February 21, 2005
Telcontar's Secret Success: What's Under the Hood?
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| by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -
Welcome to GISWeekly! What's so great about Google maps? Scalability of platform, speed, and responsiveness so Google can handle billions of transactions every day, with no degradation of service. The engine underlying this capability is Telcontar's Drill Down Server (DDS) geo-spatial software platform and application development tools. Read 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
Telcontar's Secret Success: What's Under the Hood?
By Susan Smith
Take a look at Google
and see what you think. Google engineers created and launched Google maps as a service that includes a unique map user interface that fits the screen (not found in outsourced maps from companies like Mapquest), plus the ability to “click and drag on the map to pan in real-time. Users can receive online turn-by-turn directions, maps and search results based on location from Google Local. Some other unique features include text "flags" that identify the address on the map, plus the flag includes links for directions to and from the location. When looking for something nearby, or a "point of interest" with respect to a
certain location, the service will produce a list with teardrop icons on the map displaying the location of the business or nearby service.”
Looks good, but what's so great about it? Scalability of platform, speed, and responsiveness so Google can handle billions of transactions every day, with no degradation of service. The engine underlying this capability is Telcontar's Drill Down Server (DDS) geo-spatial software platform and application development tools.
“What Google has done is taken Telcontar's Drill Down Server, our geospatial software platform, and incorporated it into their own solution to generate the maps, routes and the local search on their site. It's our engine that doing all the map rendering and all the spatial searches,” explained Telcontar CEO Kim Fennel. “The same can be said for Ask Jeeves, Yahoo Maps, (they have been using the platform for about three years now), Rand McNally, but we also have customers who are doing fleet tracking and call center applications. Google has basically taken our software engine and packaged it up with content from NAVTEQ and TeleAtlas and branded it as their own, which a lot
of our customers do.”
The platform is fast, accurate and highly scalable, and very customizable, so that if you were to view Google maps side by side with Yahoo maps they have a different look and feel.
”The Google engineers have come in and taken our software and our development tools, then customized it according to their preference,” said Fennell.
Why is the Drill Down Server so fast? “At the heart of Telcontar we have a new spatial data access method that's fundamentally different than how everyone else has tried to organize spatial data,” Fennell noted. “We reorganize data from all sources into our format called Rich Map Format (RMF). We have ten patents granted and another 21 filed in this area. A subtle difference - we built our engine and our access method was designed to do high performance route calculations. Traditional GIS systems do geometry and attributes well so you can print a map, and make beautiful maps very efficiently. If you try to use that geometry information to calculate a route you discover you
need to have all
the topology and term restrictions embedded in the database and it becomes a more difficult engine to solve. So we built an engine to do routing, not necessarily thematic maps, although we have the ability to manage that map layer underneath very well and can put points of interest on top of a map. We do routing well, and do it in an architecture that is stateless, so any user can go to any server and have that query processed.”
On the business side of things, until today, location has been shown on an outsourced map from service providers such as Mapquest, which was in the vanguard of providing this type of product. However, customers now want something customizable and not “branded.”
“We're starting to see that high end service providers want to have the ability to have their own look and feel and unique set of applications,” said Fennell. “They want to take mapping services and local search to the next level. Google is a good example of that. To do that they needed a platform of their own rather than outsourcing it. We're not an ASP. We are a software company that provides software to customers like Google, they install it on their servers behind their own firewalls. We focus on high end service providers like the search companies, travel portals, wireless carriers who want differentiating services.”
The Google maps service is currently in beta, with coverage for the US, Puerto Rico and parts of Canada. Current browser support includes Internet Explorer and Mozilla, with content being provided by Telcontar partners NAVTEQ and TeleAtlas.
In a recent ESRI press release announcing that company had been awarded a contract by the Department of the Interior to develop the full implementation of the Geospatial One-Stop Operational Portal (GOS 2), there was mention of the use of “a new method for integrated spatial and subject searching uses the proven Google Search Appliance and allows for subsecond metadata searches.” When asked if Google maps will be part of Geospatial One-Stop (GOS), Fennell wasn't sure, however, he did say that Google likely has rights to refranchise and resell their geospatial mapping services on top of Telcontar's software.
