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December 15, 2008
The Space Between Maps, Search and Content
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!

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Industry News

The Space Between Maps, Search and Content

By Susan Smith

How do analysts make sense of volumes of unstructured information for law enforcement and government?

Last week, MetaCarta hosted a webcast that attempted to answer that question. The company is a primary provider of geographic search and referencing, dedicated to helping users find everything written about a place, person or event.

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Although MetaCarta is useful to many industries, the focus of this discussion was on law enforcement and government.  MetaCarta's Bill Fisher clarified that MetaCarta fits “in between” three areas: maps, search and content. “We’re not a map company but we use different mapping platforms to display search results,” explained Fisher. “The content that we can map is unstructured content, found in blogs, emails, word documents and message traffic.”

Some intelligence information can be produced with open source, publicly available information. The ability of MetaCarta to read data like its author intended for it to be read translates to actionable intelligence that government agencies can use to arrive at decisions, and to quickly determine where to deploy their resources. At 10,000 documents per minute, MetaCarta can obviously move through information much faster than other search mechanisms on the market today.

Although this may sound a bit like Big Brother, what is fascinating about this company and their product is that MetaCarta can read documents “as a human can” and make that content actionable by geographically enabling it to be found in a search environment. The range of solutions includes alerts based on what is happening and where, identification of specific words within a document within a piece of traffic, and also the place mentioned within the document. The applications can be viewed in analysis on mobile devices, globe viewers and portal deployments.

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How MetaCarta geoenables content is by providing a map to see what is happening and where, and then making assumptions about what the piece of intelligence is referring to. By viewing content on a map, users can more easily do situational awareness, visualize trends, do analysis, and find documents much faster than they might using a standard search engine.

“35% to 50% of all information isn’t found by a typical search engine and that’s critical because very important pieces of intel can be missed,” said Fisher. “70% of us are visual learners but text based displays dominate. We want to see things on a map, trends and analysis. 30% of knowledge workers or analysts spend their time searching for information that doesn’t exist or they spend time recreating that type of information.”

What MetaCarta is able to do is look at words and disambiguate the content to know what it means, if it means a person’s name or place, such as Joe Paris or Paris, France, for example. Fisher said that it’s difficult for analysts to find documents that don’t mention a place specifically. “If they have an ambiguous reference such as 5 miles southeast of Arlington, where is that talking about? Unless an analyst were trying to guess that information by name, that piece of intel would be missed.”

The amount of unstructured content in the world is growing rapidly, said Fisher, and the problem is it needs to be processed somehow and represented. “The best way to do that is by analyzing the content and representing it somehow on a map where you’re able to see trends and perform analysis.” The problem is two pronged: too much information can be a problem because analysts need to focus on what’s important, while at the same time, if the analyst can’t see the aggregate data to focus on trends and patterns, it’s difficult to discern what’s important.

A component of MetaCarta, Natural Language Processing (NLP), is the computer’s ability to read content like a human, and eliminates the process of having to hard code geographic locations into pieces of intel for the analyst.

By seeing content on a map, analysts can review intel more quickly and can respond to bulletins much faster. “Law enforcement can become proactive, not reactive,” noted Fisher. “It allows us to get the right content or intel to the right decision maker at the right time. The MetaCarta platform features different types of functions depending upon what types of analysis you’re trying to accomplish.”

The North Central Texas Fusion Center covers many different aspects of analysis, and for the Department of Homeland Security they have a law enforcement component, public health, fire, emergency management, state and local and private security as well.

The Center incorporates different pieces of content into one unified view so users can see a threat matrix, the law enforcement notification, data sharing, queries, reporting, observation reporting, law enforcement links and content displayed on a map.

An example of an item the Center was focused on was prevention of a water supply attack. A map depicted different sources of information that went into the decision on how they prevented this attack. The content includes narratives from the sheriff’s office, internet analysis, blogs, emails, fusion systems, medical reports -- all disparate sources. “You’d be surprised how many people actually brag about crimes on MySpace pages for example,” said Fisher, . “The fusion system models incorporate MetaCarta as well as other pieces of technology to give the analyst an overall view of what’s happening in a specific place,” said Fisher.

