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Pointools point cloud transformation company licenses product to Safe Software

Monday, January 10th, 2011


Pointools, a company known in AEC circles for its point cloud data transformation software, has come to GIS.

From the press release: “Pointools ltd. has licensed Pointools Vortex – its market-leading point cloud software platform – to Safe Software Inc. – the maker of FME and the global leader in spatial data transformation technology – to help GIS professionals and organizations streamline point cloud data transformation and delivery, and overcome point cloud interoperability challenges.”

See article in AECWeekly Point Clouds for Every Desktop 

GeoDesign Summit – Day Two

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Carl Steinitz


Carl Steinitz, research professor at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard delivered a keynote on Day Two at the GeoDesign Summit in Redlands. In his bio, it says that Steinitz has “devoted much of his career to improving methods of landscape planning and design.” He has organized and taught numerous workshops on large and complex landscape design change problems. He has been honored as an outstanding teacher by Harvard University.


With all that said, I believe Steinitz’ message was a little difficult to grasp, yet like all excellent teachers, he had a profound message.


He began by asking, “Why is it when all we measure is quantities we end with bad designs?”


He said he thinks that “what is GeoDesign?” is a social question and that GeoDesign is here to answer questions that are not easily defined.


“Most of the work we’re doing and demonstrating involves problems that are marginally understood and that we presume to a framewrok with many actors and views,” said Steinitz. “People need to understand the complexity, because we don’t know everything.”


There are four groups- people of the place, design professionals, information technologists, and geographers/scientists involved in this effort. He says we are probably underestimating the difficulty of bringing these all together. 


Steinitz says the geographic sciences are premised on the idea of bringing the model built on the past and present into the future. The differences in the cultures of design and science create difficulties in communication between the two sectors.


-Designers think a lot about the future but don’t know anything about the present and past.


-People who are confident in what they do come together with others and create geodesign.


-There is a social system for design – the assumption is the people don’t agree with each other and /or have problem they perceive or don’t perceive.


-The designer’s theory is the scientist’s hypothesis.


Other observations:


- Scale and size matter

-Designers are educated to start small and go big.

-Geographers or scientists start big and go small


Steinitz quoted the Norbert Wiener communciation model (Wiener was a contemporary of Marshall McLuhan) by saying,


Designers generally believe ‘I have a message with a medium and you are expected to understand the meaning.’


Scientists say ‘I’m looking for something in the environment and are you giving it to me?’ The medium is information technology.


Steinitz broke down the types of models we use in assessing landscape with questions: 

-How should landscape be described? Representation models

-How does landscape operate? Process models

-Is the current landscape working well? Evaluation models

-How might landscape be altered? Change model

-What predictable differences might the chances cause? Impact models

-How should landscape be changed? Decision model


The decision drives the evaluation, he noted.


“It would be easier to create a model for someone tomorrow than 20-100 years into the future,” Steinitz pointed out. As a big part of the GeoDesign discussion centers around creating an ontology, Steinitz said everyone has to be in the room to create an ontology.


Methods used to do this include: vision or anticipatory, participatory, sequential, combinatorial, constraining, rule-based, optimizing, agent-based.


Steinitz summarized by saying that design and geo are complicated – “geodesign is an art, not a science but depends on science.”




AECOM gave a talk about their SSIM Framework methodology for spatial urban design analysis, which begs the question: What makes a plan inherently more sustainable than another?


Vishal Bhargava, senior associate, Urban Designer, said that Urban Form is the single largest determinant of GHG emissions.


Rather than rely purely on intuitive judgment, the SSIM Framework methodology asks the following questions –

-Which scenario has the least adverse impact on the environment?

-Which scenario has the greatest potential for sustainability?


In the conceptual phase, Bhargava said these are areas of importance to the SSIM Framework –


-Evaluate alternatives

-Quantification and comparison of performance and plan alternatives

-Conveying the informatin effectively


Key performance indicators –

  • Development performance
  • Urban design performance
  • Access and spatial distribution
  • Ecological performacne
  • Resource use
  • Waste output

Their approach is economics driven, and once these benchmarks and strategies are established, then they do a cost analysis.


