GeoCarta Has Moved

Mar 31, 2007

GPS Gadget of the Week: The Shroud

Tired of watching your teenager sit on the sofa and play video games all day? Soon you'll be able to send him out into the streets to play a GPS-enabled video game on his cell phone, with this week's GPS Gadget of the Week: The Shroud.

Colin Gibbs at RCT Wireless News explains that The Shroud is a location-aware, multiplayer game that allows players with GPS-enabled phones to take on challenges by physically moving into randomly determined “hot spots” nearby.

The game stars Taro, a young farmer who collects items and trades for goods as he fights to defend his land from demons. Mr. Gibbs reports that hard core video-gamers and bloggers are, "slobbering over The Shroud," despite the fact that it has yet to make it to market. Your World Games Ltd., the maker of the game reportedly plans a few other video game titles with a GPS-enabled component in the future.

Last week's GPS Gadget of the Week here.


Update: Ancient Japanese Maps

The Map Room linked to my post on the growing popularity of old maps among Japanese. Thanks to the comments of "broccoli" you can view the maps here. Then follow these instructions:
The old maps are in the left hand column, and there's one more page after you click that one to choose which topic you want. For example, to see the Natsume Soseki map mentioned in the article, you choose the second choice in the left column on the first page, then the first choice on the second page. Once you get to the maps, the four tabs at the top are (left to right) Edo era, Meiji era, Modern, and Aerial Photos.
I liked the addition of the modern day aerial photos. It's amazing to see that some areas have remained virtually unchanged for centuries.

Original post here.


Mar 30, 2007

Geocacher Triggers Bomb Scare

From Wichita TV Station KAKE:
A device used in GPS scavenger hunts caused a bomb scare in Sedgwick County Friday. Authorities blocked off 37th St. N. between Jabara Airport and Greenwich beginning at nine in the morning.

It began when county workers saw a man acting suspiciously. When he left the area, they noticed he had left a cylindrical object in the grass.

The sheriff's department and bomb squad were called in to investigate. Four hours later, they determined the device was part of a scavenger hunt for people who use GPS devices.

See also: Geocaching: Treasure Hunt or Terror Hoax?


County Assessor Claims GIS Not Accurate Enough; Refuses to Apologize

Mississippi County Assessor W.R. “Bill” Thompson will not apologize to the county’s GIS vendor, Midland GIS Solutions, it was reported by the Standard Democrat:

Thompson said he never received mylars he was promised, according to [County Commissioner Homer] Oliver, and has noted discrepancies of 2 to 3 feet between maps and overlays. Oliver and Commissioner Martin Lucas agreed the discrepancies shouldn't matter as legal descriptions for lots are not affected. The map is just to assist officials with finding the lot in question and there are usually small errors when maps are digitized, they said.

“It’s a best-fit situation,” Lucas said. “It’s an image to see where the property is, period.”

New Madrid County’s GIS, which is supposed to be the same system as Mississippi County’s, may have fewer discrepancies because officials there are able to update aerial photography more regularly, commissioners speculated. “We don’t have the resources to do that,” Lucas said.

While the assessor blames the GIS consultant, in a previous story the Standard Democrat quoted the County Clerk as saying that shortcomings in the GIS were the fault of the assessor, saying:
Without cooperation from the Assessor’s Office to keep parcel information updated, however, “ours will never be completely up-to-date,” [County Clerk] DeLay said. “The (assessor’s) office doesn’t know how to use it because they didn’t take the training we paid for,” Lucas said. “You practice it, you learn it.”


Mar 28, 2007

Non-Profit Formed to Give Away Satellite Imagery for Educational, Humanitarian Use

Geospatial information firm GeoEye announced that it has formed a non-profit foundation to promote teaching of of geospatial information technologies as well as assist humanitarian and environmental research studies.

The GeoEye Foundation intends to provide free archive satellite imagery to students and faculty at select educational institutions. Analysts or researchers at non-governmental organizations can also apply for the free imagery. The foundation will make available to the selected researchers, some of GeoEye's 278 million square kilometers of satellite imagery. To obtain the free imagery, an applicant must submit an application outlining their research goals and objectives.

Matt O'Connell, CEO of GeoEye said that he hopes the program will help attract more young people to university's geospatial programs. "One of the biggest challenges facing our rapidly growing industry is attracting new employees fast enough," he said. "We're looking forward to seeing the exciting and groundbreaking work that will arise from GeoEye Foundation's partnership with universities and institutes."

The GeoEye Foundation has already provided satellite imagery to assist in the study of urban sprawl in Mexico, land-use planning for Jerusalem, and study polar ice in Antarctica. If you've got an idea for a study you think could us some free satellite imagery, contact Mark Brender ( to find out more.

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Japanese Take Big Interest in Historic Maps

Old maps of Japan are "in" according to the Japan Times:

"Recently, maps priced relatively high -- at about 3,000 yen -- have been selling well," said Toshiyuki Mizutani of Shiryo Shuppan, a map-publishing firm in Tokyo. The company sells reproductions of about 40 maps of Tokyo and other locations in Japan.

At one Tokyo bookstore, people of all ages on their way home from work stop to look at old maps. Map sales at bookstores are growing as people use them to take historical walks around Tokyo and to decorate their homes.

The Times says the new interest in old maps was sparked by Yahoo Japan Corp.'s new Tokyo historic map service, "Tokyo Tours With Old Maps." In addition to the historic maps the website has trivia questions about the location of current and historic events.

Among the best selling reproductions are maps from the Edo Period, and maps from the Genroku Period (1688-1704) which have been the subject of popular fiction.


