What the Latest from Safe Software Means...
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What the Latest from Safe Software Means...

Message from the Editor

Welcome to GISWeekly! This week's GISWeekly will feature an interview with Safe Software's President Don Murray and Vice President of Development Dale Lutz.

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, Awards, Appointments, New Products, Featured Downloads, Around the Web, and Calendar.

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Best wishes,
Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

What the Latest from Safe Software Means...

Safe Software Inc. has been in the news recently with its new advanced spatial ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) technologies as well as its newly released enhanced version of the Feature Manipulation Engine (FME) Geographic Data Files (GDF) reader to support TeleAtlas MultiNet 3.2 GDF (ASCII) sequential datasets. This ensures compatibility between the FME GDF reader and the latest TeleAtlas MultiNet 3.2 product offering. FME also supports the reading and writing of many GDF variants, and it includes a viewer to facilitate viewing and querying GDF files.

In another announcement, Safe Software's FME technology was chosen by Dotted Eyes in the United Kingdom to be embedded in its SuperpOSe product. SuperpOSe is used to process the Ordnance Survey's OS MasterMap GML-2-based digital data product, and load it into spatial databases. A supplier and developer of a wide range of GIS applications, Dotted Eyes chose Safe Software's FME technology because it supports a large number of databases, as well as being flexible and fast.

GISWeekly spoke with Don Murray, the President of Safe Software, and Dale Lutz, the Vice President of Development, about these developments.

What is the significance of these most recent announcements?

Dale Lutz -- One significant point relates to our GDF support, and the other significant point relates to the Ordnance Survey's MasterMap. Both are important and non-trivial technologies. The GDF format is a very complex format that has a lot of information in it; similarly, the Ordnance Survey MasterMap is also very rich. These two formats demonstrate that our product, FME, is able to cope with both these very complicated types of systems as well as the so-called simpler ones. Often when people think of moving files or transforming data, they think of simple format-to-format translations that don't involve a lot of complicated information. These two formats are definitely not in the simple category.

Dale Lutz

Can you describe what you have to do to make the translation possible with the more complicated format?

The GDF specification by itself is very thick - more than 1500 pages - so we need to understand it well enough to make sure our software can cope with every bit of information that the specification contains, and then support that completely. End users can decide which parts of the file they want to keep, which parts they want to throw away, and which parts they want to store in certain areas of their database. What's important for us is not only the physical reading and writing of that file, but also the understanding of the GDF specification so that we can present it to users in a way they can understand and use.

Is this a translation or a transformation?

When people use our product with both the GDF and the Ordnance Survey MasterMap formats, they will use it to do two things: The first is to figure out which part of the data they want to keep (similar to data modeling). We call this setting up a transformation, and we provide FME Workbench for this phase. Once users have set up their transformation, the second step is to run it and perform the actual translation. This step would often be run on many, many different input files, as users may be working with the entire UK (in the case of OS MasterMap) or all of the cities in North America (in the case of GDF), for example.

Does it take a very long time to run the translation and/or is it invisible to the user?

This comes down to how experienced a user is with the data they're going to be working with. About a year ago, someone was trying to load GDF data into ESRI SDE. They were unfamiliar with GIS, GDF, and SDE, and so they had a very difficult time. The tool wasn't the problem - the problem was that there were hundreds of tables and attributes involved and these needed to be handled properly. In such cases, our professional services team is available to provide expertise, and this can save an organization a great deal of time and money. If, on the other hand, the user is someone who works with this type of data all the time and understands the domain area, they are able to produce results pretty quickly with our tool.

The amount of time required to do the extract, transform, and load varies. Because the files are very massive (for example, the typical GDF file can be hundreds of megabytes, or even a gigabyte), and if you run a bunch of translations at once, it's going to take time that is measured in hours - or even, in some cases, days. We often joke and say that when we started in 1993, people would say it's a big file if it barely fit on a floppy. Now a big file doesn't fit on a CD or even DVD.

Don Murray - The Ordnance Survey, for example, distributes the data in a compressed GML format on DVDs. That's what is going on - large datasets for both formats.