PenBay Solutions


Stu Rich, CTO of PenBay Solutions spoke on “Taking GIS Inside Buildings –

Facilities Management and Analysis”


Rich asked the question, why GIS for facilities?


“We’re seeing tremendous growth in urban environments, tremendous building boom, and witnessing the greatest migrations of humanity the world has ever seen,” said Rich. In 2000, we became a predominantly urban species, more people for the first time living in urban environments than in rural. It looks like we are going to be doing this for a longer time. This takes pressure off our agricultural lands, but the implications for urban infrastructure is profound.”


Rich pointed out that 48% of emissions are due to the consumption of raw materials for construction materials. “The greenest building is the one we never build.” 


“We need to think about how to address that existing building stock which is unlikely to have the BIM data sets we’ve been talking about,” said Rich.


“How do we apply geodesign to that problem?”


In a nutshell, Rich said we need to extend our thinking to the interior environment – it’s not just about buildings, it’s about processes.

-We need to think of ways to not have to build a new building

-We need to extend geographic scale to interiors of buildings


Lightning Talks


There were a number of Lightning Talks offered on Friday as well that spilled over into the afternoon session. Presenters included universities, Azavea, and even Autodesk.


I had to catch a flight before the Idea Lab of the afternoon so did not witness the wrap up at the end of the day.




CloudMade acquires OneStepAhead (OSA)

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

 CloudMade, a provider of development tools for the location-based app market, has acquired OneStepAhead (OSA), a global provider of next-generation navigation software.

The importance of this acquisition is that it merges CloudMade’s approach to delivering highly customized maps and location data with the on-device map database and rendering engine of OneStepAhead. This furthers developers’ efforts to deliver more customized apps to their customers.

 CloudMade received $12.3M Series B funding led by Greylock Partners in 2010.

GeoDesign from 2010 to the present – Day One

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

The concept of “GeoDesign” was one year old last week when Esri CEO and president Jack Dangermond kicked off the GeoDesign Summit held in Redlands, Calif. His question to the audience: How do you want to interact in the future to make things better?


He spoke about new modalities and how we used to use CAD to generate maps, but now with GIS we can all look at and interact with the map simultaneously. 


He said that GIS is going through “another massive shift with real time information, with distributed services and bringing things together dynamically, the whole lifecycle of design and processes is birthing here.” The new paradigm is about creating alternative futures, evaluating them quickly and seeing the conseqences of them.


Dangermond sees that as the world is becoming digital, GIS is becoming pervasive and in the future we will be able to measure “nearly everything that moves or changes.” On top of those measurements we will be able to sketch design alternatives.


Half of the time of the designer and engineer is spent on collecting data.


Bernie Szukalski of Esri did a brief run through of ArcGIS Online and its base map, which he said is the start of any good map. The ArcGIS Online base map is a world imagery basemap that covers entire world. A map of the entire U.S. (as part of this map) has 1 resolution or better and is comprised of informatin gathered from federal, state and commercial providers and is free for non-commercial use.  The base map also includes a World Topographic basemap compiled from authoritative GIS sources, including the USGS, EPA and The National Park Service. 


The CommunityMaps program represents the best possible data from authoritative sources brought together in seamless base maps, plus lots of other content, thematic information, demographics, soils, geology, and different layers with which to build maps.


Also included are USGS topo maps, and maps from other providers like Bing Maps and OpenStreetMap (good for areas outside U.S. that are difficult to get). For those who don’t know it, ArcGIS Online is built into ArcGIS.


Michael Goodchild of the University of California spoke on GeoDesign accomplishments through 2010.

Geodesign Accomplishments through 2010–

a. A research agenda for this area and development.

b. Personal perspective

c. Needed a definition of the field and now have a Wikipedia page.


