July 11, 2005
Help is on the Way for Spatial Database Users
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| by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -
Welcome to GISWeekly! Help, in the form of Safe Software's Feature Manipulation Engine (FME) Suite 2005, is on the way for users of spatial databases such as Oracle Spatial. A lot has been written about the benefits of Oracle Spatial, but far less is written or said about how you import and export data from the database. Read about this and FME's support of GML 3.1.1 which was just released at the end of April, in this week's Industry News.
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, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Appointments, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.
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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Help is on the Way for Spatial Database Users
By Susan Smith
Help, in the form of Safe Software's Feature Manipulation Engine (FME) Suite 2005, is on the way for users of spatial databases such as Oracle Spatial. A lot has been written about the benefits of Oracle Spatial, but far less is written or said about how you import and export data from the database.
This week I spoke with the founders of Safe Software, Don Murray and Dale Lutz about the new release of FME and what it brings to the table. The enhancements to FME Suite 2005 represent a year of development work. “We now have a fairly large engineering team of 30 people, that's why this release has such a significant number of additions to it.”
Everything is interoperable with Oracle, say the vendors, and “for certain applications it certainly is once you get the data in there,” added Murray. “With databases, the trick is getting the data in. We use this analogy - if the database is a jet plane then the data is the fuel. So if you can't get the fuel into it then you're not going to be able to watch it perform.”
Support of Oracle Spatial in the specific way mentioned above is one of the top features of this new product, but in addition, FME now manages raster formats as well. “That's a significant new direction for us,” noted Murray. “We've always steered clear of raster formats over the years, but now people are looking at the database systems to manage imagery as well as vector. We've been approached by enough customers that we realize we need to do the same for raster as we do for vector.”
FME supports both Oracle Spatial and ArcSDE on the raster side.
Another new area of support for FME is the support of open source free software such as MySQL, MySQL Spatial, and PostGIS.
Moving away from the database, FME now supports GML 3.1.1 which was just released at the end of April, and a Swedish government format that is based on GML 3. Safe Software is now working on supporting the GML of Germany which is called the (NDF) National Data Format for Germany.
“Many people end up using FME to load fairly complex government GML formats into database systems like Oracle Spatial or ArcSDE, and often they will be loading up the base map for all of England,” said Lutz. “They need to do that in a timely way and that's a big chunk of our business.”
Action on the Raster Side
“In the future you can expect to see us do what we've done in the vector side -- add more raster formats and more raster transformers to allow people to do interesting things with rasters,” said Murray.
Although the popularity of Google Maps and Google Earth, Yahoo Maps, and Microsoft MSN Earth, demonstrates that vector will continue to be important, database users have provided a strong impetus for FME to embrace raster as well. Customers want to take advantage of the raster capabilities in products such as Oracle Spatial.
”We're also being asked to go the other way,” said Murray. “Once the rasters are all loaded up nicely and made into a seamless image inside a database, some folks want to be able to say 'Cut that chunk out for me, so I can sell it to somebody, or let me have a local copy.'”
“Our next version of SpatialDirect, which is based on FME technology, will allow users to use our SpatialDirect product, but also to distribute raster imagery, not just vector, as it does now.”
The product will allow you to browse an area of interest on a website, then have both vector and raster delivered to your desktop.
“We're working closely with a state government that provides spatial data download capabilities on their website. They want the ability to distribute both raster imagery as well as vector data. By early fall, this will be operational,” Murray said.
Besides MySQL and PostGIS, FME now supports Autodesk DWF and Excel. The work Safe Software does with OGC and GML work is “massive,” and they license that technology to quite a number of the GIS vendors. “Tied directly in with that is our Web Feature Server Client. A lot of people talk about putting up Web Features Services but WFSs are only as interesting as the clients out there that actually use them,” explained Murray. “We are very pleased that our client software is one of the better ones around and does plug into a number of the other vendors' products as well. We feel that our client software for WFS has greatly improved the usability of the WFS servers
that are popping up. We tested it with all the major vendors' WFSs, so it works with Intergraph , MapInfo, Ionic, ESRI -- it works with all of them.”
Safe Software has been very involved with the GML Relays and the GML Plugfest, which strove to get vendors' technologies to work together. “That was really instrumental in making our WFS support so good because we were able to get really good technical contacts within all these companies,” said Murray. “In terms of our own FME users, many only regularly use four or five formats -- so while I'm really excited about GML and WFS, some users will care and other users will not. Our challenge is, how do we keep such a diverse audience entertained?”
