Rapid Image Access Technology Without Compression
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Rapid Image Access Technology Without Compression

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Industry News
Rapid Image Access Technology Without Compression
by Susan Smith

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Ingesting imagery into servers quickly has been a challenge for government and the public sector who need to move large volumes of imagery and data.

Pixia Corp. announced at ESRI that they had been selected by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide a baseline capability for serving geospatial imagery via the Department's Integrated Common Analytical Viewer (iCAV) system. According to the press release, “iCAV is a web-based geospatial analytical and situational awareness system that helps the DHS mission partners to better prepare, prevent, respond and recover from natural and man-made disasters.” Pixia is a provider of rapid image access technology that allows the rapid ingestion and dissemination of large amounts of satellite and aerial imagery, which is what DHS wanted.

“Pixia's software allows for high performance image access via Open Geospatial Consortium(R) (OGC) standard web services, such as a Web Map Service (WMS) and a Web Coverage Service (WCS). This provides a fully interoperable framework that easily integrates into an Enterprise Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).”

Our technology is a raster file structure,” said Patrick Ernst, director, Business Development. “We’re all about increasing performance and scalability when it comes to storing and retrieving data, particularly image data and pixels although it does apply to other data. It’s not a compression format, it’s more of a file system within a file.”

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Ernst explained that there are two branches of Pixia technology, one is the file system within a file where they’re dealing with raw sensor data. You might have a file system container for standard files like JPEG 2000 files. The other branch, a more traditional capability, allows for the creation of large mosaics in the file structure, which is called NUI, for New Universal Image format. Pixia licenses this technology. “Our flagship product is the nuiGeoEncoder much like the Adobe PDF model that allows you to create very large PDF files but they are large mosaics, a bit like MrSID or ECW but different in that there’s no compression being added in there,” Ernst noted. The nuiGeoEncoder reorganizes and optimizes the way in which the pixels are stored to provide improved access performance and scalability. “We do enable JPEG 2000 compression to be added if customers want it, but mostly we’re just laying the data out in an optimized fashion to ensure very rapid access capability, very rapid writing and reading of that data on the disk drives or any other type of storage media, from solid state right on down to CDs.”

A lot of Pixia’s customers are in the defense, intelligence and homeland security markets, where compression is not always the ideal way to handle data. Organizations often compress at very high compression ratios because that’s the only way it becomes easily manageable, said Ernst. Pixia lets you store that uncompressed data and as in the example of DHS, you could take the entire continental U.S. and make one file out of it.

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“There’s a tradeoff between disk space and performance and access – we do enable JPEG 2000 compression, so if we have customers who are concerned about disk space, then they can just apply compression,” Ernst pointed out. “But if we have customers very interested in maintaining the integrity of the data and potentially they want to utilize servers for local access as well as serving it through a SOA through a web service, we have OGC connectors, such as Web Map Service (WMS) and Web Coverage Service (WCS) (no web feature service, since we only deal in raster domain, not vector). In the WMS environment, compression usually happens on the fly, so it’s advantageous to have data already uncompressed, so you don’t have to decompress it and recompress based on a get map request. If you have clients who want a JPEG file vs. a PNG file, you can create that compression right on the fly and then send it down the pike.”

Compared with compression, Ernst said Pixia is “extremely fast, we’re talking roughly 100 milliseconds for accessing anywhere randomly within a gigantic image. You could be talking hundreds of thousands of pixels by hundreds of thousands of pixels and you’ll access random. We have pyramid levels in there, and you can reduce resolution data sets to whatever level you want. So you’re not constrained to base powers of 2. If for some reason you want a 6-inch pyramid level if you then want a 8-inch or 9-inch or a 1.2 meter you can set it at whatever you want.”

If you have a data set of IKONOS imagery, that’s one meter per pixel ground sample distance, and see that its native resolution is the level zero, Pixia as well as Mr. SID, ECW, IMG, even National Imagery Transmission Format (NITF), allow you to create pure mid levels of the imagery. This is so that when a user wants to look at a larger area but they don’t want to zoom in all the way, that scaling has already been done for you. The way the other formats allow you to do this is by taking every other pixel and dropping out the middle pixel. Pixia lets you set those pyramid levels at whatever you want which works well for sensor fusion capabilities. This is good when you have different sensors at different resolutions and you want to actually find common ground there, as in fusing together a DigitalGlobe QuickBird image with a 1 meter IKONOS image to create a 1 meter dataset.

“What we have in some ways a geo raster database within a flat file. What that allows us to do is to stack these different images on top of each other. You can update them quite quickly. So you’re looking at over 40 terabytes of imagery that’s being served up by this one server,” explained Ernst.

