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2012 Predictions: Safe Software on remote sensing, 3D GIS and more

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012


Remote Sensing

The amount of data that is being collected by sensors (remote sensors), terrestrial sensors, and personal sensors is going to explode.   Today, everyone with a smartphone is carrying around a very sophisticated sensor.   We are going to see the data from these sensors being used more and more. With all the sensors that are coming on line, we are quickly approaching the point where we can see what is happening anywhere at anytime.


The level of interest in 3D GIS is definitely on the upswing.   With new data sources like LiDAR and the ability of tools to combine these different sources to make immersive environments – it’s going to take a big leap forward.    Augmented Reality is just one technology that is on the cusp of breaking out.   2012 could be the year when it moves from a curiosity to a real must-have application. 2012 could also see a large adoption of 3D GIS technologies, as Autodesk continues work with its Infrastructure Modeler and Esri rolls out the fruit from its acquisition of Procedural and its CityEngine technology.

Web Mapping

We are really seeing a lot of excitement on the mobile platform.   In today’s world, a mobile workforce is still a connected workforce.  No longer is it the case that field workers are disconnected from their office systems.  As a result we are increasingly seeing the need for real-time data movement.  With workers always being connected, the line will continue to blur between the office, the field, and the home.  Smartphones are really “pocket” computers with more processing power than that of desktops only a few years ago.    The challenge now is more about bandwidth than anything else, and this is only going to get better and cheaper in 2012.  In 2012 more people are going to run “mobile” web apps from their smartphones/iPods/iPads than from their computers on the desktop.

Social Media and Authoritative Citizen Data

The importance of social media to business is only increasing.   Now people use social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to follow topics and keep in touch with their customers and industry trends.   Social media has really changed the way that organizations get the word out.  At Safe now we see ourselves spending more and more time on “content” marketing so that we have the content that users need.   Through social media we are also in constant communication with more of our users than ever before.

On the topic of authoritative citizen data we are going to see more applications where citizens can help their cities and countries run better.  Whether it is helping cities identify potholes, or graffiti locations by simply sending in geo-tagged photos, or helping authorities prosecute “rioters” by taking video and pictures with their phones – the trend is clear.  Citizens are going to be more engaged than ever before.


The cloud is everywhere in 2012. At Safe for example, we do almost everything in the cloud.  We run our demo machines in the cloud. We train in the cloud. Our website is in the cloud. Our customers can evaluate using the cloud.  From a technology perspective cloud technology is ready to host everything.


We are also going to continue to see more and increasingly powerful cloud-based systems out there.  Take Google Fusion Tables for example.   This technology makes it trivial for anyone to publish and share any kind of data, including spatial data, and share it with the world instantly!   It’s amazing, and the cloud makes it possible.

The cloud is also a great equalizer.  It used to be that organizations that wanted to create world class web-based solutions had to spend huge amounts of capital to purchase their own server farms to host these applications.  With cloud services now, such as Amazon’s AWS, anyone can now create web-based solutions and simply leverage the scalability it inherently provides and only pay for what they use when they use it.    This moves CPU usage for these organizations from the “highway” model; (build and pay for infrastructure to handle peak loads), to the electricity model in which you only pay for what you use.  The cloud and its impact are still in early days.


The integration challenge is bigger than ever.  For us at Safe we are seeing demands for data to be moved between more different kinds of systems than ever before.  For the first decade of Safe it was all about CAD<->GIS.  Now we have Raster, LiDAR, XML, Big Data, and Web-based data sources such as Google Fusion Tables.   Users don’t want to just move it either way; they want to combine it and then send it to new applications.   Over this period the “data freshness” dates are getting shorter and shorter.   In 2012 we believe we are going to see organizations want to leverage “real-time” data.  We also are seeing an explosion of sensors and expect organizations to need to integrate this entirely new type of data into their workflows so that they can react quicker and more effectively to events.    This belief was a driving force behind the “Event Driven” architecture which we have added to FME Server.  With this we are ready to handle a whole new class of data integration challenge.

Safe Software responses by:

Don Murray,

President and Co-founder of Safe Software

2012 Predictions: Autodesk on GIS and Utilities

Monday, January 30th, 2012


In 2012, utilities will begin to invest heavily in analytics in order to manage increasingly large volumes of data due to the rise of smart meters. Utilities and GIS companies are also exploring how this information can be used for real-time tracking and operations and to help drive business value.

Smart buildings will become important to utilities. Twenty-five states have energy-efficiency standards or targets and smart buildings can help meet these goals. The building energy analytics market will double between 2012 and 2015, jumping from $193 billion to $402 billion.

-Autodesk AEC Executive Team

Speed, notification, more file formats in the new FME 2012

Friday, January 27th, 2012


Vice President of Software Development and Co-founder of Safe Software, Dale Lutz, spoke about the latest release of FME, FME 2012, which has just been released. Safe’s releases of FME are annual, and are designed to always be faster than the previous release and incorporate more file formats than they did before.

What is the most significant feature of the 2012 release, Dale?

The point cloud or lidar support changes that we made in the last year are very significant. W e came out of the gate last year with our lidar support point cloud and I was impressed how well received that was. What we realized was that the volumes of data were even in an order of magnitude greater than what we thought a year ago. We spent the last year really addressing and optimizing for data volume and we’re very please with how the FME 2012 point handling support can gobble up billions of point clouds and put them into Oracle and chop them into little pieces in very timely ways. Don [Murray] has said that every release of FME has to be faster than the previous one and we did meet that with more than ten percent overall across 5,000 tests, we are more than 10% faster. Even if existing users don’t do anything else they just put on the new release they’re going to be getting their jobs done faster than before. In terms of our overall offering, as you know we have FME Server, and there we’re doing a thing we call notification server which has to do with the notification idea –  that not only can we centralize data moving on a server, we can now react and cause it to move when an event happens outside. Kinds of events can be, for example – a file arrives in a folder and that’s a stimulus that can cause a response by our server to upload that file into a database or into a Quality Assurance check on that thing. These are event driven actions, as opposed to the user having to poke the server and saying please do this.

