2006 June 22

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Editor's Introduction

This week I report on DataPlace a very useful and interesting website in support of affordable housing and community development. I also bring you two letters following up on my story, last week, on GIS and archaeology. Plus, the usual roundup of news from press releases.


DataPlace GIS Website

GIS can be wielded deliberately and require special training, as when a marine biologist uses ArcGIS to map wildlife habitats in coastal estuarine waters—or it can be completely transparent and extremely simple to use, as when a citizen uses a public portal to access building permits or crime data. Somewhere in between are Web-based applications that allow professional users to access extensive databases and perform limited GIS functions through simple tools and drop-down menus, thanks to canned queries and a lot of very smart back-end programming.

An excellent example of this third category is DataPlace, a free source of housing and demographic data on any location throughout the United States. It was developed and is supported by the Fannie Mae Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods and creating affordable housing opportunities. The website combines mapping technology and multiple statistical databases, allowing users to generate customized reports using a variety of geographic units, down to the census tract—in map, chart, or tabular form. The portal not only assembles a variety of data sets from multiple sources but also provides tools and guides to assist users in analyzing, interpreting, and applying the data.

DataPlace supports the Foundation's mission—to increase the supply of homes that working class families can afford, help families get into those homes, and create a supportive environment for affordable housing. It grew out of KnowledgePlex, an online resource for news and information on housing and community development that the Foundation launched in 2001 in partnership with 19 organizations concerned with increasing the availability of affordable homes. (This is a concern that I share. Long ago, for two years, I was a case worker with homeless families in the Boston area—and I spent most of a decade helping to run soup kitchens for homeless individuals.)

Extensive feedback from users of KnowledgePlex—practitioners, policy makers, scholars, researchers, and press—assisted the Fannie Mae Foundation in creating DataPlace. It is based on the realization that, while a lot of affordable housing information is available from free data sources—including the Bureau of the Census, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), the IRS, and the Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS)—they are hard to use. "You really had to be a demographer to make sense of what the information was and what you could do on the site," says Troy D. Anderson, Managing Director of Knowledge Management at the Foundation. "We realized that DataPlace could be a place where we could make this very intractable, free information come to life—and do so using open source tools, to make it freely workable as well."

Anderson, however, is quick to emphasize that "DataPlace is not a Google mash-up. We've taken the best Web principles around and created a site where you can search or you can browse or you can pinpoint various things in your own communities." On the site, the difference is explained as follows:

Google Maps uses Telcontar's Drill Down Server to … render their map images, while DataPlace uses the open source MapServer technology. DataPlace uses a similar set of AJAX technologies to dynamically retrieve tiles, however Dataplace technology joins a wide array of thematic datasets on the server side as the image is being processed. Google's map images are standard and information is added only on the client side, after the image is processed.

The site's use of GIS is explained this way:

Dataplace makes extensive use of GIS technology to render maps and provide geospatial context to the rich datasets contained on the site. Many spatial datasets from U.S. Census and other sources are stored in PostgreSQL with the help of [the] open source spatial database extension technology PostGIS, which extends PostgreSQL with various spatial types and functions.

DataPlace users begin their search for information by selecting their place of interest, either by browsing a geographic hierarchy or by typing the name of a location, which yields a drop-down menu with all the locations with that name, in descending order of population. This is particularly useful to distinguish, for example, between counties and cities of the same name or between metropolitan areas and cities. Next, users can go to an area overview page that gives them the overall housing and demographic characteristics of the area and serves as a starting point from which to explore the rest of the features.

Throughout the site, users have access to 15 national data sources. Several of the data sets are updated annually and are added to the site within a few months of their release. Point data is also available for addresses across the United States with rental units subsidized under the federal Section 8 program. (I was particularly interested in this because I used to help my clients obtain Section 8 rental subsidies.)

Map tools make it easy to zoom, pan, and center on a location. Tabs at the top of each page allow users to switch between the home page, the area overview, maps, data & charts, rankings, and scatter plots. Each data item has a histogram that shows at-a-glance where the location being researched falls on the national distribution for that variable. Users can customize rankings by selecting, inter al., the data source, the data year, and a minimum population constraint. This is where geography comes into the picture again: by default, DataPlace will rank all the geographic units of a certain type in the entire nation—e.g. all 3,000+ counties. However, users can constrain the data selection by imposing a bounding geography, such as a state or county, and/or a minimum population. Users can compare locations by displaying multiple variables on histograms and scatter plots; they can also do simple trend analyses by showing data for different years.

