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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By now everyone should be a bit suspicious of business e-mail coming from the free Microsoft-hosted "hotmail.com" domain (and others like it). Like some of you, perhaps, when I received a survey from "Geospatial WebMaster [[email protected]]" - note misspelling of geospatial in the address - I was immediately suspicious. The e-mail requested that I complete an online Zoomerang survey, but didn't note anywhere who was giving the survey. Not surprisingly, the above address, spelled wrong, was "invalid." When I spelled it correctly, the mail did go through, but I received no reply to my request for the name of the organization sponsoring the survey.
The text of the e-mail was curious:
"Dear GIS Customer: We are requesting your input. We are researching the value of a true orthophoto over a DEM-rectified orthophoto and having a 3D model over having to create one. Please take a few minutes to fill out this short survey. Your assistance in this matter is greatly appreciated. If you are not the person most familiar with the use of orthophotos or 3D models in your organization, please forward this survey to the appropriate person. The first 5 people to respond will receive a 32 meg memory stick. Thank you."
The survey itself was about the value of not regular orthos but "true orthos" - how much money/time they might save, the required accuracy, etc. The last item in the survey asked the "customer" to provide contact information to win a prize. I chose not to participate.
I contacted Zoomerang, which from my experience, is an on-the-level provider of online survey services. They responded right away to my query about this mysterious sender and said they would research it. I've not heard back at press time. I did, in the meantime, receive yet another e-mail from the misspelled address, a "reminder." I guess they've not yet given away their five memory sticks.
I'm amazed that in these days of worry over personal information that anyone would give out such information to an anonymous company!
I noted two weeks ago that Bentley was running a survey aimed at Autodesk users to gather information on their thoughts on software retirement. Bentley received more than 2,000 responses in the short period (several days) of the survey. The results Bentley shared in a press release include:
• 87 percent agreed or strongly agreed: "I want my software vendor not to disrupt my project workflow by forcing me to upgrade or retire my software product."
• 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed: "I want my software vendor to supply my team with free viewers so we can easily access and exchange project data."
• 93 percent agreed or strongly agreed: "I want an open solution that allows me to participate in all types of projects and work with all CAD file formats and versions."
• 92 percent agreed or strongly agreed: "I want to create PDF deliverables of my projects so I can freely share engineering and construction information."
• 89 percent were interested in platform that supported both DGN and DWG.
I can't say that the results are earth-shattering or surprising, especially considering how the questions were written. The real question is, of course, will these strong feelings help Bentley convert unhappy Autodesk users into happy Bentley users. Changing core software is such a challenge that doing so almost requires "being paid." It's comparable, perhaps, to changing banks: you have to either be sufficiently annoyed at the existing bank or be "paid" by a second bank to switch.
How Bentley Sees It
I spoke to Bentley's Tony Flynn about the survey. "We have a sense that many users feel it's their lot in life" to have to deal with the challenges put forward by some software companies, he said. He explained that Bentley wanted "to give a voice" to these opinions and hopefully make users aware that they have real options.
Flynn was quick to note that Bentley didn't feel this was a "fair survey" of Autodesk users overall, but a good sample of the opinions of those facing version obits [dropping support of old releases]. Flynn noted that 70% of respondents provided full contact information and a large percentage provided detailed responses to free response questions. One thing the company learned thus far from processing the ongoing survey? Many Autodesk users were not aware that MicroStation read and wrote both DGN and DWG. Flynn also shared that at Bentley's first seminar aimed at Autodesk users, one of the fifteen attendees has already sent in a purchase order.
Still, he's realistic that some Autodesk users will need more convincing. Evaluation versions of Bentley products are available, and Bentley offers a "rent to buy" option for those who need more time. For those who see only technology "comparable" to Autodesk's from Bentley, Flynn is quick to note that there's more. "It's things like support for more back versions of DWG than Autodesk supports and our efforts with PDF that can help sway them."
I asked the "why now?" question. Flynn responded that "it's never been more clear" that the two companies have different visions and technologies. He points to Autodesk's three platforms (AutoCAD, Revit, and Inventor) and Bentley's single one: MicroStation. He points to Autodesk's DWF and Bentley's focus on PDF. He points to Autodesk's annual "obitting" of back releases and Bentley's commitment not to retire formats. He concludes this way: "We really want to listen to Autodesk users, not just for a month or a quarter but for the long-term. And, not just in the U.S. but worldwide."
