First American Tackles the National Cadastre
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First American Tackles the National Cadastre

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Industry News
First American Tackles the National Cadastre
By Susan Smith

A National Cadastre for the U.S. has been recommended by the National Academy of Sciences for decades, but it is only recently that such a map of property locations is close to being realized. There are approximately 140 million parcels in the country, a number that has been daunting to technology and hindered by lack of cooperation between federal, state, county and municipal governments. Until recently, the project has not received adequate funding.

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
First American Spatial Solutions (FASS), a company that formerly was associated with insurance and still has deep roots in that market segment, is said to be the first entity to create a multipurpose cadastre that provides the digital fabric to understand this level of property ownership in the United States.

FASS built the National Parcel Database in order to address problems they were trying to solve with regard to their flood risk assessment products.

“We’ve continued to add more and more parcels to the database and it just continues to increase the data quality of all products,” said Scott Little, vice president and general manager of First American Spatial Solutions Division. In a recent acquisition, FASS acquired a geocoder and they have incorporated all the parcels into the geocoder to increase their data quality and our accuracy. Little said the parcel database now improves their other products.

“We’re now at the point with our digital parcel database where we’ve been able to obtain and normalize 120 million parcels, and best estimate from multiple researches, there are between 140 and 150 million digital parcels within the U.S. At this point at the next release we will be at 120 million.” The data has been quality controlled and includes a maintenance plan to keep the data up to date.

Little said that by building out digital parcel layers they’ve been able to license that information to companies in multiple verticals. With the parcel data, customers will be able to pinpoint exact locations and then use information related to the property within their business processes. In the past companies were limited by using an interpolated geocode where they knew from a location standpoint that they could get on the right street but not necessarily to the right house. “Without that level of confidence they’re not able to take that decision making to the next level,” Little pointed out.

Parcels are most commonly defined in real estate as a “lot” or a “tract” and have defined and surveyed boundaries (or property lines), are typically documented within a county or township along with the ownership and tax information. According to the press materials, FASS has converted digital and paper maps, as well as legal descriptions, from most of the nation’s counties into a single standardized spatial database called ParcelPoint. The parcels in this database also provide the exact area and associated latitudes and longitudes that are vital in identifying the property’s exact position on Earth.

The milestone of reaching the 120 million number on the digital parcel layers coupled with the acquisition of the geocoder has made a vast difference to FASS. “The geocoder was written in a way we were able to take the parcel data and use it as the layer within the geocoder,” explained Little. “So now when we geocode properties using our PxPoint geocoder we’re able to geocode addresses to the parcel level. By having 120 million parcels, a majority of the addresses that are now entered into our system, instead of going to a zip code level or what’s called a zip plus four segment level, now when somebody entrees an address they’re being put on a rooftop. That’s for 120 million properties in the U.S. For navigation, 911 routing, underwriting, taxes, we have between PxPoint Geocoder and ParcelPoint a way now to get them to derive answers on a property basis instead of a neighborhood basis. From a strategy point with everything being based on accuracy and specific location, customers can incorporate our technology to develop more powerful solutions for their particular vertical.”

The geocoder has two functions within it – first is pure address standardization, e.g., somebody enters the address and it breaks the address down, then basically puts it back together in a way that is recognizable. The second function is once you have a standard address then you match that address against whatever data you have to assign a latitude and longitude. “For that second stage of geocoding now instead of going to a street segment which would lay out the range of the lat and long for the street, now once they have a standardized address we can give them a specific lat long that equates to the centroid of that rooftop of that parcel,” said Little. “In a typical geocoder there would be one lat and long that represents all twelve properties in a street with 12 houses on it. Now you have one lat and long for each of the 12 properties.”

Little makes the point that if you’re looking at the values of the house, or damage, when an insurance policy may be up for renewal, if you have the same point for all 12 properties, you’re very limited from a analytical standpoint for what you can do with that property. “If you have a specific point for every one of those 12 properties, there’s a lot that you can do and a lot of information you can provide to individuals to help them make better decisions.”

“With the property specific data for over 100 we have provided, plus the different geospatial spatial layers that we’ve acquired with the Proxix acquisition, the ones we’ve built along with the geocoder and the parcel level, now we’re really starting to develop solutions into different markets,” said Little. First American has been working with ESRI to develop an underwriting solution within insurance for their users.

