August 25, 2008
GeoWeb 2008 Conference Report
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| by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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GeoWeb 2008 Conference Report
By Susan Smith
The GeoWeb 2008 Conference held July 21-25th in Vancouver, British Columbia, hosted by Galdos Systems, focused this year on the theme, “Infrastructure: local to global” which emphasized CAD/BIM/GIS integration and building towards “GeoWeb 2009 Cityscapes.”
Ron Lake, CEO and chairman, Galdos Systems
Chairman and CEO of Galdos Systems Ron Lake opened the conference. This conference really hones in on the convergence of GIS and the Internet and “the economic potential associated with the convergence of XML, web services and GIS.”
The Meeting of Web and Geo
Keynotes presented by several industry luminaries offered various perspectives on this theme. Based on those keynotes and remarks of attendees (available as
YouTube videos and podcasts
), I have summarized the conference.
Alex Miller, president of ESRI Canada
Keynoter Alex Miller, president of ESRI Canada, suggested GeoWeb was “the synergistic meeting of web and geo.”
“The web is really a new medium, it is the biggest change since the printing press in our society,” Miller said. “We look back at the millennia at the events that have changed our society, the internet will be up there because it’s had such a huge impact in such a short period of time.”
Geography, on the other hand, is a centuries, even millennia old science that to some extent plateaued before computers came along, Miller noted, but it has been dramatically revived thanks to GIS. He talked about the impact of geography on how we behave as people, pointing to Jared Diamond’s theory outlined his book, Guns, Germs and Steel which makes a strong case for geography being a key factor in how societies emerge. Diamond’s latest book, Collapse, deals with how societies choose to succeed or fail, and how when they exploit the geography of a civilization too much it results in the collapse of that civilization.
Miller cited the current political situation, climate, financial, soaring energy and food prices, and how we use GIS to address all of these issues. Planning, one of the earliest uses for GIS, is still a big user of GIS, although cities have become so large they’re “not designable.”
“As we move forward with geography and the web together, the accessibility of information needed to make decisions will make decisions happened much faster,” said Miller.
An example given was of how the Orton Foundation in Vermont, fighting the development of a Walmart in a small town where their headquarters was located, developed CommunityViz, a community planning visualization software using GIS, to look at a more holistic way of how a community works. With CommunityViz, they could actually model the impact of the development on water, sewer, roads. “One of biggest challenges to doing this is data accessibility,” said Miller. “The data is not all in the right format to support CommunityViz but it is a look into the future into what the GeoWeb will bring us.”
Data Acquisition and Management
Michael Goodchild, PhD, professor of Geography at University of California , Santa Barbara
Michael Goodchild, PhD, professor of Geography at University of California, Santa Barbara since 1998, is renowned in the field of GIS, the author of 12 books and approximately 350 scientific papers, and Chair of the Executive Committee, National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA); among other achievements.
One of the big questions raised in this venue was how geographic data acquisition should take place to help us build the GeoWeb, whether to build it from space or from the ground up, Goodchild said.
He warned the audience that he was going to be talking about a “very controversial issue,” that will remain that way for a long period of time, and that he would present a U.S. perspective.
Geographic information has traditionally been created by authorities and their experts; “Whether we’re talking about Canada and national mapping agencies that produce the bulk of data, or in the U.S., USGS or National Geospatial Intelligence Agency or in the UK, Ordnance Survey or other countries where mapping is primarily a military function and access by civilian sector is severely restricted.” Today geospatial production is increasing by local entities and states, and in Canada by provinces. “It is then disseminated to a vast collection of users, many of whom are not expert. Here’s a distinction between non-expert user and expert producer. Much of this
dissemination occurs with various kinds of restrictions so countries and governments will vary as to whether the distribution is at the cost of reproduction or try to recover some of the cost of production.”
Goodchild pointed out that since 9/11 in the U.S. there has been a shift, not only in access to data, but also a shift from the USGS, the civilian mapping agency, to the NGA, the Department of Defense mapping agency. After 9/11, many datasets were removed from public success and much of our data has moved behind that national security curtain.
One particular kind of geospatial data, Goodchild mentioned, the National Information Exchange Model (NIEMs) layer, is clearly one of the types of geographic data that’s not going to be derived from space. “Until people put barcodes on the top of buildings you’re not going to get placenames from space, “Goodchild remarked. “Where do placenames come from? They come from through a formal process that is reflected through a hierarchy of boards and committees.” Since 1890 in the U.S., the Board of Geographic Names, which sits on top of a hierarchy all the way down to state and local level, all run by experts, has been responsible for placenames. It is
no role for amateurs, or for the general public. “This is how names get officially recognized. And the term ‘gazetteer’ in fact, reflects that official recognition. When something is ‘gazetteered’ it is published officially, and the name for the index of placenames reflects that. All this was driven by the need to standardize. In the 19th century a lot of energy was expended on postal delivery, and on avoiding putting names on the landscape which were politically incorrect.