Early this week Bentley rolled out its offer to miffed AutoCAD users which includes "functionality that meets or exceeds AutoCAD," "an open and universal solution compared to AutoCAD," "upgrade pricing that meets or exceeds Autodesk['s]," free viewers and special services. Upgrade pricing runs from "the same price" as to an Autodesk product, to 50% less, to just $100, depending on the product. Bentley is offering MicroStation, MicroStation PowerDraft, MicroStation Redline, and Bentley View as upgrade paths. The program is called "You Deserve Better."
While enticing, this isn't exactly paying people to drop AutoCAD. So the question becomes, "are Autodesk users so unhappy about the obitting that they'll drop the software entirely?" My gut feeling is that for many people, things are not "that bad." While it's disconcerting to have your vendor no longer support your software of choice, it's not the end of the world. Tech savvy users have made do without tech support for many years, sometimes due to lack of funds and other times due to lack of official channels. Still, help is often available from other users and if you pay enough, someone will likely step up to the plate. There are real limitations, of course. One is that no one can "get inside the code" and prepare a fix to a specific problem, since Autodesk owns the source code. The other is that in time the operating system on which the product runs may no longer be supported, either!
I applaud Bentley for doing the survey, and bringing the issue to the world, and I'll be very interested to follow its progress.
More from Autodesk University
Lest readers think I attended Autodesk University and didn't attend any classes, let me assure you, I did go to class! I first attended a class on LandXML and LandGML. I had a slight leg up on many of the attendees as I consult to the Open Geospatial Consortium and have written a bit about LandGML and the work that enabled it. I confess that I was surprised at how full the room was for what I expected would be a topic of limited interest.
In brief, Autodesk and a host of other organizations got together and defined LandXML as a way to share raw civil engineering data. Though it's quite new, nearly all of the key players in civil engineering software support (import or export) it. That raises the question - how about players in GIS? Well, it's certainly possible for GIS software vendors to add direct support for LandXML in their products (Cadcorp, a small and agile company in the UK already has) but most are focusing on supporting GML, the OGC's Geography Markup Language.
To address the issue, OGC set up an Interoperability Experiment, a quick way to tackle a specific issue. The result is a tool that converts LandXML to LandGML. What's LandGML? It's a flavor of GML that any product that supports GML can read using an "applications schema" made available on the OGC website. (That's all invisible to the user, so you really don't need to know this to use it.) There are lots of technical details for those interested, but most of us simply need to know that these tools are available. From a broader perspective, this work should enable easier input of engineering data into GIS software and vice versa.
The other class I attended was on Autodesk Map 3D's Display Manager. I have to say, it's one of those tools that's so powerful that it needs its own 90-minute class. To be fair, many people can use it without a class, but to fully comprehend its power, you'd need this type of exploration. I was surprised at how many people stayed for the entire session! If you missed it, there's a tutorial here.
I did hear one scary story about a session. Apparently one class titled "Introduction to Land Desktop" didn't cover that product at all, but rather covered Civil 3D. I understand about half the attendees walked out. I'll suggest this is further evidenced to support my suggestion last week that Civil 3D will be the replacement for a to-be-retired Land Desktop.
A New Geotoy
I read a lot of press releases involving location, GPS, and other technologies. One caught my attention a few weeks ago. It touted a new "key chain" device, C-Car, that will help locate your car in a parking lot. The company, Lancetta, Inc., was good enough to send me a sample. The device looks and mostly acts like a compass. It's a small water-filled compartment with one part of a graphic that stays still and a second part that floats and spins around. When correctly aligned the two parts create a graphic of a stylized car.
Here's how you use the device. When you get out of your car in the parking lot you hold the device horizontal, and point the arrow on one end at where you'll be going - for example, the entrance to the store or mall. Then you dial the knob on the outside so that the car graphic lines up. In doing so you are essentially setting a bearing. When you finish shopping and come out of the store/mall (from the same door!) you turn the device (not the knob) until the car graphic is complete, then follow the arrow back to your car.
It seems simple enough, but there are issues. If you are in a rush and don't hold the device horizontal, you don't get a good reading. If you are too close to big metal objects, (like cars!) you may not get a good reading. If you come out of a different door of the mall, you are out of luck. If a friend gives you the device to take his car, you better know what the car looks like, since the device just points you in the "general direction" with no sense of distance.
