Directions Magazine (DM): First, please describe some of the features of MapLink Pro?
Matthew Wood (MW): MapLink Pro is a collection of software developer kits (SDKs), designed to deliver a wide range of mapping capabilities. These include visualization, terrain analysis, geometry editing, 3D and web services. It is designed and optimized with tactical display environments in mind, meaning high performance is a key feature.
The SDKs are cross-platform, meaning we can help customers maximise their code re-use, reducing their total cost of ownership (TCO). Windows and Linux are the primary platforms, though we also have new Android SDKs in this release.
Our aim is flexibility: MapLink operates in a wide range of frameworks and integrates with legacy systems. We offer C++, Java and .NET APIs. We have also produced ports to legacy platforms such as Solaris, VXWorks, HP-UX, and will port MapLink Pro to custom hardware on request. MapLink is currently deployed to about 8000 systems worldwide.
DM: What are the key features of the new release?
MW: MapLink 8.0 represents a significant progression for the product, and includes some exciting new capabilities. For example, there is the new 3D SDK, which builds on the osgEarth open source visualisation toolkit. We also now offer a Terrain Java SDK on Android, alongside the existing Android Core SDK. The latter has been upgraded to include new spatial operations, which will make it easier to develop applications that require sophisticated native geoprocessing.
We have also updated our WMS/WMTS C++ client, with major performance improvements such as tile caching, and a new WMS/WMTS data layer. Customers have been telling us that KML is now a really important format for them, so we have responded by adding a new KML custom data layer on Windows, supporting the full 2D KML specification. On top of all this, we have introduced a raft of usability enhancements to MapLink Studio, advanced map internationalisation (UTF-8) capabilities, raster re-projection enhancements, updated sample applications and much more. This is a very big update.
DM: What do you think will get customers excited about this version?
MW: More and more of our customers have been telling us that they want to be able to use cutting-edge open source software tools. We have looked long and hard at the range of available FOSS projects before deciding which to support, but osgEarth was an easy choice. Just as GeoServer has become the preferred tool for open source delivery of 2D web mapping, osgEarth has found favour as the open source tool of choice for high-performance and mission-critical 3D visualisation, particularly in the defence domain.
MapLink Pro 8 customers who take the new 3D SDK will get a pre-built version of osgEarth, including many of its optional third-party libraries, as well as our new osgEarth drivers and tile sources for MapLink maps, layers and terrain databases. These will enable osgEarth application developers to exploit MapLink Pro’s world-class visualisation capabilities for data formats not otherwise available to osgEarth, directly into their osgEarth application. This includes formats such as such as DBDB-V, ASRP, ARCS, DAFIF, Jeppesen and S52, as well as MapLink’s support for symbology such as 2525B. The automatic switching between detail layers that osgEarth provides is also particularly effective, and the sample application we provide shows this off to great effect.
OsgEarth developers who are building applications for connected or web environments will also be excited by the performance and flexibility that our new WMS/WMTS data layer brings. It far surpasses the WMS support otherwise available in osgEarth.
DM: So MapLink Pro 8 is going to be of particular interest to customers working in connected, web environments?
MW: Yes - this release is a very important piece of the connected-disconnected story for Envitia. For some years we have been a very active member in the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), and we have a number of products aimed primarily at that world of connected, distributed, web services. One of the key features of Envitia’s Discovery product, for example, is the ability to take spatial data and visualisations (including MapLink maps), and automate the management, processing and publication of these to OGC catalogues and web map services (WMS).
MapLink Pro, however, has traditionally been geared towards development of C2 and situational awareness applications – operating in the typically disconnected world of embedded systems, desktop applications and thick clients. So the MapLink Pro story has really been all about flexible real-time visualisation, optimisation, data preparation, and performance – particularly on relatively low-powered hardware. These are areas where MapLink Pro has always excelled – and continues to do so.
So, MapLink 8’s new WMS and WMTS clients give our customers the best of both worlds. We will continue to support our customers to build and maintain their thick client and embedded systems, while also enabling them to interoperate with new web service platforms - such as WMTS feeds - as these become available.
Conversely, MapLink Pro enables customers to easily build OGC-compliant web processing services (WPS), delivering MapLink Pro functionality into thin clients and browser-based applications. MapLink Pro customers therefore have the flexibility to use the same MapLink Pro toolkit to develop for both the connected and disconnected worlds, and easily transfer their investment from one to the other.
We are also already supporting the new OGC standard formats - specifically OWS-Context and GeoPackage. These will enable MapLink customers to develop standards-based applications that can move seamlessly between connected and disconnected environments. We are currently in beta testing with customers, with the aim of bringing these into the core product later this year.
DM: Where does mobile computing fit into that connected-disconnected strategy?
MW: With MapLink Pro 8, we have focussed on enhancing our capabilities on the Android platform, and can now provide both Core and Terrain Java SDKs. As I mentioned earlier, the Core SDK has been expanded since its first release last year so that it now includes a comprehensive set of spatial operations. These implement topological functions such as adjacency, intersection, containment and so on. By performing these operations on the mobile device rather than on a server, it is possible to deliver applications that provide complex geoprocessing functionality in a totally disconnected environment. Geofencing applications are an example of something that MapLink Pro 8 can now do really well on Android. The new Android Terrain SDK also brings support for line of sight and intervisibility calculations, cross-section generation, and surface visualisation.
A 30-day trial of MapLink Pro 8 is available at www.envitia.com