By switching to the map view, users can create thematic maps. The initial default layer is the current active indicator. However, users can choose any of more than 2,000 indicators in the system; they can also change map colors and choose which of 15 layers (city labels, water boundaries, major streets, etc.) to display. A chart shows the zoom levels at which different features appear and the source for each data type. Users can also change the number of categories that are used to display themes.

Users can build custom geographies by selecting and aggregating such geographic building blocks as census tracts, counties, or cities. They can add units by searching, browsing, or using the map. They can also draw a polygon to add all of the geographical units that are touched by it. Then, by clicking on "area overview," they will get the roll-up statistics on their custom geography. (Patrick Simmons, Managing Director of Housing Demography for the Fannie Mae Foundation, calls this "one of the neatest features on this site.")

After completing a map, users can save it as a PDF. Registered and logged-in users can the save their maps to the site and generate URLs that allow them to publish their maps to other sites. Registered users can also customize and save geographic locations, indicators, and pages; define indicators; create geographies; and display recent places. Registration is free and quick.

The site, which mostly uses open source software, has a help menu, tutorials, and a feedback link. The map data is from NAVTEQ and TIGER. Many terms are hyperlinked to an excellent glossary and all data is accompanied by detailed technical metadata. Anderson and Simmons promise frequent updates, so this is a site worth bookmarking!

I used DataPlace to compare my last several neighborhoods, in New York, Boston, Portland, and Eugene (the last two are in Oregon). Below are the maps I generated for three of these neighborhoods on one variable: unemployment. I set the number of categories used to display this theme to four.

Unemployment in my Boston neighborhood in 2000

Unemployment in my Portland neighborhood in 2000

Unemployment in my Eugene neighborhood in 2000

Inevitably, I also came across several small glitches and had a few questions for which I could not find the answer in the help section. For example, I was not able to make a set of tools appear on the left side of the maps, as I had seen them appear in a demonstration. I was also not able to figure out how to go directly to a location in a ranking: when reviewing a ranking of more than 3,000 counties, for example, displayed 30 per page, this is a pretty important feature. One omission was baffling: on the map of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the most important street, Massachusetts Avenue (better known to locals as "Mass Ave") was …missing!

Finally, as of press time I have one question worth further exploration: whether and how one can export data retrieved via DataPlace to a desktop GIS for further analysis. I will find out and let you know next week.

Letters to the Editor

My article on GIS and archaeology, last week, brought two responses.

  1. Michael Phoenix, Ph.D., Manager of the Education Sector at ESRI, wrote:

    I would not say that archaeology is "the only humanities discipline that has embraced this technology." There is a lot going on in history and GIS. There is a master's degree program in the History Department at Idaho State University. Also, look at the book Past Time, Past Place from ESRI Press and at the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative. People involved in this project come from departments of religion, classical studies, and art. It covers all the humanities. Browse through its membership, it is fascinating.

  2. James A. Zack, President of Xtra-Spatial Productions, LLC, wrote:

    Your otherwise fine article on GIS and the field of archeology overlooked perhaps the most innovative application of GIS technology to archeology: predictive modeling.

    I had worked on a project for the U.S. Air Force to assist in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for their proposed Minuteman missile silo siting project at Malmstrom AFB along the banks of the Missouri River in Montana back in 1986-7. Along with ESRI co-worker Bryan Marozas and Tetra-Tech's David Carmichael, we developed a multivariate logistic regression analysis that would segment the base into zones of probability for finding open air lithic scatters (a.k.a. firerings) from pre-Columbian societies. This model was used to help mitigate the risks to cultural resources by steering the siting of the underground missile silos away from areas with higher probability of containing archeological sites.

    Kenneth Kvamme is arguably the guru on this type of GIS Analysis.

    The types of applications you describe are more like inventorying (a more primitive use of GIS technology that could be done with pen and ink) as opposed to spatial modeling (a more sophisticated and specialized domain of GIS technology absolutely requiring the use of statistical and geographic principles).

    Please let your readership know that GIS can be used for more than just mapping, cataloging, and inventorying field data; it can also be used to help guide exploration of the distribution of archeological resources.


