Message from the Editor: Introducing GeoSite from CH2M Hill
Welcome to GISWeekly! Google Earth and Google Maps have revolutionized geography for many people inside and outside the geospatial market. The most profound uses for these tools are coming from developers and geospatial consultants such as CH2M Hill who can utilize Google Earth and Maps to bring geospatial data to their customers via the web. Read about the company’s new product in this week’s Industry News.
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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Introducing GeoSite from CH2M Hill
by Susan Smith
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Google Earth and Google Maps have revolutionized geography for many people inside and outside the geospatial market. The most profound uses for these tools are coming from developers and geospatial consultants such as CH2M Hill who can utilize Google Earth and Maps to bring geospatial data to their customers via the web.
Austin Ivey, GIS consultant for the CH2M Hill Geospatial Solutions Team, is one of the primary architects behind their new product, GeoSite. GeoSite takes advantage of Google Earth and is a highly customizable template for delivering geospatial data with web enabled tools.
CH2M Hill is a $3.8 billion global engineering construction and operations firms with approximately 18,000 employees in offices worldwide, that has been in business since 1946. In 1954, the company got involved in GIS, mapping, photogrammetry, and survey work through their engineering clients. They began to employ experts in those fields, working for engineering clients spread throughout the firm’s 12 business groups. Those business groups are water, power, energy, chemical, transportation, etc.
In 2004, CH2M Hill consolidated all the GIS/mapping/surveying experts that had been spread throughout the 12 business groups into one line of business -- enterprise spatial solutions which functions under the communications & info business group.
Since then the company has grown 500 spatial consultants and architects located primarily in North America and Europe. CH2M Hill is by its own definition, the largest privately held spatial consultant firm in the world. They work with both private and public sector clients.
Strategic Partner Alliance
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CH2M Hill has created a strategic partner alliance comprised of leading technology providers, such as Google, ESRI, Autodesk, Trimble, and most recently eSpatial. They also work with Bentley, Intergraph, and Microsoft. “This allows us to take an agnostic approach towards consulting and technology integration to our clients,” explained Ivey. “It puts us in the position to best align with the business goals of that client with a particular technology or technologies. As part of that effort, we’ve been working with Google to create a number of Google Earth based solutions for our clients which enable clients to better manage their projects.”
Demonstrated was GeoSite, a web based portal for viewing environmental site data. Clients can get the big picture view with Google Earth including 3D views, and more of a detailed microscopic view with Google Maps.
High level capabilities of GeoSite include:
- Available 24/7 because it’s a web-based product.
- Dual Google-powered viewer integration: Google Earth and Google Maps, high level visualization of site data, software required.
- CH2M Hill has developed some code that allows you to watch as your data that is perhaps stored in a database update live in Google Earth.
- You can update your web-based Google map dynamically by changing the elements that are available in the legend.
- You can also view your own high resolution imagery hosted on CH2M Hills’ Google Earth fusion servers. (Google Earth Enterprise Client required) The difference between the Google Earth Pro and Enterprise client is that you need the Enterprise client if you want to view your own data on Google servers. The Google Earth Pro cannot connect to a server.
- Highly customizable.
- Render site-specific facilities in 3D using Google SketchUp
- Assemble tours to allow you to present standardized perspectives of these facilities.
- View detailed site information using GeoSite’s Google Maps-powered portal.
- Launch directly from Google Earth or from your web browser.
- One-stop access to relevant site documentation
- Dynamically update layers directly on the map from the legend
- View customized information windows for relevant components of your site
- Access data query engine directly from map
- Link query engine to database (Oracle or SQL Server) to obtain live information.
Google Earth imagery is optimized on their fusion server. When you fuse the imagery it prebuilds all the imagery at different zoom levels, which makes it possible for users to view it so quickly.
“We really want GeoSite to be viewed as a repeatable solution for different types of clients,” said Ivey. “This is by no means a shrink-wrapped product that we have in a warehouse somewhere, this is an example of an integration effort leveraging the partnerships we have with Google and others to develop this solution.” Pricing “all depends,” as each implementation is an integration effort.
How it Works
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As the user, you go to the entry page – provide user name and password, secure an occasion to launch your data, and it launches your data directly into Google Earth, where you start off. You come into the macro level and see your project site. On the right hand side is a screen, and you can see some 3D extruded features there. What does that represent out of your active project, what are those costs to date? That data is live linked to a database, so as your cost information updates and changes, as a manager and decision maker, you can say this project costs me x amount of money. Let me zoom into that project and figure out what is going on.
There is also the ability to take data that you have available in Access or Excel and update it in real time in Google Earth. In the demo, a screen capture of Excel is superimposed over Google Earth. “If you’re an analyst updating data, and a decision maker is also watching the screen, you can see as your data is updated live. Having real time data available to you is advantageous,” noted Ivey.
“Anything you do on Google Earth, you can save back to your server,” said Ivey, in answer to a question about data security. “Google doesn’t see the files that you add.” In a screenshot of a zoom into San Antonio, the imagery is coming from a Google server. “Theoretically, they could see the area that you’re looking at, but as far as the actual data on top of that – the points with values, they can’t see, because that’s behind the organization’s firewall.”