New Product: Eye-Fi Geo

Eye-Fi has just released a new product that couldn’t help but catch my eye. The new Eye-Fi Geo is a “smart” SD card that includes wireless JPEG photo uploads to your computer (Windows or Mac) and geotagging. Geotagging is provided through Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS), which is different from Global Positioning System (GPS), and happens whenever you are in range of any wireless network, open or closed, private or public (according to the Eye-Fi website). Eye-Fi Geo is a new product available only at the Apple Store ($60USD). Though I haven’t tried it myself, the customer reviews seem a bit mixed. Definitely worth following this interesting technology.

Hold World Landmarks in Your Hands with ARSights & Google Earth

ARSights Using Google Earth
A while back I reported on virtual digital holograms, wondering when they would make their way into the mapping arena. Over the past year ARSights, a project by Inglobe Technologies, an italian company specialized in the development of Virtual and Augmented Reality applications, has been building a community-based collection of 3-d virtual models of landmarks all over the world. This fascinating use of the technology is focused on education. Imagine… your students fly to Europe, glide around Italy – looking at the topography of the country as they zoom into to Rome. Now they pick up the Colosseum to really examine it, turning it round and round to really examine what’s there. Requires Google Earth, a web cam, and the ARSights download.

Noel Jenkins of Digital Geography posts this YouTube video showing how things look:

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According to the ARSights, there are over 400 contributors now who have started “to share interesting content from many parts of the world. You can take a look at new models mainly in the USA, South America and Europe. Among others, you will find many important landmarks, like for example the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Memorial, the “Fiscal Island” in Rio de Janeiro, the University City in Buenos Aires and il Ponte di Rialto in Venice.”

Atlas of Explorations for the Pacific Railroad: Giving Some Love for the Hand-Drawn Map

Who doesn’t love the artistry of a hand-drawn map? I’ve been looking at some fine examples lately and wanted to share a few of my personal favorites.

I’m starting with Elbie Bentley’s “Atlas of Explorations for the Pacific Railroad” because it represents a mastery of hand-drawn cartographic technique – particularly hachuring – seldom seen today. I’m also a big fan of multi-media when it comes to mapping, and Elbie seems to effortlessly merge her hand-drawn maps and digital cartography with much artistry and clarity.

Akin to the fine tradition in architectural drawing, combining hand-drawn techniques with digital should (in my opinion) be more common practice in modern cartography. I was first introduced to Elbie’s work this fall at NACIS. Elbie was kind enough afterward to share more of her work with me. This talented young cartographer has produced an integrated narrative piece of expedition through a beautilfully illustrated, self-published, “Atlas of Explorations for the Pacific Railroad” (see a preview of the Atlas on sale at Blurb). Okay, I’ve been officially sucked-in by the multi-media maps and narrative approach of the Atlas. I find it refreshing and inspiring, not only by the well designed content and articulation of the narrative, but also the craftsmanship and technique employed.

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Here is a summary from the Blurb website: “The Gunnison-Beckwith expedition for the Pacific Railroad (1853-1854) produced a particularly intriguing report containing adventure, illustration, and topographic presentation. The intensity of the stories and the beauty of the artistic products contained within the reports remain, however, largely unknown. This atlas represents this significant historical event in an a set of maps organized to be read like a novel. The cartographic language of the nineteenth century topographic explorers is also mimicked in each map to recreate their world of incorporated illustrations, observation, and text.” Elbie is a recent graduate of Ohio University – Department of Geography.

Fresh Face for the IndianaMap

With many partners and large volunteer effort, access to the IndianaMap has historically been a bit disbursed. The new IndianaMap portal helps bring the effort under one roof providing a fresh face and a truly collaborative web site for all the partners. Kudos!

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A Call for an Open Spatial Data Infrastructure


Today I’m getting on my soapbox. I’ve long been a vocal advocate of open public data in the geospatial arena. The “open” provides us all the opportunity to build shared spatial data infrastructures so critical to addressing public, private, and broader societal needs. I’m concerned that even with the most open of data, we may yet be compounding essential problems regarding a critical goal of spatial data infrastructures: authoritative and consistent data. Consistency is key.

