Google and Microsoft Eyeball High Resolution Satellite Imagery Data
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Google and Microsoft Eyeball High Resolution Satellite Imagery Data

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Industry News
Google and Microsoft Eyeball High Resolution Satellite Imagery Data
By Susan Smith

For the past few years, we have seen geospatial data providers forge ahead into emerging markets, never quite sure, in some cases, who the end user might be. Their wares, once the exclusive domain of GIS professionals and government agencies, are now visible on Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth, and in in-car navigation devices and personal navigation devices all over the world. The ubiquity of the cell phone/email/GPS/iPod has vaulted location based technology to a lofty place in the world of platforms, whether it be desktop, handheld device, touch table or enterprise systems.

A flurry of partnerships have ensued, with Google and Microsoft linking arms with the likes of Digital Globe, GeoEye and SPOT Image and many others. Earlier this year, Google entered into an agreement with map maker Tele Atlas which gives Google the right to use the firm's map data on devices including cell phones and gadgets that are based on the Android operating system. The 5-year agreement states that Google will also continue to use Tele Atlas mapping data on Google services such as Google Maps and Google Earth.

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
Galveston, Texas ( Bolivar Peninsula )
This is a Panchromatic, 50 centimeter (1.6 foot) high-resolution WorldView-1 satellite image detailing damage in the Bolivar Peninsula neighborhood of Galveston after Hurricane Ike.
Later this year, the attention shifted to partnerships formed around high resolution satellite and aerial imagery data, around the time WorldView-1 and GeoEye-1 were launched.

Among the watchers at the recent launch of GeoEye-1 were both Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. GeoEye-1’s rocket was emblazoned with a Google logo, heralding an agreement between GeoEye and Google formed at the time of the launch to sell color half meter resolution imagery to Google for exclusive use in the online mapping market. Brian O’Shaughnessy of Google said they are looking forward to incorporating GeoEye-1 imagery into their Google Earth product “as soon as possible.” The first images from the GeoEye-1 satellite were made available just recently.

Interestingly, Spot Image Corp. announced its partnership with Google just before GeoEye announced theirs. As a Google Earth Enterprise Partner, Spot will be able deliver imagery via Google Earth, integrating SPOT’s imagery content into Google Earth and Maps, plus develop ready to use image data.

The most recent announcement of this type involving Google was made by DigitalGlobe, who has had an agreement with Google “for a long time,” according to Michael McCarthy, senior director of Business Development & Sales Operation of DigitalGlobe. Their recent announcement was actually an extension of that former agreement, where they are to provide imagery for the Google Earth platform.

Following that is the more recent announcement from DigitalGlobe that they are providing Microsoft with imagery to be used on their Virtual Earth platform.

“The interesting thing about the fact the (two announcements) were coincidentally together is that Digital Globe has made a decision to be an equal opportunity provider of imagery to whomever whether it’s Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.,” said McCarthy. “We want to be in a position to provide imagery to anyone who would like access to our library.”
This is a timely announcement, according to McCarthy, who says that traditional GIS has “collided with and is now meshing with the online mapping part of the industry.”

In 2003, DigitalGlobe signed a deal with Google when they were approached by the company with the offer to help them distribute their imagery to the marketplace. “At that time we had no distribution into the consumer marketplace and we didn’t intend to target the consumer marketplace, so we were happy to make this agreement,” McCarthy noted. “Our goal is to have our imagery as ubiquitous as possible.”

It is hard to imagine serving out high resolution satellite and aerial imagery on a handheld device or GPS, but this is where technology has come to. The form factor is extremely important in the consumer space, McCarthy pointed out, and both disconnected devices and personal navigation are in heavy demand. All data providers, plus wireless carriers and handheld manufacturers, “are looking at how they can create apps and devices that can enhance that navigation experience.”

The convergence in technology today means that you should be able to work in ArcGIS and pull in Virtual Earth or your own data, or a web service or imagery from DigitalGlobe. All the user cares about is, can I get coverage of data for my area? They should have a choice and as many data selections as possible, according to McCarthy.