We'll continue to focus on search companies, travel companies, and taking search to next level by developing online yellow pages, said Fennell. Wireless is another big area for Telcontar. They have a core platform, and a “couple dozen application developers developing wireless phone. We are best at real time turn by turn navigation solutions for cell phone, off board navigation on your cell phone. Our platform is faster than an in-vehicle navigation system.” Along with that they are integrating real time traffic information and incorporating it into their route calculations, and are in discussions with carriers and handset manufacturers with regard to those services. Telematics
is another big area where Telcontar is helping the auto industry with next generation navigation solutions.
In Response to the South Asian Tsunami and Earthquake
Among those traveling to tsunami country in hopes of making a difference is Dr. Frank Chang, URISA GISCorps' first volunteer. He left for Indonesia on Saturday, February 12th, traveling with a member of Global Map Aid to Indonesia to assess the situation resulting from the tsunami. He will also travel to India where he will meet with representatives from SeedsIndia and Map Action. Frank will be communicating regularly with the GISCorps committee about his activities via his personal blog link on the GISCorps website,
Other informational sites:
The Third Earth Observation Summit draws NASA officials and representatives from more than 50 countries to a meeting in Brussels. The purpose of the Summit is to bring together Earth observation resources to create a worldwide network to streamline the distribution of data, information products and services to society. We should be hearing more about this Summit in next week's GISWeekly as some topics important to the entire world will be discussed, such as development of a comprehensive Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). For information about the Summit on the Web, visit:
ScanSoft, Inc., speech and imaging solutions company, Tele Atlas, geographic databases company, and Wayfinder, provider of mobile navigation on Smartphones, announced a three-way partnership to deliver a state-of-the-art speech-enabled personal navigation system accessible from a mobile device in a vehicle or on foot.
Wavemarket, a pioneer in location-blogging and alerts, and CPS, leaders in location technology for GSM and WCDMA, announced an agreement to jointly market location-based services to global operators.
Definiens Imaging, known for the development of satellite image classification technology, has signed a research and development agreement with Defence Research and Development Canada - Valcartier, an agency of the Canada National Defence ministry. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Tele Atlas, a provider of digital map data and location content, and Shanghai ChangXiang Ltd (SIS), a Chinese specialist in information processing and digital mapping, announced the establishment of their joint venture (JV) partnership, and the approval of the JV by Chinese government authorities.
CPS and SiGe Semiconductor announced they are collaborating to provide network operators and cellular service providers with a positioning solution for the delivery of seamless, reliable location based services.
Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions announced U.S. federal government security teams used Intergraph's mobile solutions in security operations at the 2005 Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C., and the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. Intergraph provided federal government security teams with an IntelliWhere(TM)-based system for real-time tracking of resources throughout the course of these events. IntelliWhere TrackForce was used to provide a map-based command and control interface while the PDA-based IntelliWhere OnDemand application was used to provide selected field personnel with a portable tracking capability.
The Open Geospatial Consortium Inc. (OGC) announced a Request For Quotations (RFQ) from technology developers interested in a major Interoperability Initiative to develop and enhance OGC Web Services (OWS) standards that enable easy discovery, access and use of geographic data and geoprocessing services. The OGC Web Services Phase 3 (OWS-3) testbed advances OGC Web Services, the set of OpenGIS(R) Specifications for interfaces, schemas and encodings that comprise the interoperability framework for the emerging "Spatial Web."
ER Mapper has released the source code to its ECW JPEG 2000 Software Development Kit (SDK). The ECW JPEG 2000 SDK allows software developers to add support for large geospatial images in ECW and JPEG 2000 format to their applications.
Garmin Ltd. announced a record fourth quarter and fiscal year ended December 25, 2004. Revenue and net income both exceeded the guidance previously given by the company. The company's consumer segment experienced 27 percent revenue growth during the fourth quarter and 31 percent during 2004. The aviation segment also contributed revenue growth of 42 percent for the quarter and for the full year, which led to overall revenue growth of 33 percent for the year.