For example, in Jonathan Feldman’s recent article “How To Fix The GIS Data Mess,” he pleads for consistent data shared among all potential users. In my own experience, beyond accuracy and unfettered access to geospatial data, consistency of those data among users is critical. When agencies and organizations rely on geospatial data for critical decision making and those data differ, the decisions based on those data will necessarily be different, notwithstanding the best intentions.

Are emergency responders and non-profit agencies looking at different authoritative data sources to deploy rescue efforts to save your pets and family members? Are construction crews, development companies, city officials, and recreational groups looking at different data sources when trails are cleared for a building project? Data consistency is vital – for public safety and for the public interest. Consistent data (and implied shared maintenance) is key to helping make consistent decisions and controlling costs.

I am a big fan of efforts such as Open Street Map (OSM) in democratizing geospatial data. OSM is an effort to be applauded. Clearly, its sweeping early successes, particularly in areas of the world where geospatial data are less public than the US, demonstrates that people are ready and eager to create and support open data sources. I am myself. But I lend a word of caution as well… What do we do when other authoritative data that are open already exist? How do we determine which is THE authoritative? How do we share maintenance? These questions remain largely unanswered.

Members of the National States’ Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) are working with public and private organizations at all levels to address these very questions.

In Indiana for example, the community is working together to overcome institutional obstacles and build a statewide spatial data infrastructure that is open and consistent (see the Indiana Geographic Information Council). Local agencies are providing data publicly, such as street centerlines and parcel boundaries, and the state is integrating and publishing rather than duplicating those efforts. The State is contributing as well, not only through coordination and infrastructure but also with statewide data sets such as aerial photography that make sense to maintain at broader coverage. And the effort doesn’t stop there. With university participation, those data are made public (view and download) through the IndianaMap. They are provided to federal agencies, such as U.S. Census for map modernization. In recognition that not everyone comes to government sources for their decision-making, statewide aerial photography (2005) was shipped to Google and Microsoft to integrate into their map services.

Such a model holds out a glimmer of hope that statewide, national, and international spatial data infrastructures are not only possible but also within reach. However, even with such open data, when the process is ill-defined and under-funded we may miss the target. How, for instance, will the IndianaMap data be incorporated into other open source efforts the likes of OSM? With a desire by all parties, how might maintenance be addressed? These questions remain unanswered.

We must continue to strive for solutions which focus on process. Consistent data are vital if geospatial data are used to solve problems at the most local to the most global of scales. While “any data” may be better than no data at all, the preponderance of inconsistent data may be our industry’s Achilles heel. There are inherent problems when local data (cities and counties) differ from state data, differ from federal, private, non-profit, and open data. That is why a National Spatial Data Infrastructure is necessary.


Ortelius Map Design Software for Mac: We’ve Launched!

A big thank-you to all of our testers and reviewers – we’ve made it! Check out our new web site for all the details on Ortelius, including a downloadable trial version. We’ll continue to add tips & tricks and screencasts to our web site to maintain it not only as our product site, but also as a rich educational resource for map making. To celebrate, we are offering an introductory special of $79 until September 30th. Development continues and we’d love to hear from you.

Urban Orienteering Comes to Indianapolis

picture-31I’m really looking forward to participating in the Indiana Geographic Information Council’s first fund-raising event – Urban Orienteering in Downtown Indianapolis on August 15th. A couple years ago, TrueNorth Team Navigation (with former IGIC board member, Jeff Coats) presented an IGIC seminar and mini-course at the State Library and it was great fun.  This summer’s event will be kept small, and it may be viewed as a “trial run” for a future city-wide annual event.

Orienteering is a popular international recreational sport – and a perfect fit for Indianapolis.  If you are in the neighborhood, you should definately check it out.  Now, to pick out our team colors…. 🙂

This summer, IGIC is presenting a fun-filled afternoon of Orienteering in downtown Indianapolis. The event marks IGIC’s first official fundraiser, and is open to all IGIC members and their families.

