Zeroing in on Geographic Exploration Systems

Message from the Editor

Welcome to GISWeekly! Nearly every participant in our Emerging Technologies review mentioned Google Earth technology and how that might impact the future directions of GIS. Google Earth is exciting and better known to the masses right now, however, it is not the only "Geographic Exploration System (GES)." Read about some others in this week's Industry News.

This week we institute a new way of presenting some of the news from our press releases: GISWeekly will post excerpts from only those stories in which our readers have expressed the most interest. Thus, the newsletter will appear shorter.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Agreements/Alliances, Announcements, Awards, Financials, Appointments, Wins, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Zeroing in on Geographic Exploration Systems
by Susan Smith

Nearly every participant in our Emerging Technologies review mentioned Google Earth technology and how that might impact the future directions of GIS. Google Earth is exciting and better known to the masses right now, however, it is not the only "Geographic Exploration System (GES)."

Although it may seem that these GES are a new invention, they have actually been in the works for quite some time. Technology from lesser known companies has been used to extend or enhance software for some of the heavy hitters. Some companies have OEM'd their technology, others have been the result of outright acquisitions.

ESRI ArcGIS Explorer
ESRI will release in Q2 2006 a beta version of its "geospatial information viewer," ArcGIS Explorer, which will offer an easy way to access geographic information but also integrates rich GIS datasets and server-based geoprocessing applications by accessing the ArcGIS Server including geoprocessing and 3D services. It is OGC-compliant, and supports WMS and Google KML data.

Some of its features include:
  • ability to seamlessly explore data for the entire globe in 2D and 3D
  • integrate your local data with data and services from ArcGIS Server, ArcIMS, OGC WMS and ESRI-hosted ArcWeb Services.
  • perform GIS analysis using tasks (i.e. visibility, modeling, proximity, search)
  • answer queries about the maps you generate and share the results with others
  • use maps and data from your own secure servers.

    ESRI has just released a beta of ArcWeb Explorer, a Web-based map viewing application based on Macromedia Flash 8. The ArcWeb Explorer uses vector mapping technology to render maps quickly in the browser instead of having the server render them.
NASA's World Wind is a free downloadable program that allows you to view a virtual globe and pan, zoom, and rotate the globe to whatever location you wish. You can see individual streets if you zoom in far enough. The software will note that it needs more satellite images to execute a zoom or other particular task, so it uses the internet to connect to NASA and copies the images to your PC. The images it copies are from a NASA satellite image library, and are not yet real time. It does have real time weather integrated, however.

MODIS - 10-4-2003, Hurricane Kate, Atlantic Ocean
SRTM + LandSat 7: Mt. St. Helens, Washington

If you look closely you can see individual streets. World Wind can drape a landscape over a height to create a 3D model, when you hold the right mouse button down and drag the mouse slowly towards you. You can navigate by either using place names or entering the lat/long of where you want to go.

Like all these GES, World Wind is limited to the data it has on hand. USGS urban data is not absolutely complete, and similar data although possibly available in other countries, is not free. World Wind has a good FAQ section that answers a lot of questions about installations and capability.

World Wind leverages Microsoft .NET technology to access open standards such as XML and WMS and others.

I just read an interesting post on the The Carbon Portal, stating their CarbonTools have been used to extend both ArcGIS Explorer and NASA'S World Wind. The Carbon Project's GAIA, a WMS/WFS/GML OGC-compliant viewer developed using CarbonTools, is currently a small 2D viewer application, yet fully OGC-compliant and tested.

Skyline Software's TerraSuite is 3D visualization technology with real time streaming imagery capabilities that enable users to evaluate locations for situation analysis and decision support.

According to the website, TerraSuite is composed of three main product suites:
  • TerraBuilder fuses large volumes of imagery, elevation and vector data, to create a terrain database with an accurate 3D model of a landscape.
  • TerraExplorer is a desktop application that allows users to view and analyze the spatial data, and edit it, adding 2D and 3D information, routes, locations and GIS files. TerraExplorer connects to the terrain database generated by TerraBuilder, and accesses GIS layers directly over a network.
  • TerraGate is a server that allows users to access the terrain database over the Internet. TerraGate streams spatial data in real-time, as the user flies over the landscape.
Collaboration component
The Collaboration component provides hosting services for collaboration sessions between TerraExplorer users. Using the collaboration tool in TerraExplorer, users can create collaboration sessions and invite remote participants to share the 3D experience.

Recently Intergraph announced an OEM agreement with Skyline to integrate Skyline's 3D visualization technology with the Intergraph GeoMedia product line. Integrating data collected and managed by GeoMedia into Skyline's products will enhance the data with real time 3D visualization capabilities to use with DEMs, geospatial features and high resolution imagery.

GeoTango GlobeView
In December, 2005, Microsoft announced that it had acquired Toronto-based GeoTango International Corp., the creators of GeoTango GlobeView, a 3D digital earth. The acquisition will enable Microsoft to enhance their existing location-centric and visualization programs, such as MSN Virtual Earth and Live Local, and over time Microsoft plans to integrate the GeoTango technology into their own technology suite. The MSN plan is to create an "immersive mapping and local search framework that enables users to easily find, explore, discover and share information and content for anywhere on earth."

But what about the GeoTango piece? The company does deliver a "3D digital earth" that has smooth maneuverability from global to local level. It offers an "open and web services-oriented solution." But in addition, GeoTango offers a patent pending program capable of generating 3D building models from single images, named "SilverEye." This technology is not already a part of MSN's location and visualization suite, but could be useful for generating quick 3D models of nuclear installations or other military infrastructure, before, during or after an emergency situation, using either satellite images or aerial photos. The 3D models can be exported to any mapping or 3D simulation programs in well-known GIS or OpenFlight formats.

Another sidelight: although Microsoft owns TerraServer which serves up the imagery for MSN Virtual Earth, TerraServer and Virtual Earth are maintained separately. In TerraServer you can find out the origins of orthophotos, according to Microsoft, as all metadata is retained in it. Some GIS professionals would love to get vintage orthophoto data and other national agency data into Virtual Earth, however, it currently is a browser based client only with a focus on the mass market and current vintage orthophoto display.

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Review Article
  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'anonymous'
    Please to define:
    geogrpahic exploration system
    fully OGC compliant
    Thanking you.

      Was this review helpful to you?   (Report this review as inappropriate)

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