    1. MAROZAS, BRYAN A., and ZACK, JAMES A. 1990. "GIS and archaeological site location," In Allen, K.M.S., S.W. Green & E.B.W. Zubrow (eds) Interpreting Space: GIS and Archaeology. London: Taylor & Francis. pp. 165-71.
    2. CARMICHAEL, D. L. 1990. "GIS Predictive Modelling of Prehistoric Site Distributions in Central Montana." In Allen, K.M.S., S.W. Green & E.B.W. Zubrow (eds) Interpreting Space: GIS and Archaeology. London: Taylor & Francis. pp. 216-225.

      Abstract from Carmichael: The development of a predictive model of prehistoric site distribution in an 8,500 square mile area of north-central Montana is discussed. The size of the model area, and the necessary reliance on existing archaeological data, posed several interesting analytical problems, and the effects of the conditions on the modelling process and the results are considered. The project background and model development, including the use of univariate and multivariate analyses, are examined. The existing database was the most challenging aspect of the study, since records for the area studied vary greatly in precision on site type, size, age, and location. It is concluded that as a long range management tool, the model requires further testing and refinement. As an aid to preliminary project planning, however, the model appears to have considerable utility. The model correctly classified nearly three-fourths of the known sites in the study area, with most of the error resulting from the classification of control points as sites.

News Briefs

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


    1. The City of Tempe, Arizona, Water Utilities Department has chosen Marshall's new GeoResults Mobile solution, which is integrated with ESRI map data and Hansen asset/work order management systems on a tablet PC. It provides field utility workers with current map-based data, asset locations, feature attributes, work order processing and other enterprise business information wherever they are located in the City. This solution utilizes Tempe's citywide wireless WiFi network and is coordinated with a Trimble GPS system. It also allows workers to verify and add information in the field electronically, avoid data errors and duplication and provide rapid updates, without paper, to city line-of-business computer systems.

      Marshall is a provider of geospatial software, technologies and solutions for city, county and federal government. Founded in 1994, Marshall's expertise centers in geodatabase design, remote sensing, advanced image processing, embedded Web mapping and ArcGIS applications, mobile GIS solutions, and geospatial business consulting. In 2002, Marshall launched its GeoResults Product Suite. Its latest release, GeoResults Mobile V1.2, is a map-based application that streamlines field data collection, asset inventory, status updates, work orders, and costing, allowing mobile workers to bring enterprise data to the field.

    2. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has selected GeoDecisions, a provider of geospatial solutions, to support its existing forest management application. When complete, ODNR staff throughout the state will be able to view and analyze forest data from any regional office.

      As part of the project, GeoDecisions has partnered with Genus RMT, a company specializing in enterprise resource management technology and services. The firm's Genus GEO and Genus Resources products will be modified to meet ODNR specifications and hosted on a secure server with access to regional offices. The enhancements will establish a single database and application to exchange forest data between regional offices and the central office in Columbus, Ohio. Since regional offices are responsible for the majority of data collection in the state, the single application will synchronize the information available at all ODNR offices.

      GeoDecisions will support the project with database design and implementation, as well as developing a publicly accessible ESRI ArcIMS information portal that will be shared with ODNR contractors and the general public.

    3. MDA's Geospatial Services has signed a new RADARSAT-1 network station in Italy. The new station, MARSec, is in the process of undergoing certification and joins a global network of more than 27 RADARSAT-1 receiving stations. In addition, MDA's Geospatial Services has signed more than $4 million Canadian dollars worth of renewal agreements with existing network station clients. The renewal agreements range in commitment length from one to two years and include options for further extensions. The network stations renewal agreements are with ScanEx (Russia), CSTARS (USA), Turkey (ITU), Thailand (GISTDA), CONAE (Argentina), (CLS) France, and three unnamed clients.

      The strength of the global ground receiving station network is that it allows MDA and its partners to offer a near-real time data delivery mechanism. Clients receive data in less than 4 hours from data downlink. Near-real time processing and delivery services support commercial operations such as ship detection (i.e., for purposes of monitoring illegal fishing or bilge dumping activities), ice mapping and charting for ship navigation, and disaster monitoring and mapping.

    4. The New York State Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination (CSCIC) has selected Infotech Enterprises America, Inc., a geospatial and engineering consulting and professional services firm formerly called VARGIS, LLC, for the New York State-wide Digital Orthoimagery Program. Infotech was awarded the original contract in 2001 and recently completed the last option year of that contract. Infotech was reselected as a result of a competitive solicitation process conducted in the fall of 2005. Mirroring the original contract, this recent award includes two base years, or "annual lots" and three option years.