The resolution of the data used is really a function of the sensor and the data constraint, Ernst stated. “We can super sample it and zoom in past the resolution of the data. We can handle any resolution data you have, no limitation. Because we’re actually overlaying different resolutions of data, it’s not like we’re saying here’s the base resolution for the whole world and let’s plop that in there and now you’re constrained to that. You can just pull in data at different resolutions.”

For the DHS iCAV program, Pixia will be doing one meter of the whole country with 133 cities sprinkled inside the one meter. There will be 15 meter of the whole world, at different resolutions. The 133 cities, based on critical infrastructure protection, will be much higher resolution varying from 6-inch to 1-foot. The 1-meter will be much coarser resolution yet it gives you a broad, synoptic coverage of the entire continent of the U.S.

“The reason we’re able to ingest much more rapidly than your average spatial database, or spatial and relational database stack, which are the more traditional approach for ingesting big amounts of imagery,” Ernst explained, “is you have a limitation of 2-5 gigabytes per hour to bring that data in. That’s a hardcore limitation because you’re actually building up that database. When you take a flat file approach, we’re seeing an excess of 50 gigabytes an hour per processor. So if you’re looking at serving imagery across an enterprise and you have quite a few processors available to you, you’re suddenly looking at exponential increases on ingest performance.”

As an example, Pixia ingested the DigitalGlobe CitySphere data, which is 200 cities within about seven hours. “The standard way of doing that is 30 plus days using a spatial/relational database. And being able to update, the same thing, you don’t have to shut down the service and rebuild the entire database.” Pixia demonstrated this capability last year where they showed an OGC WMF connection streaming data. The file that it was looking at was actually being updated as it was looking at it.

The WCS allows users to download data that are the actual pixels to do hard core analysis on. The data can be brought into their desktop applications such as ArcGIS Desktop, ERDAS Imagine or MapInfo using OGC WMS.

Pixia is also working on next generation sensors where each sensor collects a large amount of data that can be looked at in motion video on a frame by frame basis. It is a huge amount of data for each frame capture. This would not be able to be done with compression, according to Ernst.

As sensor technology continues to improve and volumes of data people are using grows so fast, organizations tend to want to add more gigabytes of RAM, and more servers, but this is not really viable in the long term. By being able to access large amount of data quickly and easily with products like Pixia, organizations will save money by not needing to purchase or maintain a lot of hardware to serve up the data. “The Department of Defense and intelligence community can’t build enough buildings to serve this data up,” said Ernst.

The OGC services make it possible to be able to connect databases, allowing different agencies and organizations to store their own data and serve it out to other agencies, rather than shipping it to be served out elsewhere.

Pixia is moving into other geospatial markets, “anywhere you’re dealing with spatial data, imagery and spatial context to be used for data mining,” said Ernst. Medical imaging, utilities, oil and gas, telcom, and gaming are among the industries they will be addressing. They also do some texture serving for 3D or 2 ½ D environments.

Data mining is an area that Pixia is moving heavily into to see how data is managed around the globe. This also extends to putting those different pieces of data into context with one another, taking into account their connections and geospatial foundations.

Top News of the Week

TerraGo(R) Technologies announced that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is using the GeoPDF format to make its primary base series quadrangle maps available online. The USGS GeoPDF maps can be accessed through the USGS store at store.usgs.gov

The initial project, started by the US Army Corps of Engineers, involved converting more than 60,000 USGS Digital Raster Graphics to GeoPDF files. These maps represent USGS primary base series quadrangles used by businesses and consumers for all kinds of applications from engineering to land use management and recreation such as hiking, hunting and camping.


1Spatial and Infotech Enterprises announce an innovative partnership to provide a data quality solution for repurposing spatial data.

The two companies are focusing on a solution to deliver greater accuracy and efficiency through automated quality checking and auditing using automated tools to speed up the delivery of re-engineered spatial data sets. A wide range of organizations are expected to benefit from this combination of technology and expertise: government departments; utilities and telecoms, all who have to repurpose their data to make it fit for purpose

Intermap Technologies Corp. announced the signing of a joint development agreement with Visteon Corporation, an internationally recognized automotive technology developer, to provide Visteon with highly accurate 3D road geometries for the entire country of Germany. Derived from Intermap's proactive NEXTMap(R) Europe mapping program, the data will be incorporated into the development of advanced applications of a 3D road vector map database for use in future automotive systems. The initial focus will be on predictive adaptive front lighting systems, which offers enhanced visibility for drivers at night by directing the headlamp light, before the driver directs the vehicle into the bend.

eSpatial, a Global enterprise geospatial software and technology company and Geotec, a major Brazilian GeoTechnology provider, announced the signing of an exclusive Reseller Agreement. Under the agreement Geotec will act as a reseller for iSMART, eSpatial's leading GeoSpatial software suite for development of integrated, enterprise grade spatially enabled applications throughout the Brazilian Marketplace.