Mar 27, 2007

Team to Search for Lost Island

A team is planning to prepare a geophysical map of a 6 kilometer long isthmus on the Greek island of Kefallinia in an effort to locate the island of Ithaca mentioned in in Homer’s Odyssey. FUGRO, a geotechnical, survey, and geoscience firm, based in The Netherlands announced that they are joining forces with Odysseus Unbound and IGME (Greece's Geological Institute) in an effort to locate the mysterious island.

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are the oldest texts in Western literature. In them, Homer recounts the exploits of Odysseus, who after defeating Troy with the famous horse, returned to Ithaca, an island somewhere to the west of Greece. For centuries it was thought that the Iliad was a work of fiction. Then in the 1870s Heinrich Schliemann excavated Troy, in northwestern Turkey. However, the location of the island of Ithaca, as described in the Odyssey has remained a mystery for over 2,500 years.

In late 2005 Professors James Diggle and John Underhill launched Odysseus Unbound, a project to test the theory that the island of Ithaca is the westernmost peninsula of the island of Kefallinia (Paliki). The professors theorize that Paliki was formerly separated from the rest of Kefallinia by a narrow marine connection (“Strabo’s Channel”) that has now been infilled and turned into a land-locked isthmus by catastrophic rockfall and landslides triggered by earthquakes.

To test this theory, FUGRO will map the subsurface of the area and in collaboration with the team, reconstruct how it may have looked 3,000 years ago. The firm, which specializes in preparing maps for the oil and gas industry, will use the same technology to investigate the structure and composition of the sub-surface of the isthmus. Then experts will be brought in to try and build a 3-D model of the regional topography and how it has changed over time.

Image courtesy of FUGRO.


Mar 25, 2007

Using GPS to Turn Kids on to Geography

There's a good article in today's Bowling Green Daily News about how the Kentucky Geographic Alliance and Western Kentucky University are using handheld GPS units for a scavenger hunt as a fun way of introducing kids to geography.

More from the Daily News:
The second annual scavenger hunt - dubbed the “Geo Fest” - was organized by Scott Dobler, a professor in the geology and geography department, and Kay Gandy, a professor in the curriculum and instruction.

The Kentucky Geographic Alliance initiative serves to introduce department children and parents to GPS. Those who found the quickest routes to the boxes on Saturday received a Kentucky atlas, Gandy said.
Dobler familiarized Saturday's scavengers with the devices, teaching them how to program longitude-latitude points for the small treasure boxes. He also lectured on the increasing importance of GPS tools.

“All this stuff is popping up on the Internet as the information age goes. It gives us a good idea where we are on the earth's surface,” Dobler said.
After his crash course on GPS virtues, Dobler dispersed the nine child-parent tandems, who scattered but eventually met again at the same point.
Professor Dobler told the Daily News that the kids usually acquire GPS programming skills faster than their parents because of finger dexterity developed from video gaming.


Mar 24, 2007

FAA Calls for GPS-Based Runway Mapping System

The Federal Aviation Administration called for the use of a GPS-based digital mapping system that would display an aircraft’s precise location on the airfield. Speaking at a Washington news conference, FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey, said such a system, "...could change how safely pilots navigate runways, the way GPS changed how we drive our cars."

The FAA has had standards for such navigation devices in place for years. However, those standards anticipated use of the technology both on the ground, and in the air. Certification of such a mapping system for in-flight use involves much more rigorous requirements. Because of the strict in-flight requirements, manufacturers have found the certification process too costly. By agreeing to certify GPS-Navigation devices for use only on the airport surface, the FAA hopes to speed up adoption of the technology and help prevent accidents caused by pilots turning onto the wrong runway.

The laptop-sized device would be added to a pilot’s Electronic Flight Bag. When used in the cockpit, it would display moving maps of the airport's runways and taxiway, much like systems display streets and highways in automobiles. Some newer aircraft already have such a system on-board. Allowing a pilot to carry such a device with him means the system can be used throughout the existing airline fleet without retro-fitting the planes.

On August 27th of last year, 49 people were killed when Comair Flight 5191 attempted to take off from the wrong runway at the airport in Lexington, Kentucky.

See also: Inaccurate Maps One of "Small Gaps" That Led to Crash
Airports' Digital Maps Get Failing Grade

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GPS Gadget of the Week: Anytrack GPS-100

You can track anything, or anyone, using this week's GPS Gadget of the Week: the AnyTrack GPS-100. The AnyTrack is a small, lightweight, GPS tracking device. It uses a combination of GPS satellites and CDMA networks to calculate its location, indoors or outdoors. Users can then log onto AnyTrack's website and find out where the device is located.

AnyTrack is a product of AnyDATA Corp. which says that because the device is so small you can use it almost anywhere. Users can clip it on a belt, tuck it in a purse or pocket, or toss it in the glove box. Presumably the 2.65 ounce device could be hidden in less conspicuous places as well. Not that any readers of this blog would be so devious.

The AnyTrack GPS-100 sells for $199 for a limited time. However, you have to pay $14.95 each time you view the device's location on the company's website. As the folks at Engadget point out, that could get very expensive for those obsessed with knowing all.

Last week's GPS Gadget of the Week here.


Mar 23, 2007

Still More Indian Complaints About Google Earth

Well, it seems that Indian security agencies are still upset that high-resolution images of Indian military bases and government buildings are visible on Google Earth.

A spokesman for Google told the India Times that the company had not decided whether or not they would blur aerial images of Indian installations available on the company's web site.

The Times reports that Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam had previously said that India should pass a law prohibiting foreign satellites from taking pictures of sensitive locations in India.

A spokesman for Google reminded the Times that Google Earth is not the only place someone can obtain such images saying, “The images available on Google Earth are also available for purchase from various satellite companies in market."