One example is a file arriving causing an event – an email arrives and it causes something to happen. A web sensor of some kind posts results – we’ve been doing some demos and playing with web sensors and that data can come in and our server can do something. Now there is a field called complex event processing or CEP and what we really think we’ve got here is spatial complex event processing where an event happens and a transformation process starts.  Not only can it move data around but can also take advantage of where that event happened.

So that’s the notification addition into our FME Server product family.

How many of these new features did customers request?

Parts of the new features were requested by people but we generalized their requests into something greater. We know that many of the use cases I mentioned to you are futuristic — they’re ready for the internet of things or the sensor web that people talk about. Practically what people ask for is the first one I mentioned, if the file arrives the folder does something because that’s closer to our traditional space. When I talk about sensor web that flirts with the user space that we’re confident that we’re able to address but we might be ahead of our user base there.

You mentioned more file formats in the new FME 2012.

The world is always creating more formats – I believe the number is 285 now with FME 2012. Existing formats don’t stay still either, they’re always changing and growing. CityGML had a new version this year, GML is looking at another version, there’s always more happening. The development team has to juggle all this and it’s not getting easier each year.

The other half of this is the world of the cloud. Although it’s not a file format, it’s a new place where data can reside. And so in FME another key feature is the fact that we can read and write Google Fusion tables and so there you have a new “format” but it’s not a file, it’s a mystical call out to the cloud.  You use FME to put data up there and then you permit it, then instantly the whole universe can share in it. It’s a way of publishing data that can be used by anybody instantly so it’s quite interesting what this opens up for collaboration.

How do you address private clouds, which we hear a lot about these days?

Private clouds are not on the data format side, but rather on the deployment side. People ask can we install your software and get our own private cloud can we install it on an Amazon system? We do have an answer on all those cases. We have many customers already doing cloud based deployment using our software in the cloud, running in the cloud in a variety of ways.

That’s an area that continues to explode. We have moved to using cloud hosted FME for all our training. If you take an FME training class, no matter where you take it, whether it’s online or in person, you’ll be using an FME installation in the cloud. The reason is it’s way easier for us to administer it. But even if you come to our office to do training in our Training Center you’ll be connected to FME in the cloud even though it’s in our own office.

We’re doing a soft launch of what we call the FME Store, which is a way for certain parties who belong to the FME ecosystem  that build plug ins or extensions for FME to be able to make the rest of the FME community aware of what they’ve created.




Votes in to adopt OGC Open GeoSMS Standard as official OGC standard

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC®) membership has voted to adopt the candidate OGC Open GeoSMS Standard as an official OGC standard.

What the OGC Open GeoSMS Standard provides developers with is an extended Short Message Service (SMS) encoding and interface to facilitate communication of location content between different LBS (Location-Based Service) devices or applications. SMS is an open text communication service most commonly used in phone, web and mobile communication systems for the exchange of short text messages between fixed line or mobile phone devices. According to the press release issued today, the lightweight and easy to implement Open GeoSMS Standard facilitates interoperability between mobile applications and the rapidly expanding world of geospatial applications and services that implement OGC standard interfaces, encodings and best practices.

Controversial LightSquared goes before House subcommittee

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

In an article in the National Journal yesterday, it was reported that the company LightSquared had come before the  Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee because “Tests indicate that LightSquared’s proposals would interfere with global positioning systems. LightSquared says it has solved the interference problems, but representatives of nine federal agencies concluded on Jan. 13 that no practical measures can allow LightSquared to overcome interference with GPS.

The finding, a significant blow to LightSquared’s case, prompted a furious response from the beleaguered wireless startup, which accused the government panel of “a systematic disregard for fairness and transparency.”

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee said he has met with representatives from both GPS companies and LightSquared in hopes of figuring out if there is an “engineering answer here.” He said he got two different answers.

The FCC says it will not give LightSquared final approval until tests show that the network can be safely built, but the agency has come under fire for its handling of the process.” –

Walden Questions FCC handling of Lightsquared

Going where no GPS has gone before

[GISCafe Voice November 21, 2011]

Solar Radiation Storm reaches Earth

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

This morning, the National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center  based in Boulder, Colorado, published a map showing a solar radiation storm touching the upper atmosphere in the Earth’s poles. According to their report the Earth is being bombarded with the strongest blast of radiation from the sun since 2003. This event could cause problems for communications and air travel.


Autodesk and Pitney Bowes pen new partnership

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

For about three years, I have been watching Autodesk do interesting things with their GIS division, finally rolling some great mapping products into their Infrastructure Division. The sense was that Autodesk was primarily a provider of software for the built environment, with its GIS products designed with the architect or engineer in mind.

Autodesk Map 3D


Dell displays new mobile workstations

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Richard Runnells, Precision Workstations & IVS Mktg.for Dell Precision Workstations, spoke with AECCafe’s Sanjay Gangal at Autodesk University 2011 in Las Vegas in December. Between 9,000-10,000 attendees were reported at the conference.


Top Geospatial Predictions for 2012

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

When compiling this group of predictions, I looked back on what I had tagged for 2011 as predictions going forward. Some of those are still on the list, others are new.


Esri Election Year Primary Calendar

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

This timeline from Esri charts the sequence of primaries and caucuses that ends in Utah on June 6. State summaries include a political attitudes spectrum. Despite deepening partisan divisions, the mix of liberal and conservative viewpoints is surprisingly uniform across the nation.



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