Pictometry Viewer ActiveX Control

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Welcome to GISWeekly! This week Pictometry announced their Pictometry Viewer ActiveX Control, a control that makes it possible for third party vendors to integrate Pictometry oblique imagery and measuring tools into end user applications. Read about it in this week's Industry News.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Pictometry Viewer ActiveX Control
by Susan Smith

This week Pictometry announced their Pictometry Viewer ActiveX Control, a control that makes it possible for third party vendors to integrate Pictometry oblique imagery and measuring tools into end user applications.

According to Frank Giuffrida, senior vice president of engineering at Pictometry and Vice President Scott Sherwood, Pictometry Viewer ActiveX Control takes the basic capabilities of their Electronic Field Study (EFS) application and puts it into a form that can be easily embedded into third party applications in a seamless way.

Integration of the EFS capability with third party vendors became very important in several cases. Before ActiveX, Pictometry used what they call “cooperative integration” with ArcView. They had a set of Microsoft component object modules (COM) interfaces built into the professional desktop application. On their first integrating into ArcView they used those COM components to provide the integration.

With EFS, you would select the Pictometry tool inside of ArcView, but instead of a window inside of ArcView appearing, the entire desktop application would pass the relevant information from one application to the other. All the Pictometry data was still visible but you had to use EFS to do it. This method required that you had two applications running on your desktop that you needed to manage and understand. “Now we've taken that functionality and put it into ActiveX Control now running inside of ArcView,” said Sherwood.

Example: microDATA GIS, Inc. based in St. Johnsbury, VT, an emergency 9-1-1 dispatch provider, has been integrating their 911 application with EFS for years. The call taker application for 911 piece and the Pictometry EFS worked cooperatively together, however, it was difficult for the operator to be trained in both systems. “If you're a call taker, your primary function is answering the call and getting the information from the user,” explained Giuffrida. “You don't want to be a GIS expert as well in order to use our EFS.”

With the ActiveX Control, the provider of the end user 911 application, in this case, can integrate their technology into Pictometry's application in a way that's very natural for their users. “It uses their own natural call flow, the workflows are the same, there's no different help screen, look and feel to the application is the same,” explained The powerful ActiveX Control interface takes the oblique image set and gives the user the ability to drop it into any third party application.

The ActiveX Control works well with ArcView, and Pictometry also has an implementation inside of ArcGIS 9.1. “In the case [of ArcView] we added this ActiveX control as an extension into ArcView,” said Sherwood. “Users of ArcView may or may not be familiar with the Pictometry system and its data, but it's easy to use our dataset and our technology inside of ArcView.”

Sherwood said it's not a matter of which systems Pictometry supports, it's a matter of either they do the integration into the application or the manufacturer does the integration. In the case of the 911 system, Pictometry leaves the integration to the original equipment manufacturer.

When third party software vendors go shopping for ActiveX Control, developers will receive an SDK, which includes the control itself, documentation, the interface and some example code to use as a reference point to begin the integration.

“With ArcView and other GIS programs where we're doing the integration or teaming up with third parties to do the integration, then they not only receive the Active X control but they receive the installer for the extension for ArcView, so it's just a plug-and-play at that point. It depends if you're a developer or an end user,” said Sherwood.

After you run the installer in the ArcView scenario, the installer basically installs a new extension into ArcView like all other extensions into ArcView get loaded. Once loaded, it gives you the Pictometry extensions. You can click on any map or layer you may have opened in ArcView. There is some configuration that goes with it, but at that point the Pictometry oblique data will display inside of ArcView. Then you can use it to do some navigation and measurement like you can do in the professional desktop application.

The ArcView user will find it simple because it doesn't require any more training. All they must do is click on the tool or point on a map or layer, then start using the Pictometry technology to measure or navigate.

Pictometry began with the ArcView integration as most of their customers are ESRI users. They do plan to team up with some other GIS providers to provide the same level of integration with other products.

As Pictometry has been in the news lately regarding its contribution to Microsoft Live Local, I felt it only fitting to ask how the ActiveX Control and EFS compares with what is used in Live Local? What differentiates Pictometry functionality with the ActiveX Control and EFS from that which is integrated into the Microsoft Live Local components, is the level of professional functionality. Windows Live Local is a consumer level application that has the Pictometry data set, but not the measuring, analytical software, according to Sherwood.

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