So in the spirit of international cooperation, world peace, and all that, I would like to offer a compromise. Google should hire the artist Christo to design huge slip covers to be installed over all of India's sensitive locations. That way, India could protect its military secrets from the prying eyes of satellites and enjoy artwork by a famous artist at the same time.

See also: Yet More Indian Concerns Over Google Earth
India Forms Group To Address Google Earth Concerns
Google Earth: Complaints and Restrictions

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Author Touts Navteq Stock

Robert Walberg is a columnist for MSN Money's "Street Patrol." Mr. Walberg looks for stocks that are, "dogs"; companies whose stock price he thinks is down but on the way up. He thinks he's found one in Navteq:
Fortunately, I've already identified my newest dog: Navteq... This Chicago company engages in the creation, updating, enhancing, licensing and distribution of digital map databases in North America and Europe. Considering all the portable map devices being sold by Garmin... and all the navigation systems now being included in automobiles, this is a great growth business, and Navteq is the industry leader.

Despite that, the stock got whacked last year because expectations were a little too lofty. As a result, sales and earnings disappointed -- and that's never a good thing for the stock price. But at present value the stock trades at about 21 times next year's estimated earnings, with a projected long-term growth rate of 25%. Cash management is solid, growth is strong and the value is there...

I don't offer investing advice here. I'm just passing along another's opinions as food for thought.


Biloxi Miss. Votes to Ignore Latest Flood Map

The City of Biloxi, Mississippi, has decided not to require new construction to comply with the latest flood map issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The City Council had previously passed an ordinance requiring all new construction to conform to the new flood map. Adhering to that map would have required base elevations as high as 25 feet in some cases. The new, higher, elevation requirements were supposed to take effect on June 1. By rescinding the action, the city is recklessly allowing its citizens to build in areas that are known to be at risk for life-threatening flooding.

More from the Hattiesburg American:

Mayor A.J. Holloway has backed the FEMA guidelines all along.

“Building back in a responsible manner is one of the fundamental issues of our recovery,” Holloway said after the council meeting. “We’ve been told this by everyone from the President to the Governor and our own residents. Unfortunately, this represents a step backward.

“Allowing people to build back under the old flood map – as we approach hurricane season, no less – puts them right back in harm’s way, even in a moderate storm or moderate flooding.”

Once FEMA releases its final flood maps this summer, builders will have to follow the new rules with or without a council vote.

Since rebuilding began following Hurricane Katrina, local officials along the gulf coast have resisted efforts by FEMA to require higher elevations for new construction, saying that such requirements would hamper redevelopment.

See also: Mississippi Communities Continue To Resist Adhering To New Flood Maps
Gulf Coast Reacts To New Flood Maps


Mar 22, 2007

Lost: Short Field Trip Becomes 7-Hour Excursion

Sixty schoolchildren spent seven hours driving all over London when their bus driver entered the wrong name into his satellite navigation device. The Evening Standard reports that the children, aged eight and nine, were supposed to go on a field trip to Hampton Court Palace in south west London.

However, the bus driver entered "Hampton Court" into his onboard navigation device and drove the kids to the street of the same name, 18 miles away in Islington, north London. Upon arriving at Hampton Court (the street, not the palace) the driver realized they were in the wrong place. The driver, along with a driver trainee following in a second bus, attempted to find the palace on their own, but became hopelessly lost. At one point a teacher got off the bus and purchased a paper map in an attempt to find the palace.

In a last ditch effort to locate the Tudor palace, a teacher called a staffmember back at the school to look on the Internet and find directions for them. When that failed, the teachers gave up and returned to the school, having never seen the palace.

Zenith Coach Travel, the bus company, has apologized for the error and pledged to reimburse the school and take the children on another trip, free of charge. A spokesman for the bus company also told the Standard, "Our drivers are now being banned from using sat-navs, which are brilliant but rely on what info is put in, and must use our maps."


Mar 21, 2007

Sprint to Offer Free GPS Navigation

Cellphone provider Sprint announced today that it will offer a GPS-enabled navigation service at no additional charge on some of its data plans. The new feature called "Sprint Navigation powered by TeleNav" will provide unlimited GPS navigation for customers that subscribed to the company's Power Vision plan, as well as two other data plans. Customers that use other data plans will be able to add the navigation package for $2.99 per day.

Some of the features the navigation service will include are voice-guided and on-screen turn-by-turn GPS-enabled driving directions; 3-D moving maps similar to what you see on a personal navigation device (PND); real-time traffic alerts; local search; and pre-trip planning. Customers that don't use a data plan eligible for the free service will be able to access Sprint Navigation for $2.99 per 24-hour period of use

The service is supposed to be available in April on most Power Vision phones. Making the service available for $2.99 a day seems like a smart move to me. I'm sure there's a lot of people that feel like they don't travel enough to invest in a PND, but would occasionally use the service.

See also: So Long to Stand-Alone GPS Units?
Free Maps for Your Cellphone

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Lockheed Martin Delivers Last GPS Satellite

Lockheed Martin announced today that it had delivered the eighth and final satellite in the modernized Global Positioning System Block IIR-M production program to the U.S. Air Force.

There are currently three IIR-M GPS satellites in orbit, in addition to 12 original Block IIR satellites. Block IIR-M satellites have a number of enhancements from the IIR version. Most important among the new features is a modernized antenna that provides a stronger signal. The newer satellites also have a second civilian channel. For the military, the newer satellites have two new military signals, enhanced encryption and anti-jamming capabilities.

The third Bloack IIR-M satellite was declared operational on December 12th. The fourth satellite in the series is waiting at Cape Canaveral for a scheduled launch late this year. The other four Block IIR-M satellites are being stored and will be launched when needed.