So, are the other very common file formats from AutoDesk and ESRI not as thick in terms in content as the GDF and Ordnance Survey formats?

With GDF and the Ordnance Survey MasterMap formats, it is up to the defining organization to decide how much information to put in, whereas with the ESRI or AutoDesk formats, you are talking of general tools and each end user can define as complicated or simple a data model as they want. For MasterMap, the data model is maintained by the Ordnance Survey with a mandate to provide a very rich data set for their entire country, and in the case of GDF, a standards group sat down and asked the question, “What's the complete set of all the things we could need for our application?” That's why these things are so full-featured.
Don Murray

End users of GIS products could certainly make a model that was that complicated. Those using GDF often do make an exact mirror of the model in their GIS or database system. However, although the common GIS formats can definitely get very complicated, it's not typical.

Are you incorporating the GML capability in all these releases?

Ordnance Survey data is actually a flavor of GML and GDF currently is not based on GML. There is however, talk of a future version of GDF being done in GML; if this happens, we will be supporting it. FME has supported GML reading and writing for some time.

What are some of your future directions?

We will be adding support for more formats as well as putting effort into improving the user interface experience. With our Workbench product, we'll make it a lot easier to perform complex operations for our users in a graphical environment.

We will continue to support spatial databases of all types. We have plans to support new and improved database technologies: some are from vendors we already support, others are from vendors we have never dealt with before, and still others are open source databases such as PostGIS and MySQL. With large data volumes, people often need to put the data into databases. We want to make sure our users are able to do that. We're also spending time building plug-ins for third-party products so that end users can pick their database, their web server and their GIS of choice. This means that third-party GIS products will be able to read and work with any of the formats that FME supports. You're also going to see our products plug in to many of the leading GIS and web mapping solutions.

Check out the full press releases here:
Safe Software Releases Enhanced FME GDF Reader...
Safe Software's FME Technology to be Embedded in SuperpOSe, part of OS MasterMap


Geographic Data Technology, Inc. (Lebanon, NH), a developer of map databases, and TrafficCast (Madison, WI), a traffic information company and digital traffic data provider, announced a partnership to provide traffic information for LBS, fleet management, and telematics applications in North America.

Openwave Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: OPWV), an independent provider of open software products and services for the mobile communications industry, announced that four industry leaders have independently aligned with Openwave to drive the deployment of commercial location-based services for operators worldwide. Openwave® Location Studio and Openwave® Location Manager are the key infrastructure technologies to be marketed with location platforms, applications and software suites from Microsoft® (Nasdaq: MSFT), Motorola® (NYSE: MOT), Autodesk® (Nasdaq: ADSK) and Webraska®. Operators will be able to offer differentiated services and applications that can drive mobile usage and revenue.

An alliance between Trimble (NASDAQ: TRMB) and the ESRI Conservation Program will put global positioning systems (GPS) into the hands of those who work to conserve the Earth's natural resources. New devices that combine geographic information system (GIS) and GPS technology on a handheld tool aid conservationists in the monitoring, analysis, mapping, and understanding of natural resources and wildlife. As ESRI's non profit arm, the ESRI Conservation Program provides grants to thousands of public interest organizations. Trimble's new GeoExplorer CE series will provide greater GIS and GPS integration to conservationists.

Ingegneria Dei Sistemi S.p.a. (IDS) and Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions announced an acquisition agreement between the two companies. IDS will purchase from Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions a select portfolio of aeronautical products, intellectual property, and ongoing maintenance contracts, thereby strengthening the focus of the IDS Aeronautical Division. Key personnel of IDS responsible for developing the acquired products to provide ongoing customer support, maintenance, and development services to global customers are part of a consulting agreement between the two companies.


Just before the war was declared on Iraq by the U.S., an esteemed association declared its opposition to the conflict en masse at a trade conference.

