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February 06, 2006
Zeroing in on Geographic Exploration Systems
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! Nearly every participant in our Emerging Technologies review mentioned Google Earth technology and how that might impact the future directions of GIS. Google Earth is exciting and better known to the masses right now, however, it is not the only "Geographic Exploration System (GES)." Read about some others in this week's Industry News.


This week we institute a new way of presenting some of the news from our press releases: GISWeekly will post excerpts from only those stories in which our readers have expressed the most interest. Thus, the newsletter will appear shorter.


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/Agreements/Alliances, Announcements, Awards, Financials, Appointments, Wins, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.


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


Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor



Industry News


Zeroing in on Geographic Exploration Systems

by Susan Smith


Nearly every participant in our Emerging Technologies review mentioned Google Earth technology and how that might impact the future directions of GIS. Google Earth is exciting and better known to the masses right now, however, it is not the only "Geographic Exploration System (GES)."


Although it may seem that these GES are a new invention, they have actually been in the works for quite some time. Technology from lesser known companies has been used to extend or enhance software for some of the heavy hitters. Some companies have OEM'd their technology, others have been the result of outright acquisitions.


ESRI ArcGIS Explorer
ESRI will release in Q2 2006 a beta version of its "geospatial information viewer," ArcGIS Explorer, which will offer an easy way to access geographic information but also integrates rich GIS datasets and server-based geoprocessing applications by accessing the ArcGIS Server including geoprocessing and 3D services. It is OGC-compliant, and supports WMS and Google KML data.


Some of its features include:
  • ability to seamlessly explore data for the entire globe in 2D and 3D
  • integrate your local data with data and services from ArcGIS Server, ArcIMS, OGC WMS and ESRI-hosted ArcWeb Services.
  • perform GIS analysis using tasks (i.e. visibility, modeling, proximity, search)
  • answer queries about the maps you generate and share the results with others
  • use maps and data from your own secure servers.


  • ESRI has just released a
    beta of ArcWeb Explorer, a Web-based map viewing application based on Macromedia Flash 8. The ArcWeb Explorer uses vector mapping technology to render maps quickly in the browser instead of having the server render them.
    NASA's World Wind is a
    free downloadable program that allows you to view a virtual globe and pan, zoom, and rotate the globe to whatever location you wish. You can see individual streets if you zoom in far enough. The software will note that it needs more satellite images to execute a zoom or other particular task, so it uses the internet to connect to NASA and copies the images to your PC. The images it copies are from a NASA satellite image library, and are not yet real time. It does have real time weather integrated, however.


    MODIS - 10-4-2003, Hurricane Kate, Atlantic Ocean
     
    SRTM + LandSat 7: Mt. St. Helens, Washington

    If you look closely you can see individual streets. World Wind can drape a landscape over a height to create a 3D model, when you hold the right mouse button down and drag the mouse slowly towards you. You can navigate by either using place names or entering the lat/long of where you want to go.


    Like all these GES, World Wind is limited to the data it has on hand. USGS urban data is not absolutely complete, and similar data although possibly available in other countries, is not free. World Wind has a good
    FAQ section that answers a lot of questions about installations and capability.


    World Wind leverages Microsoft .NET technology to access open standards such as XML and WMS and others.


    I just read an interesting post on the
    The Carbon Portal, stating their CarbonTools have been used to extend both ArcGIS Explorer and NASA'S World Wind. The Carbon Project's GAIA, a WMS/WFS/GML OGC-compliant viewer developed using CarbonTools, is currently a small 2D viewer application, yet fully OGC-compliant and tested.


    Skyline Software's TerraSuite is 3D visualization technology with real time streaming imagery capabilities that enable users to evaluate locations for situation analysis and decision support.


