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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 »

The flip side of flood mapping

September 8th, 2009 by Susan Smith

In the past two to three years, GISCafe has run many stories about flood mapping and flood risk solutions that have proliferated since Hurricane Katrina and other flooding disasters have occurred. The technology that meets the demand for more accurate flood mapping has appeared to be a godsend to those attempting to do flood risk analysis and management tasks.

But for homeowners, the technology may not seem like such a great advancement. A five-year, $1 billion project by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to draw new maps pinpointing places that could be affected by the kind of flood that occurs once a century — meaning the flood has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any year –  is prompting homeowners to have to go out and buy flood insurance.

For a lot of people, buying flood insurance is not something on their radar, and definitely not in the budget. As a result of this project, every county in the New York region has been remapped. In Monmouth County, NJ alone, 4,300 properties have been remapped and recast as flood-prone. Beginning September 25, those property owners will be required to carry flood insurance that could cost up to $1,700 per year. The areas in question are Middleton, Keansburg, Hazlet and Union Beach – communities that are generally comprised of blue-collar workers who do not generally have the extra money to spend on flood insurance.

New Flood Rules, With a Price Tag by Joseph Berger, September 4, 2009, The New York Times

Track H1N1 with a new iPhone App

September 8th, 2009 by Susan Smith

Outbreaks Near Me,” a new iPhone application, created by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, gives users the opportunity to track outbreaks of infectious diseases such as H1N1 (Swine Flu) in real time. The power of the online resource HealthMap, is behind the application, which collects, filters, maps and disseminates information about emerging infectious diseases. The application offers contextualized data of a user’s location and can pinpoint outbreaks that have been reported near the user. Users can search for additional information on outbreaks or individual occurrences by location or by disease.

Outbreaks Near Me was developed with support from and is available at no cost for download in the iTunes App Store.

Location-Aware Tweets on the Horizon

August 21st, 2009 by Susan Smith

A blog/article in yesterday’s New York Times entitled “Tweets will Soon Come with A Dateline” talks about  how location is now coming to Twitter!

What are the advantages of a location-aware Tweet? Twitter users could choose to read all Tweets posted by people in their general location – be it neighborhood, apartment complex, or city. It might also be useful to locate the whereabouts of loved ones during a catastrophe such as earthquake or flood.

It will be interesting to see what developers come up with to meet this new demand.

Tweeting for discounts

August 17th, 2009 by Susan Smith

Today I noticed that two geospatial companies had made press announcements regarding their presence on Twitter:

1) Spatial Data Integrations, Inc. (SDI),  utility mapping, software development and comprehensive GIS solutions provider, is pleased to announce it is now on Twitter. Thanks to Twitter, both clients and prospects can easily track SDI’s geospatial projects, services and product updates.

2) Airborne 1, LiDAR and oblique imagery remote sensing services provider, is now on Twitter, providing clients with a unique, cutting-edge way to save money on their mapping projects.

Anyone can follow Airborne 1 on Twitter to find out at any given time where Airborne 1’s many LiDAR sensors and oblique cameras are positioned. Clients who have potential projects in those areas can then contact Airborne 1 to take advantage of steep “roadshow” discounts.

What interests me about these announcements is that the Spatial Data Integrations is its assumption that potential customers would seek out their most recent announcements and services on Twitter, rather than on their website. Perhaps, because some websites are not updated as often as one can post an announcement on Twitter, this could be a valuable venue for vendors.

The second, Airborne 1, appears to offer a great way to let customers know the location of LiDAR sensors and oblique cameras so they can then save money in getting a discount when the sensors and cameras are in their areas of interest.

It will be interesting to see what other companies will find interesting uses for a Twitter prsence, rather than other more “traditional” avenues.

Autodesk’s Q2 Fiscal 2010 Results

August 14th, 2009 by Susan Smith

Each of the major financial news outlets have by now had their say about Autodesk’s announcement of second quarter fiscal 2010 financial results. Below is a compilation of those reports from different sources.

Reuters sees the news as positive as Autodesk posted “stronger-than-expected quarterly results on Thursday as it cut costs, boosting its stock in after-hours trade.”

MarketWatch’s Benjamin Pimentel seconded that with an upbeat report:

“Management is seeing signs of stabilization and exited the second quarter with less volatility,” Deutsche Bank analyst Greg Dunham told clients, while the Wall Street Journal was less than positive in pointing out that Autodesk’s fiscal second-quarter profit sank 88% on lower sales and margins as well as restructuring charges.

A chronicle of conquest

August 12th, 2009 by Susan Smith

The Universidad Francisco Marroquin (UFM), a Guatemalan university, in concert with Geosistec, ESRI’s Guatemalan business partner, implemented a dynamic web map that merges modern cartographic tools with the Mesoamerican concept of “living geography,”to depict the conquest of Guatemala.