Lockheed Martin is in competition with Boeing for the contract to build the next generation GPS satellites for the U.S. The contract for the multi-billion dollar project, known as GPS III, is supposed to be awarded late this year.

See also: GPS III Bid Process About to Begin


Mar 19, 2007

Map Detailing Galveston Island's Risk Unveiled

The first map detailing geological hazards on Galveston Island has been completed and has set the stage for the inevitable clash between developers and environmentalists, the Houston Chronicle reported. Jim Gibeaut who serves as state geologist for the State of Texas says the map may be the first to document the hazards on a populated barrier island.

The map divides the island into four hazard zones ranging from imminent hazard potential to low hazard potential. Several subdivisions already sit in imminent hazard areas of the island, and more are planned.

More from the Chronicle:

The Galveston Chamber of Commerce predicts that 3,800 new residential homes will be built this year, and most are likely to be built on the west end of the island where the map shows the most hazardous areas.

Supporters of new regulations say they are needed to protect homebuyers, wetlands that are vital to the shrimp and sports fishing industries, and wildlife and natural features that attract tourists.

Others view the map with skepticism and see potential regulations as an infringement on private property rights and a hindrance to economic development.
Gibeaut said data from the study used to create the map shows that the island will gradually shrink within the next 60 years as it sinks while sea levels rise and the waves slowly chop away the beach.

"The island is in a squeeze play," Gibeaut said.

The sea level is rising at about 6.5 millimeters, or about one-quarter inch, a year, based on data recorded since 1909 from a tide gauge at Pier 21 in Galveston, he said. Gibeaut called the rise "scary" in his appearance before the City Council and Planning Commission on March 8.

Dr. Gibeaut said Galveston Island is sinking due to the weight of its silt deposits and oil and gas drilling. At the same time, the Gulf or Mexico is eroding as much as 10 feet per year in some places on the island he said.

On September 8, 1900, a hurricane struck the island, killing between 6,000 and 12,000 people. That hurricane was the deadliest natural disaster in the history of the United States.

See also: Galveston Island Sinking Faster Than Previously Thought
Waterfront Property May Be Closer Than You Think


Land Cover Database Completed

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Multi‑Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC) recently announced the completion of the 2001 National Land Cover Database (NLCD). This database describes the land surface condition of each 30-meter cell of land in the continental United States. NLCD 2001 data portrays 16 classes of land cover, the percent of tree canopy, and the degree of surface imperviousness in urban areas.

The NLCD is based on satellite imagery taken in 2001 and was constructed by a collaborative effort of the MLRC. The information in the database enables land managers, planners, agricultural experts, and scientists to identify critical characteristics of the land for a wide variety of uses. "Just as the U.S. Census is fundamental in assessing patterns of national population growth, we also require an authoritative, periodic review of land conditions ‑ a Census of the Nation's Land Resources ‑ to understand how people and the land interact," said USGS Director Mark Myers.

You can download NLCD products from the MRLC website. USGS says they are working with software developers to create publicly available tools that can be used to conduct geospatial analyses of NLCD data on the web. Updated coverage of NLCD 2001 data for Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico is expected by December.

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Mar 18, 2007

U.N. Map Irks Koreans

The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently posted a map of South Korea on its website. The map refers to the waters between Korea and Japan as the "Sea of Japan."

Koreans call the waters the "East Sea." They are upset about the agency seeming to side with the Japanese as well as what they say are some misspellings of some Korean places.

The Korea Times has more:

The errors irk Koreans. Civic groups like the Voluntary Agency Network for Korea (VANK) vow to have them corrected.

``I don't know why the FAO commits such grave mistakes,'' VANK founder Park Gi-tae said. ``Together with our 15,000 members both at home and abroad, we will go all-out to urge the FAO to correct the misspellings and to add East Sea to its map,'' Park said.

Cyberschoolbus, a U.N. Web site dealing with global issues, is also using a map that labeled the sea between the two countries ``Sea of Japan'' instead of ``East Sea''

``We will try to force the FAO and Cyberschoolbus to revise the names. If they don't accept our requests, we plan to ask all the other U.N. agencies not to adopt the erroneous maps and data,'' Park said.

For more on Korea's efforts to have the world adopt the name "East Sea" see: Map Politics


Oldest GPS Satellite Ready for Retirement

The oldest operational satellite in the GPS constellation is being readied for disposal the U.S. Air Force reported yesterday. Built by Boeing, SVN-15 was launched on October 1, 1990. The satellite has broadcast its signal for over 16 years, more than twice its design life. "The operational clocks eventually couldn't maintain their signal within specs," Lt. Col. Kurt Kuntzelman said in explaining why the unit is being disposed of.

The life of SVN-15 has seen tremendous changes in the focus of GPS-based military programs, the Air Force notes. Even greater changes have occurred in the civilian field, where GPS applications have grown exponentially. Today, people use GPS for everything from navigation to financial applications, to golf:

"My father's an avid golfer," Colonel Kuntzelman said, smiling. "He gave me a call and told me he came up short with his 9-iron, and he tried to blame it on me for giving him the wrong GPS signal. He said it gave him the wrong yardage. Apparently it cost him a couple of bucks with his buddies."
See also: GPS III Bid Process About to Begin
Commerce Dept. Announces Plans For GPS Upgrade


Mar 17, 2007

GPS Gadget of the Week: AllSport GPS

This week's GPS Gadget of the Week is from HTLounge, It's the AllSport GPS by Trimble. The AllSport GPS turns your GPS equipped phone into a training tool. It uses GPS to track the distance you cover in your workout, the time it takes, your speed, and even the calories that you burn.

With the "Platinum Package" you can also download maps to your phone as well as upload your workout data to an online workout journal so you can keep track of your progress. Currently the application works only on selected phones; full coverage is expected later this year.