McCarthy said that the Google agreement is in “operational mode” already and Google constantly requests areas of interest. DigitalGlobe produces those and delivers them to Google and they put it on the Earth platform, “and it would be similar operationally to what Microsoft would be doing.”

Both Google and Microsoft have custom needs in imagery. “They come to us with their specific ideas about what’s interesting to us and to their users,” said McCarthy. “Google’s interests can be on different areas of the world and different continents and maybe more urban than rural. Microsoft can be stressing one continent over the other and maybe rural areas so they select what they receive from us. We don’t impose upon them the imagery they receive. Hopefully they get information from their end users as to what their requirements are.”

In terms of adding content, McCarthy said end users now add so much to the exploration systems that Google and Microsoft have gathered a great deal of data around places. “We look forward to the collateral opportunities that come out – we’ll be exploring how to leverage their technologies and they’ll be learning how they can leverage our imagery.”

New imagery from the Microsoft Virtual Earth agreement will most likely be available at the end of Q4.

DigitalGlobe also recently penned an agreement with deCarta to incorporate imagery into their rich map engine. What this means is that the two companies have formalized a relationship they’ve had for quite some time, but now it is open and DigitalGlobe is available on deCarta’s Developer’s Zone site. The goal is to make deCarta’s platform as rich as possible and easy for integrators and application developers to use.
deCarta builds a platform that internet portal providers, personal navigation companies and wireless companies like Verizon can leverage. Internet portal providers and personal nav companies use the platform so they can publicly face mapping apps within their environments. The platform is enriched by providing content such as DigitalGlobe’s imagery, TeleAtlas’ road content and NAVTEQ’s content that is compatible. The content is then massaged to be used by social media and p-nav. “If you have valuable content that you want to go on a geospatial platform like deCarta’s there are things you must do to make sure you’re compatible with their platform,” explained McCarthy. “The guts of their platform is the Drill Down Server and the Rich Map Engine, so you as a content provider just have to make sure you have the right interface and the right protocol that your content can be easily ingested into the platform. That’s what becoming a deCarta partner is all about, just making sure it can be ingested into their platform.”

The relationship with deCarta helps DigitalGlobe from a strategic standpoint. Their goal is to make imagery “ubiquitous” and on as many platforms as possible, so they have created relationships with as many “go-to-market” partners as possible, others including Oracle and NAVTEQ.

DigitalGlobe recently formed a relationship with NAVTEQ, with the aim of providing software developers using NAVTEQ map data with high resolution satellite and aerial imagery from DigitalGlobe in their applications. The agreement carries with it a bonus for DigitalGlobe: the company becomes a member of the Partner Zone program on the NAVTEQ Network for Developers (NN4D), where it will make available to developers free of charge for a limited time sample imagery during the software development process.

The NN4D program offers member developers the opportunity to use NAVTEQ map data samples and geospatial tools and data from participating industry-leading Partner Zone companies for evaluation and development. This program, as well as deCarta’s Developer Zone, give developers a first hand opportunity to try out various hardware/software content, much of which is open source, before building their solutions for the marketplace.

“Being in the geospatial industry we’ve been open to embracing open source ideas, in other industries you’ll see a fight against open source, proprietary patents are protected, etc. There is probably an overwhelming demand by users to be as open source as possible.”

Whether companies sign exclusive deals with Google and Microsoft seems to be a matter of strategy. Google, for example, is “very aggressive” with how they would like to use data and have specific requirements as to how they want to use the data. Some providers can’t accommodate Google licensing requests. When Google finds providers who can accommodate these stringent requirements, they may want to partner with them in any variety of ways.

Another example of a DigitalGlobe relationship is this week’s announcement that DigitalGlobe has provided NBC’s TODAY show with access to its library of satellite imagery and to its 3D ImageScape product for the second edition of the "Today Goes to the Ends of the Earth".

