2006 July 20

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Land Voyage

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Editor's Introduction

This week I report on one amateur's quest to use satellite imagery to determine the nature of an apparently anomalous feature on a glacier on Mount Ararat, Turkey, and the assistance he has received from the two largest satellite imaging companies. I also invite you to meet me at the upcoming ESRI International User Conference in San Diego, California, August 7-11. Plus, the usual round-up of new items from press releases.


Amateur Image Analysis

Many amateur astronomers scan the sky with home telescopes and, occasionally, one of them makes a significant discovery. Likewise, as satellite imagery becomes increasingly available and has higher resolution, the number of amateur image analysts grows. Some look for patterns and anomalies, while others look for objects that they already believe to exist.

One such amateur image analyst, Porcher Taylor, has been pursuing a self-funded effort to determine whether what he calls an "anomaly" on a glacier on Mount Ararat, in Turkey, is just a natural rock formation or a man-made object. Specifically, he thinks it might be the remnants of Noah's Ark, as described in the Bible's Book of Genesis.

Figure 1: Image taken by GeoEye's IKONOS satellite in February 2003

Personally, I am a firm skeptic and put my trust in science. While I am highly doubtful that Taylor's "anomaly" has human origins, I find his pursuit to be an interesting case study in the uses of geospatial technology by amateurs. There's a direct correlation, Taylor says, between progress on his self-funded satellite archaeology research project and progress in satellite technology.

I also find it very interesting that the two largest satellite imaging companies, Digital Globe and GeoEye, have been supportive of Taylor's project. Clearly, from a PR point of view, it is a win-win situation for them—as long as they don't make an analysis or determination as to what's on the ground!

Taylor's interest was sparked in 1973 when, as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he heard rumors that U.S. intelligence analysts analyzing imagery of Soviet missile silos had been surprised to see something sticking above the ice cap that looked like a ship. "One of our space-based birds, a keyhole satellite," Taylor recalls, "was flying a routine mission in outer space down the Soviet-Turkish corridor. There was a Soviet missile depot about 40 miles to the East of Mt. Ararat. From a geo-strategic, Cold War standpoint, this was an important neighborhood for surveillance, totally independent of any myths, legends, fables, or truths regarding Mt. Ararat. Apparently, someone turned the camera on too early and took a picture of Mt. Ararat instead of the Soviet missile base." That episode, according to Taylor, "could not be contained" and was the source of the rumors he heard. He decided then that he would "aggressively pursue getting [those] images declassified."

Twenty years later, in March 1993, Taylor heard a talk by Dr. George Carver, CIA Deputy Director for National Intelligence, who Taylor describes as "the most decorated CIA official in history" and "a brilliant scholar and intelligence expert." Taylor asked Carver "Is it true that the CIA might have classified photographs of what might be the remains of Noah's Ark?" Dr. Carver, he says, "categorically confirmed that what I had heard was absolutely true" and said that it was "an eyebrow-lifting episode at the CIA." With that, Taylor recalls, "Dr. Carver and I teamed up and agreed that it was time to go after the imagery and get it declassified."

In 1995, through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Taylor succeeded in having the Defense Intelligence Agency declassify and release what he describes as "the first photos that the intelligence community had ever released of anything regarding Mt. Ararat." They were five aerial photos of the mountain taken by a B-29 bomber in 1949 for Headquarters, United States Air Force Europe. The plane had been flying at 14,000 feet, parallel to the mountain, and was probably between one and five miles away from it. "In the panoramic shot of the whole mountain," Taylor says, "the only salient feature was an interesting, somewhat linear-type anomaly, an object, partially sticking out of the glacier on the northwest corner of the western plateau at 15,300 feet." (Does this mean that the plane was below the anomaly and the camera was aimed somewhat above horizontal?)

Four years later, in September 1999, Space Imaging (now GeoEye) launched Ikonos, the first commercial one-meter resolution satellite. Thanks to Mark Brender, a senior company official, says Taylor, "at my request, during the Ikonos calibration mission, on October 5, they flew it over Mt. Ararat. That was the highest resolution ever at that time of the Ararat Anomaly." In July, August, and September 1999, the company "flew several missions on my behalf and also on behalf of Insight Magazine, [a conservative current events magazine owned by the Washington Times], because they were going to do a story on this."

