Like it or not, if you were a customer of either Intergraph or ERDAS and wanted to know what the marriage of these two companies will mean, it has happened, and the integration at the product level will only get tighter. Assuming you knew about the relationship of these companies, whereby ERDAS (acquired by Hexagon in 2005) is now within the Intergraph Security, Government and Infrastructure (SG&I) division (acquired by Hexagon in 2010), the product integration strategy is being hashed out in significant detail. Joel Campbell, president of ERDAS calls it "Dynamic GIS." Underpinning the technical strategy is a relatively new initiative called EGF, for Enhanced Geospatial Foundation, the internal name for a new platform upon which all existing Intergraph and ERDAS products will eventually be built. EGF will also be the foundation for tighter integration with Intergraph's G/Technology for the utilities industry and also for I/CAD, Intergraph's computer-aided dispatch solution for emergency management and E911.
Begun at the time when Hexagon acquired Intergraph, product strategists set to work on how Intergraph's GeoMedia GIS and ERDAS's IMAGINE image processing software would seamlessly integrate data. Product teams went through each product's portfolio, functionality and workflow to determine the strengths of each and over a six-month period where able to determine how the integration would be accomplished. David Glenn, a senior product development manager, said that "A lot of mutual respect was developed in those meetings. It didn't take but 30 seconds before we knew exactly what each other was talking about on any issue…There was a lot of synergy in those conversations." Mladen Stojic, ERDAS's senior vice president for product management and marketing, said, "The first focus was interoperability with existing systems."
To accomplish this, the product teams created "Live Link," a one-button function on the ribbon bar that gives the user a "pipe of communications between the two applications that will allow you to synchronize displays," said Stojic. He further describes this "as you zoom into IMAGINE (data window) the spatial extents are displayed and rendered within the GeoMedia view." This allows panning and zooming for visualization. This is being worked on as part of the 2012 release of IMAGINE and the update to GeoMedia next year.
The key question with which customer will eventually be faced is "which product should be used for spatial querying and analysis and which for more specific takes like data editing or image processing. Some will be obvious; other's not so. Down the road will the two products merge? It's a little too early to make that call. Certainly there will be overlap and workflows may need to take advantage of the best product for the job. The product teams however are committed to something called "Solution Builder" a graphical interface to create and save task workflows (the equivalent is Model Builder in ArcGIS). For example, eventually it may be possible to call model routines created and processed in IMAGINE, (e.g. a supervised classification to detect riparian vegetation) and integrate the results within GeoMedia as a vector file for thematic mapping. Stojic said that "we want to be able to support bi-directional communication and workflows for customers…This is going beyond the 'Live Link' to actually embedding functionality within the application." Glenn believes "this is an orchestration tool and what you have to do is expose all your functionality as operators that your orchestration tool can get at. I think long term we may support a variety of orchestration tools."
Some of the product overlap may be in the areas of LiDAR data processing and some basic thematic mapping. However, Intergraph seems to focus more attention on platform investments and ERDAS more on product-level enhancements. For example, Intergraph is making sure the EGF is Microsoft Azure-ready and that GeoMedia will work with SQL Server. ERDAS announced that they will offer enhancements to their viewing platform; support 64-bit processing; GPU-level support; and better point cloud handling as well as automated feature extraction and change detection.
The SaaS or other cloud strategy is a little, "cloudy." I could see ERDAS's APOLLO used as a possible option. APOLLO's strength is managing and delivering large volumes of unstructured geospatial data. But again, I think that's a decision that has not yet been made.
Perhaps the trickier issues involves a go-to-market strategy so as not to confuse the client with cross-product features or re-branding of each product under a single identity. The rebranding issue is down the road, perhaps, but SG&I must clearly articulate the product workflows and give clients a roadmap of features, functions and the interoperability advantages. It will kill the good works of top flight developers who are putting together a sound software integration plan if they don't.
[Disclosure: Travel for this trip was supported by Hexagon]