Welcome to GISWeekly! This will be the last issue of GISWeekly for 2009. Look forward to an issue of GISWeekly on January 11, 2010. GISCafe wishes you a happy holiday season and a joyous New Year.
GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Top News of the Week, Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances, Announcements, People, Awards, New Products, Around the Web and Events Calendar.
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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Geospatial Summary 2009
By Susan Smith
Taking stock of 2009 takes into account all those shifting expectations as geospatial looks at how far it has come in a difficult year, as well as what there is to look forward to in the coming years. In speaking to geospatial professionals, most say that they expect change for the better, but that the economy will “never be as it was.”
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Nothing ever is what it was, for that matter. Change is the only constant in life, if I was to wax philosophical about it.
The following technology trends have been in the limelight this year, signaling a shift in the way we implement, store and process geospatial information.
Cloud computing - The cloud is talked about in every technology industry today as a way to be able to access software without that software having to reside on your desktop computer, or company server.
ESRI’s Scott Morehouse outlined the company’s approach to cloud computing at ESRI UC 2009:
“Software as a Service (SaaS) in context of the Cloud, where you as user don’t need to worry about the layers beneath that. ESRI abstracts that for you and the same is true with the cloud environment,” said Morehouse.
“There are initiatives to replicate the same principles within your firewalls,” Morehouse said. “ArcGIS Online is ESRI’s cloud computing platform for GIS, we want this platform to become more powerful for you without you needing to know about underlying areas.”
“It ranges from using it build very simple web apps. You can build apps without software installed on your machine.” Content can come from maps and different services, viewed as classified content for the Cloud. GIS tools include locators and geoprocessing.
ArcGIS Online is a simple content online provider for everyone, which allows you to view and query web maps, save your web map or mashup, share your maps easily, without the need to install software. All you need is a browser.
Autodesk CEO Carl Bass considers cloud computing – or web based computing, an enabling technology which is “becoming as cheap and reliable as electricity, so we can take greater advantage of computing power.” It is a very big platform shift, and he said a shift like this comes along every ten to 20 years.
An example of the use of this computing power is Autodesk’s Project Twitch, currently in Autodesk Labs, utilizing cloud computing so that users can access Autodesk software directly from the web running on a distant server.
Multi-core computing - This technology is touted by hardware vendors such as Dell, HP and others, offering multi-cores that can do separate tasks at the same time. The parallel programming that is required to execute this dual or multiple tasks at the same time is still difficult, according to technology sources. Many software programs have not caught up with “parallelization” but the technology does hold hope for the future. Dual-core processing involves two cores, quad-core involves four cores. The cores are typically integrated onto a single integrated circuit die (known as a chip multiprocessor or CMP), or they may be integrated onto multiple dies in a single chip package.
Visualization/Simulation – We are seeing more of this technology used, particularly by the U.S. federal government and other governments.
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.
Richard Cooke, president of ITT’s Visual Information Solutions group, said, you don’t need to know image science to use their new product ENVI EX, an image processing and analysis solution resulting from a partnership with ESRI. “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.
Rob Mott and Leah Wood, Defense and Intelligence for Intergraph, spoke at Intergraph 2009 on integrating video into a geospatial environment where other types of geospatial intelligence type of data – imagery – aerial photos, queries, databases, human intelligence can all brought in. The company’s Motion Video Analyst product was launched formally at the GEOINT conference.
Motion Video Analyst is integrated into Intergraph’s Geomedia and provides more rapid decision making and organization. “All the other data can help understand what’s going on in the video, so it will determine things like street locations, street names, point data that can be overlaid with video, and annotations can be collected from that data while it’s playing. That can be in real time or can be from some stored files,” said Wood.
Intergraph worked with EcoStorm to ingest and then integrate a wider format of video formats. “One of the challenges we’re facing now is it’s a fairly new industry and there are many different versions of the video data, frame rates or the telemetry or a lot of the attribution that go along with the frame to understand where that frame fits on the ground, it’s not standard across the different sensors and platforms,” said Mott. “We’re following the evolution of these standards through motion industry standards board participation but we know it’s a very rapidly evolving industry, so by working with EcoStorm we can still nail a variety of formats while there is standardization activity.”
Democratization of geospatial – Geospatial is becoming further democratized as more consumers reap the benefits of GPS technologies and easy-to-use online mapping systems. As maps move to personal navigation devices and to iPods and iPhones, the world of geospatial information use becomes much wider. This also may be seen in the use of geospatial websites to inform the public of public planning, roadway closures, and other changes that affect a broad spectrum of people.
Thanks to search engines, added to the collection of data accumulated by databases is “volunteer geographic information,” volunteered by citizens, consumer generated content in the specific context of geographic information. Other names for this are collective intelligence and crowd sourcing. What is significant about this content is that it does not come from an authoritative source, but from millions of private citizens who are not GIS experts and who know virtually nothing about geographic information, and receive no reward for collecting this data.
The acquisition of TeleAtlas by TomTom NV and the acquisition of NAVTEQ by Nokia have catapulted these companies into a whole new realm of data collection from a community of mobile phone users, launching capabilities that range from offering updated road geometry on streets as well as traffic conditions.