One of the most important features of FME is Workbench, which is used by all users regardless of which formats they are working with. “Workbench lets people set up the translations graphically,” explained Lutz. “In Workbench we did a number of things to help people deal with very large and complicated transformations. We have some users in Germany who use 1500 different kinds of building blocks chained together in a web to perform a data migration very key to their business. If you have 1500 dots on your drawing, that's very difficult to deal with and manage, as well as reading it in and writing it out, so we did a bunch of work on our performance in these large
situations. We introduced two ideas into Workbench to help people manage complexity:
1) bookmarks -- you can identify an area of your translation and establish, say, where you deal with parcel labels. Maybe there are 12 operations that get your parcel labels together. Now they are nicely labeled inside your overall transformation so if there's trouble with parcel labels, you can click on one place you are looking at the part that's relevant.
2) compound transformers - these group several operations into just one. For example, you drag a box around say, 50 transformers, press a button and one little box appears to replace them all. Now you can use that box in several places, and reduce the complexity of your diagrams.”
Workbench is the authoring environment for users, and in some companies they may run the resulting translation configurations on different platforms. “Within Workbench, we've made it much easier to set these things up for batch deployment,” Lutz explained. “We now how users how to run the resulting translations from the command line, and then they can run these Workbench configurations from within a server environment.”
Simple Feature GML (SF-GML)
On the OGC GML front, the new Simple Feature GML (SF-GML) is a profile which limits which GML facilities can be used in a data transfer. Having a profile will go a long way to helping people write to universal WFS clients. Right now, a WFS client has to be able to absorb anything a WFS server throws out, and the servers are allowed not limited in the aspects of GML they choose to use. “It will require a little bit more work on the server, but will go a long way to making the WFS GML world more manageable,” said Lutz. “The current state of GML in WFS is like the Wild West - a lawless landscape that needs some law and order, and the Simple Feature GML will be like the
sheriff that arrives in the town to settle things down.”
Safe Software has devoted a new webpage devoted to the FME Suite 2005 release. (link to
GlobeXplorer, provider of online earth imagery and maps, announced a distribution agreement with Sanborn, a provider of high-resolution aerial and mapping services and remote sensing solutions. With this new relationship, Sanborn's high quality “CitySets” aerial imagery content will be made available online within GlobeXplorer's suite of Web-based imagery products.
This new arrangement will make Sanborn's CitySets an important data source in GlobeXplorer's ImageAtlas viewers, ImageConnect extensions for GIS and CAD desktop applications, and a premium aerial imagery source for GlobeXplorer's ImageBuilder developer's toolkit.
Autodesk, Inc. announced that it has completed the acquisition of c-plan AG worth approximately $18 million USD plus net working capital. On May 3, 2005, Autodesk announced a definitive agreement to acquire c-plan -a provider of open-standard geographic information systems (GIS) throughout Central Europe. See
Tele Atlas, a global provider of digital map data and other geographic content, has teamed with Pioneer to deliver superior mapping information containing traffic location codes to Pioneer Electronic's AVIC-N2. The AVIC-N2 is an in-car navigation and entertainment system with intelligent route guidance and state-of-the-art address searching.
Leica Geosystems expands its North American headquarters in metropolitan Atlanta. At the same time, Leica Geosystems announces the acquisition of Terramatics Inc., active in the inertial positioning industry. The acquisition further strengthens the expertise of Leica Geosystems' Geospatial Imaging division.
PCI Geomatics® extends its partnership with GeoTango by becoming a global distributor of SilverEye, a software solution designed to extract 3D information from a single image.
GBA Master Series, Inc. (gbaMS) and Nobel Systems, Inc. (Nobel) have initiated strategic business partnering efforts aimed at better serving their common core markets of cities, counties, water districts, and sanitation districts. The focus of these efforts is the coupling of Nobel's specialized geographic information systems (GIS) and information technology (IT) services with the GBA Master Series suite of infrastructure management software applications developed by gbaMS.
Intrado Inc., a global provider of integrated data and telecommunications solutions, and PDAger (XieJin) Technology Development Co., Ltd., a provider of mobility services and wireless emergency call solutions, announced a memorandum of understanding regarding the companies' intent to form a joint venture focused on developing enhanced emergency communications solutions for public safety and disaster management agencies in China.
