GIS: A "Nervous System" for Planet Earth
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GIS: A "Nervous System" for Planet Earth

Message from the Editor

Welcome to GISWeekly! Our Industry News this week features a GISWeekly exclusive interview with Jack Dangermond, President and CEO of ESRI, detailing the growth of ESRI, standards and the realization of a long-held vision in the development and completion of the ArcGIS platform.

Also in this issue:
Announcements: "Introduction to Geographical Information Science" Online Course

Letters from Readers: More on the Stovepipe Question

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, Alliances/Acquisitions, Announcements, Financials, Appointments, New Products, Letters from Our Readers, Around the Web, and Calendar.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at

Best wishes, Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

GIS: A "Nervous System" for Planet Earth

By Susan Smith

The following is a GISWeekly exclusive interview with Jack Dangermond, President and CEO of ESRI, detailing the growth of ESRI, standards and the realization of a long-held vision in the development and completion of the ArcGIS platform.

How did you become interested in geography?

I first became interested in geography in graduate school at the University of Minnesota. There I had the opportunity to take a series of classes from John Bortchardt. He was well known for his qualitative approaches to describing geographic processes, including a central place theory that he developed to describe various levels of urbanization across the upper Midwest of the United States. He also introduced me to the notion of geographic models as a way to describe processes and relationships in the patterns of geography and human behavior. This introduction, together with some early computer work, and my education in landscape architecture and urban planning piqued my interest in geography.

Subsequent to attending Minnesota, I had the opportunity to study at Harvard and work in the Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis, one of the birthplaces of GIS. Here, people such as Howard Fischer, William Warrantz, Carl Steinitz, and others were emerging the notion that computer spatial graphics (called computer mapping) could be a framework for spatial analysis and landscape assessment. I became very passionate about this notion at Harvard and it motivated me to start ESRI. Our main mission in ESRI's early years?and still today?is to build methodologies and quantitative processes that are rational and provide a foundation for analyzing the environment.

Our efforts in services projects led to building GIS products in the late 1970s/early 1980s, resulting in ArcInfo and the series of GIS technologies that followed.

It is interesting to read that ESRI began as a services organization and now the theme "Serving Our World" encompasses so many service areas such as ArcWeb services, ESRI BIS, customer services, etc. Would that suggest that the company is moving in that direction again? Do you feel ESRI has come full circle?
ESRI's first 10 years involved GIS project efforts (e.g., locating new towns, doing environmental studies, supporting regional planning efforts, etc.). During this time, we perfected a whole series of professional business practices that made use of computer mapping and later GIS as part of the project or consulting efforts. Towards the end of that decade, we began to get the idea that we could encapsulate our methods into products and leverage the products as a framework to promote systematic approaches for geographic planning and analysis. From the start, we felt that we could take our best practices and encapsulate them into products and sell those as a mechanism for changing the world.

With the introduction of ArcInfo in the early 1980s, leading to ArcView, ArcSDE, ArcIMS, and so forth, we have leveraged our knowledge into products that people can buy and use. This part of ESRI has worked very well. At the same time, we never shut down the services business. It has always been here and we still have several hundred GIS professionals who assist our customers in planning and implementing their projects.

With the introduction of Web services, our customers will be able to provide more enhanced geographic information services to their customers or users. As this technology evolves, we expect to realize the vision of GIS professionals serving our world by serving geographic knowledge.

We're very excited about ESRI's support of ArcWeb services because they will be yet another product (i.e., an information service) that can be incorporated by our users into fuller, richer services that they in turn provide to their customers around the world.

There are few if any user conferences that attract as many attendees as the ESRI one. To what do you attribute the success of the ESRI User Conference?

This year marked our 23rd User Conference, and while the world economy is relatively slow, we still grew by 27 more people. I believe that users come to this meeting because they truly learn and can share their experiences with their colleagues resulting in a professional growth event that is, in my experience, unparalleled. This is not a professional association or a simple meeting of people with common interests. It has turned into a true cultural experience for people where they immerse themselves for a week in the science of geography, the technology of GIS, and the general values of people that care about their work and want to make a difference. The results have been enormously satisfying to watch. As people come out of the conference, they genuinely know more at many levels and can be more productive.