Correction: Autodesk Topobase 2008 incorporates both Map 3D and MapGuide and is built on Oracle Spatial. Map 3D is not built on Oracle Spatial.

NAVTEQ Corporation, global provider of digital maps for vehicle navigation and location-based solutions, will host a conference call on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 at 5:00PM ET to discuss its second quarter financial results. A press release containing these results will be distributed before the call.

The conference call will be available via webcast at http://investor.navteq.com or by calling 866-831-6247 (North America) 617-213-8856 (international) with passcode 71074582.


Adam M. Carnow, AICP, a WilsonMiller Vice President and Corporate Manager of the firm’s GIS Business Unit, has been elected Treasurer of the Florida Chapter of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA).

Bruce Ogden has been named the new Vice President of Sales and Marketing for SPOT Image Corp. Bruce comes to SPOT Image Corp. from Transaction Network Services where, for the past six years, he served as Director of Sales for the Telecom Services Division.

New Products

The Carbon Project, world leader in innovative geosocial solutions, announced it will showcase its Geosocial Networking™ content sharing platform, CarbonCloud CS™, at GeoWeb 2007 in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 24, 2007.

CarbonCloud CS is a scalable platform that supports information sharing between peers. With CarbonCloud CS software developers can enhance their solutions with functionality such as group chat, content sharing among friends, content search and more. The system is designed to connect millions of users and share data safely and securely.

Applied Science Associates, Inc. (ASA) announced the release of breakthrough extension tool for ESRI’s ArcGIS industry standard GIS software. ASA’s TimeSlider is an extension for ArcGIS 9.1 that provides functionality to animate feature data that has date and time information.

Many geographically-based phenomena ranging from geological processes to short-term movement of vehicles or marine mammals require temporal analysis. ASA’s TimeSlider extension allows ArcMap users to specify a field that contains date and time information for geographic features. The TimeSlider can manage multiple time-varying layers, including layers that have different time steps.

Pitney Bowes MapInfo, global provider of location intelligence solutions, unveiled its Financial PSYTE(R) geodemographic segmentation system designed to enhance financial institutions' target marketing initiatives, market analysis and branch location studies. Using Financial PSYTE, financial companies can quickly and precisely identify their best customers and map the neighborhoods where they and others like them live, so they are able to more accurately and successfully target their marketing efforts.

Tele Atlas, global provider of digital maps and dynamic content for navigation and location based solutions and a Certified Partner in the Oracle PartnerNetwork, announced Tele Atlas MultiNet for Oracle® Database 11g. Planned for availability in August, the full Western Europe version will include Oracle Database 11g geocoding and routing extensions. Oracle Database 11g-compliant 3D City Maps are scheduled to be included later in the year.

GeoWise, a provider of software for the clear graphical presentation of location-based statistical data, has announced that on 2nd July 2007, Public Health Intelligence (PHI), the epidemiology group of the New Zealand Ministry of Health launched its site, PHIOnline, using InstantAtlas.

The objective of the site is to make health and health related data more accessible, improve communication of health issues and support key health policy and resource decisions. It was launched by New Zealand's health minister, the Hon. Pete Hodgson and is supported by the Director-General of Health, Stephen McKernan.

GeoXMF LLC, a leader in GIS monitoring and notification systems announces the release of Version 2.0 of its flagship product, XMF Alerter.

XMF Alerter targets the integration points of a spatial enterprise to give busy professional more confidence in their GIS. It provides pro-active monitoring and notification for GIS systems that allow managers to identify and fix issues ahead of their end-users. "GIS Coordinators are tired of being the last to know when their map sites are down", remarks Product Manager David Neufeld. "With text and email notifications, XMF Alerter helps them stay on top of their enterprise," says Neufeld.

Blue Marble Geographics is offering their GeoTranslate 5.0 release free to all licensed GeoCalc users. GeoTranslate will allow developers to embed on the fly vector GIS reprojection and translation capability within custom software applications. Together, these toolkits can create powerful GIS data conversion applications, in which GeoCalc tackles all aspects of coordinate conversion, and GeoTranslate handles all vector and CAD file translation and direct geometry manipulation, allowing applications to seamlessly translate from one file format to another. Blue Marble’s data conversion technology is used worldwide by thousands of GIS analysts at software companies, universities, oil and gas companies, civil engineering, surveying, technology, enterprise GIS groups, government and military organizations.