Figure 2: Image taken by Digital Globe's QuickBird satellite in February 2003

Unfortunately, Taylor points out, it is very common for there to be a thick cloud cover over Mt. Ararat, especially over the anomaly area. "So they flew many missions, probably about a dozen, and we had four really great, successful missions the summer of 1999. I am very indebted to Space Imaging for flying those missions." He is equally thankful for the support he received from DigitalGlobe and says that he has very strong relationships with both companies and that they have "world class" customer service.

Brender told Taylor about QuickBird, the world's first 2-foot resolution satellite that was going to fly in October 2001. Space Imaging, according to Taylor, "agreed to fly a mission or two for me after the calibration mission of Quick Bird over Mt. Ararat. So, for over a year, from early 2002 to early 2003, they flew about five or six missions for me over the anomaly. Unfortunately we hit severe cloud cover until February 2003—that is when they were able to capture a very intriguing, no cloud coverage at all, shot of the anomaly just sticking up out of the ice cap."

What intrigues Taylor so much about the anomaly, he says, is its "amazing symmetry." Using 2-foot resolution images and Remote View Professional for Windows software by Overwatch Systems, Rod Franz, a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst recruited by Taylor to the project, measured the anomaly to be "at least 1,015 feet long." The width, Taylor explains, is hard to say, "because, whether it is a strange rock formation or possibly man made, it is definitely leaning. It is almost like it is falling down the ridge line." However, he estimates that it is roughly 160 feet. Taylor finds this to be "potentially significant" because it would make the ratio of length to width conform to that specified in Genesis for the Ark (300 cubits by 50 by 30 cubits). He says that this sparked much interest when he was interviewed on CNN a few months ago. Taylor is now "very eager" to find out the height of the anomaly and would welcome the assistance of any company that has SilverEye software, which can use a shadow to calculate the elevation of the object that is casting it. The software is produced by Geotango, a Canadian company recently acquired by Microsoft that is also a defense contractor to the U.S. intelligence community.

Taylor makes no bones about the fact that he is not trained in any geospatial technology. He describes himself as a West Point graduate, a former Army officer and JAG attorney, an attorney by profession, and a professor at the University of Richmond. "What I do is totally unrelated to geospatial technology," he says. "This is a self-funded research hobby." He is grateful to his technical advisers and freely admits that "a few experts are convinced that the anomaly is nothing more than a strange rock formation."

Taylor guided me through several images of the anomaly and pointed out features that he considers significant. They include a shadow being cast off the ridge line (the question, he says, is whether that ridge line is a true ridge line or "something more interesting"); the fact that the object's curvature follows an almost perfect hemisphere; the fact that "ugly volcanic rock" is clearly visible below the shadow, whereas the sunlit part of the anomaly appears "much smoother than the immediately surrounding rock terrain;" a spillover effect in one image ("On the remote possibility that this might be man-made, it almost looks like a roof..." says Taylor); and, in the center of the anomaly, two faint parallel lines going in a different direction from lines in the glacier above the anomaly.

Figure 3: Image taken by GeoEye's IKONOS satellite in September 2000

I pointed out to Taylor that the images are date- and time-stamped and, therefore, the bearing and elevation of the sun at the time they were taken is precisely known. "You are exactly right!" he said. I also pointed out that global warming will probably melt the glacier in the next 10-15 years. That, he replied, "would certainly help make [the anomaly] more transparent to the discerning, dispassionate eyes of scientists."

If the anomaly were a ship, Taylor points out, it would dwarf the Bismark and the Titanic and be equal in size to the largest aircraft carriers that we have today. According to a barge expert he consulted, hydrostatically speaking it would be impossible to build a wooden ship of this size, because it would break apart in the water. While admitting that this fact alone "would highly suggest that what we are looking at could not be anything more than a strange rock formation" and that the object's proportions "could be a colossal coincidence," Taylor is nevertheless "intrigued" with the possibility that it might not be.

"One of my ultimate goals," says Taylor, "is simply, using geospatial technology applications, to make Mt. Ararat more transparent to the dispassionate eyes of geospatial experts and scientists." He looks forward to the launch, next February, of GeoEye One, Ikonos' successor, which will have a resolution of .4 meters, and then also to the launch of WorldView I, Quickbird's successor, scheduled to launch by mid-2007. He claims that he is also "getting much closer" to having the intelligence community declassify the keyhole satellite imagery of the anomaly.