Participants will compete in a TrueNorth Team Navigation! (tm) event. Related to the international sport of Orienteering, Team Navigation! (tm) is an outdoor activity where groups hunt down checkpoints using maps and compasses. Teams solve realistic challenges and improve their group decision-making, problem-solving, listening and communication skills. And at the end of the road – a treasure chest!

This event is limited to 50 teams. Teams can consist of 2-3 people, while each family (any size) can be on one team. An entry into a special prize drawing will be given for every $10 in donations the team contributes. Teams are asked to collect $50 in donations to help support IGIC, but any donation will be appreciated!

Registration is free. We hope to see you there!

Humble Beginnings for Local Data: Parcel Data in the IndianaMap

National and statewide GIS coordinating bodies have sought for some time to build statewide and nation-wide cadastre, or parcel, frameworks. The Mapping Science Committee – National Research Council cite the many benefits of having a national parcel database in its report, “National Land Parcel Data: A Vision for the Future.” In Indiana, a statewide parcel database may be used for such things as quickly identifying affected property during large natural disasters, such as flooding and tornados. A national (as well as statewide) fabric of land data has been elusive as it inherently relies on the most local of sources of those data – counties, parishes, cities, and towns. Reasons technical, political, financial, and institutional can all be cited as reasons why we don’t already have a national cadastre. While there is still a long row to hoe, Indiana appears to be slowly overcoming those hurdles with the IndianaMap.

Land Parcels in the IndianaMap
Land Parcels in the IndianaMap

With quiet announcement this week, the IndianaMap partners released the first view of a multi-county parcel database. The counties and the State have entered into IndianaMap partnership agreements, in which the counties provide parcels (limited attributes), address points, street centerlines, and administrative boundaries delivered through web map feature services (WFS), and the state provides a bit of seed funds to help establish the WFS, aggregate the data statewide, and channel it out through the IndianaMap to agencies, the original providers, and the public. It is important to note the state also provides a couple hundred statewide data layers available to local governments through the IndianaMap. This week’s view is the very first in what promises to still be a lengthy process, and I’m told it is provided “warts and all.” No matter how humble, it demonstrates a complete flow-through of the data in this process and proves the concept that a statewide (and I’d extend, national) public land parcel fabric is indeed accomplishable. This view shows parcels extending across Kosciusko and Wabash counties. In all, more than 70 (of 92) Indiana counties have agreed to participate.

Keep Your Eye on the Geospatial Revolution Project

Whether you are a lone GIS technician or a large GIS company, education and outreach is an ongoing challenge for everyone in the geospatial industry. The Geospatial Revolution Project was announced about a month ago and I was overly impressed with the goals and production value. It was too bad the wait-time was going to be long for final production. Today I received news that the GRP team will release short video segments throughout the life of the project rather than waiting for them all at the end. They are starting today by making the trailer downloadable. This is a high-quality video that will be useful with the general public and decision-makers (and family members who haven’t got it yet ;). Think about ways you might include the video clip in your community presentations, GIS day, school outreach, or the “About GIS” section of your website. See below for details – what a fantastic resource.
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Ortelius Will Be at AAG: You’re Invited to Learn More

Does your mapping software inspire creativity? Ortelius is a new breed of mapping software designed to make your mapping easy, fun and beautiful.

Come find out how Ortelius can help you create publication-quality maps without the high learning curve or costs associated with other software.

In this workshop we’ll introduce Ortelius and demonstrate its capabilities. Attendees will learn how to create custom maps from scratch and with templates. Learn about Ortelius’ robust tools and palettes, and how to create unique and inspiring symbols in a flash.

Attendees will receive a FREE Public Beta copy of the Ortelius software for evaluation. Come learn how Ortelius can work for you.
Location of the 2009 AAG Conference
Association of American Geographers
Workshop Details

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
March 25, 2009
Capri Meeting Room 108
Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas

Ortelius is Powerful Map Illustration Software for Mac OS X
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