2006 June 1

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Editor's Introduction

This week I report on Microsoft's launch of a new version of Windows Live Local and I review three books from ESRI Press. I also bring you a very interesting heads up from a lawyer about the potential impact on geospatial technology of certain European and U.S. legal requirements concerning data privacy.


Microsoft's New Windows Live Local

Last week, Microsoft released the third version of Windows Live Local (WLL), its online local search and mapping service that provides maps, directions, and local search information layered on top of aerial photography. (Notice the URL: it is not windowslivelocal.com, which appears to be a parasite.) Microsoft released the first version of WLL last July, then a second version in December, in which it introduced bird's eye imagery from Pictometry International Corp..

In this third release, Microsoft is expanding WLL's coverage outside the borders of the United States — to Canada and the United Kingdom — and is adding city-to-city driving directions all across Western Europe. Microsoft has partnered with Traffic.com to provide traffic information for three dozen cities in the United States — covering pretty much every major metropolitan area. It has also integrated WLL with its Microsoft Office Outlook and Windows Live Messenger (the successor to MSN Messenger) programs and has added new ways to collect and share search results.

I discussed the release with Alex Daley, Technical Evangelist of Microsoft's Virtual Earth Business Unit.

Read more …

Summer Reading

Now that the summer has unofficially begun and my spring travels have ended, I'm looking at the geospatial books that I have received over the past few months and choosing a few to read out on the deck. The following three from ESRI Press stand out.

Lyn Malone, Anita M. Palmer, Christine L. Voigt, Eileen Napoleon, and Laura Feaster, Mapping Our World: GIS Lessons for Educators, ArcGIS Desktop Edition (Redlands, CA: ESRI Press, November 2005), 576 pages, $79.95. Includes a one-year license of ArcView 9.

This book updates "The Big Green Book," its previous edition, while keeping all the favorite lessons. It is aimed at middle school and high school students and does not require that the teacher have any GIS knowledge or skills. It is a book of ideas, resources, exercises, and data, meant to supplement a world geography textbook—"to enhance it, to expand it into the world of high-speed computing, vast databases, the World Wide Web, and the supermaps of geographic information systems" as the authors write. In the foreword, a teacher writes: "Mapping Our World can really begin to bring to students the ability to take charge of their own learning. Watching students help each other sort data, make decisions, come to a consensus, and finally make a finished map to explain how they would answer their questions is something that most teachers strive for in the classroom. This only becomes available during special, specific lessons, but with Mapping Our World, it can occur throughout the year within the curriculum."

Read more …

Stan Aronoff, Remote Sensing for GIS Managers (Redlands, CA: ESRI Press, November 2005), 487 pages, $69.95.

Now that satellite imagery is available in near real-time and with high spatial and multispectral resolution, it has become a major and dominant source of spatially-referenced information for the GIS community. In addition, a rich selection of data from airborne sensors such as lidar and other advanced hyperspectral imaging systems is also increasingly available and affordable. Remote sensing is the discipline that gathers and analyzes this imagery. Managers of GIS projects need to understand the fundamentals of how the various geospatial technologies, including GIS and remote sensing, work and the types and quality of information they can be used to produce — so that they know how to intelligently integrate the diverse technologies and analysis methods available.

Read more …

Richard LeGates, Think Globally, Act Regionally: GIS and Data Visualization for Social Science and Public Policy Research (Redlands, CA: ESRI Press, November 2005), 518 pages, $64.95.

This book and the accompanying datasets are the result of a team project, including the San Francisco State University Urban Studies Program, the University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, Portland (Oregon) State University, and other institutions. It is based on the familiar premise that "space is an important dimension in most real-world issues that concern social scientists and students of public policy," as the author writes in the introduction — yet, "except for geographers, these scientists and students often neglect the spatial aspect of issues."

Read more …

Privacy and Geospatial Technologies

Kevin D. Pomfret, a partner in McGuireWoods LLP of Richmond, Virginia, brought to my attention two recent matters that may impact geospatial companies in the near future. He wrote:

The first is that the European Court of Justice recently annulled an agreement between the European Union and the United States requiring European airlines to transfer passenger data to U.S. authorities. Under the agreement, airlines are required to provide 34 pieces of data on passengers within 15 minutes of take-off. The court found that the agreement does not provide adequate security safeguards with regards to the data being transferred, as is required under the EU Data Protection Directive. The court gave the two sides until September to address the safeguard issue.

This high-profile case is a good example of the scope of protection the European Union gives to its citizens with regards to personal data. The EU Data Protection Directive prohibits the transfer of personal data to companies or governments outside the European Union that do not adequately protect the data from improper use. It is important to note that a similar directive—Directive 2006/24/EC - 2006 March 15—also applies to certain personal data associated with location. Geospatial companies that are doing business in the European Union should take steps to ensure that any personal data transferred to the United States is in compliance with these directives. Click here for an article discussing this matter.

Read more …

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