2006 April 27

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Editor's Introduction

This week I am traveling back to the United States, so this issue contains only one report: on uLocate, a Boston-based company at the center of much of the current buzz on location-based services (LBS). Plus, my usual round-up of news from press releases. Next week I will have one more report from Italy, about a client of Bentley Italy.


uLocate Bets On GPS-Enabled Cell Phones

A few years ago, the widespread adoption of cell phones led the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to mandate that they report their location to 911 dispatchers. This mandate has led the most of the major wireless carriers to adopt GPS as the preferred method for locating cell phones. GPS-enabled cell phones — and other GPS-enabled mobile devices, such as PDAs and laptop computers — have, in turn, finally begun to make location-based services (LBS) a reality. Currently, 14 GPS-enabled handsets are available in the United States. While waiting for such handsets to become ubiquitous, a few companies are building LBS applications — using devices that rely on GPS, cell phone networks, WiFi routers, or other techniques to determine their precise or approximate location or relying simply on users' self-reported location. One such company is uLocate and its flagship product is MapQuest Find Me. I met recently in Boston with the company's director of marketing and audience development, Jon Feingold, and discussed the company's origins, products, and plans.

uLocate was founded by three Boston-area entrepreneurs. What excited them about this business besides the FCC's E911 mandate, Feingold told me, was the rapid growth in the number of teenagers with cell phones: every teenager wants a cell phone and every parent of teenage kids wants to be able to keep track of them. To this end, they built a location platform on Nextel, which was the only GPS-enabled cell phone at the time. "They went out very early and created leadership in consumer LBS," says Feingold. Their story was picked up by many of the major national news outlets — such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Good Morning America — and that momentum caught MapQuest's attention. The three then raised money from Kodiak Venture Partners and GrandBanks and developed a technology platform that is now used to power MapQuest FindMe as well as several other LBS applications in the market.

uLocate's location platform manages privacy controls, alerting, geofencing, and similar functions, as well as a mark-up language for wireless phones that allows the company to control the user experience on the handset via the Internet. "That platform is in use today with all of our partners and all of our application deployments," Feingold told me. "We are now leveraging it to build out a consumer portal at www.where.com, a mobile social network that will ultimately tie in location as more and more handsets become location-enabled."

As a software technology provider, uLocate works with any location-enabled device, including a few dedicated devices. For example, a GPS-enabled dog collar relies on uLocate's software. On the mapping side, uLocate currently uses Mapquest, but it plans to use other map products for projects that are currently in development.

While uLocate, according to Feingold, focuses mostly on cell phones, it is also preparing for the arrival of multimodal devices capable of using both WiFi and cellular technology.

"We have two focuses to our business right now," Feingold told me. "One is that we use our technology platform and we are now working with a handful of MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) and other network operators to bring applications like MapQuest from other different brands to market. The other side of the business on which we are focused is building out www.where.com, which is our consumer portal that allows people to connect through their mobile phones and common locations. It is a mobile gateway, which allows you to do things like share photos and videos, apply them to locations, and tie content to nearby events, all on your mobile phone. As more and more handsets become location-aware, we will marry our technology platform on GPS/location-enabled phones with our where.com community, to bring about a massive, location-aware social network to the consumer market. Over the next 12-18 months, as we roll out software for GPS-enabled handsets, we will start to marry location prototyping with the where.com portal."

In order to extract location from phones, of course, uLocate needs arrangements with wireless carriers. "We have relationships with Sprint Nextel," says Feingold, "we are working now with Horizon, and we have a trial going with T-Mobile and with a couple of MVNOs. We are continuing to expand: as more and more carriers roll out LBS, we will get our applications on their desks."

With all location technologies, privacy is a big concern. uLocate's buddy-finder application works with double opt-in, similarly to the way that instant messaging platforms work: both parties have to agree to share their location before either can see the other's location. Users can also control the degree of accuracy with which they share information.

Where.com is focused on the 15-25 year old market, according to Feingold, capturing audiences through the use of technologies that are available today, mostly the camera phones. "Basically, it is a site for self-expression: I can create a profile and send in mobile photos, I can create friends, define the places where I hang out, then I can apply content to those hangouts."

"We own a site called geosnapper.com, which is the birthplace of GPS photography. This site allows you to either upload photos and tag them with coordinates, if you have a dedicated GPS device, or if you have a GPS-enabled camera phone, like the Motorola IA60, it will let you snap and share photos. People really loved the ability to tag photos and content to locations and to do it in an automated way. But we found that there weren't enough GPS-enabled camera phones on the market yet to make this a mainstream application. Our intent is to build audience at where.com by using self-reported location, WiFi location and the few GPS-enabled camera phones that are available today and then ultimately build up a community that is very location-centric when there are ubiquitous GPS-enabled phones. Geosnapper.com is a very simple kind of snap, tag, and share [site]. As you can see, every photo is tagged to a location. It shows you lat-long, points of interest around, maps, which you can blow up and look at in an interactive way."

uLocate also owns and operates kmaps, a free download based on Google Maps which works on advanced handsets, like the Treo and the Blackberry, and is aimed at 25-4o year old professionals. It is essentially a mobile mash-up for Treo that allows users to find maps and directions, connect with people, use self-reported location, and post location-aware content to a site. uLocate is now incorporating Kmaps and geosnapper into where.com.