While the casual walker or jogger could get by just fine with a stopwatch, it looks like a handy tool for the serious biker or runner, especially those that like to try different courses in their workouts.

Last week's GPS Gadget of the Week here.


Market for 19th Century Maps Strengthening?

Old World Auctions announced the results of it's recently concluded auction of old maps. The online map auction site's top sale was a Colonial-era map of New England by Dutch cartographers Hugo and Carolus Allard.

Executed about 1680, the rare map commemorated the Dutch recapture of New York, and is one of the earliest depictions of the wall, from which Wall Street gets its name. It sold for $12,320 to a Dutch collector.

What I found intriguing was the company's report that many 19th century maps sold for much more than past estimates. Previously, maps of this era had been ignored by many collectors as “too new.”


  • An 1870 map of Illinois by George Cram went for $2,240, far more than the firm's estimate of $180 - $220.
  • An 1883 railroad map from Rand McNally, titled “Iron Mountain Route to Arkansas, Texas and California,” (depicted above) brought $476;
  • A rare 1878 railroad map illustrating the route from Kansas City to Denver, saw strong bidding at $896.
“It was typical for prices to sail past the high estimates,” Diane Kelly of Old World Auctions said. “It really illustrates the strength of the map collecting genre. It's small but growing, and now is a good time to jump in. You can still find excellent buys.”

Now obviously, Ms. Kelly might be just a little bit biased, working for a map auction company. However, she just might be right. If you appreciate old maps, now might be a good time to pick up a few. So get out to those garage sales, flea markets, and antique malls and start hunting.

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Mar 15, 2007

Rare Atlas Goes For £670,000

That rare copy of the first printed atlas of England and Wales, regarded as a prime example of early map making, has sold for £669,600 (about $1.3 million) at a Sotheby's auction, the BBC reported:
The work, by the Wakefield surveyor Christopher Saxton, also has a rare set of charts depicting Sir Francis Drake's journey to the West Indies and America.

Printed between 1579 and 1590, it runs to 40 pages of maps and plates - a landmark in Elizabethan cartography, a spokesman for Sotheby's said.

The charts illustrating Drake's voyage across the Atlantic from 1585 to 1586 were made by Giovanni Battista Boazio.

The atlas was purchased by an anonymous telephone bidder, and was sold at the high end of its expected price.

See also: Rare Elizabethan Atlas to be Auctioned


LIDAR Deployed to Help Save Forests

Researchers at the University of Arkansas have begun a program using cutting-edge spatial technologies to study the aftermath of an insect infestation that has devastated red oak populations in Arkansas and Missouri. Dr. Fred Stephen, a professor of entomology and Dr. Jason Tullis, a geosciences professor are using light detection and ranging (LIDAR), to accurately map a forested area of the Ozark National Forest where many trees succumbed to red oak borers.

The LIDAR instrument, mounted in an airplane, shoots about 50,000 near-infrared laser pulses per second at the earth. Depending on the path of a given laser pulse, up to four return pulses are recorded by the instrument's receiver. On a typical red oak tree, return pulses originate from leaves, branches, the trunk and the ground.

Using GPS, gyroscopes and other instrumentation, the location where each LIDAR return pulse originated is computed, allowing the researchers to study a three-dimensional “point cloud," an example of which is shown above, representing forest structure and terrain. This information will be used in conjunction with field studies to try to find patterns that might help explain what trees are vulnerable to infestation, and thereby help help foresters shape forest management practices to protect them.

The red oak borer, lived in relative obscurity in red oak trees in the Ozark Mountains until 1999. Then foresters began noticing oaks dying in droves. When Professor Stephen and his students examined the trees, they found them filled with borers. In 2005, the red oak borer population fell back to normal levels.

Researchers are trying to understand why the sudden infestation happened, and to keep it from happening again. “GIS and remote sensing can help find a pattern, and this can help us understand the underlying science of the ecosystem,” Dr. Tullis said.


The Cutting Edge Between Cartography and Art

Yesterday's Washington Post had a story, also picked up by The Map Room about 26 year-old Nikolas Schiller. Mr. Schiller, who is quoted as saying, "To change the world, start with the maps," takes aerial images from the U.S.G.S. and remakes them into into art.

More from the Post:

He is sly, this rebel cartographer. He makes maps that look like quilts, masks, feathers, acid trips. You can find America in these maps -- you can probably find your house in these maps -- if you can find the maps at all, since their creator has posted them to an online underground.
Schiller barely pauses on the way to his computer, which he fires up to reveal hundreds of his map creations. They are places you know -- the Mall, Adams Morgan, Georgetown, plus other U.S. cities and war-torn ones abroad. But the streetscapes -- photographed from above at a resolution fine enough to just make out cars and people -- have been warped and woven into kaleidoscopic mosaics, arabesques, spheres.

So Big Brother really is watching -- and Schiller remixes this surveilled reality to render geography as politically pointed art. The results have stunned his former geography professors and amazed the federal cartographers who commissioned the original aerial pictures for more mundane purposes, such as aiding developers who are gentrifying neighborhoods, such as, um -- U Street!

Then it gets complicated. On his computer he will take a swatch of a neighborhood, then he will tessellate it by creating mirrored repetitions, then he may impose radial geometry on the repetitions. The result is elaborate abstraction assembled from realistic detail, ready for framing at 5 by 3 1/2 feet.
Mr. Schiller's work is fascinating. Until now, he's been something of an Internet recluse. The Post quotes him as saying, "I'm interested in seeing other people's opinions. Will people blog about it? Will I be made fun of?" So visit his website and check out his work.


Mar 14, 2007

Galileo to be Grounded?