GISWeekly ESRI UC Coverage

With the development of the ArcGIS platform being realized and with it, in some ways the realization of a vision, what do you see as the next wave of technology for ESRI after that?

With the release of ArcGIS 9, we will reach a milestone of bringing together better visualization, server-based GIS, Web services, modeling and geoprocessing, and many other features and functions. Technology evolution marches along and it is a fair question to ask what comes next. I see ArcGIS as simply an instrument for facilitating the creation and management of geographic knowledge. With release 9 and 9.1, we will increasingly see this intelligent GIS be connected to the Web and available through Web services. Gradually, GIS technology will evolve into a nervous system for our planet where we, on an ongoing basis, measure and encapsulate knowledge, share it, and respond to issues that people care about and that need to be attended to around the world. It will be a framework for communication, decision support, understanding geographic science, and educating our children. This will require lots of component technology built by software engineers and solutions built by our users. I see similar efforts by our colleagues and other GIS and related software companies, and I see all of this as a collaboration to build the infrastructure that will support government, business, and education in the future. This is a bold vision but one that I think warrants particular attention by leaders at all levels because it certainly is affecting our society's efficiency and ability to make rational and well founded decisions. This is a vision that we will push forth with the GIS community in the future.

The discussion of standards in your keynote included an announcement of a new XML export-import standard for ArcGIS and data models. Will this new standard adhere to the OGC standards?

In my keynote, I outlined that an intelligent geographic information system is made up of five basic elements (abstractions of geographic knowledge). These include base datasets, data models that organize and define them, processing models for manipulating and organizing workflows, metadata that describes the previous three, and the resulting outputs from the database, which are maps and globes now also being encapsulated in a geodatabase framework. These five basic elements together with GIS software provide the foundation for intelligent GIS.

For users to share their knowledge, it is important that it be shareable. During the early days of ArcInfo, ESRI invented an E00 file for simple sharing of datasets (one of the abstractions) among users. Later we published the shapefile with ArcView, which further facilitated the interoperability among various users of the core datasets. Later we published the shapefile format resulting in the creation of an industry or de facto standard that was quickly picked up by most GIS, GPS, and imaging companies.

In the Web services environment, the standards for interoperability being put forth by organizations such as Microsoft, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and many others, are built on the XML/SOAP/UDDI set of protocols. We believe these fundamental IT standards are the basis for strong interoperability among various GISs, but also between GIS and the rest of the IT community (a more important issue). OGC, ISO, and the various Web consortiums are looking at methods for sharing spatial data within this framework (i.e., GML, etc.) and ESRI is collaborating with these teams to ensure that the technology that we evolve is compatible and interoperable within these standards-based initiatives. We very much respect the good work that OGC is doing in facilitating various industries to agree on common standards. This is difficult work and time consuming; at the same time, we feel even more compelled to adopt and integrate the open IT standards that are likewise emerging.

We recognize the difference between ad hoc industry standards such as our shapefile and collaboratively developed standards that OGC has attempted to create. While we prefer the latter from a position of wanting to ensure that we are working collaboratively with other GIS vendors, we also advocate openly publishing the engineering that ESRI creates like the shapefile. In the case of our XML import/export standards for ArcGIS, we will do some of both to ensure that we take advantage of the work done by standards organizations, but at the same time make available high quality engineered standards that will make our users successful.


Navigation Technologies, a provider of digital maps for vehicle navigation, Internet/wireless, government and business solutions, and Iteris, Inc., a leading provider of real-time traffic information, are collaborating on a four-city trial of Navigation Technologies' real-time traffic data solution for North America. The trial is currently underway in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Detroit.

Aloha Mobile.Net LLC and PanGo Networks announced that they are working together to bring PanGo's patented location-enabled technology to Hawaii. Aloha Mobile.Net (AMN) joins PanGo's team of strategic partners and resellers. PanGo's partners are certified in the development, deployment and management of mobile applications running on PanGo's industry leading Proximity Platform(TM) - an intelligent location-based system enabling a suite of mobile applications over wireless local area networks (WLANs).