This agreement is definitely indicative of a user using data for another purpose entirely – the TV project was launched last year as part of NBC Universal’s “Green is Universal” initiative. 3D ImageScape, a 3D image product resulting from the partnership of DigitalGlobe with AEgis Technologies, makes it possible to “transport” TODAY show viewers to this season’s specific locations: Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak; Reykjavik, Iceland, the capital city closes to the Arctic Circle; the drought in Australia; and the longest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, located off the coast of Belize. First aired on November 17, the project was designed to showcase issues of environmental and climate change concern around the globe.

Clearly, the ubiquity of satellite imagery DigitalGlobe is aiming for has arrived and is revealing itself in some of the most surprising applications. For so long McCarthy said, only the GIS “elite” could use GIS or geospatial tools. “The level of expertise required to use a geospatial tool to make a business decision has so drastically reduced that it has created a gigantic pool of new users.”

Top News of the Week

BAE Systems has released the latest version of its geospatial intelligence software, providing upgrades that allow users to reduce dependency on multiple tools to record and analyze ground features. The company’s SOCET GXP v3.0 software combines image analysis and geospatial production tools into a single application for diverse uses — from finding beach landing sites for combat troops to helping land the Mars Rover.

Urban Mapping, Inc., provider of location-rich content for interactive applications, announced the launch of the company's new proximity API that provides access to Urban Mapping's comprehensive database of mass transit systems. With Urban Mapping's URBANWARE Mass Transit Proximity API, developers and publishers can enhance the value of local content by adding transit-related attributes to any content. A demo of the Mass Transit Proximity API is available at the UMI developer portal:

Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances

The Survey of India, announced that the Government of India had formally approved the strategic agreement between the National surveying and mapping organization Survey of India (SOI) and Tele Atlas Kalyani India Ltd., formerly Kalyani Net Ventures Ltd (KNVL) - a joint venture between the Kalyani Group and Tele Atlas. With this agreement Tele Atlas Kalyani India becomes the first Value Added Reseller (VAR) of India’s digital maps. The agreement allows Tele Atlas Kalyani India to release the first Survey of India-approved digital maps and custom map content within the public domain for commercial use in a range of navigation and location-based solutions in the mobile, internet, automotive, personal navigation system and enterprise markets.

Mentor Engineering announces a new partnership with Telogis, the leading global platform for location based services, to provide mapping technology for Mentor Streets. Streets, a comprehensive fixed-route software package, enables accurate answers to 'Where’s my bus?' questions, improved access to real-time route and schedule information, and more efficient dispatching. Including modules for in-vehicle mobile computing, Computer-Aided Dispatch/Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL), incident management, and schedule and route adherence, Streets is a versatile and innovative ITS solution for public transit.

Tele Atlas, a global provider of digital maps and dynamic content for navigation and location-based solutions, and Hotel Reservation Service (HRS), Europe’s leading online hotel reservation portal, announced an agreement to make HRS’ database of more than 230,000 worldwide hotel locations and ratings available to Tele Atlas digital map users.

The HRS portal registers more than 100 million visits a month and 13,000 companies worldwide regularly book accommodations through HRS, including Deutsche Telekom, EADS, IKEA and Metro AG. HRS’ database includes hotels at all price ranges and ratings generated from more than 1.3 million user reviews.

NAVTEQ, a leading global provider of digital map data for location-based solutions and vehicle navigation, has agreed to acquire T-Systems Traffic GmbH (T-Traffic), a leading provider of traffic services in Germany. The acquisition marks another important step in NAVTEQ's dedicated effort to expand its content-rich, high-quality traffic information into Europe.


GfK GeoMarketing’s real estate specialists recently researched Europe’s commercial real estate market. Large-scale projects such as shopping centers are currently – and will continue to be – major contributors to Europe’s retail growth.

The research revealed significant differences between Europe’s well developed markets and the emergent markets in Central and Eastern Europe. For example, in countries such as Germany, Belgium and Denmark, the sales area per inhabitant offering is around 1.3 to 1.4 m², or even as high as 1.6 m² in the Netherlands and Austria.