First American updates digital parcels for the entire country, 3,000 jurisdictions that are changing parcels, storing it in one database. The fact that they use the data within their own operations to drive efficiency of the company as a whole, using their own internal GIS applications. The National Parcel Database should have a significant impact on both public- and private-sector companies that want to use geographic information to improve the accuracy of a variety of products and services.


Note: correction in last week’s industry news: Attendance at Intergraph 2009 was at last count approximately 1500.

Top News of the Week

Check out GISCafe Today, new blog written by GISCafe and GISWeekly Editor, Susan Smith, which offers thoughts and insights on some of the more important announcements from the GIS/geospatial industry, plus an opportunity for readers to comment.

Intermap Technologies announced that it has received a USD $2.4 million contract to provide 3D digital elevation models and orthorectified radar images for an international project. The project requires the delivery of data collected using the Company's proprietary Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (IFSAR) technology. Under the agreement, Intermap will begin delivering mapping data from its current inventory of high-resolution geospatial data, with revenue being recognized by the Company over the next several quarters.

In partnership with IGN France International, the Spot Infoterra Group – and Astrium division – will supply the Serbian Geodesy Institute (RGZ) with the means to become the central supplier of geoinformation data for public and private institutions in Serbia. Spot Infoterra is a world leader in the field of geoinformation products and services. The contract is worth €15 million approximately.

Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances

DigitalGlobe, a global content provider of high-resolution world imagery solutions, announced that it has entered into a direct access agreement and strategic alliance relationship for sales, marketing and customer support, with European Space Imaging (EUSI) and Space Imaging Middle East (SIME). The agreement is DigitalGlobe’s fourth international direct access program (DAP) agreement. The agreement provides for a direct access facility (DAF) to be located near Munich, Germany, and for joint sales and marketing of WorldView-1, WorldView-2 and other products and services within the European and Middle East markets. Commercial operations for the Munich DAF are expected to commence in the first quarter of 2010. Effective immediately, EUSI and SIME have also been appointed as authorized distributors of DigitalGlobe products and services for Europe and the Middle East.
The direct access and strategic alliance agreement is subject to receipt of pending U.S. Government regulatory approvals.

Surveylab announced that it has joined ESRI's Business Partner Program. Building on several years of developing ikeGPS solutions that utilize ArcPad technology, Surveylab have taken this step to provide a more integrated ikeGPS offering with ESRI’s mobile GIS products, including ArcPad and ArcGIS Mobile.

Yotta MVS (the 3D mapping division of OMG plc), a leader in street-level image collection and field data verification services, has teamed with Aerial Cartographics of America, Inc. for a joint product offering.


MobiLaps LLC, represented by Dr. Nadine Alameh, successfully lead the completion of the Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) thread of OGC’s Web Services Initiative Phase 6 (OWS-6). Dr. Alameh was selected for this leadership role based on her expertise in geospatial standards and architecture, and her proven track record in managing successful testbedding and rapid prototyping activities. Dr. Alameh has been an active member of the OGC Interoperability Program since 2001 and successfully lead previous interoperability testbedding tasks within OWS-1.2, OWS-2, OWS-3, OWS-4 and OWS-5.

MAPPS, the association of private geospatial firms, will hold its annual summer conference at the Ocean Edge Resort and Club in Brewster, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, June 25-29, 2009, featuring sessions on best business practices, surviving natural disasters, ownership transition, staying a successful small business, emerging technologies, new vertical markets and an analysis of the current economic environment.

To mark Wind Week 2009 (13 to 21 June) 4C Offshore have updated and released a freely accessible interactive map of Global Offshore Wind Farms.

The site, at, is an essential resource for the general public, industry participants, planners and the media, with the database now offering up to 60 types of information including wind farm locations, stages of development, turbine and power generation statistics, cable information, grid connections and companies involved in the projects.

The Carbon Project
successfully supported the completion of the Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) thread of OGC's Web Services Initiative Phase 6 (OWS-6). The Carbon Project was selected for this role based on the company's expertise in standards-based software, and its proven track record developing applications for next-generation Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) based on Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards.