E&P professionals have a new way to interact with their geotechnical data and applications with the release of the OpenSpirit Web Server. The Web Server helps both casual and experienced users quickly navigate, select and view all OpenSpirit-enabled data. This includes viewing E&P data in the context of publicly available map data via 3D browsing tools, such as Google Earth(TM), ESRI(R) ArcGIS(R) Explorer and NASA World Wind.

GRASS GIS 6.2.2 is a new stable release which fixes several bugs discovered in the 6.2.1 source code. This release is solely for stability purposes and adds no new features. The default Graphical User Interface has been further stabilized, and the LIDAR processing tools and Linear Reference System support significantly improved. GRASS 6.2.2 also includes a number of new message translations, and updates for the help pages.

Trimble introduced its most versatile and feature-packed rugged mobile devices to date -- the Nomad(TM) series of handheld computers. The Nomad comes standard with an 806 MHz processor, 128 MB of memory and integrated Bluetooth technology. In addition, a range of optional configurations are available including an integrated Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, a bar code scanner, a digital camera, and 802.11g (WiFi). The Nomad's design and features make it a powerful mobile computing solution for public safety, land surveying, field service, engineering and construction, utilities, mapping, military and other outdoor or service-related applications.

AfterCAD Software announces the release of AfterCAD Maps, a SaaS offering available to business clients looking to leverage their Google SketchUp building models into the emerging advertising market in geo-mapping applications. AfterCAD Maps extends and compliments the 2D and 3D web publishing attributes of AfterCAD InSite and AfterCAD Real World.

eSpatial, a leading provider of enterprise geospatial software and solutions announced the availability of iSMART 5.3, a new version of its Geospatial software product which now includes new Web 2.0 web based editing solution for Geospatial data.

iSMART 5.3 provides the ability to deliver web browser based, integrated business applications featuring user editing and viewing capabilities usually only available in traditional desktop-installed GIS and CAD tools.

Around the Web

More mashing of Google Maps
by Elinor Mills, July 10, 2007, CNET.News.com -Google Maps is launching a new feature Wednesday that enables people to create customized maps with content from multiple mashup Web sites.

Going from killer app to major Web platform, by Elinor Mills, July 12, CNET.News.com - "The Internet is the new operating system. The killer apps of the Internet are becoming platforms that are creating communities of innovation," said Marc Benioff, chief executive of customer-relationship management specialist Salesforce.com. "This is a whole new chapter in our industry."

Upcoming Events

GeoWeb 2007
Date: July 23 - 27, 2007
Place:Vancouver, BC
We encourage the attendance of anyone and everyone working in the public and private sectors that match the following description: You are interested in the development of technology to enable the convergence of Web technologies, XML, Web services, and GIS. You are interested in the multitude of applications associated with the convergence of Web technologies, XML, Web services, and GIS You are interested in the impact of businesses and government policies associated with the convergence of Web technologies, XML, Web services, and GIS. You are interested in the emergence of new business models leveraged by the convergence of Web technologies, XML, Web services, and GIS.

Accela User Conference
August 6 - 9, 2007
Place:Hyatt Regency Orange County
11999 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92840 USA
It all comes together August 6 - 9 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County, where the Accela community unites to move beyond the boundaries of what we believe is possible. The largest event for users all year, the User Conference is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect with the people, products, and trends at the forefront of the government technology industry. Let’s work together to build new opportunities!

Fungis Boot Camp
Date: August 13 - 14, 2007
Place:Genazzano Lake Tinaroo Conference Centre
Queensland, Australia
Fungis is holding a GIS and GPS Bootcamp at the Genazzano Lake Tinaroo Conference Centre on the 13th and 14th of August. On the foreshore of Lake Tinaroo, this secluded venue is the perfect site for a GIS and GPS training programme. In keeping with the Bootcamp theme, it will be live in training, with night training on the 13th.

Map Asia 2007
August 14 - 16, 2007
Place:Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Asia and Pacific region is the largest developing region in the world in landmass, population and aggregate income. Its 48 countries have nearly three fifth of the worlds total population. Each country in the region abounds in rich natural capital and has comprehended the true potential of Geospatial information in leveraging this capital to its utmost economic viability.The Asian region is forging a path of development and economic growth as a function of establishment of infrastructural capital. The region demands and offers scope for application of the various Geographic Information technologies like GIS, GPS, Remote Sensing and Imaging