Executive Interview with Dr.Matt Tate, Vice President, Geospatial Solutions Federal, Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions

By Hal Reid

Hal Reid (HR): Almost all of your solutions rely on various versions of GeoMedia and GeoMedia Web Map.These products have a core technology that is over 10 years old (at least in GeoMedia).Is there anything in the works that is building on current technologies, something that places Intergraph once again on the leading edge as Dynamo did in its' time?

Dr.Matt Tate (MT): GeoMedia is our core product, and we have certain functionality that is inherent in that core set of applications that we can take into other verticals, as we call them.Military and Intelligence are the reason why we are at GEOINT 2004, which happens to be one of those verticals that we're playing in.So now we have Image Scout, which has come out at this show [GEOINT 2004]. It's a product built on top of GeoMedia using an Electronic Light Table (ELT) product from our partner, Paragon, and injected inside GeoMedia.

GeoMedia is primarily a feature-based handler.ELT is of course a pixel handler, so we have integrated pixel and feature handlers into an intuitive package.So instead of changing the core product of GeoMedia and what it does well, we're adding applications on top of it that become solutions. Image Scout is one of those.Air Mobile solutions is another example where we are taking GeoMedia perhaps as a server and we are applying out globally through wireless or whatever means you want to go through from mobile solutions down to hand-helds.So we are certainly expanding outside of GeoMedia.GeoMedia will stay as our core product and other things will be added on top of that.

HR: So GeoMedia remains as your core technology?

MT: Yes, sir.

HR: A key bit of functionality in the original GeoMedia was the ability to read, reconcile and display disparate data types.This functionality is now resident in most competing products and is considered a given.What other unique features do you now have relative to Geo-Intelligence that are at a level comparable to the original GeoMedia's ability to deal with disparate data types?

MT: When GeoMedia was first concepted, those databases were within your own walls.They were at that time in your intranet before it was known as your intranet.The next evolution is taking that to the web, to gain the accessibility and findability and usability of data across the web, through web services, and the step that will take us to realize that goal is standards ...standards that need to be developed and used across the industry, and so that is why we are so heavily involved in the OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium). Because we see that as the step to these web services and the ability to communicate spatially via the web.

HR: So the objective is to have GeoMedia (not GeoMedia WebMap) access data in a manner that transparent to the user.The data can be local on his hard drive or on the server network or somewhere on the web and those transitions are just a matter of connections using data servers or image servers or map servers, etc.

MT: Absolutely. All the data type servers out there pumping data out...presenting data much like they are publishing their data and the ability to find that data, what you need to extract or hook to it and use that data The hooking to that data makes it real-time where someone on the other side can be changing that data and it is realized back to you in real-time so when you add wireless into that real-time scenario, it is reflected out in the published data.The trick is to be able to find that data, and then use that data.The finding and using that data are central around the concept of standards.It has to be a WFS.(Click here to read an article on WFS and WMS by Nuke Goldstein that is also published in today's newsletter).

HR: I assume that you have looked into doing that with multiple data sources simultaneously? That has to be part of the program so if you are getting live feeds from ten different sources, that is updated in real-time

MT: Absolutely. The three major drivers that we believe are in the geospatial industry are GPS, wireless and sensors, all different type of sensors, that need to be portrayed over a map base for orientation and analysis.So those three elements, when put together, challenge us to do better across them.How do you portray the information that is coming back from that triad and is communicating wirelessly?

HR: That is interesting because when you think about sensors, sensors and the communication with sensors, it could be perceived essentially as telemetry.

MT: Could be.

HR: So if it's telemetry, that has not typically been a geospatial function or source of data, but that is interesting that because if you are beginning to accommodate that, it moves the mark a little wider.

MT: Well, to accommodate that coming to us, but we see everything as geometry and attribution.So if you bring a SIGINT type of hit or an IMINT or whatever the case may be, there is geometry and attribution associated with it.Now it could be a clump of geometries and attribution, and the clump that you call something else but from a features standpoint - the way we look at the results and what happens out of the sensors.