Predictably, Taylor's ultimate goals is an expedition. "Not that I would lead it, necessarily," he says, "but I just want to catalyze it. I want to get dispassionate, disinterested secular scientists to say, 'Gee wiz, maybe there is something here, maybe we should go up and take a closer look.'" When I asked Taylor what would most help his quest—besides SilverEye, global warming, and an expedition—he mentioned ground-penetrating radar.

Taylor emphasizes that he encourages critical analyses of the imagery. "My only goal," he says, "is to make Mt. Ararat as transparent as possible to the discerning and dispassionate eyes of scientists and geospatial experts."

I asked Rod Franz, Imagery Analyst and Training Manager at SunTek Media Group, Chuck Herring, Director of Marketing Communications for DigitalGlobe, and Mark Brender, Vice President, Corporate Communications for GeoEye, about their involvement with Taylor's project. Here are their responses.

Rod Franz

"Porcher Taylor contacted us," Franz told me, "and he wanted us to take a look at some imagery that he had acquired from different sources. What I did was take a look at the imagery he provided and told him what I thought. I was in the Air Force as an imagery analyst for almost 24 years. We provide training for imagery analysis. I tried to do some measurements and thought what might be at that anomaly. The way the ice is covering whatever it is, I haven't been able to identify whether what is down there is natural or a man-made object. That's where my analysis is at the present time. It looks interesting. Until we get either better imagery that penetrates the snow or the ice melts back or someone actually goes up on the mountain and starts drilling down through it, what we have right now is pretty inconclusive."

What about using ground-penetrating radar? "That may have some merit. It depends on how thick and dense that ice is. If it is just a snow pack, then ground-penetrating radar may have more effect. Radar has a tendency to bounce off ice."

What software did you use? "I did the analysis using RemoteView Pro software by Overwatch Systems, which allows you to manipulate imagery. We changed the contrast, we did pseudo-color, we did pan sharpening and gray-scale shifts—all the different tricks that we could do with it in trying to pull out any detail at all. In the imagery that I was given, whatever's there is covered by ice. Whether what is covered is a geological feature or a man-made feature I wish I could tell you, but I can't right now. The hunt is still on."

Chuck Herring

"Even early on in our development, when we were essentially building the satellites, Porcher Taylor had been working on this project for probably ten or twenty years. He was using declassified imagery where he could. He told me several times that because of the local governments it is really hard to get people on the ground to the mountain, so, really, remote sensing was the way in which he was envisioning at least being able to study the anomaly."

"When we changed our orbit on the second QuickBird to take it down to .6 meters he got even more intrigued because now he is getting into 2-foot pixels. So, he was very interested once we launched for us to be able to image the area. Because it is such a high peak there are a lot of clouds. So we actually shot at a couple of different occasions for him. From what I've seen, he's pretty strong that that's an anomaly. He doesn't really name anything beyond that, but, at the very least, he's got people raising their eyebrows and saying that it is anomalous. In our experience in working with him, that's probably the biggest conclusion that he's reached at this point and wants to continue efforts as new generation satellites come on line."

"QuickBird is flying over any geographic region about every three days, so it was flying over [Mt. Ararat] about every three days depending on other priority orders that we have in the deck as well as cloud coverage directly over that mountain. Taylor gave us the exact coordinates of the center point of what he wanted. We chose the flight occasion to shoot it. Just because the satellite is flying over the mountain we are not necessarily shooting it, so there's a level of tasking involved. It was just based on other requests and priority requests and what was in the deck over that region at any given time. But I think we shot it for him at least twice, maybe three times. The other side of the tasking situation is that he had received several shots at certain angles, so he was even into trying to get a different view, a different angle of it."

"He's definitely talking to us about the WorldView system. It is a very agile system, so stereo will be much more easily attainable product. [We have] no formal arrangements at this point. It is still a year away."

Mark Brender

"Porcher Taylor contacted GeoEye, then Space Imaging, before the launch of the Ikonos satellite in 1999, and requested that we image an area over Mt. Ararat. The Ikonos satellite did not have many orders for that part of the world, because the satellite was so new, so we accommodated his request. Over a period of several years, beginning in 1999, we imaged this anomaly for him. The company never made any determinations as to what was in the imagery, but certainly Taylor was an advocate of using space-based technology to help solve the issue of what could be on Mt. Ararat. We certainly wanted to be as helpful as we could. The Ikonos satellite imaged the Ararat Anomaly three or four times over the course of several years."