SiRF Technology, Inc., provider of GPS-enabled silicon and software location platforms, announced that HOLUX Technology, Inc., a professional consumer GPS products provider, has embedded its SiRFXTrac high-sensitivity GPS software to greatly extend the operating range of HOLUX's recently announced HOLUX GM-270 Ultra GPS receiver.

SAMSys Technologies Inc. (SMY:TSX-VEN) ("SAMSys"), a provider of radio frequency identification (RFID) hardware solutions and RFID integration consulting services, announced that it has signed an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement with Site Log Systems, a developer of patented new products which provide the geographic location and description of boundaries, buried utilities, and other resources.

Spatial Data Technologies (SDT) announced a business partner agreement with Trimble to develop and integrate SDT products with Trimble's GeoExplorer. CE series and Recon handhelds. In this new relationship, SDT will provide Trimble's rugged handhelds as part of a complete enterprise data management solution for oil and gas, forestry, agriculture, natural resource, and utility clients in the public and private sector.


Introduction to Geographical Information Science (GIS) is Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions' online "Introduction to GIS course," designed to provide both a theoretical and hands-on understanding of GIS. The course, commencing November 28, 2003, is suitable for existing users of GeoMedia Professional or other GIS technology, as well as new GIS users within the academic or commercial communities. This instructor-led course lasts 10 weeks and is delivered online using WebBoard. Students will receive a 12-week license of GeoMedia Professional for use during the course.

"Every week the instructor will upload the reading material to the WebBoard, and then we will schedule chat sessions with students. There will also be discussion threads," explained Fiona McKee, Education Program Manager for Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions. Upon completion of the course, students will have the opportunity to take an online test to become GeoMedia Professional Certified Users.

"One of the elements that differentiates this course from other training is that it is interactive, subject to the geographies of the attendees," said McKee. "The instructor will arrange a scheduled time for everyone to interact together." "The maximum number of students we can accommodate would likely fall in the 25-30 range. Above that, then we would anticipate beginning another class within 14 days - 3 weeks or so."

The instructor, Jeff Thurston, lives in Berlin, Germany and is Director of his company Vector One Consulting. He holds a MSc. in GIS and has written internationally for several publications. His work has appeared in GeoWorld, GeoEurope, Geoinformatics, GIS India and online previously at for GISVision Magazine. Currently he is completing a book for Wiley Publishing entitled Integrated Geo-Technology - to be published in 2003. He has developed online courses previously.

The Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA) will present two new panel discussions at its 12th Annual GIS for Oil & Gas Conference: "U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety" and "American Petroleum Institute (API)/Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA)." The event is slated for September 29 to October 1, 2004, in Houston, Texas.

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2003 Exemplary Systems in Government (ESIGtm) Awards. The awards recognize exceptional achievements in the application of information technology that has improved the delivery and quality of government services. Award winners in each of the two ESIG categories (Single Process Systems and Enterprise Systems) will be honored during the Opening Ceremony at URISA's 2003 Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia this October. Award announcements

ZEH Software, Inc. (ZEH) is offering nearly $40,000 in new software grants designed to foster and improve geographic information system (GIS) hardcopy output. The software grants include ZEH's ZEHPlot for Workgroups server plot management solution. For additional grant information and eligibility requirements for ZEH's visit or email Email Contact.

The first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York, N.Y., probably organized by Peter J. McGuire, a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary. By 1893, more than half the states were observing Labor Day on one day or another and a bill to establish it as a federal holiday was introduced in Congress. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill in 1894 designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day. -- U. S. Census Bureau

USA) Applied Geo Technologies, Inc. (AGT), tribally-owned digital mapping service, and Leica Geosystems, a provider of surveying and geomatics technology, are working with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) to complete its 2002 Demographic Survey/Census. AGT is managing the collection, integration, and analysis of the data for MBCI. Leica Geosystems is supplying its GS5+ GPS receiver units to record location data for each household surveyed. The survey, which is conducted every ten years, is used to evaluate and pinpoint the proper allocation of resources throughout MBCI's eight tribal communities in the state. The 2002 survey is the first to integrate GPS with other electronic collection technology. The data will be used to create a geospatial map of the MBCI lands.