HR: That has to be the case, because if you are going to portray it on a map, it has to have geometry.

MT: Exactly.

HR: I was surprised to see that for the Dynamo family of products, the only O/S system requirements are NT 4.0 and Windows 2000.Are these products compatible with XP Professional?

MT: Absolutely, yes.We support that.

HR: The reason I asked the questions is that sometimes, looking at the government from the outside in, you don't see them as changing and they would rather stay with stuff that works.Dynamo is a seasoned product, and so maybe the environment that it was operating in was one that wasn't necessarily subject to an awful lot of change, and therefore NT or Windows 2000 was perfectly alright.

MT: Absolutely, you hit it right on the head there.Dynamo was built in a production-oriented methodology.That is what it was built for.It was built originally for the DMA for the production generation segment.Which if you are you going to make a map digitally with geometry and attribution you need to have perfect geometry and perfect attribution.The only way you can get at that is through topology and the geometry checks and attribution, and that is where it came from.Certainly, Intergraph has those technologies.

HR: One of the fascinating features of Dynamo was the inclusion of an object database.This was way before Oracle 8i and other databases that came along later.I see on Intergraph's Digital Cartographic Studio web page a sub-product called the Geospatial DataPipe.It didn't seem clear how this product affected a link between Dynamo and external databases, such as Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, etc.Can you clarify this?

MT: What it is, is between GeoMedia and that object space is where that data pipe comes in.So it is not back to the databases.So you can have Oracle with GeoMedia running on top of that and this data pipe will take it out to an object space.We have this object space and handler and the engine that was pulled out of Dynamo, we needed a pipe that would take GeoMedia and get into that engine.

HR: That was one of the things about Dynamo originally - since it had its' own proprietary database was how did you get other stuff into it?

MT: That was it (the data pipe).

HR: I notice that there seems to be an awful lot of action with NGA, and other government entities with those who are system integrators and people who are incorporating existing applications into a particular use.This means for the software vendor of mapping products you could find yourself in the component business where other people may be creating something really robust.How do you see yourself maintaining your competitive edge, especially where these people are creating environments that are plug and play.If your software is not a good for this application, you are replaced and the end app isn't affected? Do you absorb that role yourself as the system integrator?

MT: Not at NGA or the other big agencies.The integrators are between the client and us.We accept that.How do we keep our edge? I think the question is how do we anticipate demand though this barrage of integration work and not really getting close enough as a vendor to anticipate that demand? We attack this in two ways.First, these integrators require skill sets that only come from a geospatial person.So if we sell services into these integrators, we work inside their camp.So we learn from that, not only doing our legal tender kind of work for the integrator, we take those trends and those requirements and drive them back into our products and back into our solutions centers.That is the way we keep track of the demands.The second is the technical insertion process where you take your products and insert components in places and see how they work with one another.We keep track of that with our service work, and that is how we can keep a competitive edge in that business.

HR: That is a very good approach.That way, you are attuned to the market, what is working, what isn't working and if someone has a better mousetrap, you are aware of it right away.

MT: It is a very good thing to be working inside an integrator because you are working as a team, and if a competitor comes in and lays something down you are going to see it first time.But the other side is that they are doing the same thing to you.It is a good way to get information, it is a good way to help the NGA.Because they can't modernize without geospatial expertise and we have been doing that a long time with DMA, NIMA and now NGA.

HR: Well, it seems like Federal Systems at Intergraph has always been the most dynamic group.Again with Dynamo, it was an overwhelming product.It was past bleeding edge in its' day.

MT: Dynamo was created because there wasn't anything out there and DMA was willing to pay for that development.The trick is, is there really enough demand to shake up the economics and drive harder down this road? DMA thought that there was, and it turned out they were right.In the commercial side, Dynamo might not have happened, because there wasn't the demand to create the resources to build Dynamo.

HR: I certainly want to thank you for your time and candid answers.It isn't often that you get to see the nature of things from an internal perspective.

Published Sunday, October 31st, 2004

Written by Hal Reid

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