February 06, 2006
Zeroing in on Geographic Exploration Systems
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Message from the Editor
Welcome to GISWeekly! Nearly every participant in our Emerging Technologies review mentioned Google Earth technology and how that might impact the future directions of GIS. Google Earth is exciting and better known to the masses right now, however, it is not the only "Geographic Exploration System (GES)." Read about some others in this week's Industry News.
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Zeroing in on Geographic Exploration Systems
by Susan Smith
Nearly every participant in our Emerging Technologies review mentioned Google Earth technology and how that might impact the future directions of GIS. Google Earth is exciting and better known to the masses right now, however, it is not the only "Geographic Exploration System (GES)."
Although it may seem that these GES are a new invention, they have actually been in the works for quite some time. Technology from lesser known companies has been used to extend or enhance software for some of the heavy hitters. Some companies have OEM'd their technology, others have been the result of outright acquisitions.
ESRI will release in Q2 2006 a beta version of its "geospatial information viewer," ArcGIS Explorer, which will offer an easy way to access geographic information but also integrates rich GIS datasets and server-based geoprocessing applications by accessing the ArcGIS Server including geoprocessing and 3D services. It is OGC-compliant, and supports WMS and Google KML data.
Some of its features include:
ESRI has just released a
beta of ArcWeb Explorer, a Web-based map viewing application based on Macromedia Flash 8. The ArcWeb Explorer uses vector mapping technology to render maps quickly in the browser instead of having the server render them.
NASA's World Wind is a
free downloadable program that allows you to view a virtual globe and pan, zoom, and rotate the globe to whatever location you wish. You can see individual streets if you zoom in far enough. The software will note that it needs more satellite images to execute a zoom or other particular task, so it uses the internet to connect to NASA and copies the images to your PC. The images it copies are from a NASA satellite image library, and are not yet real time. It does have real time weather integrated, however.
If you look closely you can see individual streets. World Wind can drape a landscape over a height to create a 3D model, when you hold the right mouse button down and drag the mouse slowly towards you. You can navigate by either using place names or entering the lat/long of where you want to go.
Like all these GES, World Wind is limited to the data it has on hand. USGS urban data is not absolutely complete, and similar data although possibly available in other countries, is not free. World Wind has a good
FAQ section that answers a lot of questions about installations and capability.
World Wind leverages Microsoft .NET technology to access open standards such as XML and WMS and others.
I just read an interesting post on the
The Carbon Portal, stating their CarbonTools have been used to extend both ArcGIS Explorer and NASA'S World Wind. The Carbon Project's GAIA, a WMS/WFS/GML OGC-compliant viewer developed using CarbonTools, is currently a small 2D viewer application, yet fully OGC-compliant and tested.
Skyline Software's TerraSuite is 3D visualization technology with real time streaming imagery capabilities that enable users to evaluate locations for situation analysis and decision support.
According to the website, TerraSuite is composed of three main product suites:
The Collaboration component provides hosting services for collaboration sessions between TerraExplorer users. Using the collaboration tool in TerraExplorer, users can create collaboration sessions and invite remote participants to share the 3D experience.
Recently Intergraph announced an OEM agreement with Skyline to integrate Skyline's 3D visualization technology with the Intergraph GeoMedia product line. Integrating data collected and managed by GeoMedia into Skyline's products will enhance the data with real time 3D visualization capabilities to use with DEMs, geospatial features and high resolution imagery.
In December, 2005, Microsoft announced that it had acquired Toronto-based GeoTango International Corp., the creators of GeoTango GlobeView, a 3D digital earth. The acquisition will enable Microsoft to enhance their existing location-centric and visualization programs, such as MSN Virtual Earth and Live Local, and over time Microsoft plans to integrate the GeoTango technology into their own technology suite. The MSN plan is to create an "immersive mapping and local search framework that enables users to easily find, explore, discover and share information and content for anywhere on earth."
3D simulation programs in well-known GIS or OpenFlight formats.
Another sidelight: although Microsoft
owns TerraServer which serves up the imagery for MSN Virtual Earth, TerraServer and Virtual Earth are maintained separately. In TerraServer you can find out the origins of orthophotos, according to Microsoft, as all metadata is retained in it. Some GIS professionals would love to get vintage orthophoto data and other national agency data into Virtual Earth, however, it currently is a browser based client only with a focus on the mass market and current vintage orthophoto display.
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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.