      The main purpose of this ongoing Digital Orthoimagery Program is to provide complete statewide orthoimagery coverage on a phased update cycle to a variety of stakeholders. The orthoimagery will consist of various resolutions from 2-foot pixels in rural areas to 1-foot pixels for urban areas, with options for .5 foot resolution upgrades. The Infotech Team offers the State a variety of technologies, with particular emphasis on ZI DMC digital capture capability provided by 3001, Aerometric, and Photo Science.

    5. DigitalGlobe, a provider of commercial satellite imagery and geospatial information products, has named MAPS Geosystems, its reseller headquartered in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, its "Business Partner of the Year." The company will now be the sole distributor of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery in both the Middle East and the sub-Saharan region of Africa. MAPS, as a business partner of DigitalGlobe, collected two business partner awards for innovation and sales. DigitalGlobe distributes these awards annually in recognition of partners' business excellence and commercial success as well as technical innovation.

    6. MultiVision USA, an ACA company, has completed the capture and installation of more than 45,300 high-resolution oblique images, fulfilling requirements for oblique image capture for the Citrus County Property Appraisers office.

      Now using MultiVision's more advanced Oblique Imagery Database, the Citrus County Property Appraiser office has quick access to visual information of all properties within their county. MultiVision software provides multidimensional viewing, measurement, analysis, and planning tools, and also works in sync with all GIS programs, allowing users to import and export layers.

    7. Reedy Creek Improvement District has decided to implement ArcFM as the solution for facilities management of their electric network. Reedy Creek encompasses 25,000 acres in the heart of Central Florida and is the home of Walt Disney World. The District provides electric, water, wastewater, reclaimed water, and natural gas services to its customers.

      Reedy Creek currently uses a legacy system combination based on CAD and ESRI shapefiles for electric network management. Reedy Creek opted to move to ArcFM because the Multispeak-compliant solution offers the utility an economical approach since the application comes pre-configured with some basic services for data conversion, training, and deployment.

      The project will also include a Network Adapter interface with Advantica's SynerGEE. The integration will allow all data updates to occur within the GIS and then be passed into the electric analysis application. This exchange of information will speed up productivity by eliminating the redundant work of data maintenance.

      Miner & Miner, a Telvent company is currently assisting with the data conversion process and is partnering with Advantica to complete the SynerGEE interface. Reedy Creek is projected to go into production with their new solution in August 2006.

    8. VoiceGate Corporation, a provider of mass message and business continuity planning notification systems, and ESRI Canada, a provider of GIS solutions, have partnered to provide a complete emergency e-response solution for the Canadian public and private sectors. VoiceGate's Emergency e-Response is a multi-modal, mass-message notification system designed using open industry standards, capable of delivering messages to thousands of people simultaneously, on multiple devices: phone, answering machine, voice mail, fax, SMS, pager or any internet ready device. ESRI's GIS tools are used to help manage spatial information (data and maps) for emergency planning and response.

      Combined, VoiceGate's Emergency e-Response and ESRI Canada's GIS will provide municipalities, power and water utilities, medical, military, and police forces with an intuitive, spatially managed, mass message notification system. Designed specifically to plan, rapidly identify, and select an affected area by location, the GIS powered Emergency e-Response system provides emergency managers and business continuity planners the ability to launch and manage in real time, targeted, bi-directional mass messaging notification campaigns.

    9. The Commonwealth of Virginia has selected Sanborn to provide statewide digital terrain models and color orthophotography for the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA). The VITA, through its Virginia Geographic Information Network (VGIN), is the lead public agency in the Commonwealth for spatial data and GIS. VITA's VGIN mission is to facilitate the cost effective development and use of spatial data, GIS, and related technologies in organizations throughout the Commonwealth.

      Virginia has contracted Sanborn to provide statewide orthoimagery updates to those originally created in 2002 and flown in three different scales. Final delivery will consist of one-foot resolution orthophotography and six-inch resolution for the many of the more populated jurisdictions. In addition to topographic digital terrain models (DTM), Sanborn will also provide optional hydrographic DTMs, producing point elevation data of all hydrological features, such as streams, ponds, lakes and river banks, to be captured to meet FEMA accuracy requirements. Each of the 134 municipal partners has the option to improve resolution, add contours and add select planimetric data such as buildings.


