GeoConference: What is it and Why PCI Geomatics Bought the Company that Makes it

By Joe Francica

Earlier in December, PCI Geomatics acquired TGIS Technologies Inc., based in Chelsea, Quebec. TGIS is the developer of GeoConference Software - an enterprise solution that allows groups to share and view maps and imagery interactively over the Web, in real-time. Directions Magazine Editor-in-chief Joe Francica contacted PCI to learn more about the acquisition and the GeoConference product. PCI's responses were provided by Terry Moloney, chief operating officer, and Yves Carbonneau, chief product specialist.

Directions Magazine (DM): What was the rationale behind the acquisition of TGIS in terms of how it will support PCI's growth objectives?

Terry Moloney/ Yves Carbonneau (TM/YC):
As Dr. Robert Moses noted in the press release, the acquisition of TGIS adds an important element to PCI Geomatics' solutions portfolio, and strengthens its position as a best of breed technology provider. PCI Geomatics has an aggressive growth strategy and adding TGIS and its GeoConference technology allows us to offer even more comprehensive solutions for the geospatial Web conferencing market segment. These solutions provide decision makers with real-time geospatial information which can be shared by disparate organizations.

DM: TGIS offers a GeoConference Client. How does this differ from other Web-based collaboration tools, and what specifically makes this product "geo-enabled"?

GeoConference is a live conference technology tool - similar to Web conferencing. GeoConference allows users to share maps in real-time with distant colleagues, as though they were all in the same room, looking at the same map.

It is geo-enabled because all participants in a GeoConference:
  • see the same georeferenced map at the same time
  • are able to navigate together in the map (e.g. changing layers, map scale, position, etc).
  • share annotations and can draw and edit georeferenced annotations
  • have a means of “gesturing” at the map (georeferenced pointer)
  • are able to add remarks linked with the map context
DM: Is the vision that the GeoConference products will be integrated with PCI's image processing solutions as a Web service or will remain separate "add-on" products?

The GeoConference technology will be integrated into the solutions offerings of PCI.

DM: Is the GeoConference Server capable of accessing a Web Map Service (WMS) or Web Feature Service (WFS)?

GeoConference allows users to see maps created from multiple sources - including WMS servers and local datasets from the users' desktop computers.

DM: What industries have the GeoConference Client/Server most benefited, and can you provide some specific examples?

GeoConference is beneficial to industries that require immediacy in the coordination of communication and technology. Such industries include emergency response and preparedness, environmental and ecology, public security, state and local governments, just to name a few.

Specific examples include: Real-Time Collaboration Enhancement for the ARGOS Radiological/Nuclear Risk Assessment System (Project with Health Canada)

The Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan (FNEP) provides the framework for coordinating and conducting the multi-departmental federal response to a radiological or nuclear emergency affecting Canadians domestically and abroad. The Accident Reporting and Guidance Operational System (ARGOS) supports all aspects of radiological-nuclear (RN) emergency preparedness and response associated with the FNEP.

In this project, Health Canada's Nuclear Emergency Preparedness and Response Division (NEPRD), in collaboration with Environment Canada's Canadian Meteorological Centre (CMC), will integrate real-time geocollaboration components with ARGOS. The new subsystem will be based on GeoConference, commercial off-the-shelf software.

The capabilities provided by this customized and enhanced addition to the ARGOS system will enable the Canadian nuclear emergency response structure to facilitate large quantities of dynamic multi-disciplinary, multi-sourced geographically referenced assessment information in real-time, allowing for improved decision making.

This project is expected to enhance communication among nuclear emergency stakeholders and decision makers who may be dispersed geographically during a radiological or nuclear event by providing a shared online tool box for collaborating on geographically based information in real-time. This new tool box will be a significant enhancement to the current FNEP ARGOS/ eMap system.

DM: When will the acquisition be complete, and will PCI retain TGIS's management and employees?

The acquisition was completed at the end of November and the TGIS management and staff are being retained to deliver on existing projects. Yves Carbonneau, the founder and president of TGIS, has already been integrated into the PCI management as a chief product specialist.

Published Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Written by Joe Francica

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