Attendees of the 99th Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, held 5 - 8 March 2003 in New Orleans, Louisiana, presented the Association with a petition signed by 373 attendees, encouraging the Association to adopt a resolution regarding the possible pre-emptive strike on Iraq by the United States. The matter was discussed at the Association's annual business meeting, and the issue was put before the AAG Council. The Council adopted a resolution on the issue with a vote of 11 in favor (approving the resolution), 3 against, 2 abstentions, and 2 who did not vote. As adopted, the Resolution reads as follows:

“Whereas a principal objective of the AAG is "to encourage the application of geographic findings in education, government, and business," and

Whereas a substantial body of geographic research indicates that a pre-emptive attack by the United States on Iraq without the backing of the international community could undermine global stability, heighten tensions in Southwest Asia and the Middle East, precipitate a humanitarian and environmental crisis in Iraq, and undermine U.S. efforts to combat international terrorism;

Be it resolved that the Association of American Geographers opposes a pre-emptive war on Iraq without the backing of the United Nations Security Council and broad support from the international community.”

More on war -Jumping the gun on the AAG petition, the U.S. State Department selected Space Imaging's Geobook geographic information systems (GIS) product for use by the Department's Future of Iraq project. With the interests of the Iraqi people in mind, the working groups will use Geobook for planning for a better future for the people in fields such as local government, repair of infrastructure, economic development, and environmental studies. If you haven't heard of Geobook before it's because it is an unclassified Space Imaging geospatial product that provides a simple-to-use software program with a map-like interface that makes it easy for users to browse and store information on features such as facilities, pipelines, bridges, roads and other key civilian infrastructures. The infrastructure information is overlaid on Space Imaging's commercial one-meter color map-accurate IKONOS satellite imagery.

The products will consist of CDs in stand-alone Windows-based software for ease of use. A Federal Assistant Grant Award from the State Department sponsored the purchase of the Geobooks.

Arc Second, Inc., the provider of mobile engineering solutions and Indoor GPS technology, today the launch of its new Team 3Di Software developer program. Designed for developers to take advantage of the emerging Position Based Services (PBS) field. This field combines real-time position information with graphical data and enterprise systems. PBS focuses on indoor applications in robotics and manufacturing where highly accurate coordinate information is required. This indoor GPS capability coupled with CAD capability promises to change the way products are manufactured and assembled across many industries. Included in the Team 3Di Software developer program is the Microsoft.NET Compact Framework based SDK, which gives customers the ability to customize their Position based applications.

From France comes the announcement from ISTAR, a digital cartographic company, that on December 23, 2002, it won a bid launched by the European Commission Joint Research Center (JRC) to benchmark the impact of new digital aerial acquisition technology for managing Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) remote sensing campaigns. Currently ISTAR is the only European company selected for this project that aims to analyze photo quality, acquisition conditions and data production, and to determine if digital acquisition techniques are financially and technologically suited for CAP and other European State Member remote sensing programs. The European Commission hopes the evaluations will prove the technology will yield greater savings both in time and money than conventional methods in updating each State's orthoimage database.

DigitalGlobe(tm)'s QuickBird(tm) satellite imagery is being used by Canada's CLC-Camint Inc. to identify individual tree crowns in forest areas. CLC-Camint is bringing to the market the Individual Tree Crown (ITC) methodology using high-resolution space photos. This unique methodology was developed by Dr. François A. Gougeon, from the Canadian Forest Service (CFS), a well-known researcher in the international scientific community. Forestry professionals will be able to generate forest inventories and manage forestry practices more easily with this tool for classifying tree crowns.

The whole of Britain is now mapped “top to toe” in the Explorer series produced by Ordnance Survey, according to a recent announcement. This is the first time that all 403 maps have been brought together completing the mapping of the entire country. Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael MP congratulated Ordnance Survey at the opening of the Ordnance Survey Outdoors Show at the Birmingham NEC. Mr Michael said Explorer maps would play a fundamental role in years to come under countryside access legislation, which opens up new access rights.