    According to the website, TerraSuite is composed of three main product suites:
  • TerraBuilder fuses large volumes of imagery, elevation and vector data, to create a terrain database with an accurate 3D model of a landscape.
  • TerraExplorer is a desktop application that allows users to view and analyze the spatial data, and edit it, adding 2D and 3D information, routes, locations and GIS files. TerraExplorer connects to the terrain database generated by TerraBuilder, and accesses GIS layers directly over a network.
  • TerraGate is a server that allows users to access the terrain database over the Internet. TerraGate streams spatial data in real-time, as the user flies over the landscape.
  • Collaboration component

    The Collaboration component provides hosting services for collaboration sessions between TerraExplorer users. Using the collaboration tool in TerraExplorer, users can create collaboration sessions and invite remote participants to share the 3D experience.


    Recently Intergraph announced an OEM agreement with Skyline to integrate Skyline's 3D visualization technology with the Intergraph GeoMedia product line. Integrating data collected and managed by GeoMedia into Skyline's products will enhance the data with real time 3D visualization capabilities to use with DEMs, geospatial features and high resolution imagery.


    GeoTango GlobeView
    In December, 2005, Microsoft announced that it had acquired Toronto-based GeoTango International Corp., the creators of GeoTango GlobeView, a 3D digital earth. The acquisition will enable Microsoft to enhance their existing location-centric and visualization programs, such as MSN Virtual Earth and Live Local, and over time Microsoft plans to integrate the GeoTango technology into their own technology suite. The MSN plan is to create an "immersive mapping and local search framework that enables users to easily find, explore, discover and share information and content for anywhere on earth."


    But what about the GeoTango piece? The company does deliver a "3D digital earth" that has smooth maneuverability from global to local level. It offers an "open and web services-oriented solution." But in addition, GeoTango offers a patent pending program capable of generating 3D building models from single images, named "SilverEye." This technology is not already a part of MSN's location and visualization suite, but could be useful for generating quick 3D models of nuclear installations or other military infrastructure, before, during or after an emergency situation, using either satellite images or aerial photos. The 3D models can be exported to any mapping or
    3D simulation programs in well-known GIS or OpenFlight formats.


    Another sidelight: although Microsoft
    owns TerraServer which serves up the imagery for MSN Virtual Earth, TerraServer and Virtual Earth are maintained separately. In TerraServer you can find out the origins of orthophotos, according to Microsoft, as all metadata is retained in it. Some GIS professionals would love to get vintage orthophoto data and other national agency data into Virtual Earth, however, it currently is a browser based client only with a focus on the mass market and current vintage orthophoto display.


    A Swiss and American service company, ViewTec AG, licensed technology from GeoFusion (GeoMatrix Toolkit) to offer their Terrain View-Globe. ViewTec's audience requires software for training systems for aviation and transportation and terrain visualization for the military and civil markets.


    The GeoMatrix Toolkit adds to existing geospatial based visualization applications "superior rendering quality and high performance on a full range of hardware platforms that support OpenGL. Developers can integrate this C++, modular software development kit (SDK) with existing applications to provide increased performance and quality global-to-street-level rendering while reducing time-to-market and R&D costs."


    You can demo GeoMatrix Toolkit in a 30-day evaluation period.


    According to the website, it offers:
  • a global reference system
  • space-to-street-level superior rendering quality
  • high performance on low cost hardware platforms
  • global terrain rendering viewable from any 3D perspective
  • fully interactive control of rendered objects and views
  • What ViewTec has developed with GeoMatrix Toolkit is an add on module to their TerrainView, TerrainView-Globe. TerrainView-Globe "displays and analyzes the entire earth in 3D." It is designed for both the professional user as well as a casual user by delivering high performance on standard platforms including laptops. The Globe pre-processes and navigates in real time, and data can be accessed either remotely or locally. It supports various data formats which include images, 3D objects such as structures or vegetation, terrain and textures. It supports the layering of data with text, graphics, models that can be used to produce interactive sessions, simulations and still images.


    A "comprehensive 3D visualization suite" comes from Leica Geosystems Geospatial Imaging in the form of Leica Virtual Explorer V3.0. Another collaborative decision making tool developed for professional GIS users, the Virtual Explorer allows you to integrate terabytes of spatial data into a digital earth in much the same way as the other offerings. Focused on those users who want to maximize geospatial query and analysis, 3D modeling and animation, overlay and raster tools, the Explorer gives those users the opportunity to develop and customize solutions using the Leica 3D scalable architecture for data dissemination at any level.