Plans to by the Europeans Space Agency to launch a satellite navigation system to compete with the U.S.'s global positioning system have ground to a halt following a break down in relations between governments and private contractors the Financial Times reported.

More from the Financial Times via MSNBC:

Jacques Barrot, the transport commissioner, said on Wednesday he was writing to the eight companies building the Galileo system to discover the reason for more than a year's delay. "They are just not working," said his spokesman.

Allegations that Spain is blocking progress until it is guaranteed more jobs and work by the multinational consortium led one critic to brand the project "Airbus in space". Spain said its companies were merely insisting that the consortium respect a 2005 commitment on the division of work.

EU governments fear that China could launch a competitor before Galileo is airborne. Governments will confront contractors representing the cream of European space industry at a meeting next week. "We will give the companies an ultimatum," said a French diplomat. "But what will happen if that does not work?"

Industry sources said they doubted work would restart until there was a guarantee it could win business from GPS, the free American military system that sparked the huge market in car navigation devices.

"There is a doubt over the revenues," said one. "Why sell Pepsi-cola when you can get Coca-Cola free?"

The consortium that is supposed to build the system is balking at sharing development costs, which have doubled from €1bn to €2bn. The consortium, comprised of some of Europe's leading technology companies has yet to establish a joint headquarters or appoint a CEO.

There were originally to be 30 satellites in place by 2010 but a spokesman said the system would not be operational until 2011. Meanwhile other countries are deploying their own satellite navigation systems. China recently announced that its Beidou system would cover China and its neighbours by 2008, with plans for global coverage sometime after that. Russian President Vladmir Putin has said that his country's GLONASS system will be operational over Russia by the end of the year, with worldwide coverage planned for late 2009.

See also: GLONASS to Top U.S.'s GPS, Putin Says
China Launches 4th Navigation Satellite in Effort to Compete With U.S., Europe
European Space Agency To Go Forward With Next Phase Of Galileo


Report: Remote Sensing Market at $9.9 Billion by 2012

Global market expenditures for remote sensing products are projected to increase to more than $9.9 billion by 2012. That, according to a new report issued yesterday by BCC Research. The Massachusetts-based research firm estimates that more than $7 billion was spent on remote sensing products last year. The firm estimates future increases in spending on remote sensing will run 6.3% annually.

Weather forecasting holds the highest share of the market, accounting for approximately 38% of the total. The biggest potential for growth in the remote sensing market will be public health applications, which the firm estimates could grow to $675 million in 2012. Other major markets include right-of-way inspection, intelligence gathering, and climate change studies.

In the past, the popularity of of geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) technology caused some to predict that the demand for remote sensing information would bring about a boom. Optimistic predictions placed the market at more than $30 billion in sales by 2005. While the industry never came close to meeting such lofty expectations, BCC Research does forecast steady growth for the future.

Information for this post courtesy of BCC Research. The full report (#IAS022A) can be purchased from their website.


Mar 13, 2007

The Future of GIS

Jonathan at The Map Room pointed me to a post by Catholicgauze on "The Future for GIS".

Among his thoughts:

What is happening is that many GIS users have no knowledge of geography. With a few clicks of a button a GIS jockey can describe data's distribution but cannot explain why things are the way they are. A monkey can do that work.
So are GIS users destined to become the next administrative assistants? Wander over and post your own thoughts.

See also: Geospatial Technology Is A Burgeoning Industry
Schools Using GIS To Teach Students To Think Spatially


GLONASS to Top U.S.'s GPS, Putin Says

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that GLONASS, his country's satellite positioning system that is still being deployed, would be better that the GPS system currently in service and operated by the United States.

The semi-official news service Itar-Tass quoted Mr. Putin as saying, “In order users chose GLONASS, the system should operate flawlessly, better than GPS (the global positioning system). Cheaper and with a better quality.” Mr. Putin reportedly made the statement at a meeting of government officials yesterday.

The news service said that the president closely follows progress of the satellite system. Mr. Putin went on to offer a none too subtle hint that he expects all sectors of the Russian economy to embrace GLONASS, saying “We have the right to count on known, healthy economic patriotism of our users, first of all of the state, but I proceed from the assumption that we shall work on market terms in this sector of the economy, and users will be able to chose a quality service.”

The first GLONASS satellite was launched in October of 1982. However, the project stagnated with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The program appears to have been re-energized by the recent attention given to it by the Russian President. Three GLONASS satellites were launched in December of last year. Plans are for the the navigation system to be ready for Russian use by the end of this year with a total of 18 satellites in orbit. Continuous global operations require a minimum of 24 satellites, which is planned by late 2009.

See also: Report: GLONASS Could Be Operating By 2009
World Prepares To Challenge U.S. Dominance In GPS


Mar 11, 2007

Navman's Holloway on the Future of the Portable Navigation Device

Stuart Dredge at Tech Digest recently interviewed Navman's Colin Holloway on the future of the GPS portable navigation device (PND). Not surprisingly, the main topic was the threat posed to PNDs by GPS-enabled mobile phones:

Q: Is mobile a threat to your core business though, if people start navigating with their phones rather than with standalone PNDs?

Well, if you look at Canalys’ data, they predict that in two years PNDs will still be 80% of the market. I do think the smartphone side will take off, as you’ll probably find people like Vodafone and O2 giving away GPS with their devices.

That said, there’s no question that things need to be fit-for-purpose. I’ve used lots of smartphone solutions for GPS, and while it’s great having an all-in-one device, there’s the odd occasion where you really wish you had a dedicated device. Say you’ve got a GPS signal coming into your smartphone, and at a crucial turning your mate rings, and you’re left wondering whether to turn left or right!

