Leveraging the “Information Cloud” with the Dynamic GIS
Image indicates nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. One-meter resolution image provided by GeoEye IKONOS, collected on March 12, 2011.
Image showing Chile earthquake, comprised of RapidEye natural color and false color. Data was collected on February 27, 2010.
With leading technologies in Hexagon’s portfolio, Intergraph, ERDAS, and Leica Geosystems have the market ingredients, coupled with a revolutionary strategy, to fulfill the increasing demands for information portraying our changing earth.
Integrating Leica Geosystems, ERDAS, and Intergraph under Hexagon’s leadership aligns all the vehicles necessary to make the Dynamic GIS a reality.
The four engines that power the Information Cloud are capture, process, share, and deliver. The geospatial information life cycle serves as the pipe connecting the engines.
Last year, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck just miles from Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince. More recently, massive earthquakes have also struck Chile, Christchurch, New Zealand and Japan’s east coast, shocking and devastating local residents and providing a striking reminder of how quickly the earth can change. In the days following each of these disasters, humanitarian aid and military organizations from around the world rushed to search for survivors, provide medical care, help restore order to the devastated cities, and plan for long-term recovery.
To aid in the relief efforts, data providers worldwide collected high-quality aerial and satellite multi-spectral imagery and LiDAR information over the affected areas. Partners like ERDAS rapidly served this imagery, making it available to disaster relief workers and first responders worldwide. When the earth changes, the ability to understand these changes and rapidly share this information is critical, as was seen in Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and Japan, as well as other recent natural disasters that have relied on geospatial technologies to help save lives. See Figures 1 and 2.
Editor’s Note: See related story on the Web of Geospatial Collaboration.
In time-critical situations, frequent updates are not enough. What is truly needed is real-time information to respond to real-time needs. As search engines have drastically improved, the ability to find information has advanced from quick to instantaneous. Moreover, the advent of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites has made it easier to publish, share, and view information as events are occurring. Recently, we have seen this phenomenon as live observers catapult information about the Middle East uprisings to the world stage in a matter of minutes. Individuals have the ability to do more than just report coordinates or capture an image – eye witnesses now provide live feeds of event-specific, time-specific, and location-specific information about our changing world.
Problems of the Past
From the dawning of the earliest civilizations, there has been a realization of the need to understand our surroundings and our relationship with them, coupled with an awareness of the earth’s dynamic state. Due to costs associated with updates, some settled for static, outdated maps. However, the civilizations that understood the importance of change and updated their maps and altered their strategies accordingly gained a substantial advantage that they could parlay into lucrative ventures and successful conquests. Quickly recognizing and capitalizing on the changing earth has always been the driving force for innovation and victory.
The geospatial information life cycle serves as the pipe connecting the engines. Geospatial data is fuel, which, when sparked by change on the earth’s surface, drives the Dynamic GIS to exploit the wealth of content in the 5D Information Cloud.
Today, this same recognition of the changing earth continues to drive the geospatial industry, connecting it with previously untouched and disconnected industries. A student studying geography is no longer scrutinized for his or her line of work in a world that has already been mapped, but rather asked how quickly he or she can respond to the changing landscape with a new map.
Even still, the most rapid response is quickly outdated. With the broader awareness of what geospatial technology can do, and the expectation that information should be quickly captured, conveyed, and shared, there is a growing need to respond instantly to change – not merely with current data, but with fully integrated, intelligent maps providing real-time, reliable, and actionable information.
While there is a growing appreciation for cross-over applications enhanced with raster and vector analysis tools, the industry’s current desktop and server-based offerings largely remain segmented. Disconnected GIS, CAD, engineering, photogrammetry, and remote sensing solutions only partially address the need for creating, maintaining, sharing, and using geospatial data to understand an event for a given location.
Additionally, files are often scattered across an organization; stored as multiple data types with varying degrees of accuracy, various scales of mapping, and inconsistent data schemas; and supported by a variety of scattered products not interoperable with one another. While modern software attempts to support the growing volume of data types, a common language for understanding and modeling the earth’s geography and its infrastructure across all domains has not yet been established.
Not only are geospatial software products disconnected from one another, but the sensors capturing the data are often disconnected from primary GIS, remote sensing, and photogrammetry workflows required to produce information. Because of this, geospatial software does not fully leverage sensor-based metadata consistently across products and applications. With these obstacles slowing down response time, even the most rapidly captured data may be obsolete after all the processing necessary to convert it into useful information and distribute it to key stakeholders and decision-makers.
Geospatial software users are disconnected from key data and other users when using their analytical tools. While server-based technologies have existed for years, the majority of users still operate in the desktop environment. Ironically, these same users are likely to be well-connected to the world through instant messenger, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.