The good news is that the device is inexpensive. I'm sure my 5-year-old nephew would love to play with it. But as a car finder, it's not so hot. So, I share this advice from two people to whom I showed the device: write down the letter and number from the parking lot sign (B-5) and be done with it!
ECO Intern for Hire
I noted earlier this year I'd be sharing "job wanted" blurbs from current and former Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) interns. (I was an ECO intern in 1989. That position got me my start in this industry.)
Here's the latest potential hiree.
I want to work in natural resource management in the Washington, DC area.
I have worked for twelve years in the environmental sector, and gained extensive GIS experience, including ArcGIS (ArcMap, ArcCatalog and ArcToolbox), ArcInfo, and ArcView (with 3D Analyst, Geoprocessing, Image Analysis, Xtools and Spatial Analyst extensions). I have applied these programs to a variety of environmental projects. Most recently, I developed a model of big game migration corridors overlaid on the status of land ownership for Wyoming to determine which corridors were most threatened by development.
In 1995 I had two projects with ECO. One was with the WA State Department of Transportation, where I produced a state map using ArcInfo that displayed rest areas, scenic viewpoints, national forests and parks. The other was with the US Geological Survey, where we developed maps and charts detailing chemical constituents contaminating groundwater at a Superfund site.
Dennis Feeney, (301) 785-1507, dc.feeneys[at]verizon.net
University of Wyoming: MA, Geography/Water Resources (1994) & BS, Marketing, minor, Economics (1989)
• Julie A. Puuri, GIS Manager at Hayes, Seay, Mattern & Mattern, Inc. did a careful read of the recently mailed GITA conference program.
"I am a faithful reader of, GIS Monitor a fellow technical editor, and an old-school GIS Professional, so I found the recent discourse on Geographic vs. Geospatial both interesting and humorous. I also concur that utilize is the most over- and improperly-used word in our language these days. At the risk of flogging a dead issue (or resurrecting one), I received my preliminary GITA Conference 28 program in the mail yesterday, and found with great amusement the term Workshop has now been replaced with Knowledge Immersion Seminar. While I believe the goal is to make this conference staple appear fresh and inviting, I am reminded of the conservation stickers on restroom paper towel dispensers during my college days at NC State Univ. that stated: 'Why use two when one will do?' I believe that motto applies to the words we choose in technical writing, as well."
The editor responds: That is an interesting change. Knowledge management is a hot term these days. Immersion recalls "total immersion" and one of the methods of teaching foreign languages.
• More than one reader wrote to note that a letter prompted by discussion of the terms GIS vs. geospatial some months ago turned up on the front page of ArcNews. One shared a final thought on "terminology proliferation."
"I had a college chemistry teacher who had an amusing way of looking at this type of terminology proliferation. He used to point out the use of 2 different terms in chemistry that meant the exact same thing, and he called it 'job security' for him, meaning that the more confusing a field became (partially through the use of synonyms), the more teachers were required to help students sort it out."
Points of Interest
Location-based encryption. At a recent security event Steve Wozniak's new company, Wheels of Zeus, showed off location-based encryption. Basically, you put a dongle on your laptop with a GPS receiver in it. It in turn communicates with a local base station, which depending on the laptop's location encrypts or decrypts the data.
Woz Off-track? David Coursey writes in eWeek that he doesn't feel Steve Wozniak's location-based encryption is going to be a "killer app." Mostly, he suggests, it's just too hard to find scenarios in which it'd be appropriate. More to the point, perhaps, there are other, better ways to secure data. So, it's a solution in search of a problem, I suppose. Coursey points out with his usual humor that Woz started looking into LBS as a way to track his dog. Perhaps, Coursey suggests, he should head back to that challenge. Or, better yet, he should listen to Dean Kamen's talk on innovation that I heard last week.
Books for GeoPeople. Ready for a gift for your geo or non-geo friends? How about The Largest U.S. Cities Named After a Food. Really, that's title. It's really a book of geography lists including: What U.S. towns have the same name as a foreign country? Which large U.S. cities claim the highest percentage of households without telephone service? What state's residents call soft drinks "pop" more than any other? The author, Brandt Maxwell, is a forecaster for the National Weather Service. He's traveled quite a bit and well, wrote this book. Or, if you like imagery in your gifts, consider, The Appalachian Trail: An Aerial View, by Mark Warner. He took the photos over a five-year period of flying over the trail in a 1959 Piper Cub. He admits to using hiking guides and DeLorme Atlases to find the spots of interests' GPS coordinates. A handheld GPS was his guide.
