Message from the Editor -
Welcome to GISWeekly! The Carbon Project demonstrated ((Echo))MyPlace, a type of real time, non web service Myspace, at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. They are also selling the software development toolkit so that people can make their own applications, and the CarbonCloud framework so they can also make their own peer-to-peer frameworks and networks. Read about it in this week's Industry News.
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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
The Carbon Project - ((Echo))MyPlace
by Susan Smith
What is a Myspace or Plaxo with maps that is not a web service?
The answer is ((Echo))MyPlace, a new application created by The Carbon Project with part of their CarbonTools PRO toolkit suite, CarbonCloud. CarbonCloud is the peer-to-peer (P2P) framework for sharing location content.
The Carbon Project demonstrated this application at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. They are also selling the software development toolkit so that people can make their own applications, and the CarbonCloud framework so they can also make their own peer-to-peer frameworks and networks.
The response to this technology was quite astounding, according to Jeff Harrison of the Carbon Project. “With ((Echo))MyPlace, people were able to get Microsoft ultramobile PCs and walk around the conference floor and these Microsoft Origamis were connected by a peer to peer (P2P) network running right from the computers themselves in an ad-hoc network. People brought in maps from GlobeXplorer, Yahoo! Maps and Custom Weather and cached them on the ultra mobile PCs, then dropped notes about their favorite places in Boston or at the conference, or pictures of themselves, and bounced these notes back and forth from one mobile PC to another. This was the first time this had ever been done.”
“It's sort of like a real time, real place Myspace, with maps,” summarized Harrison. “You can't do the same types of things with Plaxo and Myspace. They make you upload your data into some remote server, and that's completely unacceptable for a soldier or firefighter. With EchoMySpace, you can pull in all these maps from web services to form what we call 'neighborhoods.' It's a more democratic way to approach it and it is also based on peer-to-peer (P2P) and core software as opposed to Web 2.0 stuff.”
The Carbon Project has appeared to be a geospatial company offering geospatial solutions for the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). They started with CarbonTools, which some say was an OGC toolkit for .NET developers but it really wasn't only that, according to Nuke Goldstein, Chief Technology Officer of The Carbon Project. “It was much more vast than people realized,” he said. “The architecture behind it allows us to hook .NET software into anything, not just OGC. The intent of ((Echo))MyPlace is to not be for the geospatial community only,” Goldstein explained. “When we release this as a free application, it will be designed for everyone, and anyone, and there will be a free download. We designed it to be easy and non-geospatial, so we tried it with a 14 year old girl as our target user. We're getting pretty good at hiding the complexity of OGC and other services and content into something that is consumer friendly and choosing a 14 year girl as our target demographic was not just to make something for kids, but to help us to develop an easy user interface and capabilities for users such as fire fighters and first responders.”
((Echo))MyPlace was built with CarbonTools PRO, Carbon Project's next generation toolkit, as a demonstrator for what you could do in CarbonTools. “We also built it so we could have a free download where this target audience could use all these things I just mentioned without having to worry about it, then add their own user generated content and share it very easily.”
Not only does CarbonTools PRO have a lot of enhanced capabilities, but also supports many new formats such as time-based mapping, real time KML, very varied sources of information as well as OGC.
“The ability to work in the .NET framework level gives us a few advantages over the desktop GIS or web services,” said Harrison. “This ability allows us to cache data, package the data and move it around. Once we realize we can do that, we can actually package geospatial information in a pretty efficient way. The ability to cache is very important here. Let's say I'm going out to a place where there is not internet, although I can communicate on the peer-to-peer but the bandwidth is pretty small. I don't want to move huge basemaps or aerial photography using that bandwidth. If I'm a first responder, I probably want to take the data of the incident with me to the field.”
Harrison said firefighters really liked ((Echo))MyPlace, as they see this as a way to plug into spatial data infrastructure sources and have an easy to use application that allows them to see where they're going and also add notes about the most recent events that affect the situation on the ground. They can pull in a basemap of the state and a Yahoo! map, and then firefighters would be able to add the location of a traffic accident or fire. They can then send that out in a peer-to-peer cloud. The cloud with the ultramobile PC computers can communicate up to about 50 yards from peer to peer without any signal boost to the mobile computer's Wi-Fi capability. With a little work, firefighters can create their own ad hoc survival network and bounce the notes back and forth without needing to be on the internet.
“This is a very secure communication on a very survivable network,” maintained Harrison. “it's not actually riding on an internet backbone, it's riding on an ad hoc wireless network formed up around a specific situation. We see a lot of applications for fire, first responders, infrastructure protection, and network centric operations in the military.
This type of peer-to-peer communication works in a server self-repairing, self-sustaining type of environment where “peers are all you need.” You don't need a server over the internet like you would for file sharing where you would communicate with peers over the internet. In the demonstration done at the conference, Harrison said they had three machines - two mobile computers and a laptop -- and networked them together. None of them were connected to the internet, yet they were able to get good range with just WiFi cards on the machines.
The military is interested in forming their own ad hoc networks and with a small antennae adjustment they can get greater range, and form “neighborhoods.”
The maps used for ((Echo))MyPlace are so far Yahoo! base maps, GlobeXplorer aerial photography, CustomWeather, real time weather information, Google Earth in KML and KMZ, and OGC Web Map Server (WMS) or Web Feature Server (WFS) as well.
“With CarbonTools PRO, we have no problem bringing in the tile based maps like Yahoo maps and Google maps and merging those with WMS from all different places including GlobeXplorer,” explained Harrison. “This is probably the biggest interoperability challenge right now that people don't talk about, the fact that all these popular tile based maps don't work with OGC but in the end CarbonTools PRO is about geospatial interoperability and we have a new set of controls that allows this to happen. We can actually cache and tile with WMS easily with CarbonTools.
“We have a software tool that makes it possible for developers to bridge the OGC world and the mainstream tile based mapping world called DataRasterTiles. Add to that our ability to be able to deal with non imagery data such as GML or KML. Plus we added a sophisticated symbology engine to CarbonTools which allows us to symbolize and render features,” said Goldstein.
((Echo))MyPlace also leverages the capabilities of the new generation Ultra Mobile PCs with a full Windows XP system with .NET 2.0. This is slightly bigger than a PDA. Harrison said “What Microsoft is doing with their operating system is taking the Windows XP environment into a mobile PC (Ultra Mobile PC) so that the line between a phone, PDA, Ultra Mobile PC and laptop is blurred,” Harrison pointed out. “We see (((Echo))MyPlace) taking advantage of this new form factor for new location-based social networking.”