News Briefs

Please note: I have culled the following news items from press releases and have not independently verified them.


The Royal Netherlands Army Geographic Agency has contracted with East View Cartographic (EVC) to produce new 1:50,000-scale topographic maps of Uruzgan province in Afghanistan. The maps will initially support Dutch military deployments in the region as responsibility for this province is handed off from U.S. troops.

Under the project, EVC will deliver 31 TLM (topographic line map) sheets in total, including the production of completely new map sheets as well as the updating of pre-existing maps. The project area covers more than 20,000 square kilometers. Extraction and attributing of map features will be performed based on 2.5 meter resolution SPOT-5 satellite imagery supplemented by a variety of other data sources, including unique sources procured by EVC. Products will be delivered in multiple geospatial industry standard digital formats and adhere to precision military standards. Upon completion the maps will represent the most complete and up-to-date large-scale maps available of the area.

Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) went live with the 9.1.2 version of Miner & Miner, a Telvent company's ArcFM Solution on April 6th, just two days after the release became available to the public. Since they will be deploying mobile technology in the coming weeks with the new Redliner extension for ArcFM Viewer, mobile Designer, mobile ArcFM, and geodatabase synchronization, KUA wanted to remain current as possible with ArcFM technology.

The community-owned utility, which serves 58,000 customers in central Florida, has been using ArcFM, ArcFM Viewer, Designer, and Responder since December 2003 to streamline operations management for facilities, outage response, and design. KUA has used out-of-the-box technology, making only a few necessary customizations to their data model, which allows for quick and simple upgrades as they become available from Miner & Miner. This past migration was completed within two 24-hour testing periods followed by a smooth rollout to internal users. KUA will also gain from modifications made to Responder, Miner & Miner's outage management system.

The Utilities Department of Daytona Beach, Florida has selected DeLorme's XMap software as a field-based GIS solution. As an integral part of the city's expanding GIS infrastructure, XMap was chosen for its ability to deliver critical GIS functionality on a mobile platform. The software delivers spatial data and tools to the city's laptop-equipped field crews.

XMap's feature list includes GIS viewing, analysis, and editing tools; it also provides full GPS support for routing and in-vehicle navigation — including verbal command recognition for hands-free operation. In addition, the automatic creation of GPS log files allows the activity of each field crew to be recorded and analyzed for efficiency.

DeLorme's XMap/GIS platform offers a set of spatial tools that fit the technical and financial constraints of all organizations, regardless of size. XMap/GIS Editor offers full GIS functionality, including access to existing GIS data, import, and export of ESRI Shapefiles, data creating and editing tools, and Web publishing of GIS data. XMap 4.5 includes an array of standard mapping features as well as access to GIS data that has been processed in XMap/GIS Editor.

Northeastern Rural Electric Membership Corporation (NREMC), an electric utility cooperative in northeastern Indiana, has implemented an advanced field GIS. ESRI business partner Tadpole Technology is providing its mobile GIS solutions, GO! Sync (Mapbook) and GO! Sync (Redline), which utilize ESRI ArcGIS Engine technology. Tadpole Technology GO! Sync (Mapbook) and GO! Sync (Redline) integrate with the company's ArcGIS platform. It makes spatial data and functionality available to field crews and other utility staff working remotely, including the ability to view, search, trace, route, link with GPS, and more.

The mobile GIS implementation took approximately two weeks to complete. Staff can view asset network data; create or change digital as-built designs; and capture remote data such as downed, repaired, or new infrastructure; as well as provide descriptive report data. The newly captured and updated data can then be uploaded to the enterprise GIS.

Several factors contributed to the decision to implement the field GIS solution. The solution provides the ability to distribute data changes quickly across the organization; after initial setup, GO! Sync could distribute map changes with little or no human interaction. The application is customizable, allowing NREMC to tailor symbology and searches as needed. In addition, the electric network tracing tools, combined with the redlining functionality, allow field crews to make better, more informed decisions for its complex facility plant. The GPS interface and routing has provided NREMC with better direction-finding capability.

The solutions are used by customer service representatives, linemen, dispatchers, staking engineers, tree crews, locators, marketing personnel, and accounting personnel utilizing GO! Sync to view map information. Approximately 50-60 employees can access several types of data from several corporate databases from within the GO! Sync application.