This digital restoration of the Lienzo de Quahquechollan was shown at ESRI UC and can be seen at the website

It was the first time it was exhibited in the U.S. according to press materials. Among other firsts, the Lienzo is the first known map of Guatemala and the only firsthand account to focus exclusively on the conquest of Guatemala.

Remarkable is the fact that the map was painted using natural pigments on cotton cloth circa 1530-1540 by the Quauhquecholteca of central Mexico. Their historical contribution outlines how the Quauhquecholteca aligned with Hernan Cortes and the Spanish to conquer Guatemala.

The Lienzo’s iconography is difficult to follow after five hundred years of wear, and the conquest route has faded with time. The Universidad Francisco Marroquin launched a project in 2006 to restore the map digitally using ESRI ArcServer and developed with ArcGIS API for Microsoft Silverlight to make it easily understandable and so that viewers could participate in the conquest journey using routes and symbols and relate the journey to modern geography. This brings history to life by letting the user join history and geography using descriptions and historical fact.

Another interesting fact about the Lienzo is that it is part of a tradition of reading aloud. The map was used in community rituals and an appointed narrator would read the history. Thus it makes sense that the Lienzo is now made available to a broader community via technology.lienzo-view

First of its kind GIS Training Course in Yemen

August 10th, 2009 by Susan Smith
Training course in GIS field kicked off in Sana’a

SANA’A, Aug. 08 (Saba) – A training course in field of Geographical Information System (GIS) (Geomedia) was started here on Saturday, organized Studies and Architectural Training Center of Historical Cities Preservation Authority.

The course, which is the first of its kind in Yemen, includes a field survey on the buildings and the various components in the historical cities.

From: Yemen News Agency (SABA)  read full story:

Staying Connected – User Conference or Not

August 4th, 2009 by Susan Smith

Trade user conference attendance has been light this year, to say the least. As a result, trade conference organizers for individual vendors have taken different routes to get their product message out to their users. Some vendors have posted videos of their keynotes and some technical sessions. Bentley Systems opted to cancel their live BE User Conference in favor of what they call “Bentley Connected,” an online offering of content featuring best practices presentations by users and other industry leaders.

In conversation with Chris Barron, vice president for corporate marketing, Barron noted that in a live conference, they had all this “terrific content” but the conference was over within the week and they didn’t have a program to promote the content even after they posted it online.

“When we were planning our conference for this year, we lined up more great speakers but we were also hearing from a lot of people in the industry among our users, that their travel budgets were being cut this year,” Barron explained. “We started to think about what we could do to extend the reach of this good content that was being developed and make it available to a much wider audience rather than the 2,000 people who might be able to attend a physical conference.”

What came of it was the BE Connected conference, in operation since the third week in June. “We have about 150 seminars lined up and about two-thirds of those are Best Practices, the other one-third are presented by Bentley colleagues, generally about specific products.” Barron assured that the presentations were all “educational” not just sales pitches. BE Connected is an attempt to users keep up with trends in the industry and best practices and find out what’s happening with technology without the expense of traveling to a conference.

Every week 6-9 new seminars are added to the website. Live Q&A has been made available on demand, after the initial streaming of the presentation. This way an audience in different parts of the world can access the presentations when it’s convenient for them.

“We are tracking what seminars people have attended, and keeping a transcript that’s available to them so they can track their own professional development through the process,” added Barron.

The content is arranged around different tracks: bridges, roads, power generation, building structures and building energy performance, BIM.

Will the BE Conference return in the future? “This is a response to the economy this year, but we are planning to have a face-to-face conference in the future,” Barron replied. “But I also think we will continue to have this element of outreach and education as an ongoing fixture in terms of our web community.”

Barron said Bentley is seeking ways to leverage new technology in different ways. In the future, presentations may become case studies, or become discussion topics on their community site, or generate ideas for future seminars. “It’s all about reusing content and making it available as widely as possible.”

They are also working on language presentations for geographic regions that are underserved such as China and Brazil.

My take on the user conference situation:

The new element of outreach is definitely a value add for Bentley and their users. The content on the site is rich and will serve attendees well. However, it would seem there is no replacement for face-to-face contact, nor the commitment of being at a conference and trying to make the most of your time there.

What I have found at the user conferences I’ve attended this year is that users really feel the user conference experience is valuable – valuable enough that for some bigger conferences, some attendees are willing to pay their own way to attend when their companies don’t have the budget for it.

The act of making a plane and hotel reservation, organizing the time away from the office, places an attendee in a particular position of focus for the event. Visiting a website, although valuable, is not going to have the same takeaway value.

Perhaps one way of bridging this gap would be to have periodic announcements of what is being featured on venues such as BE Connected, so that attendees would not need to remember to see if there was something upcoming that they were interested in.

Check it out:

The difference between KML and GML

July 30th, 2009 by Susan Smith

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

July 29th, 2009 by Susan Smith

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