The Market Ingredients for Success
Throughout the last four decades of geospatial innovation, we have witnessed the technological progression of mapping on multiple levels – from hardcopy maps to the Web and mobile mapping, from film to digital, satellite to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), surveying to GPS, contour maps to point clouds, files to databases, and megabytes to petabytes.
More than ever before, we can “sense” the real world around us – from space, the air, and the ground. With advances in technology, we can also make “sense” of captured data with clever algorithms for data fusion, feature extraction, and integration with business intelligence. Storage, database, and server technologies now support the handling of large volumes of data, making it possible to natively use geospatial data in its raw form and leverage the depth of information available in all these sources.
By effectively managing all sources of geospatial data (including GIS, CAD, surveying, remote sensing, and photogrammetry), the value and usability of that data increases beyond departmental compartments and across spatial domains to users who have a need to understand the changing earth.
Advances in mobile computing and technology extend the use of geographic data and information, empowering millions to billions of individuals to be “publishers” and “users” of location-specific data and information. Cloud-enabling geospatial applications and platforms further extend the reach of these tools to users beyond the traditional GIS, remote sensing, and photogrammetric arenas. With standards from organizations like the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO), we now have the means to achieve true interoperability across domains to provide a common language for understanding our earth. As noted previously, individuals and organizations alike are now virtually connected via social networks.
But even as new technologies continue to emerge, until now, few geospatial companies have been able to provide an integrated approach to truly handle the entire geospatial information life cycle – from data capture to delivery – where the final product is truly actionable, real-time 5D inform-ation (X, Y, Z, time, information) delivered to the desktop, Web, mobile clients, and millions of users through cloud-based offerings.
The Hexagon Advantage: The Dynamic GIS
The growing desire for a new paradigm, coupled with rapid technological advances, has prepared Hexagon to overcome the walls and barriers that previously prevented fusion and synthesis. Combining the strengths of Intergraph, ERDAS, and Leica Geosystems technologies, Hexagon now offers the industry’s most comprehensive set of geospatial solutions. Together, Leica Geosystems, ERDAS and Intergraph provide hardware and software tools to form the Dynamic GIS that supports the complete geospatial information life cycle, from capturing, managing, sharing, and delivering data to transforming vector, raster, and terrain information, to securely delivering integrated information products. See Figure 3.
The Dynamic GIS, which completely connects sensors to software and software to solutions through specific vertical market services, ultimately provides a means to protect lives, infrastructure, and society. An integrated geospatial system, the Dynamic GIS is able to translate change, on the fly, into actionable information. The earth is constantly changing, and snapshots of geography can be captured from airborne, orbital, terrestrial, or hand sensors and saved as a permanent record of events happening on the earth’s surface. With connected sensors, software, and services working in concert, the Dynamic GIS makes it possible to achieve instantaneous results. Integrating Leica Geosystems, ERDAS, and Intergraph under Hexagon’s leadership aligns all the vehicles necessary to make the Dynamic GIS a reality. See Figure 4.
Geospatial Information Life Cycle Fuels the Dynamic GIS
The fusion of sensor technology with software produces the “Information Cloud,” where imagery is fused with 3D point cloud data and connected with real-time, location-based intelligence. The Information Cloud encapsulates and preserves the source content from the various sensor inputs, while feeding the Dynamic GIS. With integrated software solutions, you can transform this data to produce reliable and actionable information. The role of the Dynamic GIS is to leverage the depth of the Information Cloud, enabling software applications to process, share, and deliver the information needed to drive decisions that protect lives, property, and infrastructure.
The four engines that power the Information Cloud are capture, process, share, and deliver. The geospatial information life cycle serves as the pipe connecting the engines. Geospatial data is fuel, which, when sparked by change on the earth’s surface, drives the Dynamic GIS to exploit the wealth of content in the 5D Information Cloud. See Figure 5.
The first engine includes sensor technology to capture snapshots of geo-graphy for a given location over a period of time. This includes airborne sensors (airborne digital imaging, LiDAR, UAV), satellites, and terrestrial sensors (total station, GPS, video, terrestrial LiDAR, handheld devices). Combined, these sources capture a wealth of data about a given location on the earth’s surface. Along with the data captured, they also record metadata, further enabling downstream workflow processes for optimized information extraction.
For example, the Leica ADS80 and Z/I Imaging DMC capture terabytes of imagery that can be used to create and extract valuable geographic inform-ation. The Leica ALS60 airborne LiDAR system captures highly accurate and dense point cloud data for large geographic areas. The Leica ScanStation C10 terrestrial laser scanner quickly scans and captures point cloud datasets for as-built, topographic, detail, and engineering surveys. The Leica System 1200 is a fully integrated TPS/GPS system for recording and measuring survey observations for cadastral mapping, land management, and engineering surveys.
With all these sources feeding the Information Cloud, the combined data and metadata are the fuel that is fed through the geospatial information life cycle into the second engine for data fusion, processing, and production.