European Space Imaging (EUSI), a partner of GeoEye, the world's largest satellite remote-sensing imaging company, has received an additional contract from the European Commission to supply OrbView-3 high-resolution map-accurate imagery. The contract was awarded on April 5 and is valued at $2.15 million over the next four years. The imagery will be collected by the company's OrbView-3 high-resolution earth-imaging satellite. Together with its recently renewed three-year contract to supply imagery from GeoEye's IKONOS high-resolution satellite, EUSI continues to be one of the largest suppliers of commercial satellite imagery to the European Commission.

The imagery will be processed and delivered to the European Commission by EUSI, which is located in Munich, Germany. The contract requires GeoEye to begin imagery collections over 24 specific European sites to support the European Commission's agricultural subsidy controls. The European Union is using satellite imagery as a tool to verify farmer's declarations and claims for subsidies. In addition, the European Commission will use OrbView-3 imagery in support of national security-related projects.

GeoEye is currently building its next-generation commercial satellite imaging system, GeoEye-1, which will have a ground resolution of .41-meter panchromatic and 1.65-meter multispectral. When launched in early 2007, this satellite will greatly increase the company's capacity to collect a large amount of data within a short timeframe, which is ideal for monitoring crop subsidy programs.


Intermap Technologies Corp. has expanded its online offerings to include countrywide and statewide SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) elevation datasets, contours, and Global Mapper geospatial software. All of these offerings complement the Intermap suite of NEXTMap digital elevation models. SRTM elevation datasets will supplement the Company's NEXTMap high-resolution datasets while the company collects and builds its national elevation database of countries around the world.

The SRTM datasets are available by whole country or group of countries (except for the United States, which is broken into states and territorial islands). The datasets have national boundaries buffered to 12 nautical miles, ocean elevation set to 0 meters and flattened lakes greater than 600 meters in length. Datasets are available in ESRI GRID format or custom formats at a customer's request. The U.S. state and territorial island models are clipped from SRTM DTED Level 2 data using ESRI's shapefiles of U.S. state boundaries. Country models are clipped from the SRTM DTED Level 1 data by using ESRI's international country shapefiles.

Intermap's contours, generated from its bare-earth Digital Terrain Model (DTM), are available at various intervals, depending on the customer's application requirement and the terrain characteristics of the area of interest. Contour datasets are available throughout Intermap's DTM areas. Additionally, Intermap has also added to its online product offerings Global Mapper software for the analysis and viewing of geospatial data. Global Mapper allows users to apply GIS functionality to raster, elevation and vector datasets and offers conversion, editing, and printing capability. A three-dimensional viewing tool is also included.

MWH Soft, a provider of environmental and water resources applications software, has released H2OMAP SWMM Designer. The new extension is fully integrated with H2OMAP SWMM Suite, allowing engineers to simulate, analyze, design, and optimize large and complex sanitary, storm and combined sewer systems in a single, seamless operation. The tool demystifies the complex science of urban drainage modeling.

Supporting native GIS data as well as the USEPA's industry-standard (and FEMA-approved) Storm Water Management Model (SWMM5), H2OMAP SWMM Suite integrates the needs of both GIS and wastewater engineering professionals in one complete package. Distinguished by a compelling combination of cutting-edge GIS functionality and hallmark hydraulic, hydrologic, and water quality simulation capabilities, H2OMAP SWMM Suite offers a powerful and comprehensive solution that greatly simplifies and accelerates urban drainage systems modeling, enabling engineers to develop better designs, rehabilitation and improvement alternatives faster and more cost-effectively.

The new Designer extension leverages the power of advanced Genetic Algorithms optimization technology to aid in preventing sewer overflows — a leading cause of water pollution in the nation's lakes, streams, and inland bays. H2OMAP SWMM Designer automatically selects the most cost-effective solution to flooding and pollution management, using a combination of pipe slope and size, storage, pumping and new piping strategies to eliminate unwanted sewer overflows and achieve targeted system performance requirements. Performance criteria include maximum allowable depth-to-diameter ratio, minimum and maximum pipe velocities, and maximum head loss for force mains.

CSI's Hemisphere GPS division, a designer and manufacturer of GPS products, has introduced its new Crescent A100 "smart antenna" that combines a GPS antenna with a GPS receiver featuring Hemisphere's new high-performance Crescent OEM module. The entire system fits into a very durable, compact enclosure.

The Crescent A100 features especially fast start-up and signal reacquisition times; update rates of up to 20Hz; radar-simulated pulse output to determine ground speed; CAN and serial communication for compatibility with many devices and interfaces; an LED that conveniently indicates when the unit has power, when it's tracking GPS, and when it has a DGPS solution; easy mounting, using fixed or magnetic options; and a low, compact profile to avoid potential overhead obstructions.

