Directions Magazine (DM): The term "asset management" has been floated in the GIS community for many years. What aspects weren't being addressed that prompted you to offer another solution?
Sam Solt (SS): Clear Path Explorer (CPX) was designed to meet the market needs for a user-friendly, cost effective, Web-based digital asset management system. We felt it was important to build a system that could be readily adapted to work flow solutions with a minimum of client burden. We believe that CPX's Web and mapping components are two very significant design criteria that were missing in the market.
DM: Your core product, Clear Path Explorer (CPX), reads like a GIS tweaked for asset management. Is that a fair description?
SS: Our system was designed as a digital asset management system from the ground up - including the relevant mapping components.
Clear Path Explorer can best be viewed by looking at the intersection of three spheres. Our implementation model started by defining the digital asset management feature set. We then enhanced the product by integrating location functionality. CPX's utility is ultimately and significantly enhanced by enabling management and collaboration by way of the Internet.
DM: You offer CPX as either a product a company can host onsite or as a hosted service. What is the trend in asset management these days? Are organizations favoring one way or the other?
SS: Companies large and small need to geo-locate their assets. Small- to medium-size companies are favoring a no muss/no fuss application, and software as a service (SaaS) fits the bill. We expect this trend to continue. In fact, Clear Path Labs believes that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg for location enabled IT solutions. The potential productivity gains are just too large to ignore. Our hosted solution allows both the small guys to jump right in, as well as the big guys to try us out before purchasing a license. SaaS is a good fit for those with a smaller budget and larger companies that do not want to distract their IT with a proof-of-concept. Once proven, however, they can license the application and deploy behind their own firewall.
DM: You list National Geographic as one of your partners, along with MetaCarta. How do they take advantage of your technology?
SS: National Geographic and MetaCarta have come together in search of solutions for managing their digital assets (image, audio, video files, etc.). MetaLens (the team's branding of Clear Path Explorer) has deployed our system with a very innovative approach. Among other things, they are using the application to produce visual storytelling in the form of progressive narratives.
DM: You are an ESRI Business Partner. Are you building on ArcGIS Server? With what other GIS technologies are you currently working or hope to work?
SS: Our product is loosely coupled with ArcGIS Server, so it is not a requirement, but is a nice complement to it for those who already have it. ESRI was quite gracious in letting us use its mapping component for our Flash Client, and that allows us to be "map agnostic" and not only pull in maps from ArcGIS Server, but a host of other map sources and overlays, as well (e.g. raster, vector, ArcIMS, WMS, GeoRSS, etc.).
We will be working with Virtual Earth, Google Maps, etc., in the immediate future.
DM: How will the economic downturn impact asset management technology?
SS: While I enjoy the subject, I certainly am not an economist. But it will become more important to track and maintain one's assets since replacing them is cost-prohibitive in the current economy.
That being said, CPX has proven to be a very versatile product that can be pointed to many different applications in a variety of market segments. As the "new economy" evolves and industries such as renewable and/or sustainable energy evolve, location-based information will find its way into a variety of traditional business applications. To not develop is to ignore the financial benefit of "knowing all about what is where."
DM: What are the most common technologies clients use to report asset location to the system? Is it still mostly GPS-based? What new location technologies are making headway, if any?
SS: GPS is a very convenient way to get a location and has definitely become more pervasive, but it can be cumbersome and expensive, depending on how you are associating that location with your asset. Fortunately, the trends in location-aware consumer devices are helping on this front. We recognized this early on, and support things like simply taking a picture with your location-aware smart phone (e.g. Apple's iPhone, Google's G3, Blackberry's Bold/Storm etc.), emailing it to the system, and we'll extract the location information for you. In addition, our client can be run on any Web-enabled device, so we support an "Upload Here" feature via our map control. Our client also supports drag-n-drop geo-tagging, which is quite useful for various reasons (e.g. editing location, etc.).