ERDAS Inc. announces a new website, providing a platform for dialog for users, business partners and distributors. ERDAS Communities,, is a group of unmediated forums on ERDAS software as well as broader discussions on geospatial imaging, photogrammetry, enterprise data management and GIS issues.

The ESRI Southwest Users Group Planning Committee announced that registration is open for the 2009 SWUG Conference taking place October 19-23 at the Pueblo Convention Center and the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo, Colorado. The conference is one of the premier events of the GIS industry in the southwest region. SWUG 2009

New Products

Digital maps and dynamic content provider Tele Atlas can now help drivers more clearly see what’s ahead with Tele Atlas HD Traffic, a robust solution for navigation and location based solutions designed to find the quickest routes to destinations using “live” road conditions.

Tele Atlas, a leading global provider of digital maps and dynamic content for navigation and location based solutions, unveiled MultiNet 2009.06, the only digital map database that is constantly validated by millions of people worldwide every minute of every day. Marking continued milestones in digital mapmaking, Tele Atlas developed the latest release of MultiNet with 18,000 kilometers of new road geometry added from GPS measurements to build out the road network of Romania. The release highlights the first time that community input has been used to deliver such extensive new road network content.

ESRI users will now be able to view their ArcGIS Desktop projects on the DeLorme Earthmate PN-40 GPS receiver.

With the Earthmate PN-40 Extension for ESRI software from DeLorme, mobile professionals can convert collected waypoints and tracks with associated comments for import into ArcGIS Desktop as shapefiles. Users can also transfer views of their projects for use in the field, display MrSID and GeoTIFF imagery files, and navigate rural terrain across DeLorme trail and road data.

Juniper Systems and Hemisphere GPS announced that the XF101 DGPS receiver for the Archer Field PC is now available through Juniper Systems. The Hemisphere GPS XF101 receiver is fully integrated with the ultra-rugged Archer Field PC delivering sub-meter DGPS to location-based applications in the most demanding environments.

DAT/EM Systems International announced a new option for 3D stereo viewing. A single 120-Hz-refesh-rate LCD monitor provides crystal clear stereo image viewing and clean panning. This is the most affordable 3D viewing option ever to be available for DAT/EM System's Summit Evolution stereoplotter and Landscape LiDAR processing packages. The slender profile allows this monitor to comfortably fit most desktop environments, and the competitive price makes this a great alternative for conservative budgets.

Analytical Graphics (AGI), a producer of commercial off-the-shelf software for space, defense and intelligence applications, announces the release of Insight 3D -- a .NET control that lets developers add 3D visualization to their aerospace and GIS applications with exceptional ease. Based on AGI's time-tested, astrodynamically accurate 3D engine, Insight3D supports terrain, imagery, 3D models, satellite orbits, aircraft routes and more. Objects can be interacted with and animated through picking and flexible camera control. Insight3D is free for development and non-commercial use.

Telogis, a global platform for enterprise location based services announced the launch of GeoZone, a free resource for GeoBase developers. GeoBase is the company’s market leading geospatial engine – enabling mapping, routing and navigation on platforms ranging from mobile to server. Registered members of GeoZone gain access to the latest releases of the GeoBase SDK, sample map data, sample code, tutorials and whitepapers. Additionally, Telogis has assembled a premier list of partners from the Location Based Services (LBS) ecosystem to provide additional technical resources and samples of their products.

Safe Software introduced support for Bathymetric Attributed Grid (BAG), enhancing their raster ETL offerings in the marketplace.

Spatial Business Systems
announced the release of Version 2.0 of SWConnector, a powerful application programming interface that supports interoperability between General Electric’s Smallworld GIS and CAD, field mobility, enterprise resource planning applications as well as other industry leading GIS products.

SWConnector 2.0 includes enhanced features to support future extensions to the Autodesk FDO Provider for Smallworld including: Around the Web

Murder: New York City, June 22, 2009, The New York Times (registration required) - Each day, the New York Police Department announces major crimes, including most homicides, in the five boroughs. This data is compiled from those reports, in addition to news accounts, court records and additional reporting. The map will be updated as new information becomes available



Fourth International Workshop on "Geographical Analysis, Urban Modeling, Spatial Statistics"
Date: June 29 - July 2, 2009
Place: Kyung Hee University-Global Campus
Yongin , Korea (South)

The growth of Spatial Data Infrastructures, Geo-portals and private sector initiatives (e.g. Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth, etc.) produced an increase of geographical data availability at any scale and worldwide. This growth has not been fully coupled by an increase of knowledge to support spatial decisions. Spatial analytical techniques and geographical analysis and modelling methods are therefore required in order to analyse data and to facilitate the decision process at all levels.

