June 2006


Since James Posted all his screen shots of ArcGIS Explorer Beta 2 it seems like everyone has been getting all excited about whats going to be in ArcGIS Explorer. At the moment its still in private beta so there have been more questions than answers. However there is a reasonable amount of information posted on the ESRI website about ArcGIS Explorer. You can find it funnily enough in the ArcGIS explorer section. There is an FAQ which should answer a lot of peoples questions, things could still change before release, but it gives a good idea of some of the cool stuff you could do with this. Theres also a couple of videos and a bunch of screen-shots in addition to those shown below.
Reading the FAQ, theres lots of interesting things about ArcGIS Explorer such as support for local data and WMS services, but the thing that i think is most exciting is the extensibility that is available. This applies to both the data and the application.

One of the cool things is being able to publish your own globe and 2D services either commercially or within an organisation. So if the standard imagery is not good enough for you, you could always subscribe to a commercial globe service offering more detailed data, or use a commercial Mastermap service and stream this into the 3D viewer. If as an organisation you are interested in global data, but not necessarily the land based imagery published as default, perhaps you have climate or meteorological data, or Nautical charts or maybe environmental data, you can publish your own 3d globe data across the organisation without relying on the standard published data.

The second area of extensibility is the ability to publish custom tasks, and use the SDK to create custom interfaces to these tasks inside ArcGIS Explorer. The ability to make advanced server based Geo-processing available to the end users is a really powerful way to use ArcGIS Explorer not just for visualisation and pushpin type apps, but to allow users to do real analysis, but still using a simple interface. Things like custom network tracing for utilities networks, routing over non standard data, such a cycle or foot paths, environmental modelling, emergency management and modelling scenarios. All of these as server based tasks initiated by users inputing simple parameters through a task based user interface. I’ve had a quick play with the .Net SDK and there are all sorts of possibilities opened up by this, especially when combined with the support for Geo-processing and models within ArcGIS Sever.

It should be interesting to see what people build with these tools and whether this helps to advance the wider usage of geographic data and services beyond the simple mapping and visualisation that google earth has done such a great job of promoting.

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Graham Lee and Bill Gidley are riding from Lands End to John O’Groats, hoping to raise money for The Macular Disease Society and The Freeplay Foundation To help their families and sponsors keep track of them our Technical Solutions Group (Pre-sales to you and me) have equipped them with an array of mobile technology to keep track of their progress.

They are running a windows mobile device and bluetooth GPS with a custom application that uploads their position every few seconds via GPRS to one of our servers. The data is pushed into ArcSDE and then served out Via ArcIMS. You can follow their progress and sponsor them here

The online map is a bit Where0.2 but this is what their current progress looks like when tracked in a 3D Viewer


Raster Map Data overlayed on the terrain, with their current track in the bottom left corner.

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I spotted this article on ZDNet recently, looking at how successful or not the different google vertical markets have been.


The table they present seems to show that Google earth has 0.22% of market share and that Google maps has 0.82% of market share. I presume the figures are actually based on share of the google brand not share of the individual markets such as online maps or interactive 3D globe viewers (Is this a market in its own right now….) which is what the article implies. its not easy to tell what the table is based on, but if search trends are anything to go by its not looking too bad for Google earth at least, in maps they are still behind mapquest.

googletrends.png googlemapstrends.png

Google Earth World Wind ArcGISGoogle Maps Virtual Earth Yahoo Maps MapQuest

So is it all media/blog/industry hype or have google earth and google maps really stormed the market, or created a new ones? Most "normal" people i know have seen or heard of google maps but not many have ever heard of ESRI, so if they were in the market for a 3D visualisation tool I'm pretty sure i know where they would end up.

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Today was very quiet in the office, with most of the team on-site installing stuff, testing and preparing for training, the rest of the office seemed pretty quiet too, and I realised that it is exactly 6 months to the day since we moved into our new grown up office at Millennium House


The office move was a fairly big deal for those of us based in Aylesbury, moving from the confusing\charming warren of Prebendal house, and the various offices in prebendal court to a large open plan modern office.

