A company called TerraGo and a product called GeoPDF became well-known back in 2008. In March 2012, the company released version 6 of its software, prompting Directions Magazine to interview Chief Technical Officer George Demmy to learn what’s new in both the software and the use of GeoPDF.
Direction Magazine (DM): TerraGo refers to the output of Publisher for ArcGIS and Composer for Adobe Acrobat v.6 software as "TerraGo GeoPDF applications." Is this a new way of thinking of GeoPDF? Is it no longer "just" a document?
George Demmy (GD): TerraGo GeoPDF maps and imagery produced by Publisher for ArcGIS and assembled into map books by Composer are interactive, portable, intelligent applications that allow users who do not have sophisticated GIS or training to access, dynamically update and share compact geospatial information.
GeoPDF maps and imagery are value-added, data-derived products (maps and applications) not data. TerraGo’s value proposition comes from being able to both generate the reports and make them accessible and interactive.
Far more than a static map, and much more than “a document,” interactive GeoPDF maps promote geospatial collaboration by enabling users to attach unstructured georeferenced data including audio, photos and video to specific locations or objects for later distribution and consolidation within the enterprise, between organizations and disparate systems, peer-to-peer, to the field and back.
DM: "The latest version of TerraGo Toolbar brings essential TerraGo functionality to any conventional geospatial PDF..." What does that mean? What is the current state of geospatial PDF? How many other implementations are out there besides TerraGo's GeoPDF?
GD: In addition to advanced field data collection and collaboration with a TerraGo GeoPDF, the essential TerraGo functionality that TerraGo Toolbar v.6 users can now experience with any conventional geospatial PDF includes the ability to:
- View coordinates in three simultaneous coordinate systems
- Measure length, distance, area, bearing and azimuth
- Interactively locate any point on a map
The geospatial PDF was invented in 2002 by Michael Bufkin, George Demmy and Alan Stewart. In 2008, TerraGo granted rights to use the patent-pending methods to Adobe Systems, including the rights to include these methods in the standard PDF specification. The group was granted a patent for “Methods and Systems for Encoding Geographic Coordinates and Features in a Portable Document Format File” on July 14, 2009. Patent rights were granted to TerraGo Technologies, the current patent owner.
As a result of these efforts, many software products now produce geospatial PDFs. All geospatial PDFs can be displayed in Adobe Reader and Acrobat with limited geospatial functionality. Additional geospatial functionality is provided by the TerraGo Toolbar application, a plugin to Adobe Reader and Acrobat which is available at no cost to all users. PDFs produced by TerraGo Technologies products are trademarked as “GeoPDF.” GeoPDF maps and imagery provide additional geospatial features that empower users with superior workflow, performance and collaboration when used with the TerraGo Toolbar.
DM: Can you describe the difference between TerraGo Composer for Adobe Acrobat and the TerraGo Publisher options for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Server, GeoMedia, etc. Do they do the same thing, just on different platforms? Do the GIS-based ones have additional features?
GD: TerraGo Publisher integrates easily and is complementary to leading GIS platforms, for example, ArcGIS, ArcGIS Server and Intergraph GeoMedia, to produce GeoPDF maps and imagery. TerraGo supports discrete Publisher products to accommodate the respective workflows of these platforms, but the essential functionality is the same. Composer for Adobe Acrobat automatically assembles tens or tens of thousands of GeoPDF maps and imagery into digital map books.
Map books and digital atlases compiled using TerraGo v.6 Composer for Adobe Acrobat can be automatically enabled for markup and sharing using georeferenced audio, video, notes, geoforms and Web services in TerraGo Toolbar, and Adobe Reader. (Click for larger image
DM: A key term for this release is "collaboration," which suggests input to existing GeoPDF documents via forms and the like. How are those forms created? Can forms be created with just the free Toolbar? ("TerraGo Toolbar also enables advanced field data collection and collaboration with geoforms. Users can easily create their own simple geoforms for faster field data collection.")
GD: TerraGo v.6 Toolbar makes field data capture practical for anyone through geoforms. These user-generated forms allow anyone to easily create their own simple geoforms using TerraGo Toolbar, without programming of any kind, to make field data collection as easy as clicking down a list. For example, pipe inspection field personnel with a laptop or tablet can access a GeoPDF map or image using the Adobe Reader-based TerraGo Toolbar. Geoforms previously created by a supervisor or by a user on the spot in Toolbar can note the georeferenced pipe’s material, diameter or condition. The worker simply could check off the relevant form options. In addition, he or she could also attach unstructured georeferenced data including notes, audio, photos, video or other information that could be later sent back to the enterprise to refresh the GIS database with the most current information.
In summary, TerraGo Toolbar advanced field data collection and collaboration enables users to:
- Easily create and distribute simple geoforms for field data collection
- Edit feature attributes and geoform data directly from Toolbar
- Define team members and groups for real-time collaboration
- Streamline data sharing, consolidation and analysis
- Reintegrate new intelligence into GIS systems of record
- Customize user interface
- Integrate Web services for dynamic update or real-time data integration
The TerraGo Collaboration Manager, part of Toolbar, allows field personnel to use geoforms to capture and share on-the-ground intelligence and easily roundtrip it back to the system of record. (Click for larger image)
DM: Have any data providers besides USGS jumped on GeoPDF for data publishing? Is GeoPDF mainstream, that is, used by consumers and citizens? Is that a goal for TerraGo?
GD: GeoEye has incorporated GeoPDF production capabilities into its Web-based EyeQ imagery-on-demand platform. EyeQ users can now produce and share interactive GeoPDF imagery products that are compact, portable and secure. GeoPDF images and maps can be easily updated and shared by mobile users like first responders who may lack consistent access to robust communications services or disconnected mobile users in the field.
The compact and portable footprint of GeoPDF maps and imagery combined with the familiarity of the Adobe Reader-based TerraGo Toolbar make it a natural for use by the public. An example of this is the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Since 2008, when it began using TerraGo Publisher for ArcGIS, NRCS has produced and shared more than 100,000 GeoPDF maps with its customer base of Wisconsin farmers to aggregate and disseminate a large amount of soil data, including orthophotography, DNR 24K hydrography, buffer layers, raw data normalization and more, within a fully interactive website incorporating GeoPDF maps and imagery.