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Archive for July, 2009

The difference between KML and GML

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

According to president of Galdos Systems, Ron Lake, KML and GML have different purposes – KML is a language for describing visualization and also a browser control language, and GML is about describing kinds of geographic objects. There are no feature types in KML so you cannot differentiate different types of roads, for example, whereas that is the purpose of GML. “You can look at GML as a way of modeling or encoding geographic content so you can have kinds of objects like buildings or schools,” explained Lake. “Then KML is a way of presenting that content visually.”

“Styling” rules are applied to create KML that provides a visual presentation of geographic data in GML. For example, in looking at the GML you have roads with four lanes and road with two lanes, and gravel roads and paved, and you can make a rule that if the road is paved with four lanes then you can generate a default in KML that will draw it as a black line and if it’s a two lane draw it as a red line. This way you can use rules by which you interpret the geography for visual presentation and then you use those rules to generate the KML.

“KML is still rather limited,” said Lake. “If you’re a cartographer or traditional kind of mapmaker you might be kind of dismayed that KML doesn’t support things like dash lines or railroad tracks. It’s still fairly simple but you can do all this interactivity, which compensates for part of that.” Similar issues exist in 3D, for example, “CityGML is a multilevel of detail modeling language so you can model cities with a very coarse level of detail but it’s not really intended for visual presentation. For this you would style CityGML say into something like Collada, .obj or x3D which are the encodings that are used by Google Earth and by Microsoft Virtual Earth 3D.”

“The idea is to try and separate your modeling of the world from presentation so that you can as be as flexible as possible  in terms of how you present content. You might have the same geographic data and you might present it quite differently for a civilian audience vs a military audience even if it’s the same information.”

URL of the week – Check out GeoGeekTV

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

GeoWeb 2009 – Cityscapes – what to look forward to this week

Monday, July 27th, 2009

There was a lot of buzz about cityscapes at ESRI this year, but the place that will really focus on this topic will be GeoWeb 2009 in Vancouver, starting Monday, July 27th.

According to Galdos Systems CEO and GeoWeb organizer Ron Lake, last year they started the idea of cityscapes with a focus on CAD and GIS integration.

“This year we’re focused more on SDI and data sharing in urban environments,” said Lake. “To do that, we have invited speakers like Ken Greenberg, an urban planner for the City of Toronto, a well known architect, talk about collaboration and building cities.”

In that context, information sharing involves the collaboration of both machines and people. “We also have speaker David Bolocker, CTO at IBM, who will talk about collaboration software research that IBM has been doing,” said Lake. “Then we have John Stutz, co-founder of Tellus Institute of Boston, an organization that does scenario planning, which in their case involves numerical modeling of global processes – population, climate, and potential scenarios for the evolution of the earth. They also did a big study for the city of Boston.”

Javier de la Torre, CEO at Vizzuality, Madrid, Spain, will speak on his project called the Encyclopedia of Life, which endeavors to catalog location, time and extent of every species, incident, and all biologists’ or others’ reports on the presence of an animal or plant species.

This year the conference also includes an Academic Science track. Some of the papers from the conference will be published in the ISPRS Journal.

The conference includes an all-day course entitled GeoWeb 101 which will answer questions such as, why does GML exist, or what is the difference between GML and KML?

Group HUG

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

The Health & Human Services ESRI User Group (HUG) was founded 11 years ago and is now the second largest ESRI user group, with 1041 members in 36 countries. The Healthy GIS newsletter is available online.

During the lunch meeting held at ESRI UC, the group outlined recent inquiries which included: obesity, tuberculosis, and methodology. It was also pointed out that health reform cuts across all geographic boundaries.

The Health User Group Conference will take place this year September 22 in Nashville, TN (

The conference will take place in Denver in 2010.

Little birdies go tweet, tweet, tweet

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Setting: the ESRI UC newsroom.
Guy comes into the room. “Is this a place I can check my email?” he asks.
I reply, “No, it’s the Press Room. You can check your email down the hall.”
“What does ‘press’ mean?” he asks.
“In this case, people who are journalists, writing specifically about the GIS industry,” I answer.
“What do they write?” he asks.
“Magazine articles and newsletters, primarily,” I say.
He touches his GeoTweet button. “What about tweeting? Does tweeting count?”
“No,” I reply, a bit incredulous. “Anyone can tweet.”
“Anyone can write an article,” was his response.
“Maybe these days, that’s true,” I say, well aware that I’m living in the age of bloggers, tweeters and anyone else who feels they have the right to speak authoritatively (or not) on any given topic.

