Intergraph Retools, Revamps Entire Geospatial Product Suite

By Joe Francica

The evolution of geospatial technology solutions began with very isolated software products for specific applications, which were sometimes relegated to servers and at other times on desktops. It has been a very disjointed ride over the last 30 years for users of geospatial solutions who might have had to choose from remote sensing software on mini VAXs or desktop mapping software on PCs, and the two were never fully integrated. To plug this gap we have often found two separate vendors building bridges to each other’s software only to lose data fidelity in the translation between sometimes-proprietary file formats. For the most part today, data are exchanged fairly well. Still, users are left with the necessity to purchase software from multiple vendors if they want a complete geospatial workflow between GIS and remote sensing, and also photogrammetry if they so desire.

Since Hexagon’s acquisition of Intergraph in 2010, the integration of the GeoMedia product suite with the ERDAS IMAGINE remote sensing and photogrammetry software has been much anticipated. Intergraph Geospatial 2013 reflects this integration and with it comes a redesigned interface and retooled analytical capabilities. Users of Intergraph products can now expect a complete and seamless geospatial technology workflow that also sports the very familiar Microsoft ribbon bar. GeoMedia and IMAGINE are offered in tiered versions with functionality unlocked based on the tier purchased: Essentials, Advantage or Professional.
Three Key Points
There are three key points Intergraph is seeking to make with the release of its product portfolio:
  1. Intergraph is striving to “unify the portfolio” by releasing the entire geospatial product suite at same time. This includes 64 products encompassing workflows for GIS, remote sensing, photogrammetry and server products. The company believes that to truly demonstrate product compatibility it needs to release every product in the portfolio at the same time.
  2. The company wanted to update the design of its geospatial software so that it is compatible with today’s productivity tools, such as those from Microsoft. The objective was to eliminate some of the complexity and simplify the workflows, as well as to reduce the time required to complete projects.
  3. Intergraph wanted customers to know that it is one, unified company. With diverse products from companies joined through acquisition, that is, Intergraph and ERDAS, the company wanted to emphasize that its solutions are integrated and compatible. 
What’s New in GeoMedia
GeoMedia is Intergraph’s professional geospatial analysis solution, which has been around since it migrated users from the Modular GIS Environment (MGE) in the mid- to late ‘90s. 
  • GeoMedia’s interface is better organized due to its Microsoft ribbon-style interface and the ability to group commands. This provides for larger screen real estate (Figure 1).
  • There is improved display performance from the implementation of a client-side display cache.
  • The display of text on maps is driven by cartographic rules. A label manager interface establishes a custom rule base by hierarchy and priority of label placement (Figure 2). Each custom rule base can be shared among users.
  • Integration: Users can access the ERDAS APOLLO image catalog directly from GeoMedia. Searching the catalog by minimum bounding rectangle (MBR) provides an easy way to capture the image by the required extents. The result returned to the user can be a text listing, image thumbnails or a more detailed listing that includes metadata and thumbnail image (Figure 3).
What’s New in IMAGINE
IMAGINE is the flagship image processing solution developed by ERDAS. It includes many data authoring tools as well as an integrated workflow to its photogrammetry suite, LPS.
  • Spatial Modeler has been overhauled and modernized. This capability within IMAGINE allows the user to compose a workflow using icons of each function (Figure 4). Spatial Modeler now includes an editor canvas for prototyping model workflows. Previews are allowed at every step to assist the user and a progress indicator shows the time to completion of the final model. Users can modify the model using Python scripting and add other operators from IMAGINE, GeoMedia or ArcGIS.
  • Spatial Modeler currently exists only in IMAGINE but may make its way into GeoMedia in a future release. 
  • The newly updated viewer now supports the native handling of point cloud data and dynamic algorithms.
  • IMAGINE includes a Radar Analyst ribbon. Radar data are typically difficult to work with so this set of functions has been included to identify features using a radiometric histogram slice that can be color coded by histogram delineation.
  • IMAGINE supports ECW version 3 and includes improved JPEG 2000 support.
  • Integration: Some GeoMedia Grid functions are now available in Spatial Modeler. IMAGINE also supports direct access to the GeoMedia data stores.
What’s New in Photogrammetry
ImageStation was Intergraph’s photogrammetric solution and LPS was ERDAS’. The development teams were faced with multiple stacks of similar technology. Intergraph’s challenge was to integrate these products or identify user workflows for which they were best suited. Production workflows for point clouds, sensors and 3D modeling had to be optimized. ERDAS’s solutions also included extensions to ArcGIS. Intergraph identified three market segments for its products: (1) professional photogrammetrists, (2) project-oriented users who perform data exploitation, and (3) those who “do-it-themselves,” primarily identified by Intergraph as cities and counties without a dedicated photogrammetry staff. With this release, Intergraph believes that it can drive stereo photogrammetry to a commodity and serve these three markets appropriately.
  • ImageStation supports semi-global matching (SGM). SGM takes data from a digital camera and searches for matching pixels from adjoining stereo pairs to produce an extremely well-matched point cloud.
  • Users can expect better integration with Hexagon sensors and other hardware and software for sensor mission planning.
  • The portfolio of photogrammetry solutions supports grid, raster, point clouds and 3D data (Figure 5).
  • Integration: IMAGINE and LPS have been integrated so that they now share the same common GUI and tools. 
What’s New for Server Solutions
Intergraph believes that its server-based products are the driver into the enterprise marketplace and the pathway for thousands of users to provide constant and steady support for geospatial workflows. The objective is to offer server solutions that behave as a unified group and simplify the configuration on a server. The goal is to have the interface look consistent yet “modern” and move information from sensors to decision makers as quickly as possible, even for mobile users.
  • There is a new, harmonized Web client for all server products.
  • All Web services are OGC and INSPIRE specification compliant.
  • There is one unified administrative console to manage all server products. The administration console is configurable, with a common interface, so that users can choose different themes for a starting configuration.
  • Any server products with this release will sit on Amazon EC2.
  • Integration: Geospatial Portal (formerly GeoMedia SDI Portal) is now an integrated part of all browser-based server products (APOLLO, GeoMedia WebMap, Geospatial SDI). GeoMedia Smart Client supports the ability to consume an ECWP stream of imagery.
My Take
In this new release of geospatial products, Intergraph took some time to make certain that the much anticipated integration not only worked, but made sense to both prospective and existing users. Make no mistake, this product portfolio is primarily for the professional GIS user. From sensors to image processing to spatial modeling, Intergraph’s objective was to offer integrated products and easier workflows. This part of the Hexagon vision is nearly complete. There is still some work to be done to introduce Leica’s hardware solutions into the workflow, but from the geospatial software side, users can be confident that there is consistency and conformity among products.
Now, how will this play in the real world against a competitor like Esri? Intergraph has compiled a workflow for the professional GIS user. If you perform photogrammetric, remote sensing and GIS applications, Intergraph offers you a complete workflow. Esri offers different choices for its remote sensing and photogrammetry workflows, mostly from its partner, Exelis VIS. Users will have to decide which scenario works best for them. 

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Published Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Written by Joe Francica

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