2006 July 27

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Editor's Introduction

This week I report on a project in San Diego to develop a tool to help make the city safer for pedestrians. This should be a hot topic for geospatial professionals, since about 16,000 of us will be spending a week in the most congested part of that city during the upcoming ESRI International User Conference. I also profile a company, R7 Solutions, that specializes in building mission-critical Web GIS applications for government agencies and large energy companies. What first brought the company to my attention was a website that they built as a companion to a book on nuclear weapons. (I have a graduate degree in international security from M.I.T., so this subject is my old stomping ground.) Finally, I bring to your attention two New York Times articles, one with a bearing on remote sensing, the other on amateur mapping. Plus, my usual round-up of news from press releases.


Pedestrian Priority Model

I get around my city — Eugene, Oregon — mostly by walking and bicycling (plus I frequently take the bus and occasionally ride my motorcycle). That is why one presentation, among the hundreds scheduled for the upcoming Twenty-Sixth Annual ESRI International User Conference, caught my attention. It is titled "City of San Diego Pedestrian Priority Model" and it is part of the Accessibility, Mode Choice, and Pedestrian Safety session in the Transportation track. (The presentation is scheduled for 8:30 on August 8, in room 23A.) The presenter, Joe Punsalan, GISP, is an Associate GIS Analyst at KTU+A, a landscape architecture and environmental planning firm. I discussed with Punsalan the goals, challenges, and findings of the project.

Why was KTU+A hired for this project? Because we have a GIS approach to pedestrian projects throughout the city. Even though we do a lot of landscape architecture planning, GIS is one of our bread and butter capabilities.

Figure 1: Pedestrian generators utilize demographic data as indicators of potential volume of pedestrians based on densities of population, employment, income, age, disabilities, and mixed land use. These areas that have more people working and living in them are also more likely to have more people walking.

What is the project's goal? It is supposed to look at all the pedestrian issues and problems within the City of San Diego, evaluate them, and make suggestions for improvements. We are focusing on what major corridors, such as major arterial streets and connector streets, lack in pedestrian facilities and what can be done to improve them.

Read more …

Robust Web GIS

Increasingly, GIS are migrating to the Web, or being developed from the start as Web applications, so as to make them as easily accessible as possible to all potential users. Of course, the requirements vary greatly from GIS to GIS, along several axes—such as accuracy, robustness, bandwidth, processing speed, and functions.

This week I came across an exceedingly simple yet extremely robust Web GIS application. Users input a ZIP code and the application returns a "blast map" centered on the centroid of the ZIP code area's polygon. The map, consisting simply of three concentric circles, shows the devastation that would be wrought by a 10 kiloton nuclear weapon (5,000 times less powerful than the largest ever tested) at different distances from the blast. Built as a companion to the book Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, by Harvard University professor Graham Allison, the application has held up to millions of hits over the past two years—peaking every time Allison demonstrates the application on national television.

Figure 1: The screen after zooming into a random area of Houston, Texas, and running a search on the non-spatial criteria specified in the search window and the spatial criterion of constraining that search to the current extent

The "blast maps" site is so robust because it was built by R7 Solutions—a company based in Houston, Texas, that specializes in complex, mission-critical Web GIS applications for government agencies and large energy and real estate companies. R7 was founded five and a half years ago by seven graduates of Rice University and still has strong ties to the academic research community. Last week, it released version 3.1 of its flagship software suite, GeoRoom, a Web-based mapping and collaboration server available as a hosted service or licensed for a local server. The previous week it launched an enterprise server for the City of Houston. I discussed these applications with Bryan Guido Hassin, the company's Managing Partner.

Read more …

Briefly Noted

According the July 22 New York Times, NASA has deleted the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet" from its mission statement. The article, titled "NASA's Goals Delete Mention Of Home Planet," by Andrew C. Revkin, reviews the history of the statement, the probable motivations for the change, and its impact on remote sensing.

The same day's New York Times also has a half-page article on the re-drawing of Congressional districts in Texas, titled "Ruling Has Texans Puzzling Over Districts: Court Order Brings a Flood of Proposals for New Boundaries," by Rick Lyman. The article includes the following paragraph: "In the last 10 or 15 years, it's become technically possible on a desk-top computer, with the right software, for anybody and their uncle to generate their own very sophisticated maps like this," said Calvin C. Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. "So this allows interest groups, interested members of Congress, political parties, pretty much everybody to develop their own maps. This has made the process a little more complex, but a lot more open."

News Briefs

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


    1. An investment group led by Shah Capital Partners (SCP) has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Thales Navigation, a division of Thales. Read more …

    2. OneGIS has implemented a school bus route website with the assistance of the staff of the Forsyth County, Georgia, Board of Education. Read more …

    3. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is deploying GeoDecisions' IRRIS technology to better safeguard the health and welfare of the Commonwealth's citizens. Read more …


    1. QCoherent Software, LLC, provider of Limitless LIDAR software tools, has released LP360 version 1.2, LIDAR extension for the ESRI ArcGIS environment. Read more …

    2. Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd., has launched zumo, a GPS receiver designed for motorcyclists. Read more …

    3. GeoDataSource has launched GeoDataSource website, together with its flagship product, GeoDataSource World Cities Database, a geographical features and landmarks database complete with such information as latitude and longitude coordinates, region and country information, and officially recognized names. Read more …

    4. GfK MACON has developed a new map with about 40,000 five-digit ZIP code areas for the United States for 2006. Read more …

    5. Europa Technologies has released a new version of its world map data products. Read more …


    1. The 15th annual GIS for Oil & Gas Conference and Exhibition of the Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA), slated for September 18-20 in Houston, Texas, will include four half-day Knowledge Immersion seminars by more than a dozen GIS industry experts. Read more …

    2. The third "Earth from Space—the Most Effective Solutions" biannual international conference will be held in Moscow, Russia, 2007 December 4-6. Read more …

    3. Bentley Systems, Incorporated has inaugurated Bentley LEARN, a subscription program that empowers infrastructure firms to become and remain well-trained organizations. Read more …


    1. SANZ Inc., a provider of specialized storage and geospatial data management solutions, has hired Julie Baker as federal civilian sales manager, Matt Falter as sales manager, and Karen Morley as director of product marketing. Read more …

    2. Intermap Technologies, Inc., a geospatial company that maps countries and builds digital elevation datasets, has hired Richard Smolenski as VP of sales. Read more …

  5. OTHER

    1. Trimble, a manufacturer of GPS laser and optical positioning technology, will inaugurate a new 77,000-square foot facility in Colorado on August 1. Read more …

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