National Geographic’s MetaLens Shuttered

National Geographic has exited the geospatial digital asset management market. In our Spring issue Next-Gen Mapping column, we wrote about their MetaLens application, which was developed to internally manage their geospatial digital assets. National Geographic made a bold and entrepreneurial decision in 2007 to commercialize their internal application for the enterprise market. As much as we believe change and competition can come from any part of the ecosystem, we never said it was easy. It proved extremely difficult for National Geographic to leverage its consumer brand into enterprise software. And so, MetaLens remains an in-house application that will continue to support the Society’s efforts to bring valuable geographic products and services to millions of people.

What we didn’t mention in our Spring article is that Clear Path Labs, a geospatial start-up in Fort Collins, Colo., is the engine behind MetaLens. Clear Path Labs was started in 2007 to address the increasing demand for managing large volumes of geo-assets—any geo-referenced digital asset from text files to audio and video files. Their application, Clear Path Explorer does everything MetaLens did and more. With a $1200 a year subscription option, Clear Path offers an affordable and manageable location-based information (LBI) application for any business or organization. Sam Solt, CEO of Clear Path Labs said, “Clear Path will continue to support National Geographic’s in-house application, LandScope America, and provide MetaCarta content to its customers, including National Geographic.”

GeoEye-1 Launches Successfully

On Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008, GeoEye-1 was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The successful launch concluded after approximately 75 minutes, with signal acquisition from the satellite in its proper orbit.

The satellite is moving at a speed of 4.5 miles per second, 423 miles above the Earth. It has unrivaled spatial resolution of 0.41 meters (about 16 inches) for panchromatic images, and 1.65 meters for multi-spectral images. GeoEye-1 is also designed to have 3-meter accuracy, which means that customers can map natural and man-made features to within three meters of their actual locations on the surface of the Earth without ground control points.

The company's operating license from the U.S. government requires re-sampling the imagery from 0.41 meters to 0.5 meters for all customers not explicitly granted a waiver by the U.S. government.

GeoEye-1 was built by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Gilbert, Ariz. The imaging system was built by ITT in Rochester, NY. ITT is also building the imaging system for GeoEye-2, slated for launch in 2011.

United Launch Alliance Delta II rocketSaturday's launch was important as the first of the combined company of OrbImage and the former Space Imaging, now GeoEye. Commercial imagery should be available in several months; orders are currently being accepted. See and Spring 2008 article about GeoEye and ITT teaming up for this launch.

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, on behalf of Boeing Launch Services, blasted off on Saturday, Sept. 6, at 11:50.57 a.m. PDT with the GeoEye-1 satellite from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Photo by Carleton Bailie, The Boeing Company/GeoEye.

Northrop Grumman Acquires 3001 International, Inc.

Northrop Grumman announced on Sept. 10 that it will acquire 3001. Following the close of the transaction, 3001 will be part of Northrop Grumman's Information Technology (IT) sector. Bart Bailey, current CEO of 3001, will continue to lead 3001 as part of Northrop Grumman.

3001 International, owned by its management and CM Equity Partners, provides geospatial data production and analysis, including airborne imaging, surveying, mapping and geographic information systems for domestic and international government intelligence, defense and civilian customers. Among 3001's federal customers are the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Navy Facilities Command, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The company also has numerous contracts supporting state and local governments. More information is here on the Northrop Grumman site..

Inaugural GIS/RS Summit Held at ESRI U.C.

Focus was on Value of Remotely Sensed Data Integration with GIS

More than 200 attendees joined speakers in discussing how remotely sensed data has been used successfully at their respective organizations at the inaugural Remote Sensing and GIS Summit held Aug. 3, prior to the 2008 ESRI International User Conference in San Diego, California.

Keynote speaker Dr. Bradley Doorn, Remote-sensing Program Manager at the USDA, discussed the importance of focusing on end users' needs when exploiting raster imagery. Working with the USDA to monitor the world's food supply, Doorn has made the information derived from remotely sensed data a key economic indicator for global crop analysis. "The data is perfect for deriving valuable information," he explained, "due to its timeliness, reliability, objectivity, accuracy, global nature, and efficiency."

This sentiment wove through the other presentations during the day, which included addresses from Berik Davies, Global GIS and Spatial Coordinator at Shell International Exploration and Production, and Dr. David Zilkoski, Director, National Geodetic Survey at NOAA.

Dr. Devendra Pandy, Director General with the Forest Survey of India, provided a powerful case study of remotely sensed data use by discussing India's management of forests, including using the imagery legally to combat encroachers and accurately inventory India's precious forests.

Presentations by key ESRI staff, including Dr. David Maguire, Chief Scientist, and Peter Becker, Imagery Product Manager, followed with in-depth information on how to integrate an effective workflow with imagery. "ESRI's solutions help organizations realize the value of imagery," says Mark Cygan, Industry Manager for Spatial Data Infrastructure and Map, Chart, and Data Production, ESRI. "The fact that remotely sensed data is the primary source for many agencies in their geospatial production and maintenance makes it very important that we come together and explore the best ways to utilize such an important data type."

The last session of the day was an informative panel discussion led by Publisher/Managing Editor of Imaging Notes magazine, Myrna James Yoo. The panel consisted of top vendors as they presented current views.