Bentley Systems, Incorporated announced that Dr. Xavier Lopez, director of Oracle's Spatial and Location Technologies group, will lead the lineup of esteemed speakers at BE Meeting Prague 2005. Dr. Lopez will deliver a keynote address on the latest developments in Oracle 10g and their impact on the future of geospatial technology and the geospatial community. The registration fee is EUR 75. The event will take place at the Diplomat Hotel, Evropska 15, Prague, Czech Republic. Agenda, registration, and event information can be found at
MapInfo Corporation, global provider of location intelligence solutions, will host MapWorld 2005, its annual global user conference, April 6-8 at the Sonesta Beach Resort, Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida. The three-day conference will bring together hundreds of MapInfo experts, customers and industry professionals, providing an opportunity to network and discuss how MapInfo(R) location intelligence solutions help improve productivity, enhance decision-making and augment bottom-line results. For more information about MapWorld 2005 please visit
Ordnance Survey enhances national digital height data Ordnance Survey is announcing an enhancement to its detailed digital height data defining the physical landscape of Britain.
Insurers, utilities and civil engineers will be among the first to view enriched digital terrain models (DTMs) for a series of areas at a pre-launch event in London on 15 March.
Space Imaging's releasing a newly acquired satellite image of
art exhibit in Manhattan's Central Park in New York City. The image was taken Saturday, Feb. 12, 2005, the same day that The Gates
were unfurled. At a cost of $20 Million, The Gates
was conceived by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The image shows all of Central Park the gates geometrically placed throughout the park.
The Gates Project for Central Park (2.4 MB):
Analytical Surveys, Inc., provider of utility-industry data collection, creation and management services for the geographic information systems (GIS) markets, announced financial results for its first fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2004.
First quarter revenue was $2.0 million versus $2.6 million in the same period a year ago. Net loss available to common shareholders was $491,000, or $.25 per diluted share, versus a net loss of $1.3 million, or $1.33 per diluted share, in the first quarter last year. The reduced net loss was principally due to lower administrative costs.
Dr. Thomas M. Lillesand, Director of the Environmental Remote Sensing Center (ERSC) and Chair of the Environmental Monitoring Graduate Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was awarded the 2005 SAIC/Estes Memorial Teaching Award for over 30 years of excellence in teaching remote sensing, mentoring graduate students, and being the lead author of one of the most widely used remote sensing textbooks in the world, Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation, 5th edition.
Merrick & Company announces a new contract with the Tallahassee-Leon County Interlocal GIS Organization (TLC GIS) (Tallahassee, Florida). Merrick will obtain new aerial photography, create color digital orthophotography, and update planimetric and topographic data. Awarded in February 2005, the City will receive final delivery in December 2005.
By now almost everyone in technology knows that Carly Fiorina stepped down as chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Robert P. Wayman, HP's chief financial officer, has been named chief executive officer on an interim basis and appointed to the board of directors. Patricia C. Dunn, an HP director since 1998, has been named non-executive chairman of the board, also effective immediately.
Pictometry International Corp., provider of a patented information system that captures digital, aerial oblique and orthogonal images as well as related software, announced that CEO Richard A. Kaplan has been selected to a three year term as a member of the Board of Advisors for the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Telcontar, a supplier of software and related services for Location-Based Services (LBS), announced the addition of W. Michael West as Director to its current Board of Directors. Mr. West is currently Chairman of the Board of Extreme Networks and brings over 30 years experience in growing some of Silicon Valley's most successful high-tech companies.
Maps.com, provider of mapping products and solutions, launched NavPro, the industry's first unlimited mapping service that can also generate optimized driving routes for up to 18 stops. This new service not only enables time savings in both the planning and the traveling stages of any road trip, but also offers features suited for the typical business traveler, including real-time traffic alerts, automatic route optimization, and local destination and attractions mapping.
Operators seeking seamless migration from GSM to WCDMA high accuracy location based services could benefit from a new version of Matrix3G technology from CPS (Cambridge Positioning Systems Ltd).
Need a fish finder? Maptech's new i3 module is a touch screen, hi-resolution 3D FishFinder. Fishermen can see the ocean like a fish does swimming within its own 3D world in real-time. They can see individual fish, sorted by size and grouped, sitting in Maptech's detailed 3D Contour Charts. The 3D FishFinder is a new option to Maptech's innovative i3 Touch Screen Command System.