Perhaps what characterizes today’s approach to standardization is the lack of standardization. Goodchild said we are entering an age of “post standardization” where IT makes it possible for places to have alternative names, which allows us to collect a vast amount of information beyond simple names, what he calls “the world of Web 2.0 and the world of bottom up geographic data production.”
The current movement is reminiscent of the 16th century when Martin Waldseemueller named America after the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, put it on a map and distributed the map across Europe. “Waldseemueller had no authority to do this, no training as a cartographer, he just stuck a name on a map.”
Later he regretted naming the continent America and replaced it with the name Terra Incognito. We know which name stuck, but what’s important about this story is that today’s post standardization climate opens up the world of “volunteer geographic information,” volunteered by citizens, user generated content in the specific context of geographic information. Other names for this are collective intelligence and crowd sourcing. What is significant about this content is that it does not come from an authoritative source, but from millions of private citizens who have the capacity to be empowered, who get no obvious reward and are virtually untrained in geographic
All of this has been enabled by search engines, which play an important role in supporting the GeoWeb, according to Goodchild. “They allow us to find things easily and they index an enormous amount of information. In the future I think they’re going to be more involved with indexing geospatial information.” He does worry about the long term future of search engines that are indexing bodies of material that are expanding exponentially and that in his words, “will eventually get out of control.”
However, even though the same companies who own the search engines tend to also develop geographic exploration systems such as Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth, Goodchild had only good things to say about those companies. “The role of Google in providing indexing schemes through Google Maps and Google Earth have been enormously helpful in growing the GeoWeb. I thing that world will continue to expand, I thing it’s naïve to assume that geospatial data being handled by the public sector are somehow less trustworthy or accurate than government agencies. In fact, the evidence suggests there is no simple difference in that sense.”
Impediments to Geospatial Information Sharing
Each day of the conference a different question was asked of participants. One such question was as follows: what are the impediments to broadly sharing geospatial information?
Ron Lake, CEO, Galdos Systems and Conference chair, reminded the audience that this was the major reason for his company’s existence. “The issues are largely technical, but there are also issues of policy and issues of people. People don’t want to share information, because it might reflect badly on them or give advantages to other people,” Lake explained. “Technology matches the needs of people.” To feel confident with information sharing, people must know that they can control what they want to share and be assured that what they don’t want to share won’t be shared. The key to enabling broader sharing of information is matching
technology to political and experiential needs of people.
Ed Katibah of Microsoft stated that “The main impediments to information sharing in my estimation probably surround standards and accessibility to information. I think we’re making strides this way, however, we still have lots of proprietary data standards and we still have data quality issues. Additionally with data quality back to data standards, we have not addressed the full range, especially as we’re getting data that is not strictly planimetric and as we’re understanding the world to be round, and we start looking at how we represent ellipsoidal or geodetic data, we’re finding many holes in how we specify and interoperate with this information.
These kinds of standards have not yet been addressed and they need to be before we can truly interoperate on round world data.”
“First off, simply finding the data, which is a major problem, secondly, the culture, 'I’ve paid for it, I’m not sharing it,'” said Terry Curran, Government of Canada, Department of Oceans and Fisheries, Institute of Oceans and Sciences, Sidney, BC. “Because we’re coming into it late, standards are so important. A lot of work has done in the past within databases.” If you own the database, Curran said, there are really good finding tools. “However, if you own the database, people are reluctant to take a step backwards to allow the standards to work.”
“I don’t see threats with respect to search engines getting more involved in the GeoWeb or geodata,” said Mark Brown, senior product manager for Google Earth, “I think it’s an opportunity take geodata and make it ubiquitous. It’s the first time ever we can take base map data, traffic data and aerial data and provide it as a single online service offering for developers to build their geoweb applications on top of. Kind of unique and a sea change.”
“This issue of data distribution has been the center of my practice for last ten years,” Tim Case of Parsons Brinckerhoff said. “People can point at a variety issues, but I think one of the big issues is that people are having a really hard time with sharing incomplete datasets. They may be things that are provisional and haven’t been validated. As professionals, we have a hard time submitting something that might be considered substandard or mediocre. We run into these issues in submittals for digital data designs of buildings or basemaps datasets being distributed to a community, alternative plans for a new facility or roadway being designed. People are very
untrusting of others to understand the full meaning or context of this not being fully accurate and verified. And people don’t have the time to go through that validation process in their day to day workflows, so I’ve been on the pessimistic side and gotten jaded by all the enthusiasm we have had with the digital rights management movement with geodata, everything we we’re doing with OGC, the Geodata Alliance and other initiatives across the industry. But until we’ve worked on ways to build that trust connection, some of that work has started with limited success but we certainly have a long way to go.”