In response to this information, the Center built a single query across all data, so they had a single unified view of what was happening in a single spot, which included all structured content and unstructured content specifically geotagged by MetaCarta such as situation reports, weather reports, websites, blogs, and other types of news feeds. “What they’ve built is an analytical process, an intelligence processing cycle and it has four key parts: 1) the Fusion Center collects content via web crawls, different types documents from different types of repositories, 2) they process this content using entity extraction, and MetaCarta Geographic referencing, 3) they can
represent some of this content in Microsoft Starlight. 4) They can disseminate the information which arrives at the analyst via visual aides such as mapping portals as the final product."

This specific function was used for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions to provide queries, notifications and alerts to analysts when they’re away from their stations. MetaCarta can tie content from many disparate sources such as shared drives, Documentum live link, filenet, and maps from ESRI shapefiles, Google Earth, Virtual Earth, MapPoint, SharePoint, etc. Both structured and unstructured information can be fused in one search, with data appearing on the map with visual clarity which is "not just dots."

MetaCarta sits between content and maps, and maps can be distributed and displayed in many different ways. A content collection such as GeoSearch News was used by analysts at the Democratic National Convention to pull in information from local news reports, and learn what was happening on the street, such as protests and crimes. They were able to make decisions based on the news that was being crawled and add it to the MetaCarta engine.

For police officers, criminal justice and government officials, Fisher said geographic search technology is all about ease of access and use. Without the active participation of local law enforcement, Fisher noted that the Fusion Center could miss important pieces of intel. Law enforcement, first responders and the private sector must rely on clean information, and be able to leverage existing staff and infrastructure. They have issues of data security and disclosure that must adhere to government guidelines, and are assured that the MetaCarta products adhere to these standards as well.

In summary, MetaCarta offers the following features for law enforcement and government:
  • Visualization for the analyst of trends and patterns
  • The single search of both structured and unstructured data
  • What the value is in finding surprises in data
  • The ability of fusing all data from all sources
  • Top News of the Week

    The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Ecotrust $50,000 for Open OceanMap, an open-source, Web-based ocean mapping technology. Open OceanMap addresses the general lack of data -– whether use or habitat data –- that inhibits successful marine area management. The technology engages fishermen by letting them create GIS maps that place value on specific areas of the ocean that are most important to them. The resulting data facilitates more informed conversations between fishermen, policy makers and others, and better management planning for the benefit of marine environments and communities. It is estimated that Open OceanMap could, for
    example, cut in half the local economic impacts stemming from the implementation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The technology is now in use on California coasts, it will soon be used in Oregon, and it could be used anywhere.

    Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances

    PCI Geomatics announced the acquisition of Geospace Inc., a provider of geospatial information and solutions.

    Geospace Inc., based in Albuquerque, NM, is the developer of FeatureObjeX™, a user friendly stand alone software package combining interactive editing tools for sophisticated image analysis and feature extraction.

    PCI Geomatics announced the acquisition of TGIS Technologies Inc., a company specializing in geospatial collaboration software.

    TGIS Technologies Inc., based in Chelsea, Quebec, is the developer of GeoConference® Software – a unique enterprise solution that allows groups to share and view maps and imagery interactively over the web, in real-time. GeoConference contains tools for hosting interactive geospatial teleconferences, linking clients in remote locations, and facilitating connections to geospatial databases.

    SPADAC has been awarded a contract by the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA) of Panama to develop and implement an enterprise solution for spatial data management in partnership with Google Earth through its Latin American reseller Gtt NetCorp Latin America.

    NAVTEQ has established a reseller agreement with SANTIAGO & CINTRA CONSULTORIA (S&C CONSULTORIA), a Sao Paulo-based GIS consulting company.