GfK MACON now offers updated and expanded digital maps of India are now available. They serve as the basis for working with corporate or potential data. In the administrative section, the map package consists of 35 federal states and 604 districts. The map showing the 6-digit postcodes (pin codes) consists of 26,869 areas. In this way, GfK MACON has a complete map of all areas. The official names and identification numbers of all areas are included without exception.
Webraska Mobile Technologies, provider of GPS, voice-enabled wireless navigation applications and location-based services, announced the release of SmartZone Navigation 3, a milestone in the software development in terms of both ergonomics and features. This major release is supported by the simultaneous release of Webraska's SmartZone Geospatial Platform 4.0 tailored to provide enhanced support for dynamic content integration.
DMTI Spatial, Canadian provider of geospatial products and services announces their latest edition of CanMap. As of the February release, DMTI Spatial product version standards have changed. The change in product versioning reflects the currency of the product and the up-to-date nature that DMTI Spatial continues to promote. The new version standard will convert the existing numerical format to a yearly format indicating the year and quarter of the release. For example, the latest release of CanMap will be referred as, v2005.1 instead of the traditional version format v9.0.
Nokia is introducing the Nokia intelligent Gateway Mobile Location Center (iGMLC) 4.0, a new platform for location-based services (LBS) as part of the Nokia mPosition System. The Nokia iGMLC platform simultaneously supports both GSM and WCDMA 3G location based services.
LizardTech, Inc., announced at the GeoTec Event in Vancouver, B.C. the release of Express Server ArcIMS 9.0 Integration Toolkit. This latest release is specifically designed to address the needs of ArcIMS 9.0 users and takes advantage of MrSID Generation 3 (MG3) technology.
~ Quote of the Week:
What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible.
Around the Web
A New Model Army Soldier Rolls Closer to Battle
, by Tim Weiner, NY Times, February 16, 2005-“They don't get hungry," said Gordon Johnson of the Joint Forces Command at the Pentagon. "They're not afraid. They don't forget their orders. They don't care if the guy next to them has just been shot. Will they do a better job than humans? Yes." He's talking about the robot soldier.
What military planners want in a robot soldier is a soldier that will think, see and react like humans, yet will lack the emotional component and the ability to get confused, weaken or die. The technology is expected to start with remote-controlled robots, and advance to a more autonomous persona.
that took place about a year ago, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency sponsored the Grand Challenge to foster development of autonomous vehicles that could be used in combat. Defense officials foresee using the driverless, remote control-free robots to ferry supplies in war zones. Maps of the environment were designed specifically for the vehicles. Sandstorm had LIDAR projected in front of it, RADAR and stereo cameras to detect objects that it had to avoid, all done in real time. The map was used to tell the vehicle where to go to the next GPS point and to
understand how fast it can go according to the type of terrain that was predetermined in the map, using real time information to understand if a boulder was in the way, or a gully was washed out since the last time the maps were made or if there was truly a barrier there, or another race vehicle to go around. Although no one entry completed the race, it was a valuable, expensive pilot for what could be done in the future.
The coupling of this effort with remote-controlled robot soldiers may be a new market for geospatial technology.
Gauging the Health of the Oceans CNET.com
-- A mathematical technique for using satellite images to gauge the growth rate and mass of the ocean's phytoplankton, or plant plankton, could help scientists more fully understand the food cycles of the oceans, as well as global climate change, researchers say.
The new approach--devised by researchers with NASA, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and other institutions--is described in a
published recently in the
The method involves studying the "greenness" and brightness of phytoplankton from satellite images. Computers take the data from the images, and then try to mathematically determine the levels of phytoplankton and the rate of reproduction taking place.
Date: February 28 - March 2, 2005
Place: Prague, Czech Republic
BE Meeting Prague 2005, is your regional connection to Bentley's highly recommended BE Conference 2004. BE Meetings are professional events that offer technical workshops, technology updates, keynote presentations by Bentley executives, user presentations, and a wide range of networking opportunities.
A 3-Day Summit on Internet Protocol version 6. The Summit will be in coordination with the Department of Defense's Day of IPv6. Leaders in industry, military, government, academia and research are coming together to discuss the deployment of IPv6 and the future of the "New Internet." There will also be an exhibit hall filled with cutting edge IPv6 technology.
You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here
To read more news, click here
-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.