January 31, 2005
Analyzing the Earth's Natural Processes
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! Geoka's Ladwein map (developed by the company's scientific director, Richard Ladwein) is used by planners and decision makers for analysis of the earth's surface and its natural processes, in order to detect and prevent disasters. The Ladwein map involves an analysis of the earth's surface with software and the discovery of new, unidentified natural processes and their exact locations. Find out more about it 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

Industry News

Analyzing the Earth's Natural Processes

By Susan Smith

When I first heard about the company
Geoka, I was fascinated by what it calls the Ladwein map (developed by the company's scientific director, Richard Ladwein), used by planners and decision makers for analysis of the earth's surface. The Ladwein map involves an analysis of the earth's surface with software and the discovery of new, unidentified natural processes and their exact locations. As a result of climate change, natural processes such as strong rains, flooding and landslides are occurring with more frequency. Current methods of detecting weak zones in the earth are costly and require in-depth research of obvious or well known events or hazards. They also can involve drillings
and subjective appraisals by specialists.

Ladwein Map of La Conchita

The mudslide in La Conchita occurred despite a retaining wall which had been built after an earlier mudslide ten years ago. Geological appraisals after the first mudslide had said that it would take 100’000 years before another mudslide would happen at that location again. They were wrong.

The Ladwein Map would have led to other conclusions.
By using the Ladwein Map, even a lay person can recognize endangered and safe areas at a glance, for example by overlaying the Ladwein Map on a high resolution satellite photo. While the satellite photo will show the landscape, the Ladwein Map supplies the necessary interpretation and shows information on nature processes on the earth's surface and the endangerments resulting from them. The satellite photo alone cannot give any interpretation.

In an interview with David Din of Geoka, based in Trier, Germany at the company's Geomorphologic Research Center Geoka, I learned more:

1) Geoka appears to depend heavily on location and GIS. What is the technology? Is it a known GIS or your own creation?

The GIS software of Geoka was developed together with ESRI Switzerland. The software is proprietary to Geoka. Geoka does not distribute or sell its software. Geoka sells its Ladwein Maps as hard copies or in electronic form.

2) You say that it differs from conventional hazard identification technology in that it doesn't depend upon specialists or previous events - can you explain further that differentiation?

The Ladwein Map shows that several areas in the entire slope are threatened by landslides. It is impossible that the retaining wall can stabilize the entire slope.

Out of ignorance and based on faulty analyses, wrong security measures are built far too often, resulting in extremely high maintenance costs . The Ladwein Map shows in which places security measures are useful. The cost savings are enormous, even in small, limited areas.
Geoka's SPIRS procedure analyzes the earth's surface using the 3D model (raster data). It does not need any additional information such as geology or cadastre. Geoka finds so far unidentified locations of natural processes and weak zones that cannot be found using conventional methods. It provides analysis of the geometry of the angles of inclination to give data on rock bases, formation changes, break lines, and state of decomposition or erosion. The procedure can penetrate small local water sheds into the underground near the surface, and shows water regimes before the actual source.

3) The success of prevention of an event would depend upon whether that geographical area was being researched by Geoka, is that correct?

Yes, an area has to be analyzed by Geoka's software, resulting in the Ladwein Map. This map can be used by local specialists in determining and applying adequate measures for the prevention of events.

4) How many geographical areas have been studied by Geoka?

Our maps have been verified in a huge reference project with specialists from four different universities. In these projects, Geoka found 100% of all known hazards in areas that were determined by the project members. The Ladwein Map uncovered additional areas that were not known before to the specialists to have important processes. The areas were in Europe, South America and in the Caribbean.

5) Is the Ladwein Map used in large geographical areas or small, specific ones?

Damaged by a hidden undercutting.

The Ladwein Map tells the road builders at which places the road is on endangered grounds, therefore requiring a thicker protective layer. By applying a more efficient building method, approx. 20% of the annual maintenance budget for existing infrastructure can be saved for roads and rails.
The Ladwein Map can and should be used for large areas. However, it can also be applied to local areas such as valley systems.

6) Would it be at all useful in determining very large floods, or be helpful in any way with the recent tsunami in Asia?

The SPIRS procedure shows where sediments will be washed away from slopes during strong rainfalls. These sediments can block rivers, thus resulting in floods. The Ladwein Map will clearly show these locations and can therefore be used to analyze the potential of floods. The important difference with floods is that the system works with erosion that is affecting river banks from behind (from the land), thus weakening river bank and dams.

Daratech Facts

This week I attended daratechPLANT2005 in Houston. While Daratech tracks the top GIS firms, as yet the research and analysis firm does not host a “daratechGIS.” However, some interesting facts came out of that conference that may be of interest to GIS users, which I will include here.

Only 80 of the 350 companies that Daratech tracks are public companies. Of course, it is easier to track public companies because they are required to reveal their financials, and getting financials from a private company can be somewhat difficult. Daratech CEO Charles Foundyller recounted a case where they wanted to get an idea of the financial standing of one successful private company and counted all the cars in the parking lot of their home office. An attendee pointed out that this strategy wouldn't work well in Europe because so many people use public transportation. Also there are no benchmarking companies like Daratech in Europe, and there is a need for them.

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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.


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