County Can't Take Money From Private Mapping Firm. The Collier (Florida) County Property Appraiser felt that his office should receive a portion of profits from private companies that use his office's data. A judge ruled against him saying that the public had already paid for the maps via taxes. The suit was against MicroDecisions, a company that collects data from the 67 counties in the state and resells data and services, mostly to real estate appraisers.
Personal Sensor. MyAy is the name of a new personal sensor (right) coming soon from Seimens. With an array of onboard sensors the Java-based platform is expected to serve as an "alarm" of sorts about a location. Did someone pass by? Did the temperature rise? Did the sensor itself move? In any of these events a message can be sent to a phone via SMS or voice. This may be the beginning of sensors as "the next big thing."
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)
World Aids Day. Last Wednesday was World AIDS Day. Joseph Oppong, a University of North Texas associate professor, compiled a 16-page study (free registration required) of HIV/AIDS cases among people between the ages of 13 and 24 in Dallas County and Texas. The study was commissioned by The Dallas Examiner. There are some scary patterns: in one ZIP code, just north of downtown Dallas, 10 out of every 1,000 young people are HIV positive or have AIDS. In another, southeast of downtown, that rate is eight out every 1,000 young people. If nothing else, this level of data being available for such studies is a step forward. Back in the 1980s, researchers had trouble getting AIDS case data below the county level at some times.
Conundrums (concepts we question/give us pause)
Using Unused Buildings. A new Reason Foundation policy brief, written by MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello, urges Congress to scrutinize the billions of dollars being wasted at unused and underutilized federal properties and recommends the use of GIS to catalog the government's property holdings. It turns out that in a 2003 the Government Accountability Office found that three agencies - the General Services Administration, the Veterans Affairs Department, and the Postal Service - controlled 927 vacant or underutilized properties. In 2001, the Veterans Affairs Department spent more than $300,000 to maintain a building that had been vacant for 14 years. The brief is available online and is as much about the property in question as return on investment for GIS. The report doesn't give me pause, the fact that so many properties are unused does!
Week in Review
Please note: Material used herein is often supplied by external sources and used as is.
During URISA's 42nd Annual Conference in Reno last month, a number of the association's leaders were recipients of special awards, including Peirce Eichelberger who received the Leadership Award and Don Cooke who received the Horwood Distinguished Service Award. Congrats to both gentlemen, who are long-time readers of this publication.
Users of 3D Nature's Visual Nature Studio 2.5 (VNS2) can now efficiently access large images from anywhere in the world. Using ER Mapper's Image Web Server and its streaming imagery protocol (ECWP), large terabyte-plus images can be used and manipulated in VNS2.
Ubisense Smart Space uses patented and patent pending technology to create an ultrawideband-based network inside a building capable of locating a person or object in three dimensions to within six inches in real-time. The devices comprising the platform received certification from the Federal Communications Commission to operate in the United States.
The Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC) announced a new trademark licensing fee structure
that increases the value of membership for current members while making new membership more affordable. (It's sort of complicated, read the website.)
The Association of American Geographers (AAG) recently accepted the GIS Certification Institute's (GISCI) invitation to join the GISCI Board of Governors. AAG's Executive Director, Doug Richardson, will sit on the board.
@Road, Inc., a provider of mobile resource management (MRM), has been awarded U.S. Patent 6,795,017, "Rule-based Actions using GPS Tracking Data," and European Patent EP1168863, "Dual Platform Location-relevant Service." The company has a total of thirteen patents issued and more than 30 additional patents pending in jurisdictions throughout the world.
Cyon Research Corporation announced that A-E-C Automation Newsletter is now AECnews.com, a Web-based news service for decision makers in architecture, engineering, and construction. "AECnews.com covers all aspects of technology adoption and use specific to architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC), including plant design. Specific technologies covered include building information modeling and building lifecycle modeling (BIM and BLM), computer-aided design (CAD), business intelligence, plant-design software, project management, AEC-specific business application software, related applications of global positioning satellite [sic] (GPS) technology, digital signature software, computer workstations, output devices, networking technologies, and technology for data use on the job site."