    1. GlobeXplorer has loaded its 200th DigitalGlobe CitySphere market to its suite of online data services for mapping/GIS users and Web developers. Dated from 2002 to 2006, the CitySphere collection includes high-resolution satellite imagery of 200 of the largest cities across the globe, including the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. DigitalGlobe's CitySphere collection features orthorectified 2-foot color imagery. The resolution and accuracy of CitySphere make it suitable for use as a basemap in Web mapping, GIS, and other applications.

      GlobeXplorer provides the largest independent source of Earth imagery from the other top private providers of aerial and satellite imagery from all over the world.

    2. MWH Soft has released InfoWater Valve Criticality Modeling (VCM). The new InfoWater Suite extension gives users expanded power and flexibility in identifying all vulnerabilities affecting their water distribution system reliability, estimating the extent and potential consequences of infrastructure failure on customer service levels, optimizing the allocation of rehabilitation and maintenance resources, and improving knowledge of system operation.

      Valve criticality assessment identifies which valves most crucially affect the scale of impact of potential system failures. InfoWater VCM automatically carries out a comprehensive assessment of the hydraulic impact of valve operations on customer service levels, either when the valves are shut or fail to shut, during planned or emergency work. This information is critical in focusing future expenditures (maintenance and replacement) on the valves most critical to maintaining the serviceability of these key infrastructure assets. Pinpointing these critical valves requires an understanding of the risk (probability and consequence) should the valve fail to shut. Consequence is measured in terms of the numbers of properties (and customers) that would be disconnected or experience unacceptable levels of service (e.g., low pressure or loss of supply).

    3. LeadDog Consulting, LLC has released geographic databases of city streets for the Pakistan cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore, and Karachi to support asset-tracking, government, military, and commercial GIS applications. Designed to help companies track their assets and provide accurate base level mapping, LeadDog's product provides numerous vector layers and attributes such as streets at 1:10,000 scale; street names and classifications; points of interest; and park, water, and landmark polygons. Pakistan City Streets are available in all major GIS formats. A Pakistan Major Roads and Highways product is available at a 1:250,000 scale.

    4. Valtus Imagery Services, a division of North West Geomatics Ltd., has released ortho-rectified 60 centimeter (2 foot) color imagery from DigitalGlobe's CitySphere dataset for 11 major Canadian cities: Edmonton, Alberta; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Montreal and Quebec, Quebec; Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Toronto, Ontario, and Ottawa, Ontario; Vancouver, and Victoria, British Columbia; and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

      Realtors, developers, insurance companies, appraisers, title agents, local government agencies, environmental consultants, civil engineers, planners and other land based professionals can now access Valtus' inventory of geospatial content through the company's VISTA and VIEWS online Web services. By visiting www.valtus.com, users can enter a street address and instantly view and order high-resolution digital satellite imagery of these cities. Once a visitor has found their desired location, it can be adjusted with zoom, pan, and re-sampling features and downloaded as a jpg, tif or geotiff within minutes. Users can also subscribe for access to the data via web services that integrate with GIS desktop applications including ESRI and Google Earth.

      VISTA is an online solution for users who require immediate access to downloadable, geo-referenced mapping data. Valtus' VIEWS service provides instant, secure access to an extensive library of imagery that can be seamlessly integrated into mapping applications and GIS.

    5. Cadcorp, a developer of digital mapping and GIS software, is offering three new plug-ins for XML-based data for use with its Cadcorp SIS - Spatial Information System software suite. The GeoRSS, GPX, and MIDAS plug-ins are part of V6.3 of Cadcorp SIS, which is due for release later this year but are fully compatible with the current V6.2 release. They new plug-ins will be available for free download from the Cadcorp Web site. The next service pack release of Cadcorp SIS V6.2 will include a version of the free Map Browser product that will be able to use the GeoRSS plug-in. This will enable Map Browser users to load GeoRSS 'feeds' and to combine them with Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC) W*S services.

      Really Simple Syndication (RSS), a family of XML formats for exchanging news, particularly about Web pages or other Web content, is used by many dynamic Web sites, e.g. news sites, 'blogs', etc., to provide 'feeds' of their new or changed content. These feeds typically contain only basic information, such as author, date, title and brief description, enabling the reader, or an RSS aggregator service, to decide which materials are worth further investigation.