    S&C CONSULTORIA offers a complete solution of geo-IT consulting services for a broad range of industries, including government, oil and gas, forestry, agriculture, environment, telecommunication, utilities, mining, education and logistics. As an authorized distributor of NAVTEQ map data, S&C CONSULTORIA will provide project consulting as well as local sales and technical support.

    Pictometry International Corp. has signed an international technology license agreement with CIVIS Information Technologies of Ciudad Victoria, Mexico. CIVIS is an emerging aerial survey, geospatial and IT solutions company focused on Latin American and Caribbean markets as well as multiple subsidiaries across the region.

    Trimble announced it has acquired the assets of privately-held Rawson Control Systems based in Oelwein, Iowa. Rawson manufactures hydraulic and electronic controls for the agriculture equipment industry, including variable rate planter drives and controllers, variable rate fertilizer controllers, mechanical remote electric control valves and speed reducers.


    A program that will focus on the changing economic climate, proactive business strategies, new and changing technologies and networking sessions highlight the agenda for the MAPPS Winter Conference, to be held January 20-24, 2009 at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef in St. Thomas, USVI, MAPPS announced.

    The conference will start with a keynote address by Michael Jones, Chief Technology Advocate of Google. Jones, also a founder of Keyhole, Inc., will discuss Google Earth's vision for the future, its role in the geospatial community and business opportunities for other geospatial firms. This is a continuation of chief executives' perspectives presented at the 2008 MAPPS winter conference in Palm Springs, CA by Jack Dangermond, President, ESRI and the 2008 summer meeting in Sun Valley, ID by Alexander Wiechert, Managing Director, Microsoft Vexcel Imaging.

    To view the entire program agenda with detailed information about the sessions, visit the
    conference website. MAPPS conferences are open to non-MAPPS member firms.

    The ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension lets ArcGIS Desktop users easily use, share, and distribute data in different formats. To become more familiar with how to use the extension, tune in to the next ESRI live training seminar, Introduction to ArcGIS Data Interoperability.

    The seminar will air December 11, 2008, at the
    ESRI LTS website. The times will be 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time).

    A new class from ESRI will teach geographic information system (GIS) professionals the fundamentals of using computer-aided design (CAD) data in ArcGIS Desktop.

    Working with CAD Data in ArcGIS Desktop will be offered January 21–23, 2009, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time). To register for the instructor-led Virtual Classroom course, visit the
    ESRI CAD Training website.

    ERDAS announces 3D City Construction Workflows: From Collection to Presentation, a free webinar on Tuesday, December 9, 2008.

    To register for 3D City Construction Workflows: From Collection to Presentation, or find out more about other upcoming webinars, please visit the

    The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) announced that GeoVirtual, SL (Spain) has joined the OGC as a Strategic Member. Strategic Membership is the highest level of membership in the OGC. To advance OGC program objectives, Strategic Members provide significant resources in the form of funding and other in-kind resources.


    Phil Lines joins the Board of Directors at Snowflake Software to drive the sales strategy and further develop international alliances and partnership programmes. Lines brings a wealth of experience to the company having held leading, commercial roles in the GIS and CAD industries.

    Avineon, Inc. announced the appointment of Timothy Brewster as Environmental Account Manager within Avineon's Federal Systems Division. In his position, Brewster will be responsible initially for business development under the company's Software Engineering Specialized Scientific Support (SES3) contract with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    New Products

    Avenza Systems Inc., producers of MAPublisher cartographic software for Adobe Illustrator and Geographic Imager spatial tools for Adobe Photoshop announced the release of MAPublisher 8.0 for Adobe Illustrator. MAPublisher 8.0 is the latest version of this powerful mapmaking software used to produce high quality maps from GIS data for both print and electronic distribution.

    MAPublisher 8.0 for Adobe Illustrator is a full product upgrade that is free of charge to all current MAPublisher Maintenance Program subscribers and replaces the current shipping version of MAPublisher, version 7.6.3, for all new customers using Adobe Illustrator CS2, CS3 or CS4.