American Association of Geographers 100th Annual Conference ( AAG ) will be held in Philadelphia, PA, March 14-19, 2004)


PlanGraphics, Inc. (OTCBB: PGRA), a designer and integrator of e-government solutions and spatially enabled information systems and data warehouses, reported net income of $126,376, less than one cent per share, for its third quarter versus a net loss in the prior year quarter of $187,805. Revenue of $2,253,804 for the quarter ended June 30, 2003 was up $248,340, or 12 percent, over the prior year. The improved performance is attributed to aggressive cost control measures implemented late in the second quarter and improved revenue generation.

For the nine-month period ended June 30 the company incurred a net loss of $584,157, or less than one cent per share, on revenue of $5,744,036 versus a net loss a year prior of $139,946 on revenue of $6,286,319. In addition to the reduced revenues, the company incurred costs expanded sales and marketing as well as staffing its Xmarc related products and service capability, both of which adversely impacted year to date earnings.

Michael Baker Corporation reported its financial results for the second quarter and first six months of 2003. For the quarter, Baker posted net income of $68,000, or $0.01 per diluted share, on total contract revenues of $105 million. This compares with net income of $3.5 million, or $0.41 per diluted share, on total contract revenues of $105 million in second-quarter 2002. Significant items contributing to the decline in quarter-over-quarter earnings include: a pre-tax charge of $800,000 related to the impairment of the company's investment in Energy Virtual Partners, Inc. (EVP); costs related to the infrastructure and amortization of the company's new information systems; increased interest costs associated with the financing of the company's debt; the overall mix of project work in the Energy segment, which is yielding relatively lower margins; delays in the commencement of certain public sector projects, as well as a continued slowness in private sector contract activity, in the Engineering business; and a higher than anticipated Federal tax rate due to the mix of operating earnings for the quarter.

Autodesk's Earnings Conference Call (Q2,2004) is archived here


Navigation Technologies, a provider of digital maps for vehicle navigation, Internet/wireless, government and business solutions, announced the appointment of Winston Guillory Jr. as Senior Vice President, North American Sales. He will be based in the company's Chicago headquarters and will report to Judson Green, President & CEO.

John Asaro has joined Leica Geosystems as vice president, marketing, for the Americas. assuming responsibility for all aspects of marketing for Leica Geosystems' Survey and Engineering Division in North and South America, based in the regional headquarters in Norcross, Georgia. He will be responsible for developing marketing strategies to increase market share and expand the business into new market segments. He replaces Hugh Baertlein, who has been promoted to global sales manager for Leica Geosystems' Consumer Products Division

New Products

Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions announced the rollout of its InService(TM) Outage Management System (OMS) at Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB). KUB provides electric, gas, water and wastewater services to more than 370,000 customers in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the seven surrounding counties. The new OMS is fully operational in the dispatch office and on 25 mobile units in the field for electric trouble, which has enabled KUB to shut down its legacy OMS.

Bradshaw Consulting Services, Inc. (BCS), a provider of advanced digital solutions for GIS and an ESRI Business Partner, announced the release of its latest product for dispatch operations - MARVLIS CADGIS - an innovative API that works in conjunction with any CAD system, providing a complete GIS solution featuring Dynamic Service Areas (DSA).

Miner & Miner (M&M) announces the tenth release of the ArcFM Solution on ArcGIS 8 for electric, gas, and water/wastewater utilities. The 8.3.1 ArcFM Solution comprises ArcFM, Designer, ArcFM Viewer, Conduit Manager, and Network Adapter solution components. This latest version continues to expand existing functionality as well as incorporates new enhancements. The enhancements are a direct result of user feedback

ProSoft MicroStation Fundamentals training manuals are now available for all versions of MicroStation, from SE and MSJ to the latest, MicroStation 8.1. Additional titles are available for MicroStation CAD Manager, Advanced MicroStation, and MicroStation V8 Update.

