2007 March 15

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Professional Surveyor Magazine

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Editor's Introduction

This week I summarize the comments of eight distinguished panelists at last week's GITA Annual Conference. The range of topics covered and the speakers' deep understanding of geospatial technology made their presentations very valuable and stimulating. Plus, my usual selection of press releases (no longer news from press releases, now that I've stopped editing them).

Matteo Luccio

GITA Conference Highlights

Last week, at the 30th Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA), two major themes were the use of the World Wide Web and consumer applications. The former was the subject of a seminar titled "Mapping Applications on the Web: Evolution or Revolution," the latter was the subject of a panel titled "Harnessing the Momentum of Consumer Applications," and both themes were discussed by another panel, titled "Extending the Reach of Geospatial Technology." Both panels were moderated by Matt Ball, editor of Geoworld.

The members of the first panel were

The members of the second panel were

In what follows, I bring you the highlights of the two panels. With a few exceptions, starting with the section titled "General Trends" I have not attributed these statements to particular speakers because, frankly, I lost track of who said what. On the other hand—with the benefit of my digital recorder, my editing skills, and, most of all, time—I have organized and edited them to be a little more coherent than they were when spoken extemporaneously at the conference.

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Microsoft's Virtual Earth, Gail said, is "being built as a platform that cuts across consumer and enterprise applications," based on the company's experience with the MapPoint Web service.

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Yahoo! Maps

Yahoo! Maps doesn't have an enterprise solution. It both provides driving directions and supports searches, such as "find me the best margarita in town," Lawless said.

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MapQuest, according to Nats, is the mapping site most used by consumers. It built its own geospatial platform, he explained, and uses it to supply all of its business units as well as the two dozen companies owned by its parent company, AOL.

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The "Google Earth Effect"

The prodigious popularity of Google Earth, which has been downloaded more than 200 million times thus far, has hugely boosted the visibility of and demand for geospatial products—because people who play with GE at home, soon wonder how a more powerful version could help them at work. However, to a much lesser extent, it has also had the opposite effect, as some people have concluded that they need not spend large sums to purchase professional geospatial services when those available for free will meet most of their business needs. I asked the panel to comment on this dynamic.

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Data Accuracy

Yahoo! worries much about the accuracy of the user experience, according to Lawless, and takes "a lot of pride" in the accuracy of its product. "Users don't understand why [bad driving directions] happen," he said. So, one of the company's "core doctrines" is reducing the problems that users experience.

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  • This is the most exciting time in the geospatial industry in the past 15-20 years.
  • Camateros: "The fact that we have a digital model of the whole planet is pretty powerful stuff."

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The World Wide Web

  • Web services are not a fad—they are here to stay.
  • The most exciting thing happening in Web services is that, as of this year, all of the geospatial vendors adhere to at least the minimal OGC standards for open Web services.

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Consumer Products vs. Professional Products

  • You can augment a map originally intended for consumers, making it useful in a professional context.
  • Traditional companies can incorporate elements from consumer-oriented vendors into their technology—especially in regard to data distribution.

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The Impact of Consumer Mapping Applications

  • The greater public awareness of geospatial technology due to Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth, Yahoo!, and other consumer mapping applications is good for the industry. It raises the bar for the technology and it is a wake-up call for traditional companies in the industry to move a little faster and continue to innovate as quickly as possible.

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Data Creation

  • Data contributed by consumers using APIs will continue to increase as a share of map content.
  • About seven new satellites are going up next year, all claiming 1- to 3-meter accuracy. This means that there is going to be a huge volume of new data and the cost of data is going to plummet.
  • Other interesting data that is becoming increasingly available includes real-time weather information, other sensor and diagnostic data, and customer information.

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3D Modeling

  • Gail: "As we build out these virtual worlds, as we move into 3D, the ability to bring cutting edge sensors to the table is very important. In addition to the 3D modeling, Vexcel brought [to Microsoft, which bought the company last year] a cutting edge aerial sensor that we now use. (We don't actually fly it ourselves; we sell it to companies that fly to acquire the imagery that is used to create those 3D models.)"

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Data Sources and Formats

  • Nats: "We work with 30 or 40 sources of data and bring those into our system and it is a real challenge to turn those things around in a timely manner.

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Governments and Consumers

  • Gail: The mass market for geospatial data benefits governments. "This is a case in which the consumers are making these investments and governments are going to … get things a lot cheaper than if they tried to do them on their own. They are not able to specify exactly what they get—this is a commercial marketplace, you get what's there. Maybe 98 percent of their needs are satisfied with what's there; they can go somewhere else to get the missing two percent."

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Remote Sensing

  • The acquisition of satellite and aerial imagery is rapidly becoming commoditized; yet…
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  • Gail: Complying with different privacy requirements in different states and countries is very challenging.

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News Briefs


    1. Geosoft and ESRI Collaborate on Delivery of Global Software and Data Management Solutions for Mining and Geosciences

    2. Shattering the Tea Cup Paradigm: INSIDE Idaho Collects, Stores and Shares Statewide Geospatial Data at University of Idaho

    3. ESRI and Epson Co-develop New Driver for ArcGIS 9.2 and Epson Stylus Pro Printers

    4. Intermap Technologies Delivering 3D Data to RiversideCounty California Through SAWPA Contract

    5. Poland National Forest Service Implements Web Mapping Solution using the TatukGIS Internet Server


    1. PTV Intertour/Compact presented at CeBIT: Efficient trip and vehicle scheduling for smaller transport companies

    2. Marshall Releases GeoResults Mobile 2.1 Olympia

    3. ESRI Announces Release of ArcGIS for AutoCAD Free Download

    4. Topcon announces world's first GNSS receiver with digital UHF radio design


    1. Twentieth Annual GIS in the Rockies Conference Announces Event Dates and Issues Call for Papers

    2. 2007 GIS for Oil & Gas Call for Papers Announced

    3. The Sound of GIS in Salzburg

    4. Google, IBM, MapQuest, Microsoft and Oracle among Top Presenters at 2007 Location Intelligence Conference

    5. Refresher Course on Land Administration In Vietnam

    6. Spacedat in collaboration with the University of Bari, University of Lecce and the Province of Lecce presents the DIGEO International Summer School: Diving Into GIS and Earth Observation

    7. Registration Open for BE Conference 2007


    1. Galdos Hires Bill Macdonald to Head Engineering and Product Development Group

    2. Brian Dubis of R.A. Smith & Associates Obtains GIS Professional Certification

    3. Coles Earns GISP Certification

    4. Firm Names Transportation Leader

    5. ASPRS Florida Region Board Elects 3001's Brian E. Murphy Director

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Matteo Luccio, Editor
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