Kimon Onuma, FAIA, principal, Onuma, Inc.
Another part of the GeoWeb story is how the integration of GIS and CAD and Building Information Modeling (BIM) will take place.
ONUMA Inc., both an architectural firm and a software company, explores open standards to facilitate building projects with their revolutionary BIMStorm approach to architecture. Kimon Onuma, FAIA, principal and BIM evangelist, spoke about the concept of little BIM, which is a piece of software, and big BIM, which expands it just beyond the project and looks at the data and the process of how things can change.
Since the mid 90s, Onuma has been involved in using BIM in an innovative way, focusing on the information in BIM, which allowed the company to collaborate with teams worldwide on projects. They employ the ONUMA Planning System or OPS, developed by Onuma, a BIM Model Srver and editor.
Using open standards, Onuma said they look beyond the envelope of the building to how it ties to the enterprise and the whole portfolio. All organizations have trouble managing existing infrastructure, and planning for the future. “How do we predict what we need when it’s a constantly moving target and the challenges we’re faced with as far as technology, budget, requirements, the world?”
BIMStorm is not a software, it’s a process. Onuma cited the example of a U.S. Coast Guard project they have used BIMStorm for. In 2003, using the OPS, the U.S. Coast Guard saw and developed an initiative called “The Framework for Integrated Decision-Making” which was at the core of the Shore Facilities Capital Asset Management Road Map (SFCAM) led by David Hammond in Washington, D.C.
The process employed web enabled tools and real time planning to collaborate worldwide with many users from many different perspectives. “It’s not just about the building, it’s also about the business needs and drivers and data associated with the buildings and spaces and sites and things inside buildings and how they operate and manage and support the Coast Guard’s needs,” Onuma explained. “How do we manage our entire portfolio of existing buildings, and look at a building as a database, look at it from goespatial perspective of needing to land buildings somewhere on the world and being able to do scenario planning of an entire Coast Guard
inventory?” This process would tie back into their business drivers which are their ships, and then “what happens if that ship drives a need for a building?”
Without pushing the limits of using open standards exchanges the industry will not progress, Onuma said. He believes that open standards is where it’s at, and that proprietary formats will become a thing of the past. BIM is a container for data, and what is important is how the data is exchanged and the process by which this exchange is executed. Collaboration is everything; technology is not a barrier to change.
The National BIM Standard Capability Maturity Model (CMM) measures 11 areas of processes of BIM implementation, that BIMStorm can be measured against for large and small projects:
1. Data richness
2. Life-cycle views
3. Change management
4. Roles or disciplines
5. Business process
7. Delivery method
8. Graphical information
9. Spatial capability
10. Information accuracy and
11. Interoperability/IFC support.
Onuma has put his finger on what has been a primary challenge for the building industry and what has caused that industry to lose $16 billion in revenue annually: the lack of interoperability and the need for collaboration.
This is not news, however, what is news is that BIMStorm has demonstrated in several cities such as Los Angeles, Rotterdam and Boston the potential of collaboration using open standards, for anyone who is willing to participate.
Top News of the Week
ESRI Canada has announced the availability of ArcGIS 9.3. ArcGIS 9.3 offers a complete suite of software that improves organizational workflows. With ArcGIS, users will also realize the benefits of an established and active user community, instructor-led and online training and new online resource centers. The resource centers offer a unified location from which to access online help, documentation, support pages, user forums, blogs, maps and more.
1Spatial is pleased to announce their partnership with Geomatic Technologies in Australia to deliver their Radius Studio and Radius Topology products.
The partnership will allow Geomatic Technologies to combine their own, specialist geospatial data integration expertise with 1Spatial’s data quality knowledge and experience. The products covered by the agreement are Radius Studio, a data integration and quality control platform, and Radius Topology, both a data cleaner and a ‘gatekeeper’ that cleans existing data and only allows clean data to enter the database in use.
NAVTEQ, a global provider of digital map data for vehicle navigation and location-based solutions, announced that it has joined Autodesk's Data Initiative, which provides Autodesk's geospatial customers with online access to NAVTEQ's accurate, high quality map data via a uniquely designed
GeoEye, Inc. announced the Air Force 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base has approved the September 4 launch date for GeoEye-1 clearing the way to complete final preparations for launch.
The Wuhan University-Oracle Spatial Innovation Center (WOSIC) has been established in Wuhan University, leveraging global best practices to enhance knowledge transfer of China's spatial technology.
WOSIC aims to accelerate the advancement of research and development of spatial technology among Chinese academia through cooperation in joint research projects, software donation, curriculum development, training, and internship program. Oracle Asia Research and Development Center is pioneering the market in developing innovative solutions based on Oracle's world-class technologies.