About the size of a standard household smoke detector, the Crescent A100 also features Hemisphere's exclusive COAST and e-Dif technologies. COAST software enables Hemisphere receivers to utilize old differential GPS (DGPS) correction data for 40 minutes or more without significantly affecting the quality of positioning. When using COAST, receivers are less likely to be affected by differential GPS signal outages due to signal blockages, weak signals or interference.

e-Dif software enables Hemisphere receivers to achieve DGPS-quality positioning accuracies without the need for a differential signal - meaning no recurring subscription fees. e-Dif typically maintains less than a one-meter drift during 40-minute periods. It is ideal for locations where other differential services are limited or expensive. In regions where differential signals are freely available, e-Dif provides reliable back-up.

The Crescent A100 will replace Hemisphere's existing GPS smart antenna products - the Seres and AgIQ - and those under the brands of Hemisphere's OEM partners, including agricultural industry partners.

AccuGlobe Mobile Command Center, a new application designed by Digital Data Technologies, Inc. (DDTI), allows public safety officials to view the location of their fleet online. An extension of DDTI's Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) product used in Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) such as Sheriff's offices and 9-1-1 dispatch centers, Mobile Command Center gives users the option of viewing on one screen via the Internet the units actively protecting their communities. Subscribers enter a secure, two-step login process online, first entering a unique pass code generated every minute from a digital key fob assigned to that user. After verifying that first level of security, the user then enters DDTI-assigned username and password information. The application allows users to view the locations of all active units, and track their path, observe vehicle speed and review historical activity.

By viewing one screenshot, a dispatcher can easily locate all available units and determine which one(s) can most quickly respond to an incident, instead of radioing back and forth with each vehicle. This reduces the time it takes to respond to a 9-1-1 call, which ultimately improves safety for the community.

DDTI's Mobile Command Center is an extension of its AccuGlobe mapped ALI software solution designed for PSAP use to automatically locate wireline and wireless 9-1-1 calls, with advanced capability for searching and routing. Future enhancements will incorporate next generation 9-1-1 technology currently found in today's advanced PSAPs.

Merrick & Company, a LIDAR, digital orthoimaging, photogrammetry and GIS mapping company, has released version 4.0 of the Merrick Advanced Remote Sensing (MARS) software product suite. MARS software is a stand-alone, Windows-based application specifically designed for processing, analyzing and managing terrain data. MARS provides unparalleled application and visualization performance for massive LIDAR datasets and includes a modular tool suite that is used to manage field collection, data analysis, quality assurance, production, and client deliverable workflows.


Exhibitor and sponsorship information for the 2006 GIS in the Rockies Conference is now available online. Interested companies and educational institutions may register for booth space and sponsorships on the event website. Companies who register for booth space before May 30 will receive the early registration price of $875 for 8' x 10' space, table, electricity, WiFi connection, and two staff badges. The cost after the May 30 deadline is $975. Additional booth package information is available here. Booth space and sponsorship opportunities are limited and will be assigned in the order in which payment is received, so interested companies are urged to return contracts as soon as possible.

The 2006 conference will be held September 13-15 at INVESCO Field at Mile High stadium in Denver, Colorado. The six sponsoring societies have developed a series of program tracks with the theme "GIS: From Behind the Scene to Extreme." Presentations and workshops are designed to appeal to a broad community of GIS users, surveyors, and other interested technology professionals. The professional societies and organizations share a dedication to promote professional development, education, and general community outreach while helping people understand the uses and benefits of the technology.

Questions about exhibiting at the conference should be directed to Tamara Schoder at [email protected] or 303-731-0108.


GeoEye, the largest satellite remote-sensing imaging company in the world, has appointed Mr. Paolo E. Colombi as vice president of International Sales, effective immediately. Mr. Colombi has more than 25 years of experience in sales, operations, and international management in high-technology and telecommunications systems and services. He will be directly responsible for all international business development and sales, and serve as a resource to more than a dozen Regional Affiliates and Regional Distributors around the globe.

Prior to joining GeoEye, Colombi was senior vice president of International Sales for Telular Corporation. Before that he was executive vice president of Sales for Lotus Interworks LLP and also served in various executive-level positions for Teleglobe International Corp. Previous to that Colombi had 12 years' consecutive tenure for Sprint International and both for its predecessor company (GTE Telenet), and for its successor company (Global One). During this tenure he held the positions of president of Global One in Mexico; managing director of Sprint International France and vice president, System Marketing and Sales for Sprint International Southern Europe in Italy, among other executive positions.

Colombi has lived in Italy, France, and Mexico and is fluent in four languages. He holds a Doctoral Degree in Electrical Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Turin (Italy), a Master of International Management degree from the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird), and a Master of Business Administration degree from Southern Methodist University. Colombi was a Fulbright Scholar at both graduate schools in the United States.

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