August 17, 2009
Presenting GeoWeb 2009
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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De la Torre said that this huge amount of data “doesn’t work very well in normal geospatial databases,” so they do a lot of computing in the cloud.

Vizzuality uses a lot of open source software and all the tools they create are open source. Software used? “In using open data we try to make everything open source so that anybody in any place can use it for free,” said de la Torre. They use PostGIS, a geospatial database, GeoServer – the tool for publishing geospatial using OGC standards and then on the client, Google Maps with the Flex API from Adobe, together with Google Maps and rendering tiles from GeoServer. Also de la Torre said it depends upon the project, sometimes they use what is available within the institution they are working for.

Vizzuality has the big challenge of connecting all the different software together and being able to provide common geospatial services on top of them.

They are involved in a new project called Protect Planet Earth where they are trying to get the general public involved on conservation issues. People visiting protected areas can submit observations on biodiversity. De la Torres sees this as a way to speed up the generation of data beyond relying on the institutional resources.

Historical research is invaluable to understanding our earth today, de la Torres said. Using datasets from 50 years ago provides a good comparison with today’s datasets, and can provide valuable information on how global warming is changing species today.

Dr. John Stutz, founder of the Tellus Institute, has a strong background in mathematics and economics, which lends a unique perspective to the broader economic and environmental issues facing the world today.

Products of the work of Tellus include:
  • A set of global scenarios
  • Computer model called Polestar used to track the various components of the scenario analysis

  • Dr. Stutz describes himself as a “policy person,” guiding people to make good policy decisions. He talked about transitions, scenarios and deep change for the future. He pointed out how as we go through history, there is an increasing complexity and heightened pace of change. In the space of 20 years, he noted as an example, that we’ve gone from cell phone invention to roughly 2/3 to 3/4 of the people in the world having cell phone access.

    How things are organized socially by tribe, city state, nation, planetary make a big difference, Stutz said. The way people organize themselves shows whether transitions are making sense.

    Economists are fond of looking ahead, they concentrate on what they do know, they run through statistical analyses and they make projections.

    The GeoWeb is invaluable in addressing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the biggest environmental problem faced today, Stutz said. The 3D modeling of cities addresses where GHG comes from: transportation and energy use in buildings, and in the equipment that’s inside the buildings. This then leads to minimizing transportation, putting transportation where the buildings are, and creating a synergy between the two. It also involves making building energy use more efficient while at the same time making buildings livable. The GeoWeb helps see the bigger picture and shows it to people in a model. Communities want to have sustainable development patterns for the next 50 years, such as
    the City of Boston. Getting an informed public decision on what choices to make is critical to the success of this project.

    Stutz said the differences that individual governments have in policy stems from their orientation, such as more toward business like the U.S. and Canada or toward government like Europe. Also cultures and level of development, world views, or archetypal social visions are determining factors. There is a great deal of ignorance involved in making decisions about the future, and there are a lot of surprises.

    Scenarios are like a story, Stutz explained, coherent, organized with a scope of what you’re thinking about. Conventional world scenarios grow out of how we see ourselves today. Market forces world scenarios are where events occur in a market driven fashion such as the global economy.

    In policy reform, Stutz said we are pretty good at finding inputs, and very good at organizing analysis. “We’re primitive with the output – the back end of the model is simple - tables and charts customized in a good way. We need the kind of techniques for collaborations discussed in this conference. We would like to bring our back end into 21st century.”

    A decade ago, economists thought that if you allowed the “invisible hand” to direct the flow of capital, rather than restricting its flow, by the late 1900s capital would flow from rich nations to poorer nations where there might be better opportunities. Instead what happened is capital did flow, but out of developing countries into developed countries. Now economists are asking if they really wanted this to happen, saying this shows “dramatic deterioration.”

    Top News of the Week

    Intermap Technologies announced that its high-resolution NEXTMap 3D elevation models were accepted as a source for updating FEMA flood maps. Acceptance of the data was announced at the recent Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) national conference in Orlando, Florida.

    Timmons Group announced that the firm has launched a new website,, to emphasize the firm’s Geospatial products and services.

    The new website features expanded content including TG LoGIStics product information and demos, services, technologies, industries and detailed project profiles. The new site also features the latest news and events available through RSS feeds.

    Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances

    O2 announces an agreement with
    Telmap which will see its personal navigation and mapping service made available to O2 customers on the majority of GPS-enabled handsets sold by O2. To ensure the best possible customer experience, O2 has worked closely with Telmap to optimize the application for use on the O2 network and will be providing first level customer support and billing support.

    AMX International will integrate
    Intergraph geographic information system (GIS), outage management, design and mobile workforce management (MWFM) technology with its existing business offerings to provide utilities with a complete, end-to-end suite of technologies for managing their day-to-day operations.

    A partnership of leading IT service companies, led by
    Buying Solutions Prime Contractor Infotech Enterprises and consortium partners
    GGP Systems and
    Infoshare, have successfully bid for a competitive Tender issued by the
    Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS), to provide a centralized address gazetteer for police services across Scotland. Lothian & Borders Police, who are representing the eight Scottish Police Forces and the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA), are overseeing the implementation of the contract, which will see the creation, implementation and use of a definitive national location gazetteer together with Gazetteer Management Software and Web Services throughout police services in Scotland.


    Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) announces that it will hold a Spatial Law and Policy Summit at The Westin Washington, D.C. City Center on October 7, 2009. Professionals from the government and private sector whose work involves laws and policies related to geospatial technology are invited to register and attend.

    To learn more, visit the

    Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC), the
    Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and the
    Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) are conducting a Climate Challenge Integration Plugfest (CCIP) to be launched at the FOSS4G (Free, Open Source Software for Geomatics) Conference in Sydney, Australia, 20-23 October, 2009 (

    American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) is pleased to announce LAS 1.3, a new release of the open file format for lidar data storage and delivery. ASPRS has been maintaining and updating this widely used specification since its inception at the beginning of this decade.

    You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.

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