Richard Cooke, President/COO of ITT VIS, cited the growing concept of "GIS for the masses" as presenting challenges, as we must manage the transition from pixel to final product without compromising the scientific rigors of the data. John Buttery, ESRI Sales Manager for DigitalGlobe, stated that a new challenge will be adding capacity for the huge amount of data created by new satellite launches. Matt Falter of BAE Systems noted that fewer people are trained in photogrammetry, a problem that creates challenges. Michael Walden of Overwatch asked how we will do feature extraction from 3D images.

Discussing their visions for the future, Alex Miller of ESRI Canada (representing PurView) said that there will be more robotic capture of data, especially for disaster response. Mark Brender said that it will be a 4D world, with imagery delivered on PDAs. Mark Baker of ESRI asked when people will appreciate the value and integrity of images, while Michael Walden stated that this appreciation is happening. Other panelists agreed. See article on ESRI's Image Server in our Summer issue here.

Richard Cooke noted that image processing must continue to evolve into the workflow in ways that maintain the scientific rigor, and interoperability will continue to be improved. John Buttery said that Autodesk and others will also incorporate imagery into their products. See article from our Summer issue on data integration here.

Emerging from the discussion was the overriding point that imagery is finally coming into its own as a respected layer of data, with software companies offering customers the capability to integrate imagery as a base layer within GIS, such as the seamless data exchange offered between ITT's ENVI and ArcGIS Desktop from ESRI.

More information about the Remote Sensing and GIS Summit.

United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket

Panel included, left to right, moderator Myrna James Yoo, Imaging Notes Publisher, Mark Baker, ESRI; Mark Brender, GeoEye; John Buttery, DigitalGlobe; Richard Cooke, ITT VIS; Matthew Falter, BAE Systems; Alex Miller, ESRI Canada representing PurVIEW; and (not shown) Michael Walden, Overwatch.

The GeoWeb 2008 Conference Summary

As the forum for the who's who of geospatial web technology and geospatial thinking, the GeoWeb 2008 conference, held in July in Vancouver, did not disappoint. With over 50 technical presentations, geo-techies exchanged ideas on the evolution and future of the GeoWeb, including 3D cities, data aggregation, SDI architecture, gaming and virtual world technology, security, environment, and public safety applications, as well as neo-geo and user-generated applications. Although the techies dominated this technology conference, curiosity continued to attract more business users in search of how they can apply the GeoWeb to their objectives.

Last year, Susan Ancel, General Manager, Network Services and Operations for EPCOR Water Services, and past President of GITA, in her GeoWeb 2007 closing remarks, challenged the audience with this question: "How does an enterprise integrate the new, innovative, off-the-shelf geospatial consumer applications such as Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth with legacy enterprise GIS systems?" Although the enterprise remains challenged in integrating GIS or location data into their workflows, keynote speaker Alex Miller, President of ESRI, Canada, offered some suggestions.

Miller discussed location as the ultimate integrator of multiple disciplines with market drivers and opportunities in 4 key areas: Energy/Green Economy, Public Safety, Climate Change, and the Mobile Workforce. In the realm of geospatial, where there are opportunities, there are challenges. He discussed the ongoing challenge of integrating complex data and integration of data across "long transactions" that are traditionally manual processes. Consumer tools have focused on search and visualization, but Miller says that the enterprise needs more. The enterprise needs the ability to publish the geo-information, which requires a system for authoring, serving and using geographic knowledge. Miller sees SOA (service oriented architecture) as the platform for integrating GIS into the enterprise. However, data quality remains the biggest challenge—the problem of updating location data on a transaction by transaction basis.

Michael T. Jones, CTO of Google Earth, and Bill Gail, Director of Strategic Development, Microsoft Virtual Earth, took different approaches in their focus on the future with Jones highlighting the human dynamic and Gail highlighting technology. Instead of focusing on technology details, Jones delivered an impassioned speech on the promise of the GeoWeb. Although technology's purpose is intended to improve the human condition, the connection to humanity and everyday struggles is often lost in technical settings. Jones said, "A question worth asking doesn't have a single answer." Because a meaningful answer is multidimensional, it requires either an individual's or a software application's ability to process multiple data points and put them in context. He used such heartfelt examples as the tragedy of hurricane Katrina, the Civil War, and genocide in Sudan to demonstrate how the GeoWeb can bring context to a situation. Images of the redevelopment efforts in New Orleans can now quickly communicate that, although funds have been allocated, the progress has been slow. In a conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Jones was able to quickly highlight the magnitude of a situation that was previously understood by abstract spreadsheets. An intelligent map providing context will invoke a visceral reaction, while spreadsheets and research reports with overwhelming data tend to obfuscate the issues.

Bill Gail focused on 3D modeling with some impressive 3D cityscapes. The future, he said, is in geospatial search. Presently, the GeoWeb is about "bringing the information to me." The Future will be "finding information important to me." Merging of text and spatial query is the power of the GeoWeb, which will combine such elements as interactive services, routing, and weather to answer questions that have been traditionally difficult for a computer to answer.

Many questions emerged from the various technical sessions that merit further investigation, such as:

  1. With a new generation of managers and workers entering the enterprise, how will long transactions be processed? How will things get done in the future?
  2. As user-generated content becomes more popular and economical, what model will win--the Wiki model or the logical data model?
  3. What defines a raw data product in a digital world when consumers expect more "basic" intelligence in content?
  4. Will location/IP address be the next unique identifier?

For more information about the 2008 event, click here. We look forward to next year's conference, and to watching the momentum over the interim in answering some of these questions.

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