreement with SAS, a company that does business intelligence.

The Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions (EIGS) announced that member company, Air-O-Space International (a wholly owned subsidiary of GB Tech, Inc.), was recognized for its methods being used with the Picayune (MS) Police Department in combating the "War on Drugs."

Webraska Mobile Technologies announced that Sensis, a local advertising and commercial search business, has selected Webraska's SmartZone Call Centre Framework to power the location-based services included in its recently launched premium voice service Sensis 1234.

Xybernaut Corporation announced that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recognized Xybernaut with an award for Outstanding Leadership in Emergency Data Interoperability.

• Contracts and Sales
NovaLIS products were selected by the Brunswick County, North Carolina Tax Assessment Office.

The Valuation and Land Agency of Northern Ireland has awarded a contract to an ESRI Ireland-led conglomerate to implement a GIS-based system which will enable it to re-evaluate all properties in Northern Ireland to gain a more accurate property valuation and to comply with industry standards. The deal is worth one million euros.

• Products
Azteca Systems announced the release of Cityworks Equipment Manager, a fully integrated solution for managing equipment items. Equipment manager is designed to track equipment through Cityworks, the leading GIS-based Asset Maintenance Management solution.

GeoLytics' new Business Package is a complete reference and analytic source for researching and answering essential business and marketing questions through five easy-to-use software products. The Business Package includes five business software products for the entire nation at $2,695 and for a single state at $1,395, a more than 25% discount from regular prices.

MapText, Inc. announced the release of Version 4.5 of Label-EZ, the Company's premier cartographic text placement software. The most important change users will notice in the new version is the much improved ease of use.

LizardTech, Inc. announced that its next generation MrSID format (MG3) is now being supported in CARIS product line.

@Last Software, Inc. announced the ability to exchange files between SketchUp and ArcGIS. This interoperability gives GIS users the ability to rapidly create 3D models in SketchUp, incorporate the models in to their GIS database, and then display them in ArcScene and ArcGlobe, ESRI's 3D viewing environments. This was originally announced some months ago.

• Events
Kevin Switala will serve as the moderator for a panel discussion at the final Open GEodaTA Consortium (OGETA) Forum for 2004 on Dec. 3 in Atlanta, Ga. Switala is the director of the state and local government market for GeoDecisions.

URISA has announced that it is now accepting abstract submissions for its 2005 Annual Conference which will take place October 9-12, 2005 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Laser-Scan will be showcasing Radius Topology in Cardiff on December 7, 2004 as part of the AGI Cymru Winter Meeting. Intergraph, a global reseller for Radius Topology and Laser-Scan, are co-hosting a stand whose message is partnership and deriving intelligence from fit for purpose spatial data quality.

The first Earth & Space Week, organized by the European Commission in collaboration with the European Space Agency, will take place in Brussels between 12 and 20 February 2005. Presenting the large scope and potential of Earth observation, the Earth & Space Week will be a first of its kind, featuring the third Earth Observation Summit, an international conference on co-operation in space and the Earth & Space Expo.

GIS Development signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dubai Municipality, United Arab Emirates (UAE) to organize Map Middle East 2005, the largest conference and tradeshow of its kind aimed to address the Middle East region.

• Training
Many of the classes at Autodesk University are being videotaped for distribution via the Web. Stay tuned for further details.

• People
IDELIX Software Inc. announced that Derek H. Burney, the former President of CAE Inc. and Prime Ministerial Chief of Staff, has joined the visualization software company's Board of Advisors. Mr. Burney will advise IDELIX as the company gains momentum in new markets such as digital imaging, computer aided design (CAD), modeling, and simulation.

Long-time USGSer Passes. Charles Emory Morrison, 77, a retired topographer with the U.S. Geological Survey, died Nov. 27. He graduated from Penn State in 1951 and began a 33-year career (free registration required) with USGS the same year.

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