Report from the ESRI User Conference Expo, Part 1

18 Sep, 2004 By: Cadalyst Staff

Following are some of the new products on display at the ESRI International User Conference, held this past June in San Diego. Part 1 focuses on hardware and announcements from the U.S. government. Part 2 (not quite ready yet) will concentrate on new software.

Hardware highlights
One of the coolest items on display was Northrop Grumman's Touch Table, which lets multiple users view and work with displays on a 7' horizontal surface. More than just a big, horizontal display, the Touch Table lets users manipulate the display simply by touching the table. Moving your finger across the table pans the map, and moving two fingers closer together or further apart zooms the map in and out. A set of markup tools is also available. The Touch Table was developed in conjunction with Applied Minds and works with ESRI's ArcGlobe software. Future enhancements include real-time table-to-table collaboration, full virtual rotation to user perspective, and integration of more software applications.

One company we haven't seen for a while is GTCO CalComp, which still offers digitizers and recently added a line of scanners based on Contex technology. On the digitizer side, the AccuTab II series provides resolution as high as 4,000lpi with standard absolute accuracy of ±0.005. The AccuTab digitizers are available with active areas of 20"0x24", 24"x36", 36"x48", and 44"x60". They use an RS-232 serial connection, with an optional serial-to-USB adapter available. The Roll-Up III large-format digitizers measure only 0.078" (2mm) thick and roll up for storage or transportation. Resolution is 2,540lpi, and active areas of 20"x24", 30"x36", and 36"x48" are available. USB and serial interfaces are standard. The company also offers small-format DrawingBoard graphics tablets that measure 12"x12" and 12"x18". A variety of corded and cordless pens and cursors are available. Resolution is 2,540lpi with accuracy of ±0.010". The Scan Plus IV wide-format color and monochrome scanners accommodate widths of 25", 36", 42", and 54". Most models handle media as thick as 0.6", and scan resolutions range from 400 to 2400dpi. Units come with WIDEimage and JETimage software as well as a plug-in for AutoCAD and Photoshop.
New to the GIS area was Radix, a maker of ultra-rugged handheld computers and printers most commonly used for tasks such as meter reading, parking enforcement, route accounting, and transportation. The company says its handheld computers exceed the usual capabilities of rugged devices by withstanding drops up to 6.5' onto concrete, temperatures from ±22°F to ±131°F, and full submersion in water. The company also offers the Utility Management System, a configurable meter reading system.

If you want to toughen up your PDA, OtterBox offers two plastic casings that protect from water, dirt, and shock. The Armor 2600 sells for $49, and the Armor 3600, which adds optional waterproof connectivity and rubber overmolding for a secure grip, is $99.

Leica showcased various surveying devices, including its DISTO and laser rangefinders. The laser units combine binoculars, compass, inclinometer, and rangefinder that measures from 5m to 4km. The DISTO device is designed for highly accurate, short-range offset measurements—up to 100m with 1.5mm precision. The Leica GS20 PDM (professional data mapper) is a handheld GPS that provides submeter accuracy using either real-time or postprocessing corrections.

Training Tools
Holman's provides targeted training for GIS, CAD, engineering, and surveying professionals. The company?s two-day Field to Finish seminar takes participants through the process of collecting survey data and adding it to a GIS database. Other courses include integrating CAD and survey data in GIS and LandXML and GML for data conversion and other tasks. Holman's has offices in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tempe, Arizona.
Penn State offers an online certification program for entry-level and intermediate GIS users. Online, instructor-led classes usually run for ten weeks, and the program can be completed in less than a year.
Government Goodies
The GeoCommunicator Web site distributes land survey information from the U.S. National Integrated Land System and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Land and Mineral Records Systems. The site is designed to integrate survey data with parcel-based land records in an enterprise GIS system. The site is the official distribution site for PLSS (Public Land Survey System) data, which is available as shape fiels or ASCII files in NAD83 datum. Prepackaged areas, such as counties, national forests, and BLM, are available for quick download. Federal Land Stewardship data and some land and mineral use records are also available.

The USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) plans to switch from providing traditional prints of images in its historial archives to delivering digital products: a high-resolution 1,200dpi TIFF file and a medium resolution 600dpi TIFF file. The USGS archives hold eight million frames of aerial photographs dating back to the 1930s. It includes film taken during the 1940s through the 1970s to product 1:24,000-scale topographic quadrangle maps. 

The USGS is working with its partners to develop the National Map, a network of databases that will provide a consistent geographic data framework for the entire country. Government agencies, private industry, and the public can extend and enhance the map with their own data. Data layers include transportation, boundaries, hydrography, land cover, elevation, and others. Orthorectified aerial photographs and satellite images are also available.

The U.S Geological Survey also offers a variety of images in its Earth as Art collections:

The FGDC (Federal Geographic Data Committee) invites comment on draft framework data standards for the NSDI (National Spatial Data Infrastructure) through the end of September. The goal is to establish common requirements to facilitate data exchange for seven themes of geospatial data: geodetic control, elevation, orthoimagery, hydrography, transportation, cadastral, and governmental unit boundaries. Each standard inlcudes an application schema in UML (unified modeling language). The schema specifies feature types, attribute types, attribute domain, feature relationships, spatial representation, data organization, and metadata that define the information content of a data set.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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