Of course, many more salient retorts came to me after I had left the room. Just imagine how crowded the Press room would be if filled with tweeters at the conference!

I became a writer during a period of history when it was relatively challenging to become published. To find a publisher for your books was not something that just “anyone” could do. Many good writers were turned away because their work “didn’t meet editorial needs.” Does anyone remember what a “rejection slip” is?

Now there are courses on how to publish for yourself, and anyone can set themselves up with a blog. Twitter is even easier – just write one line about anything, and you can see your name, or user name, in print.

Although we have created these easier to use venues for people to express themselves freely, I think it’s important to not lose sight of the difference between a tweet, a blog, a magazine article, a book, and a newsletter.

Generally, writers are paid to write magazine articles, books and newsletters. Those writers have gained a certain credibility by writing, earned either in their field of study or in journalism.

One vendor at ESRI noted that the “NextGen” generation of people don’t care if the information they disseminate is accurate, they just feel that they should disseminate information. Twitter gives them the opportunity to do this in short bytes. A blog can also contain anything from how they are feeling that day to actual useful information about technology, weather, location, etc. It’s up to the reader to determine if any of this information is relevant. For vendors, tweeting may contain some crowd-sourcing information.

So this commentary is not just about writing: if you look at what most vendors are generating these days: easier-to-use, quicker, accurate – they are looking to appeal to a wide audience, not just those who are GIS professionals. This doesn’t negate the need for full blown GIS – GIS is the underpinning for each of these easy-to-use technologies as well.

There is still also the need for GIS for the GIS professional.

You might say we are looking at the difference between the “Google Earth gen” and the “full blown GIS gen.”

It would be interesting to know how many GISCafe readers read blogs, post tweets and read Twitter and how often they do this compared to reading an article or newsletter?

Interactive Pen Display from Wacom

Friday, July 17th, 2009

The company Wacom has been around for 25 years with its display technology . I was first familiarized with this company through my work in the AEC industry (architectural, engineering and construction) for which it always seemed like a good fit, with its digitizer tablets and sketching capabilities.

Wacom has now come to GIS with its palette-based DTZ-2100 Interactive Pen Display, making a timely entrance at a time when ESRI’s Bill Miller is working with sketch technology, and the whole notion of “GeoDesign” suggests a way of designing GIS with new tools.

Wacom’s Mike Dana said the company is focused on changing the human to computer relationship. The product consists of a monitor or display, a pen and a driver. The brain power is in the monitor, and the pen is not intelligent but understands pen pressure so that the user will have a “canvas-based response.”

Wacom hasn’t worked out just what features you might be able to have with the pen pressure, however, Dana said that this capability, coupled with the pen’s strength of signal and  tilt direction could be part of 3D of the future.

Dana said that the display, which has buttons on either side of the screen, can be configured as you wish, and you can execute 8-12 repetitive tasks at a time.

There is also a display toggle so that you can work on two screens simultaneously and the image will map directly to the second monitor.

“This product combines the convenience of touch with the precision of penpoints,” explained Dana.

An ESRI Authorized Business Partner, Wacom’s DTZ-2100 will be hanced with flat templates for ArcGIS 9.4. ArcGIS is added to the list of formats in the driver.

“The display is more accurate and precise than the Tablet PC,” claimed Dana. The specialized behavior of the pen, along with the ability to customize buttons to the workflow in office solutions make this a technology to look at.

I did note that the LCD panel is a big draw on power, however, it is powered separately from a PC. Currently, it is not really something you can take out in the field.

Wacom has two models: a  21.3 inch standard size display and a smaller one. The standard size including display monitor, pen and driver retails at US$2,000 and a smaller one is US$1,000.

Imagery Now

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Many government and public organizations have spent billions of dollars over the past 20 years building geospatial datasets. The cost of updating these datasets is currently equal to the cost of creating them.

Lawrie Jordan of ESRI moderated an industry keynote given by Roger Mitchell, vice president of program development, MDA federal Inc. formerly Earth Satellite Corp. (EarthSat), which focused on a more effective way of doing change detection that would save government and other entities money. The current method of doing geospatial change detection involves reviewing aerial imagery to determine if a feature has changed, a laborious process, according to Mitchell. The current use of multi-spectral image differencing has the potential for many false indicators.