Letters from Our Readers

More on the Stovepipe Question

Dear Susan -

The "stovepipe" question can be more complex than many users of spatial data may be aware of. Today, access to legacy data is fairly straightforward. The individuals interviewed in your article provided a number of vendor solutions. However, vendor neutral legacy data interoperability (multiple clients from multiple vendors accessing the same legacy data using common interfaces) can also be achieved today. This vision of interoperability is in the realm of the work of the OGC. From a true interoperability framework perspective, it is easy enough to write an OpenGIS Web Map Service or Web Feature Service wrapper around the legacy (stovepipe) spatial data repository. Our members have done this many, many times.

But all of the above mentioned solutions still do not adequately address the more complex issues related to information sharing and an understanding of the context, or semantics, of the data. Nor do many of the existing solutions consider the semantical implications of the underlying data model used to capture, classify, and/or store these legacy data. This problem is often exacerbated because no one collected appropriate metadata when the data were originally digitized. There are untold spatial data files out there that do not even have basic metadata on their units of measure or coordinate reference system. Pretty tough to use these data without that metadata! No software or interoperability standard is going to solve that problem. Only human and dollar investment will solve it.

Nevertheless, if we can assume that the legacy data does have the minimum necessary metadata, then we can move into issues related to context and semantics. One example of context is proper symbolization (portrayal) of the spatial data. How does one create a consistent symbolization of data drawn from multiple stovepipes that have different semantics? An example of semantics is an understanding of the classification used to originally attribute (code) the geometry (features). These are the really interesting and extremely useful areas of interoperability the OGC membership has been addressing in recent months. One example is in the work done for the OGC GOS Transportation Initiative. This work looked at how on-the-fly schema translation of transportation data from multiple sources can be used to generate a common transient model such that the end user can treat the multi-stovepipe transportation data sources as a single, continuous and consistent transportation layer. By providing such mechanisms for better context and semantic interoperability - not just content - then the value of these legacy data holdings can be substantially magnified.

I should also say that although there has been and continues to be an active effort to establish broad data content standards and models for geodata, the reality is that communities adopt models that best suit their needs. The solution to information interoperability and semantic consistency then rests within solutions that embrace both data content standardization and the kind of interoperability that OGC is working on in terms of GML application schemas and schema translation. I should also say that although there has been and continues to be an active effort to establish broad data content standards and models for geodata, the reality is that communities adopt models that best suit their needs. The solution to information interoperability and semantic consistency then rests within solutions that embrace both data content standardization and the kind of interoperability that OGC is working on in terms of GML application schemas and schema translation.

The OGC is working on a data modeling white paper. You might be interested in a copy or perhaps an additional article on the role of spatial data model interoperability. This will be a public white paper.

Just some thoughts and immediate reactions to your recent "Stovepipe Question."


Carl Reed, PhD
Executive Director, Specification Program

Dear Carl,

Thank you very much for writing. I would like to read your white paper when it is released.


Susan Smith

Going on Around the Web

Good Day for Concerns that Help Save Data by John Schwartz, NY Times, Saturday, August 16, 2003