What about the future? "As Taylor contacts us, we will on a case-by-case basis decide whether there is access time over that part of the world and will make a determination as to whether we will go ahead and task the satellite to collect an image over Mt. Ararat."

What's your attitude toward these kinds of amateur projects? "At GeoEye we've discovered a class of imagery activists that find great satisfaction in using a technology that was once only available to people who had high security clearances in the intelligence community. Commercial remote sensing has opened up a Pandora's box of discovery and the Ikonos satellite and OrbView 3 satellite have become for many space-based Indiana Joneses."

Meet the Editor

I will be at the San Diego Convention Center, August 7 to 11, for the ESRI International User Conference and would like to meet as many of my readers as possible! If you will be there and would like to get together, drop me a line. I will tell you when I will be sitting at the GITC America booth and when we can meet during breaks or in the evening.

News Briefs

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


    1. The School of the Built Environment, Singapore Polytechnic, a polytechnic with an enrollment of more than 16,500 students, has renewed its agreement with the BE (Bentley Empowered) Careers Network program. Through this program, Singapore Polytechnic is helping students graduate with market-ready technology skills. The new three-year agreement grants Singapore Polytechnic an unlimited academic campus-wide license—including free upgrades and updates—for more than 45 software solutions. It also provides ongoing professional software training programs for the school's lecturers to help them present current and comprehensive course material to their students. Since the year 2000, Bentley has trained more than 50 lecturers at The School of the Built Environment, and the school has produced more than 2,500 new graduates.

    2. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has selected GeoDecisions, an information technology company specializing in geospatial solutions, to develop Location Wizard—an application that provides geospatial mapping capabilities to many of DNREC's applications, making it possible for several divisions to access and view the locations of each other's business-related data through a single point of access. Previously, DNREC used an application with limited functionality to locate and update each division's business data. Now, DNREC users can increase efficiencies by seamlessly locating points without having to move between applications.

      Utilizing ESRI ArcIMS, ArcSDE, and MapDotNet, the custom application also permits users to display various base map features and orthophotography at one time, as well as view data updates in near real time. The information can then be saved to a database where other internal applications can extract attributes during a specific search. GeoDecisions' staff of consultants, analysts, and developers supports clients across the United States. Fundamental to the company's approach is the integration of spatial information to empower existing systems and processes. GeoDecisions' philosophy is based on an enterprise-wide approach to the integration of diverse information technologies, data formats, and systems.

    3. The Municipality of Chatham-Kent, Canada, now deploys an ESRI enterprise ArcGIS platform to better manage its electric distribution, water distribution, and wastewater operations. The complete GIS will provide key benefits, including cost savings, streamlined business processes, open data access, and increased efficiency and productivity.

      The ArcGIS platform replaces the previous legacy AM/FM systems with an open, standards-based, and modern architecture. ESRI Canada Limited provided implementation services, including application development and training. As part of the comprehensive technology platform, Miner & Miner's ArcFM solution supplied industry-specific applications for all aspects of the energy business, including outage management, asset management, and system design. First Base Solutions provided data conversion services.

      Chatham-Kent is a single-tier local government located in southwestern Ontario, Canada. Since 1998, the municipality has been using GIS for better managing assets and operations. The new enterprise GIS will support integration with other business systems, ensuring optimized data integration, data sharing, and reduced work duplication and data maintenance efforts. Engineers, operations staff, field crews, and others will have access to the ArcGIS platform, which includes ArcSDE, ArcIMS, and ArcGIS Desktop.

    4. ESRI strategic alliance partner SAP AG has certified the integration of ESRI's ArcGIS 9.1 software with the SAP NetWeaver platform. The integration enables organizational flexibility in deploying enterprise server GIS solutions, thereby reducing the need for custom integration. ArcGIS is a scalable family of products comprising a complete GIS. Built on industry standards, ArcGIS is rich in functionality and works out of the box. By passing the certification tests for deployment of Java 2 Enterprise Edition applications on SAP NetWeaver and Business Package integration of the SAP NetWeaver Portal, ESRI has demonstrated its ability to provide integration through IT standards between the world's leading GIS products with SAP business solutions.

    5. OneGIS has enhanced its service offerings to telecommunications organizations by becoming the first North American value-added reseller of Telcordia Network Engineer to offer certified training for that telecom GIS software package. The certification was received by telecom industry veteran and OneGIS project manager, Dan Thalimer after he completed the requirements to teach Network Engineer user and administration classes at Telcordia's Huntsville, Alabama offices.