 New networks have been created such as the Geodesign Consortium  spearheaded by Karen Hanna and the SDS Consortium by Naicong Li.


Online resources –

Participatory geodesign network – defining geodesign as it relates to public participation.

GIS and Science bibliography on Esri GIS & Science website


Selected readings -

Jack’s talk at TED 2010 – Jason Lally and Drew Dara-Abrams


Literature – Regional and Urban GIS: A decision support approach by Esri Press

Goodchild’s almost published – “Towards GeoDesign: repurposing cartography and GIS?


Goodchild said we need to close what have many have perceived as a growing gap between GIS and design.


“Now more than ever we need a technology to distinguish between small-d and Big-D design,” said Goodchild. “Design consists of the formulation of an optimization problem with objectives and constraints, the collection of data, the execution of a search for the optimum solution, and its implementation.”


His definition of the two “d”s was as follows: Small-d –In this simplistic view implementation is seen as inevitable. Big-d sees the process complicated by disagreements among stakeholders.


Lightning Talks


The Lightning Talks presented at this event were 10 minutes long rather than the 5 minutes generally devoted to each presenter at Esri UC. A couple of the more enlightening ones are outlined below:

Chris Pyke of the U.S. Green Building Council said at a recent conference that “Green building is not about buildings. It is about this curve – a systematic movement devoted to changing the prevalence of practice – by creating best practices. The  curve is not spatial, temporal or data driven. The USGBC put in place a collection of people and practices to move the curve.”


One manifestation of green building is buildings, said Pyke. At least 30,000 buildings are in the pipeline, which represent decisions made about water, stormwater, lighting, air space, space, etc.


Over the last decade, people have  understood we have a curve, and we try to remove it by adopting best practices, while a building might last 50-200 years. The curve is made up of these decisions over time.


The next 15 years of green building practice is going to be

  • Driven by evidence
  • Informed by place
  • Powered by information.

USGBC has created a portal to understand spatial and temporal dimensions. The portal can expose “augmented reality” information of different actual real projects on the ground. It can capture real information on a real building, so that other projects can be measured by it and come up to its standards. This technology can also be accessed through mobile BGIG Analyst.


Nicholas de Monchaux, assistant professor of Architecture and Urban Design UC Berkeley talked about “creating a robust nervous system for the cities of today.” The digital tools of today allow us to contemplate this new paradigm.


Constance Bodurow, Lawrence Technological Unviersity,

Studio [Ci] a design lab in the College of Architecture, presented the topic “Convergence of Intensity: How to Use Geodesign Tools to Shape A City.” She said we are urbanists, and interested in the future of urban form, and they believe cities should be the most desirable place for human habitation.


A new urban geography and ecosystem are required which leverage the assets and complex combinations of social economic and environmental factors.


Their Studio (Ci) integrates Esri with Google SketchUp to generate unique outcomes. The Convergence of intensity (CI) is a value based approach which builds on value densification and recommends the new geography of the city. It proposes specific criteria of the revitalizing of the post industrial city. “We create 3D extrusions, the city can see it better and have thousands of datasets,” said Bodurow.


 Idea Labs


The afternoon was devoted to Idea Labs on special topics. The one I attended was entitled BIM/GIS Integration led by Stu Rich of PenBay Solutions, Ihab Hijazi, Danny Kahler and Fred Abler.


The discussion addressed an ongoing debate about Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs), an object oriented file format for interoperability between CAD and now Building information modeling (BIM) files. Now they are working on an interoperability platform between BIM and BIM, and want to use it to apply to the BIM/GIS conversation.


Participants asked the questions: What are use cases, what are problems we are going to solve, and what are we going to pull out of BIM to put in GIS and vice versa?


The day wrapped up with a talk by Kimon Onuma, architect, evangelist for the integration of BIM and GIS and president of Onuma, Inc. has been using BIM since 1993. His clients include the GSA, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers–to name a few.

