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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Esri ZIP Code Lookup tool lets you learn about local population

January 17th, 2011 by Susan Smith

Not exactly new, but notable is Esri’s ZIP Code Lookup tool that allows anyone to enter a ZIP Code in the U.S. and learn about those who live in that area.

Demographic and market information such as income, employment, vehicle preferences, and leisure activities are among the data the tool will display.

To use the tool, the user enters a ZIP Code, then the browser-based Silverlight application instantly generates three of what is known as Tapestry segments for the area in question. Esri’s Tapestry Segmentation system classifies U.S. residential neighborhoods into unique market segments that are based on socioeconomic and demographic data.

Free ArcGIS for Windows Phone app available

January 13th, 2011 by Susan Smith

The excitement this past week at CES about all the different phones and apps that would be available, with 4G and other functionality, extends to GIS with the announcement of the free ArcGIS for Windows Phone app.

According to a press release issued recently, Microsoft Windows Phone users can access sophisticated mapping capabilities on their phone with the ArcGIS for Windows Phone app. “ArcGIS for Windows Phone lets you find, use, and share maps as well as deploy GIS data and functionality on Windows Phone devices. The free app is now available and can be downloaded directly from the Windows Marketplace.

ArcGIS for Windows Phone serves as a mobile gateway into the ArcGIS system to:

  • Explore and navigate maps.
  • Find places and addresses.
  • Query map layers and data.
  • Collect, edit, and update features and attribute information while performing field data collection and inspection projects. “

Local GIS news

January 13th, 2011 by Susan Smith

Some local GIS tidbits from the past week:

Cobb DOT Launches Road-Closing Web Tool January 10, 2011, SmyrnaVinings Patch

Getmapping Launch ‘WFS’ – Web Feature Service for OS MasterMap® January 10, 2011, Realwire

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Begins Transition Out of Bethesda This Month Bethesda Patch

Global GIS news

January 13th, 2011 by Susan Smith

What’s going on in GIS around the world? Take a peek at this week’s news items:

Esri Ireland GIS solutions recognized at 2010 chambers ireland awards New Design World Press Center

System to make transactions with Mandaue City easier January 10, 2011, Global Nation Inquirer

Australia.. Navico cartography toolkit for third-party developers BYM Product & Industry News

Costa Rica Surf School “Making a Difference” Through Action January 9, 2011, PR Leap

ArcGIS API for Apple iOS platform released

January 12th, 2011 by Susan Smith

Developers can now build and deploy custom iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad applications with Esri’s recently released ArcGIS API for the Apple iOS platform. According to press materials, “This API uses the powerful mapping, geocoding, geoprocessing, and editing capabilities that ArcGIS Server provides.”image001


Students and faculty at the University of Oregon use the ArcGIS API for iOS.

Self-taught app developer wins prize for iPhone app design

January 12th, 2011 by Susan Smith

Twenty-three year old Tyler White of Santa Fe, NM won the $10,000 top prize in an international program design contest for iPhone and iPad applications this summer. The iPad app integrates Flickr photos with an interactive satellite map. Basically it is based on Google maps using Flickr photos. About 15,000 users have purchased the Flickr Photo Map from the Apple iTunes Store to date.

In our town, this is a local-boy-make-good story, especially as White is an unemployed college dropout – or was before he began to build apps. He is now making a living off the sales of three Apple iPhone and iPad apps that he designed, one of which was the prize winner.

This type of entrepreneurship is not new – Apple founder Steve Jobs, founder of Dell, Michael Dell, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, all went to founding their own companies without passing through the hallowed gates of college.

To support this type of innovator, Peter Thiel, PayPal cofounder and Facebook backer, established a foundation to administer grants to people under 20 “to further their innovative scientific and technical ideas.” Those awarded grants would not be able to go to school during the two years of their grant fellowship. There are 20 $100,000 grants available.

This offer caused great dissent in the press and among politicians, but on the other hand, with the rising costs of a college education, who is to say this is not a viable option for those talented in this direction?

U.S. Federal Court Jurisdiction dataset available from Urban Mapping

January 11th, 2011 by Susan Smith

Urban Mapping, Inc (UMI), today announced new data available for the U.S. Federal Court Jurisdiction within Mapfluence, the company’s web-based mapping platform and data catalog.

According to the press release, “The Federal Court Jurisdictions dataset contains geographic boundaries for the 94 US Federal District Courts and 12 Courts of Appeals. In addition, attribute data includes details, such as names for each  court’s Chief Justice, the number of judges per court and each district’s associated appellate court number. Urban Mapping acquired the data from official government  sources and verified, curated and published it in the Mapfluence on-demand data catalog.”

Pointools point cloud transformation company licenses product to Safe Software

January 10th, 2011 by Susan Smith


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

January 10th, 2011 by Susan Smith

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)

January 9th, 2011 by Susan Smith

 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.

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