September 17, 2007
Visual Fusion: Visual Composite Applications
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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“Fusion” has become a popular tag in our society, what with Asian and other “Fusion” style foods tempting us. The term is liberally used in the geospatial industry as well, as it becomes more apparent that some information becomes more valuable if fused with other information--such as maps, datasets, visualizations, spreadsheets--into a cohesive fabric.

IDV Solutions has spawned the Visual Fusion Suite, comprised of Visual Fusion Server and Visual Fusion Client, which brings to the market visual consolidation of disparate data sets into a compelling, interactive web-based application

Visual Fusion Server is a composite application server, which connects to enterprise and government databases such as SQL Server, Oracle and HR, and pulls those databases into one web based portal. The information in those databases can be overlaid on a Virtual Earth based map so that companies can see their data dynamically and interactively displayed. They can also bring in third party applications, and WMS Feeds, Geo RSS feeds, and real time weather. Visual Fusion Client is a “rich internet application product developed for a standard web browser, displaying information in a dynamic interface. Visual Fusion Suite combines the two products to provide a platform for bringing data
together in an intuitive, user-friendly mapping and information display.”

Last week, IDV Solutions launched their Labs site, IDV Solutions Labs. According to the press release, “The new lab focuses on the emerging technologies in visual composite applications. Established to serve as a research vessel, the site will be IDV's forum for experiments to continue to drive innovation in the evolving world of composite applications…The lab will function as a forum for topics related to composite applications, location intelligence, visualization products and services, etc.”

IDV Solutions is the first company to bring to my attention the tag, “visual composite applications.”

Labs will focus on technology and what the IDV Solutions products can do with other technologies. The first lab involved finding out if their flagship Visual Fusion Suite product can be used on an iPhone, i.e., can you see points on a map through SharePoint with the technology on the iPhone?

Other opportunities to contribute and talk about technology with IDV Solutions are on the two blog sites hosted on Microsoft Spaces, according to Sarah Wicker, marketing director for IDV Solutions.

Examples of IDV Solutions’ applications can be viewed on their
website. Other examples include a Hurricane Management System for BP after Hurricane Katrina. BP needed a solution that would provide decision makers with a big picture of what’s happening across the eight platforms the company operates in the deep-water continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico.

IDV Solutions took all their assets in the Gulf Coast region: oil rigs, people, stations, etc., and pulled them together, and placed them as points on a Microsoft Virtual Earth map. “They’re dynamic so as you click on an oil rig out in the Gulf Coast, the information populates and the details pan and you can have a real time camera showing a live feed of information from that rig,” explained Wicker. “The product will pull the people in real time on that rig, overlay real time weather and predictive hurricane weather. As hurricanes are moving through the Gulf, the decision makers can see in a quick instance – they know up to the minute when they need to
close a rig down and when they need to get their people off of that rig, so it’s saving them a lot of time, productivity and costs.”

“BP became acquainted with IDV’s prowess in stitching technologies together using Virtual Earth, SharePoint and SQL Server, and exposing them this way,” Marise Mikulis, global energy industry manager at Microsoft, said. “IDV had the secret ingredient, the know-how that became the catalyst to help BP get where they wanted to go, using the technology investments they already had.”

Once the BP team saw how the Microsoft technology enabled them to draw data from any number of locations and display it for users however they chose, they realized how it could prove useful in integrating the mind-numbing stream of data that faces regional managers during storms and other catastrophic events.

The solution would draw on geographic information from ESRI data and would include past hurricane information, along with information on people, platforms, pipelines, buoys, vehicles and offices.

Using IDV’s Visual Fusion Suite, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth global imaging platform, IDV was able to bring more than 25 data sets into a single application and provide a unified, geographic view of the entire Gulf region that can be analyzed, sorted, filtered and collaborated upon — from Houston all the way to London, and anywhere else on the planet.Currently, IDV is working with the NGA to create the Avian Influenza Mapping system to track Avian flu.

Reuters created a better mapping systems for their news system using Visual Fusion. With the lat long capabilities Visual Fusion Suite software has, they can pinpoint those stories on a map so people can see where the story is coming from add get more locally related information based on these stories.

IDV Solutions sells its products out of the box. A company will need some coding in order to hook the visual composite software into theirs. Visual Fusion for SharePoint product basically takes Microsoft’s Office SharePoint server and Visual Fusion to create a visual composite application with our software and SharePoint and manages it from an easily manageable SharePoint list.

There are three web components within the product. The Visual Fusion client, which is basically the portal web part; the map web part, which has the Virtual Earth base map and then the flash layers that are overlaid on the Virtual Earth map. There is the right side panel which has the details, panels or feed manager and the bottom has anything the organization wants to bring in. “If it’s hooked into an HR database, they can click on a specific asset on the map and it pulls in employees that are at that location,” said Wicker. “Some of it takes more customization, but that depends upon what the client is looking for.”

Wicker said Visual Fusion works with any kind of base map. They have a product called Visual Fusion Tile Server where if there’s an organization that has their own imagery that they would rather use as their base map they can use the product to do that. Although IDV is a Gold Certified Microsoft partner, they also can build an application based on a client’s needs. They use Microsoft products such as SharePoint, which falls in line with the Visual Fusion for SharePoint product, and SQL Server, and are starting to build with Silver Light and other emerging Microsoft technologies.

The basic premise behind Visual Fusion is the ease of the user interface and design, said Wicker. There is no training required for users. “If an application has a very easy design but it’s also interesting and dynamic, you’re more apt to get the information out of it, and your managers and company will use it more.”

Top News of the Week

Applied Science Associates, Inc. (ASA) announced the next release of its breakthrough extension tool for ESRI’s ArcGIS industry standard GIS software. ASA’s TimeSlider is an extension for ArcGIS 9.1 and now offered for ArcGIS 9.2 that provides functionality to animate feature data that has date and time information.

When ASA first offered the TimeSlider extension for ArcGIS 9.1 in July, positive response and overwhelming demand ensured that ASA would develop and offer the tool for ArcGIS 9.2 as freeware as soon as possible. “One of the challenges with managing 2 and 3-dimensional geospatial data is displaying and understanding data as it evolves over time,” explains Eoin Howlett, ASA’s CEO, who recently assigned a dedicated team to expand ASA’s freeware and GIS tools development.

Pictometry International Corp. announced that it will formally introduce two new products for the assessor and appraiser communities at IAAO 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia from September 9 – 12, 2007.

The integration of Pictometry’s Electronic Field Study™ (EFS) measurement software with new products provides an even more compelling set of solutions for assessors and appraisers. These new products include:

Eco-View™ - Combines the diagnostic power of near infrared (NIR) technology with high-resolution oblique aerial images from Pictometry. Eco-View™ is a uniquely effective tool in remote sensing that is useful for assessment and appraisal. This proprietary software tool is easy for anyone to self learn and can be used to assess the potential impact of watershed developments, and wastewater and toxic leakage on future land use and values. Eco-View integrates into Pictometry’s Electronic Field Survey (EFS) for ease of use.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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