    According to the website, the Leica Virtual Explorer tool suite comprises:
  • Leica Virtual Explorer Architect, for constructing and exploring realistic 3D scene interpretations from imagery, GIS layers, terrain and other geospatial and geotypical data;
  • Leica Virtual Explorer Client and Pro Client, enabling the remote exploration of 3D environments using a wide variety of terrain visualization and analysis tools;
  • Leica Virtual Explorer DVD, to convert rich 3D scenes into a format optimized for CD, DVD or other file-based distribution media;
  • Leica Virtual Explorer Server, for quick and efficient streaming of scenes over private networks or the Internet; and
  • Leica Virtual Explorer Collaboration, allowing simultaneous exploration, analysis, annotation and editing of 3D scenes among users worldwide.
  • Before Google acquired Keyhole and released Google Earth in February of 2005, DigitalGlobe penned an
    agreement in 2004 with Keyhole that provided the combination of DigitalGlobe's QuickBird satellite imagery and Keyhole's Internet-based 3D earth visualization solutions to customers of both companies. This provided a powerful base of imagery for a broad customer base - broader than either DigitalGlobe or Google had ever touched before.


    By now Google Earth is a household phrase, and has also made it easier for GIS professionals to describe what they do to their family members. "Fly from space to your neighborhood. Pick an address and zoom right in. Tilt and rotate to see 3D terrain and buildings." We can thank Google for putting GIS, or GES, into a language most people can understand. But what is the future of such a tool? GIS professionals want more from it, expecting perhaps analysis and topology which may be provided by developers, and lay people will most likely be happy with what they have, plus more bells and whistles.



    Acquisitions/Agreements/Alliances


    LandNet Corp. announced that it plans to sell its LandVoyage Internet mapping business and has hired an investment banking firm to manage the sale process. LandVoyage is a turnkey online mapping enterprise that competes in the same markets as Google Earth, Yahoo Maps, Microsoft Live Local, and Stewart Title's GlobeXplorer.


    MicroTRAK GPS, Inc., a leading provider of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology and products has selected Plano, Texas-based Perot Systems Corporation to deliver full Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and business process outsourcing services as part of a new two-year contract.


    ESRI announced that it has signed an agreement with Beijing Capital Company, Ltd., to form a strategic relationship to implement ESRI's ArcGIS enterprise software solution for water development projects in China.


    Garmin Ltd. denied reports that it has made a counter bid to acquire Lowrance Electronics after Simrad Yachting's announced tender offer on January 30, 2006. The erroneous report appeared in the February 1, 2006 edition of the New York Post, citing unidentified sources.



    Announcements


    Photo Science, Inc. recently completed an emergency task order awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District to acquire aerial photography of Hurricane Wilma's path across the State of Florida. Hurricane Wilma wreaked havoc along the southern portions of Florida as a Category 3 hurricane on October 24, 2005.


    After an epic four year patent fight in the US Courts, a US Appeal Court has ruled that Earth Resource Mapping's (ER Mapper) image compression technology does not infringe an earlier patent licensed by LizardTech, a US-based competitor and further that the earlier patent was partially invalid.


    Pictometry International Corp., announced the availability of its Rapid Response Program to all its new and existing county government customers.


    The Rapid Response Program provides for the aerial photographing of hurricane affected areas at no additional charge to Pictometry's valued county customers. The company will also donate the use of its Pictometry Change Analysis(tm) software to these customers for their disaster responses as well as provide disaster image processing, delivery, and consulting services as part of its standard county agreements.


    Landsat 5 is back in operation after imaging operations were temporarily suspended due to technical difficulties. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NASA engineers were able to adjust the operating procedures for the solar array drive mechanism, providing enough power for the mission to resume normal operations. Consequently, acquisition operations have begun over the conterminous U.S., and the international stations will be brought on line in the coming weeks.


    NOAA's Environmental Modeling Center, Marine Modeling and Analysis Branch, has implemented a new revolutionary Real- Time Ocean Forecast System that will provide mariners with "nowcasts" and five-day forecasts for the entire North Atlantic Ocean. The Real-Time Ocean Forecast System generates applications that can support operations at sea such as search and rescue operations, containment of toxic spills, exploration of natural resources, fishing, recreation, and much more.


