2006 October 19

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Editor's Introduction

This week I report briefly on Intergraph's decision to become a private company again and in detail on Google's expansion of its Google Transit application. Google first launched the service for Portland, Oregon, a year and a half ago, because Tri-Met, the city's transit authority, is a technological leader in public transportation and has a rich store of data it was eager and able to share.

Also in the Portland metropolitan area, Metro, the regional government, three counties, the City of Portland, the Port of Portland (which operates the harbor and Portland International Airport), and Portland State University all have a wealth of GIS data and sophisticated GIS capabilities. In the next few weeks I will be reporting on the activities of these GIS shops.

I know the area well because I lived in Portland for six years and have continued to visit the city often after moving, six years ago, to Eugene—one of the five additional cities to which Google Transit has just expanded. In both cities, as in Boston and New York previously, I have always used public transportation extensively, for environmental and practical reasons. (As if that were not enough for me to feel a strong connection to Google Transit, at a conference I attended last week, the Google representatives repeatedly used as an example Tri-Met's bus line 17—the very same one that I used daily when I lived in Portland!)

Also in this issue, an important correction to my story, last week, about VLS and my usual round-up of news from press releases.


Intergraph Goes Private Again

Intergraph Corporation, the Huntsville, Alabama-based software company that makes spatial information management software used for mapping and emergency services, announced at the end of August that it would be acquired in a $1.3 billion transaction by an investor group led by Hellman & Friedman LLC and Texas Pacific Group. Intergraph had already been private from 1969 to 1981, when it went public. The decision to go private again, already approved by the company's board, will presumably be ratified by its stockholders at a special meeting that will take place on November 20.

I am not privy to the true reasons for this decision and have not researched the subject. This week I spoke to the company's COO, Reid French, at his initiative. He gave three reasons for the decision.

Read more …

Google Transit Expands Again

One of the reasons that so few people in the United States use public transportation is that they have no easy way to learn how their local mass transit system works. This is why many transit agencies have made trip-planning tools available online. However, they generally suffer from poor interfaces, differ from city to city, and are limited to just one agency—even in large metropolitan areas where a single trip may require riding vehicles from multiple agencies. A universal interface, enabled by a universal data standard, would be a huge improvement—and it is starting to happen.

About a year ago, Google launched Google Transit, a travel planner for mass transit systems, starting with Portland, Oregon, as a proof of concept. According to Avichal Garg, a product manager for Google Transit, Google chose to launch with the Portland metro area because Tri-Met, Portland's transit authority, is "a technological leader in public transportation," the team at Tri-Met "is a group of tremendously passionate people dedicated to serving their community," and Tri-Met has "a wealth of data readily available that they were eager to share with us for this project."

Three weeks ago, Google expanded the application to cover five additional cities—Eugene, Oregon, Honolulu, Hawaii, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Seattle, Washington, and Tampa, Florida— and laid the groundwork for a much greater expansion by releasing the specifications for transit agencies to submit their data. Last Friday, at the Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON) in Portland, Stephanie Hannon, Google Transit's product manager, and Chris Harrelson, the application's engineering lead, presented Google Transit to an audience that included engineers and managers from several transit agencies.

Read more …

Department of Corrections

In last week's story about VLS, I incorrectly implied that JPL was responsible for funding the development of VLS' Feature Analyst. While JPL was involved with early research, the funding source for Phase I and Phase II of the project was NASA's Stennis Space Center.

News Briefs

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


    1. On August 6, ScanEx's UniScan ground station successfully captured the data from the ImageSat International EROS-B commercial satellite. Read more …


    1. Leica Geosystems has introduced the new DISTO A2 laser tool designed to make fast and accurate distance measurements for a wide range of indoor tasks. Read more …


    1. The Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA) has drastically expanded the program for its Annual Conference 30 — Mission Possible — at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, 2007 March 4-7. Read more …


    1. Infotech has hired Jeffrey A. Nash as a senior account manager for the Geospatial Division. Read more …

    2. East View Cartographic (EVC) has hired Joseph Njangiru as its General Manager, Africa. Read more …

    3. Lieutenant General (USAF Ret.) James R. Clapper, Jr. has agreed to join the Board of Directors of 3001 International, Inc., a geospatial company. Read more …

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Matteo Luccio, Editor
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