      One of the first training classes that Thalimer will teach is for the City of Leesburg, who recently contracted with OneGIS to implement Network Engineer in their fiber division. Leesburg purchased the software to manage the fiber optic network that the City operates in an expanded service territory in central Florida. Leesburg selected OneGIS to implement Network Engineer because of its experience in ArcGIS-based applications and because of the GIS integration and configuration work that the company has performed for the City over the past two years. Telcordia's Network Engineer software manages fiber, copper and coax cable communications networks as well as inside plant facilities, all as an extension to the industry-leading ArcGIS platform by ESRI. In addition to Network Engineer, OneGIS is the U.S. distributor for a wireless planning and design software package from HNIT Baltic GeoInfoServisas, called Cellular Expert. This application offers the most comprehensive GIS-based RF and wireless planning and analysis capabilities on the market. It also runs as an extension to ArcGIS. The combination of these two applications in conjunction with the underlying capabilities of ArcGIS allows OneGIS to provide a broad range of telecom-related GIS applications as well as professional services from a very experienced staff.

    6. GE Energy has supplied Sabesp - Companhia de Saneamento Basico do Estado de Sao Paulo of Sao Paulo, Brazil with its Smallworld geospatial technology. This technology forms the core of the SIGNOS integrated water management system, improving water delivery to households and response time to service outages. Sabesp is the largest water and wastewater company in Latin America.

      The new GIS application has allowed Sabesp to standardize network information graphically. The installation of the system has also permitted data integration and integrated analysis, which has led to broader access and more uniform data consistency for the entire company.

      The Sabesp implementation covers 34 cities and approximately 20 million people as well as a 28,000-kilometer water network, a 20,000-kilometer wastewater network in a 1,600 square kilometer urban area.

      Edinfor, a Logica CMG company, implemented the project. Since the implementation of the SIGNOS system, a number of benefits have been realized. Calculation time and data analysis time have been decreased. Automated thematic maps, which can identify such features as water pipelines, are also being generated, defined, and executed monthly by system end-users. They also allow business results to be checked and compared periodically.

      Recently, the Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA) presented Sabesp with an Excellence Award at its 2006 conference, recognizing the implementation of the SIGNOS GIS.


    1. The Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo), founded six months ago, has announced that Mapbender, a portal-based suite of software for geodata management using OGC OWS architectures, has met all of the legal and community requirements to become the first official product supported by the Foundation. Mapbender is a client-side framework for orchestrating interoperable Web map services. It is implemented in PHP and JavaScript and ships with a set of predefined user interfaces for viewing, editing, and managing map services and users.

      Mapbender is used throughout the world, with sites ranging from easy-to-use city map services to intricate applications to apply for agricultural subsidy grants; many of these sites can be see at the Mapbender Gallery. Mapbender is the first project to graduate from the incubation process that every project must complete before being accepted as an official OSGeo project. This incubation process, now common to many major open source foundations, includes a complete legal review of all the source code. All the Mapbender code has now been reviewed manually to identify, address, and if needed remove any potential encumbrances, such as IP and license issues.

      Additionally, the incubation process involves a "health check" of the project's infrastructure and governance: is the project run as a good Open Source project? Does it have a healthy community? Who are the developers and where do they come from? Do the project managers foster an open and consensus-based environment?

      Paul Spencer, CTO of DM Solutions Group, acted as the project's incubation "mentor." As an OSGeo member with years of experience in many other Open Source projects, he acted as a consultant to the Mapbender team throughout this process. Along the way, Spencer was also able to raise the visibility of the Mapbender software within the Foundation, improving opportunities for future cross-project collaborations.

      The Foundation was formed early in 2006 by a diverse collection of open source advocates with the aim of supporting and promoting open source geospatial projects. In only six months, the Foundation's mailing lists are reaching hundreds of developers and users across the industry, with hundreds more also registered on the OSGeo website. Already the Foundation has eight projects in incubation, all open source tools and applications that range from low-level libraries to Web services environments to a broad function desktop GIS.

      In addition to supporting actual software development, a big part of OSGeo's mission is to promote the use of open source software and public data within the GIS industry. Following on its well-publicized success at Where 2.0 earlier this summer, where over 30 OSGeo members exhibited and presented, OSGeo will be at two other events next week. The Foundation is hosting a booth at OSCON, the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, in Portland, Oregon. OSGeo member Gary Lang (Autodesk) will be offering a keynote, and members Mark Lucas (Radiant Blue), Jo Walsh (Open Knowledge Foundation), and Aaron Racicot (EcoTrust) will all be speaking as well.