The OpenGIS Consortium (OGC) has been at the vanguard of research on creating open GIS systems that can achieve interoperability. Each phase of development has taken that goal a little bit further-the OGC Web Mapping Testbed Phase 1 (WMT1) aimed to increase the users ability to access and overlay maps and earth images from other vendors' web map servers. This began a successful growth in the ability of many data providers and vendors to combine disparate data and others systems over the internet.

In 2000, Cadcorp introduced support for the OGIS Web Server as part of its Cadcorp SIS V5.2 Map Modeller. This support has expanded to include three servers: Web Map Server (serving rasters), Web Feature Server( served vectors) and Web Terrain Server (served 3D images) - all part of the release of Cadcorp SIS - Spatial Information System V6 and part of the Cadcorp SIS Map Modeller package.

Ducks Unlimited, the world's largest wetland conservation organization, have purchased multiple copies of Feature Analyst to support wildlife habitat mapping throughout the United States. GIS analysts working with digital imagery and mapping features such as wetlands, vegetation, hydrology, land-cover, and land-use features will be able to benefit from the Feature Analyst workflow that gives accurate and updated land-cover and land-use GIS data layers in far less time than hand digitizing.

ESRI announced that Gaz de France, a French gas utility company, is expanding its Commercial Information System (SIC) with GIS software from ESRI France, ESRI's French distributor. The new system, which is called GEOSIC, will provide the Gaz de France sales force with powerful tools for geographic analysis and visualization.


New York City has been both heralded and criticized for its response during 9/11. So it is good to report here that the city's advanced-technology mapping program that provided critical information to responders during 9/11, the West Nile virus outbreak and the anthrax threat has made the shortlist for the sought-after Innovations in American Government Award. In what is often referred to as “the Oscars” of government award programs, the Citywide Geographic Information Systems Utility is eligible to win $100,000, and receive a $10,000 grant as one of 15 finalists in the highly esteemed competition. There were over 1,000 entrants in the competition.

New York City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications manages the program's digital mapping system which gives an instantaneous, accurate and minutely detailed picture of every important physical detail of the city, that can be overlaid with information such as crime statistics and construction roadblocks. This data can be integrated on a common base map, putting all city departments on the same page.

By now, most of us have read or heard about how operations were curtailed during the attack on the World Trade Center. But the GIS department quickly regrouped and responded to more than 2,600 requests for maps and information. An effort that involved satellite imagery, remote sensing, handheld computers, wireless and GPS helped utility responders to pinpoint threats posed by underground gas tanks and other dangers of the wreckage.

Over $2.4 Million in awards have been announced by The Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre (OPGRC). A total of twelve grants have been awarded for the study of gambling behavior in specific demographic groups and for research into treatment options. The awards total $2,467,741.

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Acting Secretary Michael DiBerardinis announced 18 grants totaling more than $1.1 million to help nonprofit organizations and local governments protect and enhance waterways across the Commonwealth. DCNR approved six Rivers Conservation Program grants to help communities develop river-conservation plans.

In a contract valued at US$68 million, Motorola (NYSE: MOT), a provider of integrated communications solutions, systems and networking services to police forces around the world, was commissioned by the Hong Kong Police to deliver its third generation Command and Control Communications system (CC3). The contract includes 9 year maintenance of the system.


Bentley Systems, Incorporated announced the appointment of a new chief marketing officer (CMO), Anthony Flynn. In this newly created position, Flynn will manage the worldwide corporate marketing activities of the company and report to COO Malcolm Walter.

The position of CMO comes right at a time when Bentley's V8 Generation of products triggered the campaign launch of “managed environment” for users. The company has now formed vertical teams to serve its four vertical markets: building, plant, civil, and geospatial - and a new marketing platform for these teams is expected to follow.

New Products

WalkAbout Computers, Inc., manufacturers of rugged tablet computers for mobile workers in the utility, public safety/EMS and other vertical markets, is shipping their new Hammerhead XRT rugged Tablet PC. The Hammerhead XRT is the latest edition to WalkAbout's expanding line of rugged Tablet PCs and docking stations.