Following on from the recently released results of the Open Geospatial Consortium’s (OGC) global survey on spatial data quality, 1Spatial is delighted to announce a web seminar on 25th November to explain the current activities of the Data Quality Working Group (WG) and how to get involved.

The OGC Data Quality WG was created in 2007 with the goal of determining how data quality can be defined, measured and communicated. This can be achieved by using standards to help with the reuse of spatial data and in the creation and management of Spatial Data Infrastructures. 1Spatial’s Seb Lessware chairs the group, and the Vice-Chair is Patrick Cunningham from Blue Marble Geographics.

Participation is free and you can register now, online, at the 1Spatial website

URISA is currently seeking abstract submissions for two of its specialty conferences, both taking place in Providence, Rhode Island in 2009.

Abstract submissions are due on December 5, 2008 for URISA’s 2nd GIS in Public Health Conference, taking place June 5-9, 2009 in Providence. The Program Committee encourages submissions in one or more of the following general categories (examples of topics within each category are included online). For more information, visit the website


China Information Security Technology, Inc., an application software developer, systems integrator and full-service Geographic Information Systems ("GIS") solutions provider to public security and civil-use markets in China, issued guidance for 2009.

New Products

GTViewer is the cornerstone of the mobile GIS suite and continues to deliver high performance GIS viewing, ease-of-use, and powerful GIS analysis capabilities. Version 8.0 provides many new productivity enhancements and usability refinements including feature tooltips, GPS reference points, and advanced redline manipulations. GTViewer is not only a GIS analysis and viewing application, it is also a development platform which fully supports Visual Studio .NET for extending its functionality and creating custom applications.

DIMAC Systems, a global provider of digital aerial imagery solutions will unveil to North American customers during the Pecora ASPRS Remote Sensing Symposium 2008 of next week the DiMACULTRALiGHT, the smallest of the renowned DiMAC (Digital Modular Aerial Camera) product family. It consists of just a single Camera Module that captures a footprint of 7,200 pixels across by 5,400 pixels along the flight line.

Like no other medium footprint digital aerial camera, the DiMACULTRALiGHT provides accuracy and clarity that can only be obtained through TRUE forward motion compensation. In addition to the patented TRUE FMC, the DiMACULTRALiGHT features DiMAC’s TRUE Color acquisition and can be configured with a range of lens and filter options.

ERDAS Inc. announces that ERDAS Software 2009 media kits are now shipping to software maintenance customers and distributors. ERDAS Software 2009 includes new and updated versions of ERDAS’ products to author, manage, connect and deliver geospatial information.

SPOT Image Corp. introduced two new service offerings developed to provide clients with direct access to SPOT satellite imagery in the Google Earth environment.

The first offering, SPOT Globe for Google Earth Enterprise, delivers fusion-ready SPOT imagery to the growing number of organizations who rely on Google Earth Enterprise as their geospatial viewing and archiving solution.

Imagery is delivered in a pre-packaged and pre-ingested format for direct integration into existing Google Earth Enterprise globes along with other raster and vector layers.

The UK’s aerial mapping company Bluesky has launched a brand new online map shop that offers the widest range of UK mapping, aerial photography and other aerial survey data available online at the touch of a button. Visitors to the website can search using a postcode, place name or geographic co-ordinate, view and refine their selection before purchasing CAD and GIS ready digital data.

ISC announced that it would launch its new product suite, MapDotNet UX on GIS Day, November 19th, 2008. MapDotNet UX is useful for organizations that have GIS resources in place, but need to leverage those resources in new ways.

Product launch activities will be conducted during two GIS Day conferences. Benton Belcher of ISC will conduct activities at the Rocket City Geospatial Conference in Huntsville, Alabama which will include a keynote speech by Mr. Jack Dangermond, President of ESRI. Casey Donovan will be providing demonstrations at the Seven Hills Regional User Group for GIS in Tallahassee, Florida.

GadgetTrak Inc., providers of innovative anti-theft and data protection solutions for mobile devices, announced the launch of MacTrakTM. MacTrakTM includes location-awareness from Skyhook Wireless' Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) and integration with Flickr to capture the location and images of laptop thieves. MacTrakTM can be purchased at the website.