3 Women and 3 Paths, 10 Years Later by Katie Hafner, NY Times, Thursday, August 21, 2003

Going on in August
TUC 2003 - Thai Geomatics User Conference
Date: August 19, 2003
Place: Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok, Thailand
Nowsaday the GIS, Surveying & Mapping Technology have advanced rapidly causing enormous changes on data procedure methodology, usages, conveniences & security. Therefore, it is essential that the management should be updated with the latest in technology, so the planning would be executed with accuracy and efficiency.As the result, ESRI (THAILAND) CO.,LTD.--the leader in Computer System, Hardware, Software, Survey Equipments, GIS, GPS, Remote Sensing & Thailand Surveying--decides to organize the "Thai Geomatics Use Conference 2003" following the "Interoperability of GIS Network" theme. This seminar collects and dissiminates technologies and latest in surveying and mapping GIS management. Additionally, it''s a meeting place for exchanging the knowledge and experience between users from various agencies in Thailand. This seminar consists of exhibitions, technical sessions, including the presentation of advancment in Thailand''s GIS projects by the expertees from both government and private sectors. This year''s "Thai Geomatics User Conference 2003" will be held on Tuesday, August 19th, 2003 at Grand Ballroom, ShangriLa Hotel between 08.00 - 17.00, Bangkok. No admission fees required to attend.
Using MapGuide 6.3 and TTI''s Rapid Integration Toolkit (RIT)
Date:August 20, 2003
Time: 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM CDTAutodesk MapGuide 6.3 delivers intelligent maps, designs, and data to anyone with an Internet connection and a need to query and analyze business-critical information. Autodesk MapGuide is fast, easy to customize, and supports mobile devices, so you can make quicker decisions, reduce operational expenses, and improve customer service. Now TTI's RIT works with MapGuide to lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your GIS website even further. With RIT you can easily maintain GIS websites with custom reports and queries from your MapGuide datasets, all without programming. In this WEBcast, TTI''s GIS Specialist, Scott Hameister, will demonstrate several features of RIT and MapGuide 6.3. With an Internet connection, you don''t have to leave the office or worksite to attend, and it is Free!
The Vespucci Initiative - Summer School on Geographic Information Science
Date:July 28 - August 8, 2003
Place:Pratolino (Florence), Italy
Celebrating the fifth centenary of Vespucci's discoveries, the Vespucci Initiative recaptures his spirit of multi-disciplinary intellectual enquiry to explore new frontiers of knowledge. To that end it organizes and conducts a range of research and teaching activities, bringing together senior scientists and promising young researchers from around the world. What these researchers have in common is a special interest in the locational aspects of societal challenges. These aspects are being studied and exploited in the emerging field of Geographic Information Science and are being implemented within the GIS, Location Based Systems (LBS) and other industries.
Web Mapping Technology Breakfast Seminar in Perth
Date:August 6, 2003
Place:Hotel Grand ChancellorPerth , Australia
NGIS Australia is pleased to invite you to the next of a series of breakfast seminars that give you a chance to learn the latest information about GIS and IT in your industry.
Arizona Geographic Information Council Education and Training Symposium 2003
Date:August 11 - 13, 2003
Place:Prescott, AZ USA
The Arizona Geographic Information Council (AGIC) continues its tradition of bringing the Arizona geospatial community together. Featured events this year are workshops, paper sessions, map/poster contest, and vendor sponsored raffle.
FME Training Victoria
Date:August 11 - 12, 2003
Place:Victoria, BC, Canada
Learn from the source how to use the core components of the Feature Manipulation Engine (FME) through hands-on training. During our two-day (1/3 lecture, 2/3 exercise and problem solving) training course, attendees learn to unlock the powerful features and functionalities of FME to more effectively manage their data translation and data transformation problems. Questions are encouraged throughout the class and attendees are encouraged to bring their own sample data files.
GIS BRASIL 2003 at COMDEX Brasil 2003
Date:August 19 - 22, 2003
Place:Anhembi's Exhibition PavillionSco Paulo City, Sco Paulo State, Brazil
GIS BRASIL is Latin America's largest event geared to the geotechnology market. Every year, since 1994, the companies of this industry and potential users get together to participate in the many activities that take place simultaneously: Conference, courses, the Geotechnology Fair, and the Scientific Talent Show. Specific activities for different audiences such as agriculture, electric power, telecommunications, geomarketing, the environment, city management, and others, are programmed, activities that demonstrate, in practice, how geotechnology accounts for an important competitive advantage in each one of these industries. The activities developed for the Conference are geared mainly to meet users' needs, with a special focus on cases, with the purpose of fostering information exchange. Email Contact
FME Training Edmonton
Date:August 25 - 26, 2003
Place:Edmonton, AB, Canada
Learn from the source how to use the core components of the Feature Manipulation Engine (FME) through hands-on training. During our two-day (1/3 lecture, 2/3 exercise and problem solving) training course, attendees learn to unlock the powerful features and functionalities of FME to more effectively manage their data translation and data transformation problems. Questions are encouraged throughout the class and attendees are encouraged to bring their own sample data files.

-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.