ESRI will show you how to accomplish running online maps faster during a complimentary demonstration-driven Web seminar this month that will focus on caching strategies with ArcGIS Server 9.3 software.
The live training seminar Implementing and Optimizing ArcGIS Server Map Caches will air on ESRI's Training and Education Web site at
ESRI's Training and Education Web site
on August 28, 2008, at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. (Pacific daylight time).
Xplore Technologies reveals a new addition to its iX104 family of rugged mobile computing systems. The new iX104C4 features the new Intel Dual Core processor and 2X more memory than previous models.
The rugged iX104C4 offers a best in class platform for organizations to retrieve critical information faster, access GIS data remotely, manage and map field assets more effectively, improve accuracy of data collected and decrease reliance on paper forms and binders. This durable, rugged tablet is easy to use, offers best in class sunlight readable display technology, and a serial port for legacy devices. The current accessory offering including docking equipment accommodates the iX104C4.
Caliper Corporation, a worldwide provider in GIS, transportation and mapping software, is pleased to announce a detailed data product for New Zealand. These data allow the creation of maps down to local level areas for anywhere in New Zealand. This product is free with software orders shipped to New Zealand, or costs US$195 internationally.
Blue Marble Geographics announced that their new all-in-one Geospatial Data Definition and Transformation Desktop is now available. With this release, Blue Marble combines the power of a new version of their raster tool, Geographic Transformer 6.0, with a new version of the Geographic Calculator 7.1, which allows users to work seamlessly with all of the features of both applications in a single interface, on a combined license.
Aerodata International Surveys (Antwerp, Belgium) received their first Vexcel UltraCam- X prime (UCXp) full frame digital sensor system.
This unit, which is Vexcel's first UCXp to the market, also happens to be the 100th UltraCam ever made by Vexcel and this milestone is highlighted by a special commemoration plate on the camera.
Date: August 25 - 29, 2008
Place: Ritz Carlton,
Seven Mile Beach,, Grand Cayman, USA
URISA is now accepting abstract submissions for its 2008 Caribbean GIS Conference. Share your expertise, gain visibility, and enhance your professional growth. You are invited to share your knowledge with others who strive to improve our world through the use of information technology.
Date: August 25 - 26, 2008
Place: Room No 211, Van Der Sterr Building
Rhodes Avenue, Mowbray 7705 Private Bag x10, Cape Town, South Africa
Map Africa 2008 is the 3rd Annual African Conference & Exhibition on Geospatial Information, Technology & Applications. The conference promises to provide a platform to all stakeholders - Researchers, Users, Technology Developers, and Policy Makers to discuss, deliberate, exchange knowledge, experiences and collaborate for benefit of all in the Geospatial domain. The conference aims to strengthen the African Community in the adaption and usage of geospatial technologies for planning and development activities.
Date: September 7 - 11, 2008
Place: Keystone Conference Center
Keystone, CO USA
The National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) is an organization committed to efficient and effective government through the prudent adoption of geospatial information technologies (GIT).
Date: September 9, 2008
Place: Radisson Hotel Boston 200 Stuart Street
If you are an existing MapInfo Professional customer or a GIS specialist, you will not want to miss the overview session on MapInfo Professional version 9.5. Take a detailed view of the new capabilities and functions now available to you. See live demos of the new features such as CAD-like tools, .NET programmability, support for SQL Server 2008, a sneak peak at vector translucency and much more. Then join the Pitney Bowes MapInfo
Product Management team for a session where you will have the opportunity to provide personal and direct input on future product enhancements.
Date: September 11 - 12, 2008
Place: Radisson SAS Hotel
The 2008 Incident Management Summit was instigated by the Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat who have dedicated their time and energy into making this event the most prestigious and forward thinking geo-spatial platform for European transport management. It brings together many of the world's foremost geo-infrastructure experts, high ranking public sector delegates representing governmental agencies from across the whole of Europe and globally trusted solution providers who will be on-site and available to offer cutting edge technology designed specifically for this arena.
Date: September 14 - 16, 2008
Place: Vancouver, Canada
Join IMTA for its first global conference in North America. Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Nestled between the majestic coastal mountains of British Columbia and the tides of the Pacific Ocean, it is a year-round destination that lures travelers from all parts of the globe.
Date: September 15 - 17, 2008
Place: University of Exeter
Cornwall Campus, Falmouth, United Kingdom
The conference will include technical sessions on a range of scientific, commercial and technical themes.
Date: September 19, 2008
Place: Brighton, United Kingdom
Do you have customers that rely on location based information? Find out how they can track assets, find customers, manage mobile work forces and make sure their customers find them before they find a competitor. Learn how to combine your expertise and Microsoft’s technology to integrate mapping applications into your client’s business. For more information or to register please follow this link.
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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.