      Also next week, OSGeo members will be presenting at GeoWeb 2006 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Michael P. Gerlek (LizardTech) will be speaking on OSGeo's mission, and Ian Turton (Pennsylvania State University) will be presenting a paper on geocollaborative systems using open standards and open software. Gary Lang will also be giving a keynote presentation.

      OSGeo is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support and promote the collaborative development of open geospatial technologies and data. The Foundation provides financial, legal, and organizational support to the broader open source geospatial community. It also serves as an independent legal entity to which community members can contribute code, funding, and other resources, secure in the knowledge that their contributions will be maintained for public benefit. OSGeo also serves as an outreach and advocacy organization for the open source geospatial community, and provides a common forum and shared infrastructure for improving cross-project collaboration. The Foundation's projects are all freely available and useable under an OSI-certified open source license.

    2. MWH Soft, a provider of environmental and water resources applications software, has released Comprehensive Urban Hydrologic Modeling Handbook for Engineers and Planners— a resource for anyone involved in the design, operation, protection, and management of urban infrastructure systems.

      Today, wastewater utilities and municipalities rely heavily on hydraulic, hydrologic, and water quality simulation models to plan improvements, design, operate and sustain better infrastructure systems, and ensure public health and safety. Each of these urban system management activities must be modeled and analyzed accurately in order for the collection, transport, and treatment systems to provide the desired level of safety, reliability, and performance and meet all hydraulic, hydrologic, and water quality objectives.

      Written by industry experts, this handbook is a comprehensive reference on the various aspects of surface water hydrology, including hydrologic processes, analysis, and design. A working handbook for engineers, hydrologists, students, urban planners, and practitioners, it covers both the practical and theoretical aspects of urban hydrology, hydraulics, and storm water quality modeling. The book brings together the principles and tools available for evaluating the quantity and quality of storm water and presents them in a manner that can be easily understood. Moreover, it provides guidance on methods of managing and controlling storm water in the urban environment. One hundred and fifty solved problems place special emphasis on the application of these tools and methods. Chapter-by-chapter coverage includes an introduction to hydrologic processes and basic modeling principles, with special emphasis on the urban environment; precipitation; initial abstractions and infiltration; evaporation; surface runoff; flow routing; urban water quality; urban drainage controls; and comprehensive watershed management. Mastery of these analyses have the potential to lead to better hydrologic practice, helping engineers design, build, operate, and sustain safer, more reliable urban infrastructures.

    3. The U.S. Patent Office has issued a patent to LandNet Corp. for a suite of highly differentiated online mapping functions. The patent, titled "Land Software Tool," includes several functions that provide the online map drawing and measuring capabilities available on the LandVoyage mapping website.

      Developed in 2000, LandVoyage is a turnkey online mapping business that competes in many of the same markets as Google Maps, Microsoft Virtual Earth, and GlobeXplorer, which is owned by Stewart Title. The LandVoyage patent, number 7,054,741, was issued on May 30 and relates back to the date of the original provisional patent application which was filed on 2002 February 11.

      With the patent recently awarded, LandNet Corp. is currently exploring opportunities to sell the LandVoyage Internet mapping business along with all existing and future patents. The company is also interested in other joint venture opportunities, such as a strategic merger or technology/patent licensing. Sarowdin Partners, a nationally focused investment banking firm, is managing the sale process.

      The Land Software Tool offers a suite of practical online map drawing, searching, and measuring functions. The tools, which can all be used with GPS technology, allow users to draw boundaries onscreen over maps, aerial photos, and satellite images, for example, and to change those underlying images, as desired, without having to redraw anything. The tools also allow users to delineate and measure land parcels using a variety of reference points, such as latitude/longitude coordinates or information from the Public Land Survey System (PLSS).