What I think you’ll find in our market, is people will have GPS on one device, like a smartphone, so they can go into London on the train, flick the GPS on and navigate to wherever they’re going on foot. But when you’re in the car, you’ll want a bigger more fit-for-purpose device, with a larger screen and speaker.

Q: If it’s hard to differentiate between different PNDs now, how do you see them improving in the future?

The first thing is design. Look at what’s happened with mobile phones like the LG Chocolate and Motorola RAZR. Design is very important in the sales for these products, and you’ve seen that in the evolution of our product too, with slimmed-down devices like our N40 and N60.

So Navman appears to be pinning its hopes for the future on people desiring not one, but two PNDs; one in their phone, and one in their car. That, and really cool designs for their PNDs.

See also: So Long to Stand-Alone GPS Units?
Free Maps for Your Cellphone
GPS Everywhere


Mar 10, 2007

GPS Gadget of the Week: GPS Sniper Rifle

This week's GPS Gadget of the Week comes from Navigadget. It's the ID Sniper from Empire North.

According to the company, the ID Sniper is a high-powered rifle used to implant a GPS-microchip in a human being from as far away as 1100 meters. The microchip enters the body, feeling like a mosquito-bite when it does. At the same time a digital camcorder with a zoom-lens takes a picture of the target. The GPS chip enables law enforcement agencies to keep track of the target.

Now by this time, I'm sure my astute readers are thinking, "there's no way this could work." Well, you're right. The whole thing is apparently a ruse, or perhaps an art project?

At any rate, I thought I'd pass it along just for fun. I have to admit, I'm planning on emailing the link to Empire North's website to a few conspiracy buffs I know.

Last week's GPS Gadget of the Week here.


U.S. Rep., Head of U.S.G.S. at Odds Again

U.S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) and U.S.G.S. director Mark Myers sparred over the fate of the agency's Rolla office yesterday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has more:

The agency's mapping office in Rolla is competing against private corporations and a USGS branch office in Denver to see who will conduct government mapping and archival work. The agency is part of the Interior Department, which is scheduled to pick a site in late August and announce the winner on Sept. 12, officials say.

The Rolla facility will likely be closed down if it loses.

"The competitive process for site selection is still ongoing," Mark Myers, director of the USGS, said under questioning from Emerson during an Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, complained that Denver had an unfair edge, given that an initial plan called for closing of the Rolla office. It took more than half a year for Emerson and Missouri's two senators to get the Interior Department to reconsider and start over, giving Denver added preparation time in a competition, she said.

Currently the U.S.G.S. employs about 100 people at its office in Rolla, Missouri.


Mar 9, 2007

Geologists Plan Global Map

Scientists from more than 55 countries are planning what they call the, "most extensive and ambitious mapping project ever contemplated." The project is OneGeology and it's goal is to create a dynamic digital geological map across the surface of the Earth. It will pool all the existing knowledge about what lies under the Earth's surface and to make it available on the web.

The effort is being led by Britain's Geological Survey (BGS), with support from UNESCO and six other global umbrella bodies. Countries from around the world are being encouraged to pool their knowledge about what lies under the Earth's surface to create the seamless model of the Earth's geological formations.

The map will be created using ‘GeoSciML’ a geological exchange language that will allow geological data to be shared and integrated across the planet. BGS will host a kickoff meeting March 12 through 16 in Brighton, England. Over the next two years, geologists will agree and plan the details of the project.

Grammar corrected 03/10/07.


Google Prevails in Suit Over Google Earth

A U.S. judge ruled that the 3D modeling software used in Google Earth does not violate the patent of a competitor.

Reuters has the story:

Judge Douglas Woodlock of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston denied a complaint by Skyline Software Systems Inc. that the Google Earth mapping software of Google's Keyhole Inc. infringed Skyline patents.

The judge also denied motions from both parties on whether the patents in question were valid, but left the possibility for either party to reassert these issues if they do so before April 20. He canceled a planned trial date set for June.

In his ruling, Woodlock held that Google's system does not attempt to render views of Earth's terrain, a key claim of the patent held by Skyline, which is based in Chantilly, Virginia, and offers its own "fly through" three-dimensional software.

See also: Suit Asks Court To Shutdown Google Earth


Mar 7, 2007

China to Crack Down on Foreign Surveyors & Mappers

An article in China Daily says the Chinese government is cracking down on foreigners conducting surveying and mapping projects in the country without authorization. It notes that back in April, two Japanese scholars were fined 80,000 yuan (about $10,300) for using GPS to collect geographic information on an airport and water facilities in Northwest China.

Also mentioned is the case of an electronics company in Weihai, which was fined 30,000 yuan (about $3,900) for hiring South Korean surveyors to map a plant site without approval from the government.

China Daily says that the State Bureau of Surveys and Mapping has published the results of their investigations into all this illegal surveying and mapping on its website. Since my Chinese is pretty rusty, I didn't bother looking for it.

Since the article mostly rehashes old news, the main point seems to be a warning that new restrictions on surveying and mapping by foreigners went into effect on March 1.

Despite the government's arguments about the need to, "...protect national security and promote economic and scientific cooperation with other countries," the main purpose seems to be insuring the continued employment of the bureaucrats at the State Bureau of Surveys and Mapping.

See also: China Restricts Foreign Surveyors & Mappers

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NYC Cab Drivers Threaten Strike Over GPS Plans

New York City's Taxi & Limousine Commission has announced plans to require all taxi cabs to install GPS tracking equipment in their vehicles. The cabbies are none too happy about it and are threatening to strike.