• Contracts and Sales
GeoTango International Corporation is working on a project for Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) Valcartier, Department of National Defence and Earth Science Sector, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) since April of this year. The project is financed by GeoInnovations of NRCan, DRDC and Earth Science Sector of NRCan. The objective of this project is to implement a commercially viable 3D tool (called GSN 3D Explorer) in order to access, visualize, and analyze GML data and integrate GML vector with raster and digital elevation model (DEM) data types via OGC/CGDI compatible Web service interfaces.
Varion Systems, the software development and value-added reseller division of GeoAnalytics, Inc, has been chosen by the City of Council Bluffs, Iowa to implement Govern Software's land management software suite.
Air-Trak, Inc., a developer of the Cloudberry GPS tracking and communication system, announced that Vertrax has chosen Cloudberry as a foundation for its SmartTrax(TM) mobile resource management solution for the retail petroleum industry.
Exor has been awarded the IT contract to supply its Street Works Management software and National Street Gazetteer (NSG) Level 3 Manager into Three Valleys Water, Hertfordshire.
Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions announced the City of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada, has replaced its traditional desktop GIS with new Web systems based on Intergraph's geospatial data management solutions.
DigitalGlobe announced that the Nature Conservancy is using DigitalGlobe's QuickBird satellite imagery to assess biological diversity and conservation progress in several regions throughout the U.S. and worldwide.
Essex Corporation received $4 million in a combination of new awards and expansions of existing awards for the operational use and further enhancement of the Company's patented Volumetric Synthetic Aperture Radar (VSAR) 3-D image processing technology.
Leica Geosystems GIS & Mapping announced this week it is among the recipients of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency 2004 Innovations in Geospatial Intelligence BAA Award. GIS Monitor reported on the award on Oct 21. (We don't wait for news to come to us, we seek it out.)
Freeance Direct software lets you dynamically map collected GPS points, and street address data such as police, fire, and environmental, on an ESRI-based Web mapping platform.
Origin GeoSystems, Inc. announced the release of Origin GIS version 2.2, an application extension for ArcGIS from Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). Version 2.2 provides more than 25 new features and enhancements to the popular Origin GIS utility solution including a configurable trace-based query and reporting tool, intelligent electrical phase orientation diagrams, and feature templates for the creation of multi-feature GIS entities, such as underground switch gear.
GE Energy announced the availability of Smallworld Spatial Intelligence 4, the latest addition to the Smallworld 4 product suite. The product offers a comprehensive business intelligence solution, offering data access, visualization, analysis, and reporting tools for network companies.
GlobeXplorer and Telemorphic Inc. announced the release of MapImager for ImageConnect, software that allows ArcGIS users to easily perform interactive image or map comparisons within the ArcMap environment.
MultiGen-Paradigm, Inc., a provider of real-time 3D visual simulation software solutions, announced Creator Terrain Studio v1.2. Creator Terrain Studio delivers a unique set of 3D scene creation, geometry/texture creation tools, and workflow management focused on the production of complex, large-area real-time 3D terrain databases.
More than 1,000 federal GIS users will convene February 1-3, 2005, at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center for the 2005 ESRI Federal User Conference (FedUC). The three-day event, which is free for federal employees, will highlight ESRI's latest software releases, discuss the future direction of ESRI technologies, and feature numerous federal applications of ESRI software.
Autodesk University class handouts/slides are online.
Tadpole-Cartesia, Inc., the California-based geospatial solutions division of Tadpole Technology, announced the appointment of Ian Martin as executive account manager for its utilities business in North American markets. He comes from ASI.
ORBIMAGE announced that William "Bill" Schuster (left) has joined the Company as Chief Operating Officer. He was most recently with BAE Systems, where he started a new operation as the President of Integrated Systems.
MapInfo UK announced that it is significantly expanding its public sector team with the appointment of four new people. Matthew Tuohy and Michael Ashmore join as Corporate Sales Executives, bringing the Public Sector sales team to a total of six, and Chris Bolam and Iain Daws join as Product Manager and Strategic Market Manager, respectively.
Digital mapping and GIS software developer, Cadcorp, has announced the appointment of Robin Sheehan as northern European sales and business manager. His role is to expand on Cadcorp's existing European operations by building business partnerships that maximize the sales opportunities that exist for Cadcorp software within northern Europe.
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