      The primary Land Software Tool functions are as follows: The Metes and Bounds Tool is used to draw a property's boundary from its legal description or, in reverse, to create a legal description of property whose boundaries are drawn on a computer screen. The Latitude / Longitude Tool allows users to draw boundaries using a list of latitude / longitude coordinates or, in reverse, to identify the coordinates of boundaries drawn on a map onscreen. The Township / Range / Section Search function enables users to find maps with information from the PLSS. The user enters a township, range, and section number online and the tool automatically finds the geographic location and takes the user to that location on an onscreen map. The Map Information Tool allows users to retrieve a variety of information about a map or location by simply moving the mouse. As the cursor moves over the screen, the user receives a streaming update of information about the map and locations on it. LandNet filed a separate application on 2006 January 24 for a continuation seeking patent protection on an additional 73 claims relating to the Land Software Tool. These patent pending claims represent both an expansion of current functions and new tools which were described in the issued patent but not claimed. An additional continuation-in-part patent application with 164 new claims was filed on 2006 May 16 and is currently pending.

    4. The latest release of TopSURV field controller and Topcon Tools software from Topcon Positioning Systems (TPS) offers a multitude of new features and expanded functions to expedite data collection and integration operations.

      The new TopSURV Version 6.04 software includes: new upgradeable Contractor module designed specifically for contractors; unique topographical grid function; improved digital level support; and Topcon Link PC software.

      Topcon Tools Version 6.04 post-processing software has multiple new features, including: new digital imaging module that supports 3D coordinate calculation in the office with just the click of a mouse on a digital image; expanded features in the design module including DTM edits, advanced layer control, 3D model viewer, and more road design formats and flexibility; advanced processing module adds increased functionality and automated interactive blunder detection wizard; additional background images are now supported; and expanded import and export for Autodesk.

      TopSURV and Topcon Tools upgrades for version 6.04 can be downloaded free by existing users of Topcon software.


    1. Educators and administrators of all types will come together at the sixth annual ESRI Education User Conference (EdUC) August 5-8 in San Diego, California, to network and explore the benefits of GIS technology in education. The conference will delve into everything from how to start GIS programs and initiatives to how to enhance and expand already existing ones. Conference attendees will include hundreds of school teachers, college and university instructors, school administrators, community leaders, librarians, and museum professionals from all over the United States and from many other countries. The EdUC is an opportunity to connect with others involved in GIS education while learning about the latest in GIS products and services from a variety of commercial, government, nonprofit, and educational organizations. A host of activities makes the EdUC an event with something for everyone.

      This year, the keynote speaker for the Plenary Session will be Allen Carroll, chief cartographer and executive vice president of National Geographic Maps. Carroll presides over the editorial and creative efforts of the Society's map division, including the renowned supplement maps published in National Geographic magazine; the Seventh Edition Atlas of the World; and National Geographic's wall maps, globes, and the National Geographic MapMachine, an innovative world atlas on the Internet. Carroll will share insight into the evolving nature of geographic content development and delivery at National Geographic, including new online mapping opportunities, and will describe National Geographic's new five-year campaign to improve the geographic literacy of young people. The My Wonderful World campaign is designed to give U.S. students tools to become more informed global citizens, providing a wide variety of resources for parents, educators, and students to become more geo-savvy through the Web site MyWonderfulWorld.org.

      EdUC computer labs will provide a hands-on opportunity for attendees to experience introductions to a variety of software, including ArcView 9, ArcGIS 3D Analyst, ArcIMS, and ArcPad, under the guidance of ESRI instructors. The conference will also feature more than 100 paper presentations that will highlight users' experiences and practices in areas of curriculum, present new books and lessons, demonstrate new software techniques, and offer professional networking opportunities.

      This year's tracks will include Teaching with GIS; Teacher Education and Educational Research; Designing Curriculum and Degree Programs; GIS for Administration and Planning; Community Projects and Partnerships; and Using GIS in Libraries and Museums. The conference will also include an Education EXPO and Welcome Reception that will provide an opportunity to connect with other attendees involved in GIS education while exploring the latest GIS products and services. The EdUC schedule will also include key sessions from the ESRI International User Conference as well as the Map Gallery, Academic GIS Program Fair, and ESRI Showcase.

    2. The exhibit floor for GeoWeb 2006 is about 90 percent full and almost all of the 13 workshops are more than 70 percent full. Online registration for the event will close at noon MDT Wednesday, July 19. On-site registration will open at 8 a.m., Monday, July 24.

      GeoWeb 2006 will take July 24-28, at the Morris J. Wosk Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. The conference, organized by Galdos Systems Inc. and supported by the Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA), will feature nearly 70 paper presentations, 13 workshops, keynote addresses, panels, and an exhibit floor, all focused on the convergence of XML, Web services, and GIS. Registration numbers for the conference have already doubled compared to previous years, when the conference was called GML Days and GML and Geo-Spatial Web Services Conference.