The County of Rockingham's Internet mapping and GIS application (http://rockingham.gisbrowser.com ) was just released according to Terralogic, Inc. With the new system, the public can access interactive maps and government records utilizing a common Internet browser. While the system provides a wealth of real estate and assessment information, it also includes aerial photography, tax maps, flood zones, public lands, forest districts, roads, streams, and terrain/elevation shading. The system is utilized internally by the county staff and externally by the public. Public users include lawyers, appraisers, real estate professionals, engineers, surveyors, insurance representatives and the general public. Terralogic, Inc., an applications service provider for GIS and FM systems, developed the custom application using Environmental Systems Research Institute's (ESRI) ArcIMS, Macromedia Cold Fusion, and Microsoft SQL Server.

Trekker, a new GPS-based orientation product designed for the blind and visually impaired, was launched this week by VisuAide at the CSUN conference on Technology and Persons with Disability.

Trekker is a personal digital assistant (PDA) application operating on a PocketPC with WinCE, with talking menus, talking maps and GPS information. Its features enable a blind person to determine position, create routes and receive information on navigating to a destination. It also offers search functions for an exhaustive database of point of interests, such as restaurants, hotels, office buildings, etc.

Leica Geosystems' new RUGBY 200 horizontal and vertical dual-axis laser for interior and general construction jobs is fully automatic in both the horizontal and vertical position, and features a bright visible beam with a working range of up to 1,000 ft. (300 m) , plus a plumb beam for 90° layout work and a plumb-down feature for setup over a point.

Storage Area Networks (OTCBB: SANZ) introduced its EarthWhere(TM) 2.0 Web-based spatial data management and provisioning application. Available either as a standalone software application or as part of an integrated appliance, EarthWhere Enterprise, EarthWhere 2.0 will be available for commercial implementation beginning April 1.

Tele Atlas announced the shipping of its comprehensive turn-by-turn map database in shapefile format. MultiNet Shapefile Format 4.1 allows users to successfully route customers to more destinations in North America than any other street network data provider.

GPS chipset and software vendor SiRF Technology announced that its SiRFLoc Multimode location platform is at the heart of a wide variety of new Location-Based Services (LBS), allowing mobile phone users to determine their exact position and take advantage of a variety of useful new location-aware applications.

Featured Downloads

GISCafe has many popular downloads in various categories that can be accessed directly by going here. Visitors are encouraged to go to the site and add new downloads or update their old ones.

Free Trial Software

MapWorld from HSC Group is an Internet Cartography Flash based viewer. Its aim is to simplify the consultation of geographical information for all Internet users. Mapworld uses traditional map-making as a source of information and shows the maps through the most ordinary Internet plug-in, Flash Player (Macromedia).

Around the Web

Maps of the War in Iraq include satellite imagery on CNN

Interactive maps of New Zealand can be found at Geosoft

A Ten Links Site of the Week, Ellen Finkelstein.com is a very good source of information on the new release AutoCAD 2004.

AutoCAD 2004 Preview by Terry Dotson, DotSoft, March 12, 2003

Small jump seen for software spending --Worldwide software spending should stage a modest recovery this year, after several years of decline, according to a study released by research firm Gartner Dataquest. Global software spending is expected to hit $76.1 billion in 2003, a 3.5 percent increase over the $73.5 billion spent in 2002, according to the report. The 2002 total dropped 0.7 percent from the previous year. CNET News March 17, 2003

A Trade Show Talks Shop Between Talk of an Invasion by Simon Romero, NY Times, March 20, 2003

Going on this Week

7th Annual Northeast Oregon Geographic Information System User Conference
Date: March 27, 2003
Place: Pendleton Convention Center Pendleton, OR USA
Theme: Tools, Tips, Tricks and Training The conference is a great place to learn more about how professionals throughout the region are using GIS to accomplish important objectives in the public and private sectors. People from throughout the area will be attending the conference representing federal, state, and local governments, academia and private industry. This is a great opportunity for you meet people active in the GIS field, exchange information and network with fellow GIS users. Exhibitors will be displaying the latest in GIS hardware, software and services.