Isilon(R) Systems, provider of intelligent clustered storage, announced that GlobeXplorer(R) LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Stewart Information Services Corp., has selected Isilon's award-winning Isilon IQ clustered storage systems to collect, store and manage the world's largest and fastest-growing commercial library of maps and aerial and satellite imagery. GlobeXplorer has provided its flexible subscription-based services to leading Internet portals such as Mapquest.com, Maps.com, National Geographic, ADT, real-estate companies, and U.S. Government agencies that include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Census Bureau and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.
Open Spatial Australia announced a new partnership with New Zealand based Matrix Applied Computing Ltd. This new agreement establishes Matrix as an official reseller for New Zealand and enables them to supply the region's Spatial Data Capture and Management application Munsys and Open Spatial's enterprise spatial distribution product, enlighten.
NavCom Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of Deere & Company and C & C Technologies, announced a five-year extension to their agreement for the distribution of C-Nav GPS. This agreement enables C&C Technologies the ability to provide StarFire differential GPS receivers and the related correction signals worldwide. The agreement continues to be exclusive with respect to offshore operations pertaining to satellite navigation positioning on projects for surveying, mapping, geophysics, mining, cable laying and offshore construction, installation, inspection, and maintenance operations.
URISA is pleased to announce the results of its 2005 Board of Directors Election. Ed Wells, GISP, AICP will become President-Elect of the association and Ingrid Bruce, Zhong-Ren Peng, and Cy Smith will begin their three-year terms as members of the Board of Directors, at the close of URISA's 43rd Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri this October.
On June 20th 2005, Michael McDowell TD, Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform and the Chief Executive & Registrar of Deeds and Titles, Catherine Treacy formally launched the final project in the computerization of the Land Registry - Digital Mapping. The Land Registry of Ireland has been in the vanguard of delivering Information Society technologies in Ireland. The approach to these opportunities has been to allow new ways of interacting and to challenge the boundaries of what is traditionally possible in terms of both time and location.
The Open Geospatial Consortium Inc. (OGC) invites public comment on a candidate specification that will soon be presented for approval by OGC members as an OpenGIS(R) Implementation Specification Profile.
The OGC candidate specification, "GML simple features profile" is available for
. Comments can be submitted to
during a thirty-day public review period ending August 4th, 2005. Comments received will be consolidated and reviewed by OGC members for incorporation into the proposed specification.
The Open Geospatial Consortium Inc. (OGC) has announced that July 24, 2005 will be the kickoff date for an OGC Interoperability Experiment to support open access to atmospheric and oceanographic modeling and simulation outputs.
The GALEON (Gateway or Geo-interface for Air Land Earth Ocean NetCDF) Interoperability Experiment will implement a geo-interface to netCDF datasets via the OpenGIS(R) Web Coverage Server (WCS 1.0) protocol specification. The interface will provide interoperability among netCDF, OPeNDAP, ADDE, and THREDDS client/server and catalog protocols.
The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) announced the panel sessions for its GEOINT 2005 Symposium to be held October 31 -- November 3, in San Antonio, TX.
is a platform for individuals, organizations, companies, academics, and government agencies involved in geospatial intelligence to exchange ideas, uncover new technologies and network.
At the meeting of its Board of Directors 22 June, Spot Image named Hervé Buchwalter as its new Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, as of 1 July. He succeeds Jean-Marc Nasr who lead the company since 2001, and who is moving to a new position within the EADS group.
Hervé Buchwalter, 45, joined Matra Espace in 1983. He occupied a series of management positions in the field of Earth observation systems, particularly on the French and European SPOT 5, Envisat and METOP programmes, by which time the company had become EADS Astrium.
Peter Paulson, CEO of Pure Technologies Ltd., has announced Larry Bowe Jr. as president of a newly-formed business unit, PureTech Systems Inc. Based in Phoenix, Ariz., Bowe will be responsible for accelerating the development and market deployment of PureLink, Pure's industry-leading GIS-based surveillance and alarm management solution.
Intergraph Corporation announced Progress Energy has selected Intergraph's G/Technology(TM) to upgrade and merge disparate AM/FM/GIS systems within its two electric utilities, Progress Energy Florida and Progress Energy Carolinas. Progress Energy will upgrade its existing FRAMME-based AM/FM/GIS applications, combining them into a common G/Technology network model for all of Progress Energy. The centralized system will improve data access for Progress Energy employees, such as project planners, designers, GIS operators, inspectors and maintenance teams in the field. Progress Energy will use G/Technology as the core enabling technology of a comprehensive Geospatial Resource Management
(GRM) system that streamlines service delivery workflows.