    ERDAS announces new releases of Image Analysis for ArcGIS and Stereo Analyst for ArcGIS, now available for ArcGIS 9.3. In early 2009, ERDAS will add to its offering and launch a suite of extensions that will operate with Stereo Analyst for ArcGIS. These extensions will form a production set of tools aimed at assisted feature collection and terrain editing.

    The Carbon Project announced an expanded level of service now available to developers and users alike. The Gaia Support Package enables customers to engage Carbon Project engineering staff to address specific extensions, changes and enhancements to its Gaia and CarbonTools products. This new support package is in response to a worldwide surge of activity in developing Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) based on Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards. To help its growing user community address new and specific needs, The Carbon Project is providing a direct channel to the developers behind its products.

    NAC Geographic Products Inc. announced the release of NAC Addin - a powerful complement for MapPoint 2009 and brings the ease and power of Universal Addresses/Natural Area Codes directly onto the desktop software. You can immediately get the detail maps, make local business search and turn-by-turn driving directions not only with lat/lon pairs, street addresses, street intersections, POIs and postcodes/ZIPs, but also with Universal Addresses/Natural Area Codes.

    Urban Mapping, provider of location-rich content for interactive applications, introduced URBANWARE Parking, a comprehensive database of off-street parking. The new product includes thorough coverage of both public and privately-owned off-street and airport parking lots in the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas and a level of data content that is unmatched in the industry.

    Pharos Science & Applications, Inc., provider of location-based information and services, introduced the Traveler 619, an unlocked Windows Mobile handset that features a spacious QWERTY keyboard with large keys designed for easier input. For mobile field workers and those who simply prefer working with keys that are easier to see and manipulate, the Traveler 619 provides a powerful smartphone with location-based services and the ability to connect to enterprise applications. The Traveler 619 is now available for $199.95.

    Blue Marble Geographics recently released Blue Marble Desktop 1.1, which features numerous new and updated tools for flexible geospatial data management. Whether you are working with coordinate sets or vector/raster data, the Blue Marble Desktop allows you to address your data conversion challenges all within the same application interface. Blue Marble’s geospatial data manipulation and conversion solutions are used worldwide by thousands of GIS analysts at software companies, universities, oil and gas companies, civil engineering, surveying, technology, enterprise GIS groups, government and military organizations.

    Around the Web

    Digipede and Lockheed Martin Team Up to Deliver High-Performance Geospatial Applications PR Web, December 10, 2008

    UCSB Librarian Named "Pioneer of Digital Preservation" by Hannah Rothman, Santa Barbara Independent, December 9, 2008 - Larry Carver, UCSB’s retired director of library technologies and digital initiatives, is being recognized for his work by the Library of Congress as a “pioneer of digital preservation.” Over the past 30 years, geospatial technology has evolved and grown more advanced. Carver is among the contributors to this transformation.


    Date: January 12 - 15, 2009
    Place: Jakarta, Indonesia

    PT McElhanney Indonesia (PTMI) will be offering a 2-day Introduction to  MapInfo Professional course, and a 2-day Intermediate MapInfo Professional course in Jakarta, Indonesia. With the "Introduction to MapInfo Professional" course you will learn how to navigate, label and query maps, create thematic maps, use images, geocode address and use basic GIS analysis techniques. 
    Date: January 19 - 22, 2009
    Place: QEII Conference Centre

    London, United Kingdom

    DGI 2009 is Europe’s largest annual gathering dedicated to high-level discussion addressing the major challenges of the defence and government geospatial intelligence community. Bringing together Heads of Geospatial Intelligence, GIS, Remote Sensing, Operations, and Imagery and Analysis, the conference provides a unique forum to discuss and debate the development of geospatial intelligence capabilities across the globe.
    Date: January 19 - 22, 2009
    Place: Prague, Czech Republic