At Prebendal House no single room had more than about 10 people in it, so you tended to have fairly close knit teams, and each office would have it own distinct character. It could be quite fun but maybe unproductive in some offices, and very quiet studious in others. Now however Consultancy is all based on a single floor with room for about 60 people, and I think in general it is much quieter, as people don’t want to disturb others, but at the same time you get to see a lot more people more often, and communication between the different groups is much better. It takes a while to settle in to a new environment, I’m not sure that everyone prefers it, and it is maybe a little less fun than the previous office, but i think on the whole it is an improvement with much better facilities and much better integration between groups.

A lot of people seem to be blogging about MetaCarta recently and I've finally had a spare 10 Min's to take a look at their labs section where you get to play with the technology, and I have to say its pretty neat. The API is simple but functional, and makes it easy to do the easy things, although what its doing is very cool. Its pretty quick geocoding a document, considering the amount of text there can be. You can access the labs and start playing here

MetaCarta Labs
You can pass in a document, a text query or a URL, and it will return either an image location map, GML or Javascript response for the locations. I cant run Javascript on this blog, so the best I can offer is the image below which should update dynamically to show the current geocoding of this blog.

As has been pointed out by others the main issue with this, as with any geo-coder is the data thats used behind the system. I've worked quite a bit with our own Gazetteer toolkit in the UK (Gazops) which is only ever as good as the data that sits inside it, and invariably this data is not cheap, at least in the UK its not. though maybe one-day….

I guess it's not so important when geocoding things on a global scale to place-names, but for many people addresses are key, especially those hard to find ones and non-addressable locations. Its not entirely clear what data MetaCarta are using, it looks like it will do global place-names and addresses in the US. There is this research paper, which describes the approach they have taken and some of the data incorporated into the system. What would be really cool, would be if it was possible to plug a custom gazetteer database behind the NLP part of the system, it may be possible as they seem to do quite a lot of products aimed at the enterprise and can supply custom Data modules such as energy or US address data They also have the inevitable Google Earth plug-in as well as an ArcGIS extension.

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I came across an article in wired about navizon yesterday. Its a software based GPS system, that locates a wifi or phone device by interpreting nearby phone masts or wifi networks. Its designed to be used either in conjunction with a GPS, providing backup in urban canyons where the GPS signal is unreliable, or it can be used completely standalone if you have no GPS. It will emulate a standard GPS signal so its transparent to any application you use.

Obviously collecting a database of phone signals and wifi networks would be a big task, but the cool thing about navizon, is that every user is able to collect the data, if you use the system in conjunction with a GPS, then its able to record the local networks and upload this to the server to benefit other users. It looks like there already a few users around here as the database for my local area is pretty well populated already.

It also adds a portal for users along with Geo-tagging, buddy tracking and also the ability to publish your location to the web. If you follow this link you can find the last known position of my Phone!

See where I am by clicking here

I've installed it on my GPS free Windows smart-phone (imate-SP5) it seems to work pretty well, once i followed the additional instructions to modify the registry, found here it installed and works fine. The location is not too accurate here, but pretty good considering what its trying to do.

Navizon is another good example of a business being built on the participation of its users. They have just launched an API that allows developers to use the location engine in their own Applications. It doesn't seem to be publicly available yet though and there is no API for the portal components, such as buddy lists and tracker locations, which is a shame as this would really open up the site to some interesting new applications, even so as it is its pretty cool.

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So far I’ve been using the on-line rich text editor for writing these entries, but I’ve found it sometimes a little slow, and on at least 2 occasions I’ve lost what I’ve been typing in, which is very annoying, Also the spell checker is very limited, you cant add your own words or use a custom dictionary. So i thought I’d look for a simple offline editor, that integrates nicely with the WordPress API. So I’m writing this using the latest Dev edition of Zoundry, and it seems to be pretty good. It can manage the on-line and offline archive of posts and also manage file and image uploads


It lets you preview your post in the correct style-sheet. It supports track-backs and tags as well. It’s free too, and works with Blogger and obviously Zoundry as well. You don’t have to have a zoundry account. Its currently a beta version, but if your reading this post then so far so good.

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