Surdex Corporation announced it has been awarded a $5.8M contract by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to produce digital orthophotos covering seven US states this year. The National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) is administered by the USDA's Aerial Photography Field Office on behalf of the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA). The FSA utilizes data produced by NAIP each year to administer the US Farm Compliance programs. In addition, numerous federal, state, and local governments also participate in the program and are cost-sharing partners.
The city of Sacramento, CA, home to more than 440,000 residents and the capital of California, has awarded a $1.2 million contract to California-based Accela, Inc. for a comprehensive, web-based land management solution. Using Accela Automation(tm), the Development Services Department and its divisions will be able to better reach and serve customers and constituents -- whether it be accepting applications via the Web or completing inspections in the field.
Offshore Systems International Ltd. announced signed contracts totaling CDN$1.4 million in new U.S. business since acquiring Mapcon Mapping Consultants of Salt Lake City, Utah in April 2005. This includes new prime land mapping contracts with Pierce County in Washington State for nearly $600,000 and Seattle, Washington for $250,000.
GeoDecisions, specializing in geospatial solutions, has been contracted by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to create a geographic information systems (GIS) and roadway data collection (RDC) implementation plan.
Recognizing the need for a standardized, industry-accepted, entry-level certification for the geospatial industry, Digital Quest, Inc. recently held the first annual STARS Geospatial Forum at the NASA Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Representatives of the geospatial industry, government and educational community came together to discuss the need and support for the STARS Geospatial Certification.
STARS (Spatial Technology and Remote Sensing) is a fully-developed "turn-key" certification program for high schools, colleges and universities as well as career professionals looking to integrate GIS tools into their on-the-job skill set. Through STARS, students master the use of geospatial problem solving, software, data, and tools standard in the geospatial industry. The industry is among the top three fastest growing career fields in the U.S., with a 15 percent growth in new jobs projected over the next decade.
GeoSpatial Training & Consulting, LLC, a provider of virtual and instructor led GIS training and consulting services, announced that it is releasing a new Web site that provides virtual GIS training services.
Self-paced virtual training courses
are designed to fully engage the student in the learning process through the use of audio lectures, visual software demonstrations, exercises, Flash based lectures, and one-on-one interactions between the student and instructor.
Airborne 1 Corporation, a provider of advanced LiDAR services, rentals, and software worldwide, is pleased to announce the company's third annual TerraScan User Event. This informative week-long training session for both beginners and intermediate users of Terrasolid products will be held in Los Angeles, CA from August 29th-September 2nd, 2005.
To register and reserve your seat, visit the
TSUE 2005 website
. Interested parties may also contact Airborne 1's TSUE event coordinator Alejandra Espinosa by telephone at (310) 414-7400, by e-mail at
, or by fax at (310) 414-7409. Early registration is advised, as spaces are limited.
GeoDecisions is co-hosting an educational seminar on how geographic information systems (GIS) solutions can help law enforcement agencies fight crime.
“ArcGIS Solutions for Effective Crime Analysis and Mapping” will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Aug. 23, 2005, at the Radisson Hotel Columbus-Worthington in Columbus, Ohio.
For more information on “ArcGIS Solutions for Effective Crime Analysis and Mapping,” visit the
RealBird, Inc., a provider of online maps and GIS tools tailored for the real estate industry announced that Google Earth is integrated with RealBird maps, allowing homebuyers virtual “flyover” visits to see homes for sale.
service includes street, aerial and topographical maps, broker-branded driving directions and various visualized data layers, with interactive hotspots that can be linked to photos, Web sites or virtual tours.
MapMechanics' new solution, Daytime Demographics, picks up the lead given by the 2001 Census, which for the first time asked where people worked during the day as well as where they lived. MapMechanics has taken the resultant information and attached it meaningfully to individual sections of streets, offering users a much more precise basis than the Census data alone for making informed decisions on issues such as the retail potential of an area.
ESRI announced the release of its printed sourcebooks, Community Sourcebook of ZIP Code Demographics and Community Sourcebook of County Demographics. This new release also contains updates and projections for data such as population, age distribution, and income. Demographic spending potential indexes are also included for 20 categories such as financial services, home improvement, entertainment, home furnishings, apparel, automotive aftermarket, health insurance, pets, and pet supplies.
Letters to the Editor
GIS in Healthcare
Congratulations for such great and needed efforts. I am sure the entire GIS community appreciates your great work. Thank you!