NAVTEQ announced the availability of NAVTEQ Traffic Patterns North America v4.0, a significantly updated historic database with improved travel time accuracy. The newest version of Traffic Patterns, which includes typical traffic speeds on nearly one million miles of primary and secondary roads across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada, also improves travel time accuracy 41 percent on average when compared with typical speeds and posted speed limits on freeways and surface roadways.

TeleNav, Inc., the first company to launch a cell phone GPS navigation service in the U.S., unveiled TeleNav Shotgun, TeleNav’s first two-way, Internet-connected GPS personal navigation device (PND). Available for purchase immediately, TeleNav Shotgun leverages the wireless network to provide real-time, connected features for business travelers including traffic alerts, Internet content (maps and business listings) and updated gas prices.

Around the Web

Map Upon Map: New Dimensions in What Maps Can Do  by Veryl Klinkenborg, November 11, 2008, The New York Times (registration required)



Mapping North Carolina Communities: An Introduction to GIS & Community Analysis - One Day Workshops
Date: November 20 - 21, 2008
Place: Knowledge Source
3100 Smoketree Court, Suite 200, Raleigh, NC 27604 USA

This hands-on workshop focuses on teaching the fundamentals of using a Geographic Information System (GIS) for community analysis. Participants will learn to create thematic maps with Census data, Geocoding (Address mapping) and Spatial Queries. Other features of the workshop are learning to extract Census data and good map layout and design.

Training for Maptitude Geographic Information System
Date: December 1 - 3, 2008
Place: Newton
Boston, MA USA

Caliper Corporation invites you to attend training for Maptitude Geographic Information System for Windows. The classes will be at our training center in Newton MA. Caliper training is the fast, cost-effective way to learn how to make the most of our Maptitude software investment. The three days of training are aimed at every type of user. The course covers skills and tools valuable to both new and experienced users of Maptitude and participants learn the fundamentals of Maptitude and related GIS concepts.

Date: December 2 - 6, 2008
Place: Ocean Hotel
Guangzhou, China

PORSEC 2008, the Ninth Biennial Conference with the overall theme-Oceanic Manifestation of Global Changes, will be held in Guangzhou, China on December 2nd-6th, 2008, hosted by the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology (SCSIO), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

AU 2008 Annual User Conference and Exhibition
Date: December 2 - 5, 2008
Place: The Venetian Resort Hotel
Las Vegas, NV USA

It’s the perfect opportunity for me to talk with customers from all over the world about their projects, their use of Autodesk tools, and the challenges they’re facing in their day-to-day work.

New Class - Interoperable Web GIS Solutions with Open Source Software
Date: December 3 - 5, 2008
Place: Capitol Hill Neighborhood
Seattle, WA USA

Terra GIS is offering this 3 day class/hands on workshop in Seattle from December 3rd through Friday December 5th, 2008.  Interoperable Web GIS Solutions built on Free and Open Source Geospatial software (FOSS4G) offer very effective means of delivering reliable, modern, standard compliant and flexible solutions.

Mapping Massachusetts Communities: An Introduction to GIS & Community Analysis
Date: December 4, 2008
Place: Charles River Public Internet Center
154 Moody Street , Waltham, MA 02454 USA

This hands-on workshop focuses on teaching the fundamentals of using a Geographic Information System (GIS) for community analysis. Participants will learn to create thematic maps with Census data, Geocoding (Address mapping) and Spatial Queries. Other features of the workshop are learning to extract Census data and good map layout and design.

Mapping Minnesota Communities: An Introduction to GIS & Community Analysis
Date: December 11 - 12, 2008
Place: New Horizons Computer Learning Center
4510 West 77th Street, Suite 210 , Edina, MN 55435 USA

This hands-on workshop focuses on teaching the fundamentals of using a Geographic Information System (GIS) for community analysis. Participants will learn to create thematic maps with Census data, Geocoding (Address mapping) and Spatial Queries. Other features of the workshop are learning to extract Census data and good map layout and design.