    The Free Standards Group, a not-for-profit organization that develops and promotes open source software standards, announced the results of its annual board of directors election. The five veterans elected to the board represent industry experts in such fields as open source software, computer hardware, open standards and industry consortia. See press release for election results.


    ESRI, along with Baynet World, Inc., a leader and pioneer in real estate software solutions, announces ESRI's RouteMAP IMS has been implemented in Baynet's innovative PocketMLS wireless solution for the residential real estate market.


    GeoAnalytics, Inc., a provider of geographic and land information systems (GIS/LIS) technology and management consulting, along with business partners SAS, ESRI, and C&C Solutions have completed an enterprise assessment and design, and a prototype implementation of the Geospatial Data Integration System (GDI) for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).


    GeoWeb Call for Papers



    Financials


    MapInfo Corporation reported net income for the first quarter of fiscal 2006 calculated on a non-GAAP basis (excluding the impact of stock-based compensation expense) of $2.3 million, or $0.11 per share. On a GAAP basis, net income for the first fiscal quarter of 2006 was $1.6 million, or $0.08 per share, on revenue of $38.9 million. The net impact of the stock-based compensation expense for the quarter was approximately $0.7 million, or $0.03 per share. Both the first quarter revenue and earnings per share are in line with management's previous guidance. See
    press release.



    Awards


    Spatial business intelligence company Integeo has won first prize in Australia's national IT Innovation Awards for its Map Intelligence rapid application development platform. The product enables corporations and governments to add dynamic mapping capabilities and a whole range of visualizations to Business Intelligence systems and even the humble Excel spreadsheet.



    New Products


    Laser-Scan launched its newest product called Radius Studio. Radius Studio acts as a spatial processing, analysis and compliance engine offering domain experts the possibility to create, review and refine business rules for spatial data across the web without them requiring developer skills. It is a tool that can quantitatively measure spatial data quality by analyzing the compliance of business rules with existing data sets.


    LizardTech, a division of Celartem, Inc., and a provider of software solutions for managing and distributing digital content, announced the release of GeoExpress 6. This new release leads with a set of powerful image manipulation and editing tools. Adding to the existing suite of image manipulation and editing tools for multi-resolution mosaicking and image reprojection, new features such as color balancing and advanced area of interest (AOI) encoding provide the tools GIS analysts need to quickly and easily edit and distribute their raster imagery.


    "This new version of GeoExpress is the ultimate solution for taking imagery beyond compression. GeoExpress can now be used for lossless encoding, which will allow users to save time, money, disk space and bandwidth when manipulating and distributing an organization's critically important image assets," said Jon Skiffington, GeoExpress product manager for LizardTech.


    Webraska, a worldwide provider of mobile GPS navigation solutions and high-end geospatial software platforms for wireless carriers and LBS, Fleet Management and Internet portals including Sensis, Orange and Vodafone, is pleased to announce the record-breaking performance ratings of its latest SmartZone Geospatial Platform, SGP version 4.



    Around the Web


    Climate expert says NASA tried to silence him by Andrew C. Rifkin, The New York Times, January 29, 2006



    Upcoming Events


    Date: February 7 - 9, 2006
    Place: Tampa, FL USA
    Join more than 4,000 attendees and 200 exhibiting companies representing 53 different product groups and 22 unique services at DistribuTECH 2006. Encompassing automation and control systems, IT, T&D engineering, power delivery equipment and water utility technology, no other event can provide you with more of the current resources, tools and networking opportunities in today's utility industry than DistribuTECH.
     
    Date: February 13 - 14, 2006
    Place: Denver, CO USA
    ILMF2006 Annual Meeting will be held February 13-14, 2006 in Denver, Colorado, U.S.A. Originally scheduled to be held in New Orleans, LA., the venue has been moved to Denver as a result of the catastrophic events of hurricane Katrina.
     


    You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.


    To read more news, click here.



    -- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.


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