    3. Applications are now being accepted for a course entitled "Practical Remote Sensing Methods for Conservation Biologists." It will be offered at the American Museum of Natural History's Southwestern Research Station, located in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona, from Monday 9 October to Friday 13 October. The course will focus on the practical aspects of remote sensing with the goal of enabling participants to download and display satellite imagery for their area of interest; learn to interpret the imagery by making the connection between abstract image information and the landscape; and use this information to support a range of conservation objectives.

      Participants will work with visual image products and an overview of the automated land cover classification process will be presented, including an assessment of the advantages and drawbacks of these map products. The target audience is conservation researchers with little or no remote sensing experience.

      The course involves a mix of lecture, computer lab applications, discussions, and field work. Participants are encouraged to bring projects on which they would like to work. These projects can be discussed with the course organizers in advance to ensure that they are appropriate. If participants do not have their own project one will be assigned to them during the course.

      The fee for the course is $1,000 for a single participant (space is limited to 15 desktops). Applications will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. The cutoff date for accepting applications is September 9. The course fee includes room, board, and instruction in the class. Unfortunately, no scholarship funds are available to defray course expenses. Participants will have to provide their own transportation to and from the station. Students should plan to arrive at the Station by Sunday evening. The course will begin Monday morning at 8:30AM and will wrap up on Friday morning before noon.

      The Southwestern Research Station is located at 5,400 foot elevation in riparian habitat, surrounded by oak-juniper-pinyon pine woodlands. Within a short drive up or down the Chiricahua Mountains, which reach nearly 9,800 feet elevation, five life-zones can be encountered: Lower Sonoran, Upper Sonoran, Transition, Canadian, and Hudsonian. Biogeographically, the Chiricahua Mountains are located at a crossroads between distinct desert and mountain biotas. At lower elevations, some species are derived from the Sonoran Desert to the west, whereas other species are elements of the Chihuahuan Desert to the east and south. At higher elevations, there is a mixing of plants and animals from the Rocky Mountains, to the north, and the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of Mexico.

      Those interested in participating in the course should send a short paragraph with the following information: name, address, current position (student, academia, government, etc.), brief reason for wanting to take this course, overview of prior GIS or remote sensing experience if any, and a brief description of a project they would like to work on if they have one in mind. Send applications and questions about course logistics and contents to Ned Horning. For information about the Southwestern Research Station please contact Diane Smith.


    1. Joan N. Gardner has joined the board of directors of the James W. Sewall Company. Ms. Gardner brings to Sewall's Board extensive experience in strategic business planning and implementation, including 15 years in Massachusetts state and local government and 15 years in the private sector. While with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, she was a major force behind the Commonwealth's entry into GIS, managing projects that established the foundation for MassGIS, the statewide enterprise system. In 1991, she founded the GIS consulting firm Applied Geographics, Inc., and in the next 13 years managed the company's growth to a 44-person firm. She is now President of Gardner Associates and the Director of the University of Massachusetts Boston GIS Core Research Facility.

      A pioneering advocate for the use of GIS in addressing health issues, her accomplishments include utilizing GIS to study environmental factors for breast cancer for the Silent Spring Institute and managing an assessment of GIS needs for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In the last three years she has received the Stephen G. Lewis Award for Leadership in the Environmental Industry, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Pinnacle Award for Achievement in Business, and the Environmental Business Council of New England "Outstanding New Environmental Application" award for her work with the Silent Spring Institute.

      Ms Gardner has served on the U.S. Department of Commerce Environmental Technology Trade Advisory Committee and the New England Chapter of GITA as President. She is currently Chair of the Environmental Business Council of New England and a member of the ESRI Health Users Group, the UMass Boston Science Advisory Committee, and the Massachusetts Geographic Information Advisory Council. She is also chairing the committee for URISA's GIS in Public Health Conference to be held in May 2007 in New Orleans.

      With a Bachelor of Science degree in Library Science from Simmons College, Ms Gardner has pursued studies at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Radcliffe College; and the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Founded in 1880, Sewall has provided comprehensive GIS consulting services and solutions to government, utility companies, and the forest industry since the 1970s. Sewall's expertise in GIS project implementation is supported by 50 years' experience in aerial photography and landbase mapping and 30 years' experience in GIS database and application development. In recent years, Sewall has assisted multiple clients with implementing Web-based GIS.

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