January 03, 2011
Geospatial Going Forward – 2011
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
Geospatial Going Forward - 2011
By Susan Smith

“The problem with data is there is more of it coming from more sources. Organizations have to do more with it to make their whole organization run more efficiently.”

So say Don Murray, president and founder, and Dale Lutz, vice president and co-founder of Safe Software, the creators of FME, their spatial ETL solution.

And perhaps that is a good fact to keep in mind as we approach the New Year, with just about every advancement geared towards managing and creating usable data in easier-to-use formats with greater processing power so that more people can access it.

The Cloud

A lot has been said about the cloud this past year, but 2011 will probably be the year in which we will begin to see implementations. For GIS, the cloud presents possibilities as a bridge between GIS for professional users and those corporate and consumer users, picking up the middle ground of users who need to embed vital geospatial information into their corporate workflows. It is not, as for some industries, just a way of saving costs on serving technology, although those costs certainly can be factored in.

eSpatial offers a full function GIS SaaS service where by users can view, create, analyze, edit and share GIS data and business information over the web. In 2010, ERDAS announced ERDAS APOLLO on the Cloud, a fully-loaded package that includes everything needed to run the APOLLO solution on the cloud, including all necessary software licensing, servers, data storage and bandwidth.

CEO of ERDAS, Joel Campbell, said that “the ERDAS Cloud model mirrors Salesforce.com in that there is a fully functioning system that is configurable to meet your unique business needs.”

Esri president Jack Dangermond said they will provide a cloud resource to everyone in a cloud-based geospatial platform. ArcGIS Online is a portal where users can discover content that is shared by the ESRI user community. Cloud hosting is something to look for in the future, where a network of distributed services can be discovered as apps or maps. ArcGIS Online is part of ArcGIS 10, as is ArcGIS.com, which is available to those outside the ESRI community.

Autodesk has adopted a new name for their version of the cloud, “infinite computing,” which, according to CTO Autodesk Jeff Kowalski is both a toolset change and a mindset change. It allows people to do things they may not have been able to contemplate before. Quoting Einstein, he said: “you can't solve a problem using the same mindset that created the problem.”

Callan Carpenter, VP, global subscription and support, said the biggest new feature of their subscription program is the new features to products offered by Software-as-a Service (SaaS). “We are augmenting the desktop with point functionality from the cloud,” said Carpenter.

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass noted in a Q&A session: “We're going to have a hybrid computing model. Because of the tablet, there is incredible computing power and you don't need to be connected. You'll continue to have local devices - and the cloud for compute intensive jobs.”

In Safe Software's FME 2009, cloud computing was introduced, but in 2010 there is more: WeoGeo works on FME Server in the Cloud. Safe is also working with FME Desktop in the Cloud. Soon, users will be able to use the FME Desktop in the Cloud in a pay-as-you-go fashion. Because it offers a “Windows instant” they will be able to use it for whatever they want.

Computing Power

Aside from the promise of the cloud, there is still the need to manage large datasets and imagery workflows by boosting processing power in servers, on the internet or multi-core computing.

The release of the ERDAS 2011 family of products, announced at GEOINT in New Orleans, included new versions of ERDAS IMAGINE, LPS, ERDAS Extensions for ArcGIS 10, ERDAS APOLLO and other leading desktop and server products. Press materials report that the ERDAS Engine is a solution that boosts processing power for ERDAS IMAGINE and LPS, leveraging existing hardware resources for increased production needs or situations requiring faster workflow throughput.

According to ERDAS president Joel Campbell, the company has spent a lot of time improving their Image Analyst workflows. Most of their customers of this type of technology are in defense and other areas of security. Campbell is hopeful that others “in some areas of just traditional image analysis where they need to ingest, manage and organize imagery and are looking for features of some kind or intelligence” will be interested in the product as well. ERDAS has attempted to build tools to streamline that process for them to make it more wizard-like, adding some features to support that workflow, such as one-button push to PowerPoint, even publishing downline as KML so it can be readily viewed in Google Earth.

“While the biggest user community of that type of technology is defense, we also find people in port security and forestry who are looking at particular forest stands, who go through a similar process,” said Campbell.

One of the major enhancements of FME 2010 is performance. Lutz said that version 2010 on a modern CPU is more than 20 percent faster than the previous version. On an older PC, it's still about 5 percent faster.

The Safe team also look at ways to use memory more efficiently. With comparing raster speed between the 2010 and 2009 versions, there is 5 percent greater speed using half the memory, which means you can process larger datasets more effectively using less system resources.

Multi-core computer users are getting the most speed, said Lutz. Although 64-bit capability was introduced in FME 2009, Murray and Lutz agreed that it's still only the early adopters who are using 64-bit.

Look forward to more computing power from companies such as ERDAS, Esri and Safe Software in 2011.

Broadband mapping fills a niche in reporting areas that are not well served by the internet and broadband coverage.

Geared toward the enterprise market space, Broadmap's MapConnect Enterprise arose in response to the Recovery Act need to map serviceability of broadband and high speed internet access to determine where citizens were served or underserved in coverage. The product offers displays, geocoding and high quality boundaries, postal, Census and administrative boundaries. Broadmap maps the areas in question, reports results to the states and can do so for the federal government as well. Even the carriers didn't know where their service areas were at one point.

A competing product to Broadmap's MapConnect Enterprise is Connected Nation which is accelerating broadband availability in underserved areas and increasing broadband use in all areas, rural and urban, as well. Their theory is that these areas can enjoy more economic growth and community service, health care and other advantages by having broadband mapping and service.

3D Cities

3D mapping data for cities has become a more popular product in the past year. With the need for sustainable design, and rebuilding a failing infrastructure, the market for these products can only increase.

Richard Zambuni, Global Marketing Director - Geospatial and Francois Valois, Bentley's Product Line Manager Desktop, Geospatial spoke with GISWeekly about new breakthroughs announced in 3D GIS software “to support the design and operation of intelligent cities.”

It seems that the phrase “intelligent cities” derives from the term “intelligent models,” which is what Bentley has spent its company life creating in the form of building information modeling (BIM). Intelligent cities or intelligent campuses (another step removed) take this idea even further by offering a way to incorporate intelligent data from BIM and other sources into one intelligent infrastructure model. 3D is an area that Bentley has 20 years of experience in, so the confluence of these two concepts, intelligent cities and 3D, come together here in 3D City GIS.

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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.

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