You never know quite where any conversation with Dale Lutz and Don Murray of Safe Software will go. My conversation with them at the ESRI User Conference started with a tour of the company’s new booth, complete with a new tag related to Spatial Data Mastery. It was time, they noted, to move away from Spatial ETL, which meant a lot to IT people, but less to some potential users. Along with that tag comes a series of questions to which the answer is Ask FME! The one Dale like’s best: BIMmed about some disRaster?
The pair noted our discussion of the Community Maps project ESRI is hosting that integrates data from user organizations into basemaps. How do you get your data into those sorts of “templates” for integration? FME. In fact, FME was used to massage data from all the counties in Indiana for its IndianaMap.
Safe is perhaps the only company already shipping a product that works with ArcGIS 10. Why? It was a big job. Don explained taht while it ArcGIS 10 may not look at that different to the end-user on the outside, the inside is very different, requiring one of the bigger engineering efforts that Safe has undertaken in the last few years. But, they note proudly, it works! One the new features about which they are most proud is working well with ESRI’s new 3D visualization and analysis tools. It’s possible they note to take 2D data, building heights and some sample textures and whip up a decent 3D model in just a few minutes - on a laptop! If you have pictures of the sides of buildings (one town did) you can get the model to look quite realistic. On the other hand, since the “side pictures” of the particular Canadian were taken from a distance, there are a few that plaster images of the car parked alongside the house on its wall! FME’s 3D “on demand” is in play on a UK site called Skape.com. But is there a need for and demand for the 3D models? Definitely, notes Dale. Local government officials are coming to expect those models to exist, as perhaps their constituents are as well. The demo in the plenary that measured how many windows on a new building would be in shadow for how many hours a day can seal the deal for use of these models.
Another interesting use for FME is as a manager for XML. Why would you need to manage XML files, they are easy, right? Well, simple ones are but when they are nested to represent non-relational data files, they get complex. Who is using that sort of representation? INSPIRE, the SDI effort in Europe. Basically, each country is required to take its GIS data, in whatever form and output it to this complex XML data model. After working with a team from Sweden to add the needed transformers, the pair feels they are in a good position to help any of the countries who need to map their data to the INSPIRE data model do so. (press release on prototype)
What’s coming in the next version? Support for LiDAR data as an input, storage of media files (images, PDFs, video, etc.) in the geodatabase, writing to Google Docs, and “ArcObjects-independent support for the file geodatabase” [corrected 7/13, originally said personal geodatabase] once ESRI releases its API. Dale thinks that once ESRI delivers that API shapefiles can begin their retirement. As for Don and Dale, no signs of them retiring any time soon!