It seems that the healthcare industry, specifically health insurance companies, such as Humana, UnitedHealth, Blue Cross & Blue Shield, do not utilize the GIS. And if they do then we do not hear about it. Some do have implementation of demographic access and address mapping; however; that is just a minor GIS implementation.
It will be extremely useful for us and many others if you can feature a series on healthcare GIS. I will certainly learn from it.
We have covered
before - just after ESRI UC. It is an emerging technology so I'm sure we'll begin to hear and write more about it.
Thanks for writing.
GPS Deviation from the Norm
I've discovered through experience a deviation from the GPS norm. Generally, we know that 26 GPS satellites orbit the globe, enabling handheld and mobile GPS units to give the coordinates of your current position within inches and feet. My experience has taught me the satellites themselves have limits to where they can reach you and report your position data. We know that obstacles, such as walls, wires, trees can interfere with a GPS satellite signal. However, satellite physics now appears to have played a role. Hypothetically, some topographic features, particularly man-made, are out of position for satellites to reach a GPS device. Recently, I was at a communications tower located in a
downtown area near a local newspaper office. I discovered when trying to get GPS coordinates for "USGS, The National Map" my GPS device was getting enough satellites to give me a position. My satellites' position window indicated I was only picking up three satellites, the remaining satellites were still outside the big circle and registering at the top hemisphere of the satellite position indicator. This means the entire top half of the GPS satellite indicator was crowded with satellites while only three satellites got within the little circle range, not enough satellites for a ground position. To a geographer doing GIS physics, it means that not only do obstacles play a significance in
getting your position, so does the position of those obstacles relative to your position and the position of the GPS satellites' orbit. Finally, your position relative to satellite orbits may determine if a GPS signal can reach you. Basically, there are GPS blind spots on earth where you could literally be invisible to GPS position satellites.
Around the Web
Norwegian Minister: Proprietary Formats No Longer Acceptable in Communication with Government Tatle
, June 29, 2005--On presenting his new plan for information technology in Norway - "eNorge 2009 - the digital leap", Norwegian Minister of Modernization Morten Andreas Meyer at a press conference in Oslo declared "Proprietary formats will no longer be acceptable in communication between citizens and government."
Quake Watch Turns to Tech
by Stephanie Olsen, July 6, 2005, CNET News.com
- While they're no more sure of the next big earthquake than a gambler is of the outcome of a football game, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey are getting better at setting the odds and getting the word out thanks to new technologies and the near-ubiquity of the Web.
Date: July 18 - 22, 2005
Place: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
GML Days 2005 will be the fourth annual conference on the OGC Geography Mark-up Language (GML) and Web Services for GIS. GML is rapidly emerging as the world standard for the XML encoding of geographic information and is the foundation for the Geo-Web. GML is being applied to a wide range of geographic applications including homeland security & critical infrastructure protection, integrated land and resource management, location-based services, telematics and intelligent transportation systems, and oceanography.
Date: July 21 - 23, 2005
Place: AECC Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom
6th International Symposium Computer Mapping and GIS for Coastal Zone Management Defining and Building a Marine and Coastal Spatial Data Infrastructure As a major event, the CoastGIS series of conferences attracts an international audience of coastal researchers, managers and practitioners who use one or more of the geospatial technologies. CoastGIS 2005 will be held in Aberdeen, Scotland at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC).
Date: July 21 - 23, 2005
Place: Aberdeen, Scotland,, United Kingdom
CoastGIS 2005 is the sixth International Symposium on GIS and Computer Cartography for Coastal Zone Management. It is also the second CoastGIS Symposium to be offered in Aberdeen, Scotland, UK. In association with the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) we are now pleased to invite you to visit Aberdeen once again and to participate in CoastGIS 2005: 21st-23rd July 2005. As a major event, the CoastGIS series attracts an international audience of coastal researchers, managers, practitioners who use one or more of the geospatial technologies. CoastGIS 2005 will be held in Aberdeen Scotland at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC).
Date: July 25 - 29, 2005
Place: San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA USA
Discover a community of peers eager to share their ideas, expertise, and practical applications of GIS in their organizations at the largest GIS event of the year.
Date: July 31 - August 2, 2005
Place: Asilomar Conference Grounds Pacific Grove, CA USA
The conference will discuss and promote the use of geospatial technologies for the conservation of natural resources and cultural heritage throughout the world. Technical applications of GIS in conservation, as well as recurring philosophical and ethical issues faced by conservationists, will be explored.
You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here
To read more news, click here
-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.