Archive for ESRI

3D Cities to Virtual Worlds

Berlin Molkenmarkt

Recently, The members of the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC) adopted version 1.0.0 of the OpenGIS® CityGML Encoding Standard as an official OGC Standard. According to OIGC, CityGML is an open data model framework and XML-based encoding standard for the storage and exchange of virtual 3D urban models. Also, CityGML is an application schema of the OpenGIS Geography Markup Language 3 (GML3) Encoding Standard, an international standard for spatial data exchange and encoding approved by the OGC and ISO.

According to the CityGMLWiki, “targeted application areas explicitly include urban and landscape planning; architectural design; tourist and leisure activities; 3D cadastres; environmental simulations; mobile telecommunications; disaster management; homeland security; vehicle and pedestrian navigation; training simulators; and mobile robotics.”

CityGML derived from efforts in Germany to integrate and link building information to the surrounding land. Traditionally, this integration has been weak, resulting in many challenges to the building industry as well as planners. And it’s not only technology where there are gaps, the entire building and GIS industries have been at arms length for decades. The hope is that CityGML can provide the standards necessary to bridge those gaps so that models can more accurately reflect the real-world juxtaposition and interrelationships between buildings and land.

In my opinion, all of this leads to virtual worlds. Now, virtual worlds are primarily the domain of gamers and socializers. But virtual worlds are no passing fad. According to a recent Technology Intelligence Group report Virtual World Industry Outlook 2008-2009, “Over one billion dollars were spent by the venture community on startups directly within or supporting virtual worlds between August 2007 and August 2008, and according to virtual world vendors and developers …”

Exciting to me is that with the inevitable merger of real-world models with virtual world technologies, sometimes called the Metaverse, geography and geographic information will be critical. According to the Metaverse Roadmap Overview, the Metaverse is the convergence of 1) virtually-enhanced physical reality and 2) physically persistent virtual space. It is a fusion of both, while allowing users to experience it as either.

I’ve written about The Business Relevance of Virtual Worlds. Others have discussed 3D models in the context of the GeoWeb, which is happening now and will be the precursor to geographically accurate virtual worlds. All of the big players are in this – Autodesk, Bentley, ESRI, Google, and Microsoft, as are some smaller companies such as Galdos Systems and Onuma. The Metaverse requires standards for interoperability, and CityGML is an important standard for now and the future of geographic information online.

Enthusiasts to GIS Mecca – ESRI User Conference 2008

ESRI logo on door

GIS – Geography in Action; that’s the theme. On the product side the emphasis was simplification and stability. There is a lot to cover from the conference, so I’ll start with an overview of day one. 



San Diego Convention Center

San Diego – clear sunny days, not too hot. You want to be outside but need to be in. The sprawling convention center is ready on Monday – primed like a pump to handle the throngs of ESRI enthusiasts about to descend on the place. 


The event rings of a sort of Mecca for GIS practitioners (no religious disrespect intended). They come from near and far – 14,000 from more than 120 countries. (Only the Olympics have more international representation?)  And they venture from afar to see and hear what the company, its partners, and its customers are up to. And to meet people of like interests. Four days, hundreds of sessions, a huge exhibit hall, a never-ending map gallery, special interest group meetings, and numerous social events.



The plenary – the main event, the kickoff. Colorful kites adorn the front stage while three huge screens occupy the waiting audience with questions – geography questions. (Tough questions, too!) Meanwhile, gentle eclectic music with an international feel plays. 


Jack begins by welcoming the masses and he asks us to stop for a moment and meet another person. I turn around and meet a guy who’s at his 11th ESRI UC. When I tell him it’s my first, he says, “It’s all about Jack. That’s all you need to know.” I laugh. And it turns out that does not seem at all true – after the opening day, Jack stepped into the background and let his employees, partners, and customers take over. They had more than enough to share and do without worrying about Jack, it seemed.



Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said that GIS is changing how we abstract our world, how we reason about the world, how we organize and communicate. He referred to the vision of explorer and scientist Alexander von Humboldt as the foundation of Interior’s vision. Kempthorne also suggested that in the future GIS will be more pervasive because of all human action related to place. But he stressed the importance of reaching users outside the room – those not now using GIS. Reaching them is the only way to make GIS part of the infrastructure. 


Various product announcements followed Read more

ESRI Answers Before Conference

ESRI holds its annual user conference at the San Diego Convention Center next week and I will be attending. (Contact me if you want to meet.) The company did a conference questionnaire and just posted answers. This list of 139 questions ranges from technical – “Will ESRI support the Flex API in ArcGIS Server?” to business – “What are ESRI’s main business strategies?”

Both the questions and their answers make for interesting reading and provide a rather complete view of what ESRI and its customers are thinking and doing. Anyone interested in the company should read this, whether attending the conference or not.

GPS Going Into Orbit, Where 2.0 2008

Where 2.0 2008 There has been lots of news lately about GPS-enabled applications, data, and devices, some tied to the Where 2.0 2008 conference last week. ABI Research said that by 2012 more than 550 million GPS-enabled handsets would ship. Navteq announced updates to its North American traffic database, adding Puerto Rico and Canada as well as expanded coverage on high-volume surface roads. Meanwhile, Nokia said its Maps on Ovi service would allow customers to save map information on the Internet and then synch it to their phones.

Oh, and Google not only opened its API to geospatial data but it shook hands with ESRI around the idea of Google searches finding ESRI data and pulling it into Virtual Earth. Google is not the only company focusing on geographic search; FortiusOne announced the beta release of its Finder! search service. In addition, Where 2.0 hosted a dozen new companies finding ways to better address the needs for geospatial information.

Also, after six months of review, navigation device maker TomTom finally got EU holy water sprinkled on its deal to acquire Tele Atlas for $4.5 billion. Trimble announced new rugged handheld devices for difficult environments and high-accuracy needs. Lastly, the U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a contract for building the first eight GPS III satellites. GPS III is supposed to have enhanced military coverage and civilian capabilities.

There are still many people who don’t see the importance of location in business and consumer worlds. However, these announcements and events are indicative of the movement of the industry toward improved data accessibility and accuracy. What that means is that geographic data will be increasingly available as a framework for decisions of many types, existing and new.

Jack Dangermond: “This is no longer a dream. It is actually starting to work”

2008 ESRI Federal User Conference

Today in frigid Washington D.C., the 2008 ESRI Federal User Conference started. I attended and share here some observations on the opening presentation by ESRI’s President, Jack Dangermond.

This is the 20th version of the federal user conference. ESRI officials told me that 2,500 pre-registered, an increase of 600 from 2007. Incredible growth for a technology conference these days.

DC Convention Center

The nice new Washington Convention Center is the venue; the rooms are, well, roomy. The food is decent … but let’s move to the good stuff.

Jack Dangermond kicked off the plenary discussing how his audience is “working on the nation’s problems.” He showed dozens of maps covering about 20 categories of applications including humanitarian programs, emergency management, environment, energy, defense, homeland security, and facility management. The heart of his message was that Read more