ENERegion Summer School 2009
Date: June 29 - July 10, 2009
Place: Salzburg, Austria

The ENERegion Summer School 2009 is dedicated to the theme of "Regional Potentials for Renewable Energy Generation" and is hosted by Salzburg University's Centre for Geoinformatics (Z_GIS).

GISLERS - Summer School 2009
Date: July 3 - 14, 2009
Place: Salzburg, Austria

The Z_GIS Summer School 2009 is dedicated to the theme of Bridging Geographic Information Science (GIS), Landscape Ecology (LE), and Remote Sensing (RS) for landscape analysis and landscape planning and is hosted by Salzburg University's Centre for Geoinformatics (Z_GIS).

The Geoinformatics Forum Salzburg 2009
Date: July 7 - 10, 2009
Place: Salzburg, Austria

The Geoinformatics Forum Salzburg 2009 focuses on an international GIScience audience, communicating in English and sharing an interest in translating new methods and techniques into a broad range of application domains in geoinformatics.

2009 ESRI Survey & Engineering GIS Summit
Date: July 11 - 14, 2009
Place: San Diego , CA USA

Discover how to enhance your business practices and expand your capabilities with the technology that is shaping the future of geospatial data management and analysis.

2009 ESRI Education User Conference
Date: July 11 - 14, 2009
Place: San Diego, CA USA

The EdUC is your best opportunity to explore how GIS promotes critical thinking, computer literacy, and time- and money-saving best practices for institutions.

2009 ESRI Homeland Security GIS Summit
Date: July 11 - 14, 2009
Place: San Diego Convention Center
San Diego, CA USA

Attend the only geospatial conference dedicated to homeland security, now a convenient concurrent event with the 2009 ESRI International User Conference.

2009 ESRI Business GIS Summit
Date: July 12 - 15, 2009
Place: San Diego Convention Center
San Diego, CA USA

Explore the value of GIS for your organization. Whether you’re new to geographic information system (GIS) technology or looking for innovative ways to develop your current projects, be part of this collaborative forum that brings business professionals and industry leaders together. See how business GIS solutions provide a more competitive edge, drive business innovation, and increase ROI; learn more about the critical advantages of GIS at this premier event.

2009 ESRI International User Conference
Date: July 13 - 17, 2009
Place: San Diego, CA USA

This conference is your ultimate GIS resource, a place to extend your GIS skills, connect with your GIS community, and reenergize yourself and your work.

Date: July 13 - 17, 2009
Place: Cape Town, South Africa

The venue for IGARSS 09 has been chosen as the University of Cape Town on the slopes of Table Mountain. The choice of Cape Town, the first time that IGARSS will be held on the African continent, represents a milestone in the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society’s strategic objective to broaden international participation, particularly in the developing countries.

GEOBrasil Summit 2009
Date: July 14 - 16, 2009
Place: Imigrantes (Convenções)
São Paulo , Brazil

GEOBrasil Summit presents new trends, products and services earmarked for integrated solutions connected with mapping, localisation, navigation, geographic localisation and analysis for management of public and private companies. Integrated events: GEOBrasil, GNSS Navis, GEO Oil & Gas and GEOCities.

2009 Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS)
Date: July 18 - 21, 2009
Place: Northwoods Resort and Conference Center
Big Bear Lake, CA USA

ESRI encourages you to be part of this compelling conference and take this opportunity to address the challenges of connecting across boundaries for conservation.

GeoWeb 2009
Date: July 27 - 31, 2009
Place: Downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada

GeoWeb conferences focus exclusively on geographic information systems, the Internet, and the economic potential associated with their convergence. GeoWeb 2009 will continue the tradition of focusing on the reciprocal impact of the Web and Geographic Information as well as the ever-increasing need for collaboration in light of global economic and environmental concerns. GeoWeb 2009 is for everyone!