New change criteria involves the following:
-locate features
-reliable with an absolute minimum of false indicators.

Developed by the MDA based on patented cross correlation analysis technology (CCA), the new process uses multiple data to filter out false indicators.

The MDA will disclose the algorithm to the U.S. Government. The solution is nearly 100% automated. It uses any moderate resolution multi-spectral image data. .

For more information contact

Tuesday at ESRI UC

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

My day began with a breakfast hosted by ITT Corporation, who announced their new image processing product for GIS professionals. The new product, ENVI EX, is the first image processing and analysis solution resulting from a partnership with ESRI. The product is tightly integrated with ArcGIS, and is designed to be easier to use and integrated with GIS workflows. The demo shown was a classification workflow with vector data in ArcMap. To use it, Richard Cooke, president of ITT’s Visual Information Solutions group, said, you don’t need to know image science. “No longer are imagery and GIS living in separate worlds.”

The addition of Lawrie Jordan, original founder of ERDAS, to the ESRI team has spearheaded the integration of imagery with GIS at the company. This technology integrates the ArcGIS projection engine into ENVI.

The exhibit floor was not as crowded with exhibitors this year, and some exhibitors also said that traffic was light. The Map Gallery also had fewer exhibits than in previous years.

So far, themes encountered on the exhibit floor include: imagery, community input, real-time map, grab-and-go geospatial products.

During the keynote, there seemed to be very few empty seats, so I would guess that attendance is still high for a trade conference in today’s economy.

Short Takes from Monday’s ESRI Plenary Session

Monday, July 13th, 2009


GIS and design or “GeoDesign” were themes that ESRI president and CEO Jack Dangermond talked about at this morning’s Plenary Session. He views geography as the “science of our world” with design being another field that looks toward the future. GIS integrates these two worlds.

GeoDesign is a “systematic methodology,” for which we might want feedback and want to know outcomes and impacts, which seems to translate to the ability to do “what if” scenarios. It also appears clearly influenced by the social networking media such as Facebook, Twitter and other options that seek feedback on various topics and issues. This is not something that GIS has done before, but Dangermond said that ESRI is extending its GIS tools to do this.

This year the ESRI UC website also offers Twitter feeds, Facebook and other forms of media to connect with others at the conference, and to generate topic discussions.

One user I spoke to said that he posts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter at the same time and then sees which one generates the most information. Another said that good ideas can sometimes come from the fleeting blip across the radar that is a Twitter post.

According to Dangermond, maps and GIS are changing and growing richer and smarter. “Mashups and new media will lead us to have geographic knowledge that is pervasive in our society.”

Further evidence of new ways of delivering content: next to the Map Gallery, Lightning Talks were offered — informal presentations promising to be “brief, brilliant and then gone.” Topics included mashups, mobile GIS and Web 2.0 applications.

On another note, 3D GIS will also be integrated into ArcGIS 9.4 Desktop and Server.

Notes in Brief from Remote Sensing and GIS 2009

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

The afternoon of this all-day pre-conference seminar featured case studies and panel discussions followed by a networking reception.

Aurelie Shapiro, remote sensing specialist for the World Wildlife Fund US, spoke on “Satellites, Species: GIS and remote sensing for conservation at the WWF.” She covered Indonesian humanitarian efforts, tiger conservation landscapes, and other projects that combine remote sensing and GIS.
Visitors will be able to see the WWF exhibit in the Map Gallery Monday evening.
Martin Hogeweb, project and product management, ESRI, active in GEOSS and GeoPortal, spoke on improving access and use of imagery using open and interoperable off-the-shelf technologies. Hogeweg said that international collaboration is essential for exploiting the potential of earth observation for decision making.

Two industry panel discussions: “Imagery software providers” and “Imagery data providers” were interspersed between case studies.

Lilian Pintea, director of conservation science for the Jane Goodall Institute, also spoke on their APES MAPPER, a portal based on Microsoft Silverlight, powered by ArcGIS Server and leveraging ArcGIS Online layers and services. The Mapper collaborates with other databases. Pintea said that after 15 years of applying satellite imagery to the research of chimpanzees, they can now study spatial behavior with GIS and remote sensing.

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