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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 »

Interactive Pen Display from Wacom

July 17th, 2009 by Susan Smith

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

July 15th, 2009 by Susan Smith

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

July 14th, 2009 by Susan Smith

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

July 13th, 2009 by Susan Smith


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

July 12th, 2009 by Susan Smith

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.

Preparing for the ESRI User Conference

July 12th, 2009 by Susan Smith

The ESRI User Conference 2009 held in San Diego July 13-17 is already in full swing with pre-conference technical sessions. On Monday afternoon, June 13, the plenary session will be available on the UC website. for those who are unable to attend the event.

Additionally, the Q&A with Jack Dangermond addresses a lot of questions that readers might have about the upcoming ArcGIS 9.4 release and much more.

This year, social networking sites are also offered as ways to interact while at the conference.

ASTER expands earth coverage to 99%

July 8th, 2009 by Susan Smith

What caught the attention of our readers the last week of June was the announcement that NASA and Japan released the most complete topographic map of the earth. My sense is that since the topographic map can and will be used by so many professionals in so many industries – energy exploration, natural resources, engineering, environmental, firefighting, city planning, local and state governments – it has gained the attention of so many.

Further, the data set, which was developed by NASA and the Japanese  Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry, was created using the Japanese Airborne Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument aboard Terra, which gathered 1.3 million individual stereo pair images that is available to users without charge. Prior to this topographic map, the most comprehensive publicly available topographic data set was provided by NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission.

The new DEM picks up areas that haven’t been modeled before, such as some deserts and steep mountainous terrains.

It will be interesting to see what products will be derived from this extensive data set.

What You Might Get When Calling 911

July 6th, 2009 by Susan Smith

Last month cell phone tower programming errors were responsible for misrouting 911 calls from lost hiker Megumi Yamamoto in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe, NM.
The problem was quickly corrected, however, the hiker’s calls went to a non-emergency, administrative line in the Santa Fe County Emerrgency Communications Center. Since the calls were not going through the 911 emergency dispatch line, emergency responders were unable to track her location. Ultimately, her call was transferred to a state police emergency dispatcher and a rescue effort was started. The transfer to the state police dispatcher took place about 6 minutes after the first 911 call.
Ironically, the rescue state police helicopter crashed shortly after picking Yamamoto up, killing her and another crew member. The pilot survived, and the crash is under investigation.

What’s at

July 1st, 2009 by Susan Smith

A couple of weeks ago, the White House issued a press release announcing, a portal whose purpose it is “to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.” The site offers some tools for transportation and the U.S. Census Bureau, National Weather Service, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office datasets, Energy Informatin Administration datasets and more. The concept behind it is to allow the American people better access and use of government-generated data, which the government hopes will result in more interaction and new ideas from citizenry.

Hopefully this data will be available via popular search engines, which will certainly make its use more widespread. At this time, however, the site appears to be most useful to government agencies requiring information from other government agencies. is part of President Obama’s Open Government initiative.

Update on Intergraph 2009 Conference

June 18th, 2009 by Susan Smith

The latest count on attendance at the conference is 1500 attendees.

Trimble - Countless CAD add-ons, plug-ins and more.

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