2006 Year End Editors’ Round Table

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Directions Editor in Chief Joe Francica and the editorial staff discuss themes from the past year in the geospatial industry and look ahead to 2007. The 25 minute discussion was recorded on December 20, 2006.

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Show Notes

Joe Francica, Editor-in-chief & Vice Publisher

(1) 3D models - city views and building renderings. Where do they fit in the geospatial stack of importance?

Acquisitions that seem to indicate that 3D is in more demand:
Microsoft Buys GeoTango - SilverEye allows the rapid creation of 3D urban models from a single image
Google Buys Sketchup

Software solutions and examples
Autodesk 3ds Max - Gaming environment software
GMJ - architectural firm in London UK - Demonstrated at Autodesk University this year - GMJ uses Autodesk's 3d Max - "The London World City Model contains 12 million polygons and is a one- gigabyte Autodesk 3ds Max file," explained Robert Graves, creative director at GMJ Design. "Due to the enormous amount of data, the model previously had to be broken down into a number of files to be viewed. Now, with the 64-bit version of 3ds Max 9, the project can be viewed in one 3ds Max scene") However, the most impressive demonstration of the opening session, from a geospatial perspective, was a 3D model of the city of London, England developed from aerial images by GMJ. GMJ works with architectural firms to help them create 3D models. The London city model that GMJ created covered 36 square kilometers. It was an impressively complete model that showed building footprints and a correct elevation model but did not include a rendered façade. Using this geospatially accurate digital model, GMJ intends to license the data for any number of applications, from viewshed analysis for security purposes to urban planning and zoning. The company intends to create models of other cities and license the data to both governments and commercial firms.

Gary Smith's article "My house is not a point" discusses many examples of where users might want to incorporate 3D models - The use of graphics or symbols is not what I want or need in my 3D GIS. I want buildings to be GIS features. They should have attributes, know their spatial location in X, Y and Z space and be able to participate in GIS analysis. Judging by the very limited acceptance of 3D GIS using symbols or graphic representations, it would seem that most GIS users share my feelings. To make the investment of time and effort, we need buildings to be smart participants in GIS activities. If you are an ESRI user, this capability has been available to you since 1998. The multipatch is a type of shapefile designed to accommodate the 3D geometry of a building or other landscape feature.

CityGML : "CityGML is an open data model and XML-based format for storing and exchanging virtual 3D city models. It is implemented as an application schema of GML3, the extensible international standard for spatial data exchange developed within the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and ISO TC211"
Reference Article on DM: CityGML: An Open Standard for 3D City Models, by Thomas Kolbe and Sam Bacharach - "Significant new commercial applications await the availability of such standards. As Google and Microsoft clearly understand, there is a latent demand for 3D visualization of cities. But visualization is just the tip of the iceberg. Many other applications would also benefit. There is no technical reason that these application areas could not use profiles of the same standard, if such a standard existed. Indeed, some applications of great importance to society, such as disaster management, homeland security and advancement of sustainable energy facilities, would benefit immensely from being able to immediately integrate 3D city models developed for other purposes. This will only become possible through the development and widespread use of an open 3D city model standard that is harmonized with various other standards. CityGML is intended to enable and achieve all these goals."

(2) Open source - Is it for real? What will be its impact in 2007?

Some people viewed the moves by Autodesk and SRC as simply a way to rid themselves of software that wasn't profitable or that it was a smart move to enhance another aspect of their business model for selling software services and follow the trend that many enterprises were already doing in testing open source operating systems and databases.
The impact: an alternative business model for software services

Formation of OSGeo - more on OSGeo formation

Autodesk puts MapGuide into open source: press release

SRC puts geocoder in open source ; Press release

Other articles
Open Source Geospatial Software Provides an Enterprise Alternative for Small Agencies

Hal Reid, Senior Editor

What I have been thinking about are two topics that seem to be permeated by Location Intelligence.

(1) Increased Data Granularity

Certainly the availability of high quality street centerlines and related data such as the NAVTEQ parcel files - allowing for even higher accuracy in geo-coding and consumer information extraction.

The ability to collect data using non-specific searches for both tabular and imagery via technology from Thetus, pixLogic, MetaCarta, etc., all in combination. Pre-programmed searches with specific knowledge as the goal

Fast location of IP address from products like SmartWhois from tamos.com allow you to find co-workers, friends, etc.

Faster turn-around of demographic info fro yearly to quarterly to monthly.


(2) Increased Mobilization of the Workforce

It seems like we have been slow walked to what the military is trying to do with the networked battlefield, only in the case of business it is the increased mobilization of the workforce. Slow walked to greater detachment from the office. In constant communication, phone, email, IM, Skype and SMS.

Hardware products like the Q1 from Samsung, smart phones and PDA from Palm, Blackberry, HP's IPAQs & Nokia providing email, text messaging, internet access and image transfer all put more power in the palm of your hand.

Real-time traffic, directions and weather from wireless phone companies, coupled with increased bandwidth to allow all this to happen. Inrix

Real-time access to corporate data from your wireless device, so you can search, locate and map data relative to where you are or are going.

The laptop becomes the base station, the smart phone becomes the tactical resource, everything becomes LI.

