ERDAS Rocks, Users Jazzed

December 24, 2009

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ERDAS recently announced new product enhancements to ERDAS IMAGINE, ER MAPPER and the company's photogrammetry suite. The company is hosting its ERDAS Rocks World Tour in nearly 40 cities. I recently attended one held in Atlanta on December 10th. Just two years ago, shortly after its acquisition by Hexagon, ERDAS rebranded itself as the "Earth to Business Company," positioning its products to provide a complete workflow to ingest and process both vector and raster data. With this current release, the company has positioned ERDAS IMAGINE 2010 as "geospatial data production software." The company plans to engage prospective users with the "upstream" part of geospatial data management workflow, focusing on processing and analysis solutions for satellite imagery as well as LiDAR point clouds.

Improving User Workflows
According to Juergen Dold, president of the Geospatial Solutions division of Hexagon, ERDAS' intent is to streamline imaging GIS workflows. IMAGINE 2010, the company's flagship image analysis software, provides a new graphical user interface (GUI) to make workflows more intuitive. ERDAS has improved the production of terabyte-sized mosaics by up to eight times. The demos retrieving data and displaying data sets of this size were indeed impressive. Some other major enhancements include the ability to automatically identify changes in parcels, extract highly accurate data from dense point clouds, and directly update Oracle Spatial data. IMAGINE now has tools that allow professionals to create models and share these models with non-professionals. ERDAS has compiled a list of the new features in a What's New document. Below are the features that I would consider most noteworthy.

IMAGINE 2010 Contextual Tools
The big new feature enhancement of IMAGINE 2010 is the addition of contextual tools. For example, it is now easier to find the functionality that may in the past have been buried in the user interface. Tools appear that are appropriate to the data on which the user is working. If the user is working on raster imagery, the tab on the ribbon bar with raster image enhancement functions is automatically presented. If the user changes the active layer to one that has only vector data, vector data management tools appear. This is an enhancement that cuts at least two keystrokes from the workflow, and probably more. For those just learning the software or who are not fully versed in image processing techniques, these tools can reduce "hunting and pecking" around the toolbar to determine which enhancement functions could be used.

Drag, Drop, Batch and Create
Another useful feature that cuts workflow time is a file manager-like "shoe box," a left column list of available images. To open an image, simply drag the file from the shoe box to the active window. For batch processing of large image files and mosaics, a wizard helps the user to record and save a series of steps in the workflow that will be used in the processing. In addition, standard map templates are included for easy map compilation. When the user is ready to create a cartographically correct map, templates with standard layouts are provided. If a company has several templates that are used for different projects with different map styles, the user can select these pre-configured templates. The new release also includes the ability to directly update an Oracle Spatial database.

LPS Core Module for Photogrammetry
The LPS Core Module for photogrammetric workflows, an add-on to ERDAS IMAGINE Advantage, has a helpful function for processing LiDAR data. To support the processing of LiDAR point clouds, the user can batch process the file to export only the terrain base that is required. This would allow the user to selectively remove or include only certain surface features. Therefore, the resulting data may include just the bare ground or buildings or vegetation canopies.

ERDAS ADE is a suite of products for editing an Oracle Database. Users can perform map editing that posts back to Oracle Spatial. Edits may include split, merge, import imagery, or turn on a Web Map Service (WMS) layer as a background. Support for the Oracle Workspace Manager is included. ERDAS ADE has a very smart data editing interface. For those using this interface with a mobile device, conflict resolution exists between the mobile device and database; the user is notified that a feature or geometry conflict exists and needs to be addressed.

Spatial Modeling
Spatial Modeling in IMAGINE is a general purpose tool for putting together algorithms, uses a modeling language, and can accommodate the integration of scalar, tabular, matrix, raster or vector data. The software provides spatial functions to process area, layer or image data such as Boolean, arithmetic and others. It is similar to many other model builders that exist in products such as ArcGIS and SRC's Alteryx. It includes a model builder toolset to select basic tasks and link these tasks into a workflow. Some of the "canned" models include proximity search and change detection. A single author may define and provide models to solve various problems for multiple users. The composer of the model can load it up to a server that other users can access through APOLLO, ERDAS'suite of server-based software that catalogs images to view them quickly. One nice aspect of ERDAS model building functionality is that it is OGC Web Processing Service compliant.

Other Resources
ERDAS has created excellent supporting materials for training and product discovery. The website allows visitors to examine and 'play with' products, and the company's YouTube channel has over 70 videos with step-by-step product guides. ERDAS has also launched where new technology is introduced to give prospective users an idea of what's coming in future product releases.

If you are interested in learning more about the company's technology and new product developments, it's worthwhile to attend one of the upcoming events.


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