February 23, 2004
DigitalGlobe & Keyhole Agreement and Review of Keyhole
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on GIScafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by GISCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! When we talk about making GIS accessible to a lot of people, Keyhole is the type of product that really does it. It can revolutionize the way we think about geography; how we visualize the globe and our place on it. Read about the recently signed agreement between DigitalGlobe and Keyhole, and about the Keyhole product and service, 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, Alliances/Acquisitions, Announcements, Appointments/Resignations, New Products, Going on Around the Web, and Upcoming Events.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

DigitalGlobe & Keyhole Agreement and Review of Keyhole

By Susan Smith

On January 27th a relationship was penned between
that provides the combination of DigitalGlobe's QuickBird satellite imagery and Keyhole's Internet-based 3D earth visualization solutions to customers of both companies. The two companies' solutions are aimed at business decision makers, who will be able to view satellite imagery in a very dynamic way by viewing an entire globe onscreen and zooming in on that globe to a specific area like a city or neighborhood to view roads, terrain and borders, and other details.

Traditionally, DigitalGlobe has attracted very high-end, government clients who use their data for scientific or analytical applications. This relationship with Keyhole really opens up opportunities for them to penetrate more non-government markets. For DigitalGlobe, the agreement affords them access to commercial markets, and Keyhole business customers have the added advantage of viewing satellite imagery in addition to Keyhole's other datasets.

Said Keyhole CEO John Hanke, “We're really designed to be a service, so we offer some software that's very unique and is pretty breathtaking to experience in terms of really smooth and fast 3D interaction with these very large geodatasets. But we offer that software with access to our database primarily, so we have over 12 terabytes of data today that are in that database. The software and access to the data come together as a package - a service that folks subscribe to on an annual basis. The application is designed not really for your traditional users of GIS remote sensing tools but for business people, designed as a decision support tool that gives them everything they need in a
easy to use and relatively inexpensive package, so they can leverage geoinformation in their line of work.”

In addition, the product does have data for business geographics. “Many of our users use it as a kind of very rich basemap on which to project their own proprietary data.”

At first many users may be reminded of ArcGlobe when they see Keyhole because the screen fills with an entire globe and the user can zoom in down to the smallest detail - your own house, for example. But that's where the similarity ends. ESRI's ArcGlobe is designed as an extension to ArcGIS 3D Analyst and enables users to manage and visualize very large sets of 3D geographic data. It is also a desktop application that allows users to interact with geographic data in layers on a 3D globe. It works with ESRI's local dataset so if an ArcGIS user has datasets that he or she wants to visualize from within a globe, they can buy the ArcGlobe extension to ArcGIS 3D Analyst to see their data
on to a globe. ArcGlobe requires that you provide the data that will go into the dataset and create something with the product.

On the other hand, Keyhole was developed in 2001 as a service offered to users and is presented to the user similarly as a very simple globe. All the data is already there and is designed so that users can interact with geographic data in layers on a 3D globe, and you can spin the globe around to a spot and fly into it. “Keyhole software runs on your desktop PC. It's a 3D globe that's sitting on your desktop and you can reach up with your mouse and click on a spot and fly into it; there's a cursor that works a little like a hand and you can just reach out and grab the globe and spin it around to the area that you're interested in then you can fly in. According to Hanke, “It's
like a video game.
It's not like a traditional database product where you're selecting an area and it queries and returns some results to you. You simply point where you want to go and then you fly down to the streets of Chicago, San Francisco, or wherever you want to go. We stream the data to you as you're moving, so as a user you have this phenomenally powerful sensation that this enormous dataset is just sitting right there in front of you on your PC in this globe and you can look at wherever you want to look at and very fluidly fly to that location. Then you very fluidly spin around, zoom in and out, pan around, turn on layers of data. You can turn on your GDT roads or any of the six million businesses
are encoded in and see icons laid on top of the imagery. Everything is draped over a terrain model, so there's a 3D element to it as well. We just present it as this extremely easy to use globe that they can use as an information resource.”

Keyhole has a very lightweight client application which is used to access the information from the service. Prior to its relationship with DigitalGlobe, Keyhole covered 52% of the U.S. population by rooftop, using aerial photography for much of it. “Just the nature of satellite collection means that we can reach out to areas that it wasn't practical to do with aerial photography, so we expect that the extent of our database and the currency of it will benefit enormously from the relationship with DigitalGlobe,” concluded Hanke.

The price is $599 /yearly for the professional product. That includes the viewer that you need to access the information and also includes access to all the data that populates the globe. Currently Keyhole covers more than 60 US metros with high resolution imagery, terrain data, road data and business information.

The Review

The way Hanke described the product is very much as it is to use. The product does have some great potential as a sales tool for real estate, travel agencies, education, and many other professions. There is nothing like it to give a visual and spatial understanding of where you are on the globe. And, users will find great value in having access to over 12 terabytes of data.

Using Keyhole Pro (the commercial version), I encountered a little confusion when you get to a screen that gives you a choice between “Sign up” and “Continue” -after you have already signed up and been given a password, etc. Continue at this point and you will be able to select layers such as roads, addresses, boundaries and terrain data. You can also select businesses and find out addresses and other information on businesses as needed. You can tilt the globe to be able to see the terrain details and various interesting views of the globe and landscape.

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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.


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