GPS enabled phones let your employer know where you are - the ususal routing, FMS, etc.

Adena Schutzberg, Executive Editor

(1) Mashups 2.0 - map mashups are no longer "dots on the map" but enhanced visualization/modeling/map creation tools. We've gone beyond folks in basements putting dots on a map with:

Zillow - Zestimating house values via a model, that got folks talking about how it's right/wrong etc. and pushed Zillow to allow users to update information, offer their houses for sale and even add a "make me move"

Fortius - Blog title: "Moving Past Push Pins" Heat Maps - GeoIQ is an open platform for building intuitive geographic analysis and visualization tools into web-based mapping applications.

Corporate mashups - MBTA here in Boston built its own version of popular mashups.

And, there are more tools all the time for non-programmers to put maps on their sites (Faneuil Media Atlas for journalists) Platial's MapKit (not just a map, an interactive user contribution map),

(2) Acquisitions - There's been a flurry of acquisition activity between those who "make the data"(data creators/data creation tool companies) and those who "use the data" (lbs, services, etc.), in particular, 2006 was about data companies acquiring more data or service companies. I suspect 2007 will see more of that.

Data folks acquiring more data folks
Garmin - Dynastream Innovations Inc. (the company's "personal monitoring technology - such as foot pods and heart rate monitors for sports and fitness products" and "ultra low power and low cost wireless connectivity
solutions for a wide range ofapplications.")

NAVTEQ - Traffic.com/The Map Company

Data folks acquiring service folks
Trimble - @Road (fleet management), Spacient (Spacient is a leading provider of enterprise field service management and mobile mapping solutions for municipalities and utilities.), Visual Statement (Visual Statement provides state-of-the-art desktop software tools for crime and collision incident investigation, analysis and reconstruction, as well as state-wide enterprise solutions for reporting and analysis used by public safety agencies), Eleven Technology (automates the sale and delivery of high-volume consumer products such as baked goods, beverages, dairy, frozen foods and snacks to retail stores. It provides real-time information to mobile field workers via handheld mobile computing devices to improve customer service levels, on-time deliveries and accurate invoicing.)

Service folks acquiring data folks
Microsoft - GeoTango/Vexcel
Google - @Last Software (Sketchup)
Service folks acquiring more service folks??

Nora Parker, Senior Managing Editor

Is "Business GIS" actually making a difference in business yet - where is it on the adoption curve?

Clearly it is making a difference, but it is not universally accepted and its adoption rate varies based on a lot of variables, including regulatory pressure, competitive pressure, availability of pertinent data, etc. These tend to vary based on industry. There are anecdotal examples of sophisticated use of geospatial technology in just about every sector of business.

Here are some examples.

Tara Pottebaum and Marchus Torchia of the Yankee Group reported that among industries that rely on supply chains for competitive advantage, the competitive pressure to take advantage of geospatial technology is high. They go so far as to use the phrase the "location intelligent company." These companies will use geospatial technology in as many aspects of operations as possible including customer acquisition, risk management, supply chain collaboration and customer service.

Another related example was supplied by Sumair Dutta of the Aberdeen Group. He conducted research (in conjunction with Directions Magazine) showing that companies involved in providing service in the field are heavily taking advantage of LBS-related tools. His findings indicate that 70% of users can provide enhanced data for routing and scheduling. Quoting directly from his article: "In comparison to companies that have yet to adopt location-based solutions, LBS users are seeing marked advantages in terms of work order completion rates, commute times and overall service margins." He goes on to provide statistics to prove his point.

We're used to case studies that highlight the use of geospatial technology to help expand a retail network or equalize sales territories. This year we ran an interview with Barnes Bank (Utah) executive Rod Pyper about their use of geospatial technology to expand beyond 10 branches into new markets. What's remarkable in this case is that this was really a very small bank managing the risks of aggressive growth, tools - whether accessed via a service or used inhouse - that had been previously reserved for the "big guys."

We also reported on the Hillman Group's use of an LI integration involving WebFOCUS from Information Builders with ESRI's ArcGIS to build a solution that helped equalize sales territories.

Then there's everybody's favorite - the real estate application where geospatial technologies underlie sophisticated property search tools. This year we heard from Century 21 about a new application they rolled out - Property Search Gold.

As you can see, there are a lot of anecdotes that indicate that these technologies are clearly making a difference in business. We don't have a picture of how well penetrated these kinds of applications are. If we use Geoffrey Moore's "Technology Adoption Life Cycle" (e.g. innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards) I would guess we are somewhere between early adopters and early majority. But then you get a refreshing new perspective that we might still be at the innovator point on the curve. As Hal Reid reported in his editorial in November titled "Becoming New Again," there are some folks out there with (to quote him) "gushing undertone about this great new stuff." Having participating in this industry for 20 years, it appears that the bulk of the growth is yet to come, but where we are in the "early" stages is debatable.

David Williams, Senior Editor & Associate Publisher

(1) The potential for off-deck LBS applications
(2) Carriers are again emphasizing LBS - but are the too hard to work with?
(3) The GSM SUPPL spec - what is its impact?

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