New Announcements from PlaceBase

Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! On August 7th at the 26th Annual ESRI User Conference, PlaceBase will announce an extension to the PushPin LE web mapping API that is aimed at allowing greater control over the appearance of the maps with dynamic layers. “With a lot of the AJAX web mapping services that are available, developers and their clients (users) really are locked into a single look and feel,” noted PlaceBase CEO Jaron Waldman. “We want to allow a deeper customization that is really more in the realm of traditional GIS, where you can take different layers within the maps, and turn them on and off.” The other announcement from PlaceBase is RenderMap - a custom map rendering service that enables people to feed in their vector data. Read about them in this week's Industry News.

Take a look at the Q & A section of ESRI UC, which answers questions from attendees and other interested folks on various topics of interest pertaining to the conference and ESRI products in general. The focus of this year's conference will be ArcGIS 9.2. I look forward to seeing many of you at ESRI UC in San Diego, August 7-11.

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, Announcements, Contract Awards, Awards, People, New Products, Letters to the Editor and Upcoming Events.

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

Best wishes,
Susan Smith, Managing Editor



Industry News

New Announcements from PlaceBase
by Susan Smith

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In April of this year, GISWeekly covered PlaceBase's PushPin LE, a hosted mapping platform with the familiar API, similarly high quality mapping output [as Google] that also offers client live support, total control of branding, no ads on the maps, and no limit on transactions. This is a programming interface targeted at web developers.

On August 7th at the ESRI Conference, PlaceBase will announce an extension to the PushPin LE web mapping API that is aimed at allowing greater control over the appearance of the maps with dynamic layers. “With a lot of the AJAX web mapping services that are available, developers and their clients (users) really are locked into a single look and feel,” noted PlaceBase CEO Jaron Waldman. “We want to allow a deeper customization that is really more in the realm of traditional GIS, where you can take different layers within the maps, and turn them on and off. So if you wanted to turn on and off the Parks layer or if you wanted to turn off the Water layer, you could do that.” Waldman added that this opens up the possibility of interesting business applications because it allows you to do better data visualization. What prompted them to go in this direction was that they were doing a lot of applications that involved thematic mapping. “Thematic mapping involves desegregation of the base map into several layers.” Prior to this announcement, these capabilities were limited to the PushPin CX product, which is an advanced version of LE.

The other announcement is RenderMap - a custom map rendering service that enables people to feed in their vector data. “We take that data, lay it out for them or they can provide layouts and crank it through a big grid of servers and output image tiles that are ready for use at any file server, whether it's MapServer or from PushPin LE, ” explained Waldman. It's also possible to use rendered maps and mix and match layers within the map using dynamic layers.

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RenderMap can take any vector data - spatial data, GIS, nautical charts, real estate parcel boundaries, etc. and feed it through the RenderMap system and create a ready cached set of images and output images at a very high quality. “The difference between this and traditional GIS approaches on the web is that we'll go through any geographic area our clients want and render it in advance,” Waldman pointed out. “It's sitting there on the disk ready to go when the user comes along and drags the map onto any area. Those images are ready and pulled out of the image cache and served up. Whereas with the traditional web mapping approach, the incoming request from the user is then rendered on the fly, and handed over. There's a performance tradeoff and quality tradeoff. Google really pioneered the idea of having everything cached and ready and sitting on a desk. We just are opening up that capability for people who don't want that single look and feel and want more customization.”

“People love fast, draggable maps with very high quality cartography that Google pioneered in that area,” Waldman concluded. Customers are developers who come from a GIS framework and who are used to responding to the needs of users of online GIS systems. Many business situations demand the type of customization PlaceBase offers.

PlaceBase has a number of servers at their facility that take the GIS data and convert it to tiles for those who want that type of service. They can also do installations for people who want their own RenderMap grid running at their own installations.

Long term consulting customer Fannie Mae has a free site called DataPlace.org that uses RenderMap. The map acts like a Google map, but with different colors and look. “We rendered everything into a separate stack of images. The streets are on a separate layer from the parks,” Waldman said.

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The two new products cost a little bit more than the PushPin LE application. Taking GIS layers and rendering them to separate image tile sets, so streets are on separate tile set from parks, etc. requires that PlaceBase merge or composite those tile sets together when a user requests an area. They are rendered on transparent backed little image tiles so that process of merging on the server side costs something. “We need to have the server infrastructure in place to support it, so that makes it a more expensive operation than our standard Pushpin LE approach which is just a single tileset that is all ready to go,” Waldman explained.

Consequently, PlaceBase has made a significant investment in infrastructure over the last two months, adding servers, bandwidth, etc. The way PushPin LE works is it is a hosted service. RenderMap is a service that generally requires a lot more “handholding” as PlaceBase must lay out the data for the customer, the customer approves the cartographic design and then PlaceBase puts it through the RenderMap engine for them. Customers generally rent time on PlaceBase servers to do this, or they can license the software for installation on their own servers, as Fannie Mae has done.

Currently, PlaceBase is focusing on data partnerships so they can have data ready to go through the programming interface.



Top News of the Week

Leica Geosystems announced the introduction of the GPS900, an economical GPS surveying system designed to boost productivity on the job for a wide range of surveying and construction tasks.

The GPS900 RTK System is a complete base and rover system conveniently packaged in a single ruggedized case, providing a complete, low-cost, turnkey GPS surveying solution that can be easily transported to and from the work site.

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