    The Symposium will be held in Prague under the auspices of His Magnificence Prof. Dr. Petr FIALA, Ph.D., Rector of the Masaryk University, Brno and under the auspices of the Czech Presidency of the European Union with participation of three ministries of the Czech government - Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Ministry of Industry and Trade - Fire rescue Service of the Czech republic, general directorate, Czech Hydrometeorological Institute and in close cooperation with the Joint Research Centrum in Ispra, Italy and EC DG’s.
    Date: January 25 - 27, 2009
    Place: The Island Hotel, 690 Newport Center Drive

    Newport Beach, CA 92660 USA

    GeoBase Technology Summit 2009 is the most complete forum for GeoBase customers and developers to learn more about the GeoBase platform, collaborate and interact with peers and the Telogis development staff. Sessions, client and technology panels, and training courses designed to maximize your GeoBase knowledge.
    Date: January 26 - 28, 2009
    Place: New Orleans, LA USA

    The ILMF is the premier event for the LIDAR industry attracting professionals from all over the world with the next event scheduled for January 26 – 28, 2009 in New Orleans, USA. The last event saw record growth in attendance from both delegates and visitors.
    Date: January 26 - 28, 2009
    Place: San Antonio, TX USA

    Geographic Information Systems for utilities are advancing with new mobile, server, and network capabilities. The functionality of new application programming interfaces (APIs) for use with mobile GIS along with the integration of revere proxy servers, web-based portals, increased asset inventory, and lowering costs all mean GIS is ready for the next generation.
    Date: January 27 - 29, 2009
    Place: Istanbul Convention & Exhibition Centre (ICEC)

    Istanbul , Turkey

    In its location of Istanbul, the world's only city on two continents, INTERGEO East will extend over both the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorous. Some fourteen million people live in and around Istanbul. Turkey has given top priority to boosting the region and creating standardized structures. It has also been in accession negotiations with the European Union since 3 October 2005.
    Date: January 29 - 31, 2009
    Place: M.M.R.D.A Grounds,Bandra-Kurla Complex

    Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

    With the rapid pace of urbanization, the percentage of India’s population living in cities and urban areas has almost doubled to 27.8% from 14% at the time of Independence. This is expected to accelerate even further, and by 2021 over 40% of Indians will be living in urban areas. Indian cities provide settings as engines of growth, and at the same time face enormous challenges.
    Date: February 2 - 3, 2009
    Place: Melbourne, Australia

    GIS technology can be integrated into any enterprise information system framework.  The usage of industrial, agricultural and settlement areas causes various geological events.  Morphology, geology, land cover, slope inclination, elevation of any region is important area to be considered for the 21st century standard of preserving our land, culture, society and business growth.
    Date: February 3 - 5, 2009
    Place: Doubletree Hotel Sacramento

    Sacramento, CA USA

    Professionals from California, Hawaii, Nevada, and the Pacific Islands are invited to the CA/HI/NV RUG Conference. Whatever your industry, position, or level of experience with GIS, you’re encouraged to attend and explore GIS in action with ESRI staff and your fellow professionals.
    Date: February 8 - 11, 2009
    Place: Charleston, SC USA

    The International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) and the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) are pleased to announce the 13th GIS/CAMA Technologies Conference, to be held February 8-11, 2009 in Charleston. This conference is designed to foster collaboration and integration of data, technology, and functionality.

    Date: February 10 - 13, 2009
    Place: Hyderabad International Convention Centre

    Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

    Map World Forum will not just be a conference. It will be a forum that will simply aim to “Converge Ideas and Expand Horizons for Sustainable Planet Earth”. It will aim beyond speeches and discussions to find practical ways to protect the earth and improve people's lives.
    Date: February 12 - 13, 2009
    Place: Hyderabad International Convention Centre

    Hyderabad, India

    Location Summit 2.0, the first Global Summit on Positioning and Navigation with the theme "Towards Collaborative Model", brings together the pioneers, industry leaders and developers who are setting the direction for the future of location technologies and markets, guiding the development of new applications and shaping the way to meet the challenge of making location enabled services ubiquitous.

    You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.