 Onuma remarked that the economy slump is the best thing that has happened to the industry – the people who didn’t have time to look at BIM now are looking at it. On the downside, BIM models have become very heavy and users cannot extract valuable information from them.


Onuma’s viewpoint about technology is that it should be simple, “if we don’t keep it simple, we can’t solve the problem,” he said. A solution should be like an online travel website where you book an airline flight. You ask a question, it gives you an answer.


Onuma has created the BIM Model Server which embodies cloud computing, BIM and GIS, facilities management and other data in real time. It is fast and simple, and allows numbers of people to access the information simultaneously.


He took the audience through the virtual design of a building in Hong Kong, where everyone in the room could click on a link on his site and begin adding design elements. This type of brainstorming way of designing and pulling in information is called a BIMStorm. What the audience did with Onuma in one hour is what is generally done with an organization in a day or several days of working together on a real project.


He said the intersection of GIS and BIM is “where it explodes.” Multiple servers talk to each other, and with cloud computing you can create mashups. The building is in a city, the city is part of the world and that’s how it connects together.


Look for more on GeoDesign in GISWeekly and future blogs.









What is GeoDesign?

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

On January 6 and 7, Esri brought together a meeting of the minds at their GeoDesign Summit held in Redlands, Calif. at Esri headquarters. The event brought together both GIS professionals and architects and engineering professionals in a think-tank setting to discuss how the two technology sectors and cultures might converge in order to make the best of both of them in shared settings.


Some definitions for the term “GeoDesign” which was coined by Esri to describe the convergence of geography and design:


From Wikipedia comes the definition:


Geodesign is a set of techniques and enabling technologies for planning built and natural environments in an integrated process, including project conceptualization, analysis, design specification, stakeholder participation and collaboration, design creation, simulation, and evaluation (among other stages). “Geodesign is a design and planning method which tightly couples the creation of design proposals with impact simulations informed by geographic contexts.”


From other notable professionals:


Some definitions for the term “GeoDesign” which was coined by Esri to describe the convergence of geography and design:



“Geodesign is a design and planning method which tightly couples the creation of design proposals with impact simulations informed by goegraphic contexts.” – Mike Flaxman

“Geodesign is changing geography by design,” Carl Steinitz

“GIS is about is, geodesign is about what could be.” Tom Fisher

Check out new map of moon’s surface

Monday, January 3rd, 2011
A side by side image of the moon’s surface shows the difference between a photo taken in 2005 and one taken in 2010.

The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, one of seven scientific instruments onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, recently completed a project resulting in a new map of the surface of moon with unprecedented detail. Developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and launched in June 2009, the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) uses laser ranging to measure the moon’s surface elevation, slope, and roughness in 3D.

Read more:

NASA’s LOLA maps the moon (photos) Cnet

Top GISCafe Today blog posts for 2010

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

ABI Research report says Wi-Fi location will overshadow all other location technologies.

Q&A session with Carl Bass.

OpenStreetMap founder now principal architect for Bing Mobile

Black Friday shopping geo news

Esri’s MyPlaceHistory app

3D printed street maps for the blind

Bentley press briefing

“Big Island” GIS mapping and analysis tool to pinpoint landslide hazards

Azavea to use Phase 1 SBIR funds to develop OpenTreeMap

Geolocation services help small businesses find customers

GPS-stamped photos aid in Gulf oil spill cleanup

Google Labs launches Fusion Tables

5 top features in new ERDAS 2010.10.1 release

Cintiq 21UX multitouch tablet from Wacom

Increase in new passenger cars with telematics over next 6 years

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

According to a prediction issued by ABI Research, the percentage of new passenger cars globally shipping with factory-installed telematics will increase from less than 10% in 2010 to 62% in 2016.

ABI Research practice director Dominique Bonte comments: “Several factors are driving the uptake of OEM telematics, the most important being an automotive industry that is emerging from a painful recession and finding renewed dynamism.

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