      GeoRSS, which is supported by the OGC, is a simple extension to RSS feeds to describe the location of the information in geographic coordinates. As RSS becomes more prevalent as a means of publishing and sharing information, GeoRSS is expected to become increasingly important in enabling applications to request, aggregate and share geographically tagged feeds. Using GeoRSS, a local authority could make feeds of planned and actual street works available through its website, enabling other organisations involved in street works, such as utility companies, to obtain up-to-date information on the location of new road openings. Also, for example, estate agents will be able to use GeoRSS feeds to allow prospective buyers to keep up to date with new properties for sale, of a particular value and in a given area.

      Designed from the ground up to be the standard XML format for exchanging GPS data, the GPX (Global Positioning eXchange) format encodes GPS data (waypoints, routes, tracks) and enables the data to be shared between software programs and between web services. The GPX plug-in will allow Cadcorp SIS users to read GPX data exported from third party GPS software without conversion or translation.

      Developed under the auspices of English Heritage to support interoperability for the UK's Historic Environment Information Resources (HEIRs), MIDAS XML is a set of World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)-compliant XML schemas that cover specific information categories, such as monuments, events (e.g. investigations), people and spatial data etc., relating to the UK's national historic environment.

      Using the Cadcorp SIS MIDAS XML plug-in, historic information users such as local authorities (who receive listed-building data from English Heritage in MIDAS format), university-based research projects, professional heritage managers and national thematic study groups, etc., will be able to access, share and make best use of the vast quantity of historic environment information maintained by a wide variety of national bodies of record.

  3. OTHER

    1. NVision Solutions, Inc., a provider of geospatial technology and an Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions (EIGS) cluster member, supports Mississippi's aspiring members of the geospatial community. South Panola High School students have been working with NVision Solutions to develop more efficient bus routes. The buses will be tracked in real-time, permitting immediate analysis of route efficiency. As patterns emerge, district officials will be able to determine the best method of increasing efficiency and decreasing fuel costs for the school district.

      NVision Solutions is providing technical support, software, and hardware, including a tracking device, to help the students get their project up and running. In addition to saving money for the school district, the innovative idea of bus route tracking earned the students a first place finish in the Environmental Challenge competition at the Technology Students of America State Convention.

    2. The Federation of Earth Science Information Partners ("Federation") has elected seven new partners for full membership:

      1. Center for Research on Environment and Water (CREW), Paul Houser, Institute of Global Environment and Society, Calverton, Maryland;
      2. CLEANER Project Office/The National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Jami Montgomery, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois;
      3. GeoLogics Corporation, Susan Heinz, Hilo, Hawaii;
      4. GEON: Geosciences Network, Chaitan Baru, San Diego Supercomputer Center, La Jolla, California;
      5. Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research, Luis Marcelo Achite, Sao Paolo, Brazil;
      6. Southeastern Universities Research Association/Coastal Research/SURA Coastal Ocean Observing and Prediction Program, Philip Bogden, Portland, Maine; and
      7. Semantic Web for Earth and Environmental Terminology (SWEET), Robert Raskin, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

      The ESIP Federation now numbers 97 partners, who represent a broad spectrum of Earth science data interests. Federation partners include science data centers, environmental research groups, innovators in the application of environmental data, educators and technologists. Across these diverse interests, public, private and non-profit organizations are represented.

      The ESIP Federation is a consortium of Earth science data centers, researchers, scientists, technologists, educators, and applications developers. The Federation promotes increased accessibility, interoperability and usability for Earth science data and derivative products. Initiated by NASA in 1997, the Federation is sponsored by NASA and NOAA. The Foundation for Earth Science provides administrative and staff support to the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners.

    3. Snowflake Software is launching a series of training courses targeted at multiple levels of expertise for employees in the GIS industry. The courses promise to provide even the most novice of users a complete understanding of XML and GML, their role within the OGC and ISO standards, and the benefits they can bring to an organization. For those already adept in the concept of XML and GML, there is a hands-on course covering the practical side of GML application schema development.

      Snowflake Software has a reputation for being a pioneer in XML/GML modeling tools and application schema development. The team is actively involved in multiple international consortiums, driving interoperability standards that are integral to the future of the GIS industry. The company is now helping the GIS industry to understand those IT skills within the realms of GIS. The three courses include an XML Primer - covering XML and its key core technology; GML Fundamentals - covering GML basic principles and ISO standards; and Hands-On GML - a practical course on developing GML application schema.

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