The second engine includes the geospatial processing tools for fusing and integrating geospatial source content into software applications for the creation and update of geospatial data and information products. The result of the processing engine is a collection of data, information, and processing layers that feed the Information Cloud with the ingredients needed to share and deliver actionable information to users.
For example, the Intergraph GeoMedia product suite is a set of well-integrated applications that provide the full breadth of geospatial processing capabilities needed by industries such as governments and transportation agencies for map production, infrastructure management, and land management. Utility and telecommunications companies, as well as defense and intelligence organizations, also rely on this product suite for data analysis, data sharing, and map production. The rich suite of tools for fully exploiting feature data from a variety of sources makes GeoMedia a powerful solution for mapping, modeling, and understanding the earth’s geography.
ERDAS IMAGINE, a geospatial data authoring system, incorporates geospatial image processing and analysis, remote sensing, and GIS into a single powerful, convenient package. ERDAS IMAGINE enables users to easily create value-added products such as 2D and 3D images, 3D fly-through movies, and cartographic-quality map compositions from geospatial data. ERDAS IMAGINE also provides advanced tools for parallel batch processing, spatial modeling, map production, mosaicking, and change detection.
Both LPS and ImageStation extend the utilization of imagery to support advanced photogrammetric operations for the production of stereo images, orthorectfied images, terrain datasets, 2D features, and 3D models from satellite and airborne imaging sources.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have provided critical real-time surveillance and operational support to military organizations, and have been a key source of intelligence for a number of years. Intergraph’s Motion Video Exploitation solution leverages full motion video, giving analysts the ability to collect, analyze, and maximize the value of video assets. This technology enables video collection and management, including the addition of clip marks and annotations, image enhancement, and integration with multiple geo-referenced sources.
The third engine powering the Information Cloud is the ability to manage, fuse, and share geospatial data across departments and regions, connecting to an organization’s hub of geospatial data and information. With increasing change, data volumes expand and the data captured and processed from a wide variety of “sensing” sources creates a data management problem for finding and using geospatial data throughout an organization. By effectively managing all sources of geospatial data (including GIS, CAD, surveying, remote sensing, and photogrammetry), the value and usability of that data increases beyond departmental compartments and across spatial domains to users who have a need to understand the changing earth.
For example, ERDAS APOLLO helps users organize geospatial data, giving them the ability to find, view, and directly use the data and the resulting geographic information. Managing and delivering terabytes of imagery, terrain, and GIS data and delivering it directly to customers are capabilities essential to extending the use of geospatial data to the world.
The heart of the system is the catalog, with its key component being metadata. The processed data, along with the metadata recorded from the sensor at the time of capture and the ancillary metadata recorded and maintained during the progression of content in the geospatial information life cycle, facilitates the dynamic delivery of information from the Information Cloud, which is made possible with the execution of the fourth engine, the Dynamic GIS delivery.
The fourth engine for fully leveraging the Information Cloud enables the delivery of geospatial data AND dynamic information products. This is done through on-demand geo-processing over the Internet, to mobile clients and the cloud through vertical market-focused SaaS implementations.
The delivery engine leverages standards-based spatial data infrastructure (SDI) concepts, high-performance technologies, and geoprocessing Web services for delivering geospatial information to Web portals, mobile clients, and a variety of thin- and smart-client applications.
For example, Intergraph’s GeoMedia SDI Pro and SDI Portal support the delivery of geospatial data as Web services, enabling the fusion of those sources into a single map view. Extending the fusion of geospatial data to spatial modeling allows for the delivery of on-demand geo-processing, where data fused from multiple sensing systems can be integrated and fused in a spatial model and delivered as a dynamic information product. ERDAS APOLLO Professional supports the on-demand delivery and execution of Web-based geo-processing services. With this solution, users can exploit the wealth of content in the Information Cloud and deliver real time information.
A New Era
The Dynamic GIS catapults our entire industry into a new era, where integrated geospatial systems replace the traditional domains of GIS, remote sensing, photogrammetry, surveying, and mapping. These disciplines are fused together to support the Information Cloud – the axis of a Dynamic GIS. Sparked by change and fueled by the data and information captured from a variety of sensors, raw source content is fed through the geospatial information life cycle, processed with geospatial software, shared rapidly (and securely) and ultimately delivered on-demand as reliable and actionable information to users in the office, in the field, and across the globe in real time. Fusing sensors, software, and services for users across the government and transportation, defense and intelligence, utilities and communications, and public safety and security industries ensures that as change happens, users in these critical industries can derive real-time information to protect lives, property, and infrastructure. The Dynamic GIS aligns the most innovative offerings in the geospatial industry. With leading technologies in Hexagon’s portfolio, Intergraph, ERDAS, and Leica Geosystems have the market ingredients, coupled with a revolutionary strategy to fulfill the increasing demands for information portraying our changing earth.