More from the New York Sun:

More than 100 drivers and medallion owners bundled up in scarves and ski caps for a rally in front of the Taxi & Limousine Commission headquarters on Rector Street yesterday, protesting the global positioning systems they say will infringe on their privacy rights. Holding up signs reading "Stop GPS" and "Ready to Strike," taxi drivers called the new technology an expensive "snake oil scam" that they will be forced to pay for.
The Taxi & Limousine Commission says the tracking devices will be used to reunite passengers with belongings left behind in cabs. Drivers fear the equipment will be used to prosecute them for speeding and other traffic violations and violates their civil rights.

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GIS for the Third World

There's a good article today on the Science and Discovery Network's website about how GIS is helping developing countries deal with disease and disasters.

One focus is how Third World countries are using GIS to combat infectious diseases. An example is the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where health officials at the National Informatics Centre are using GIS to track outbreaks of Japanese encephalitis.

GIS is also being used in Thailand, to deal with the bird flu epidemic that still plagues much of Asia. The Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok has started a project to map and track fatal strains of the virus, identifying risk zones and the trajectory of any potential outbreak.

GIS is also increasingly used for disaster management and planning. Emergency workers can use GIS to prepare maps of disaster zones and develop plans. Indonesia is using GIS to identify areas with strong erosion in the Bandung Basin of West Java to combat landslides.

The biggest hindrance to using GIS to solve more of the Third World's problems? A lack of resources, a lack of good software, and a lack of skilled GIS specialists. There is also a reluctance among many governments to make GIS information publicly available due to security concerns.

See also:
GIS Maps Clean Water in Africa
When Disaster Strikes, GIS is a Key Tool


Mar 5, 2007

Canadian Government May Fund Multi-Million Dollar Mapping Effort

Canada's federal government may be close to helping fund a plan to map the country's resource-rich north Radio Station 1130 reported:
A spokesman for the Prospectors and Developers Association for Canada made the comment Monday, after a speech at a prospectors' convention by Cassie Doyle, Canada's deputy minister for natural resources.

Doyle, in her speech to delegates, stressed the importance of the decade-long plan to map Canada's resource-rich north, especially in this "pre-budget" period.

"I was left with the impression that the government was going to be funding it," PDAC's Philip Bousquet said in an interview, referring to the mining community's proposed Co-operative Geological Mapping Strategy, which would cost $500 million over 10 years.

The association has been meeting in Toronto, where federal funding for the mapping plan has been a subject of debate. The association says the federal government's spending on geoscience has declined by 50 per cent since 1980. Under the plan, the federal government would spend $25 million annually for 10 years, to be matched equally by the provinces and territories.


Mar 4, 2007

Surprise! Google Puts Images Online and no one Complains

Mark Dunn is a reporter in search of a story. Writing in the Herald Sun today (tomorrow if your in the U.S.) he says "Aerial views of potential terrorist targets visible on the Google Earth search engine present a national security risk, analysts warn."

However, the reporter was unable to find a single Australian defense official to complain about the online pictures, concluding "...Google Australia has defended the pictures, saying they are not classified and security agencies have not asked for them to be censored." Mr. Dunn reports that except for management of the nuclear reactor, no one else has expressed concern.

Instead he was forced to settle for a quote from a "security analyst" who said "It could well be a tool of some effect for terrorist groups."

Google Earth Obscures Some Iraq Bases
Yet More Indian Concerns Over Google Earth
Google Earth: Complaints and Restrictions


Faulty Map Leads to Blame Game in Scotland

A mistake in an Ordnance Survey map has been blamed for a three-story housing development being built in the wrong place the Edinburgh News reported.

Residents Blame Local Planning Officials
Angry residents claim their views have been ruined because the new building has been built 3 meters out of place. They blame local planning officials. "We've been on at planning about this for a long time now. As soon as this became apparent building control should have been out here and telling them to stop." nieghbor Caroline Gerard, told the News.

Local Officials Blame the Developer
Not so says planning leader Trevor Davies. He blames the developer telling the News, "A responsible developer would have come back to the committee with this. They are within their legal rights but it is not socially responsible to do what they did."

Developer Blames Local Officials
Developer Gregor Properties says it was simply following map references on plans approved by the council. a spokesman said, "What we did was build exactly the building in exactly the place we had planning permission for."

Local Officials Blame Ordinance Survey Maps
A spokeswoman for the council says it relied on Ordinance Survey maps saying such maps, "...represents the gold standard of mapping within the UK was a reasonable way for the council to proceed in the circumstances."

Ordinance Survey Says They Should have had it Surveyed.
A spokesman for Ordnance Survey said: "Ordnance Survey has the capability to capture detail to a very high accuracy using state of the art surveying technology. However, over the years data has been captured using less accurate methods. Ordnance Survey would not expect a customer to use our data in such a context in lieu of a localised engineering survey."

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Mar 3, 2007

GPS Gadget of the Week: PogoDrive

Time for what may or may not become a regular feature, the GPS Gadget of the Week. This week's gadget is for those in the U.K. and comes courtesy the folks at Gizmodo. It's the PogoDrive.

The PogoDrive may look like yet another GPS navigation device. However, it has one one unique feature: it will warn you of speedtraps. The device has onboard a map of known cameras and speed traps. The PogoDrive will automatically warn you as you approach the speedtrap. You can also turn off the map and just let it warn you of approaching speedtraps

The PogoDrive is available online for £349.95 (for you curious Americans, that's about $681.00)

Previous Gadget of the Week here.


Mar 2, 2007

India, Pakistan Complete Survey of Disputed Area

A joint team from India and Pakistan has completed its survey of the common boundary of the two countries in the Sir Creek area. Express News Service reported that experts from both countries will meet at Wagah to complete demarcation of the long disputed border.

The joint mapping project was comprised of approximately 400 people, including 16 ground surveyors and 12 hydrographers from each side. Each day's work had to be completed during a six-hour time frame due to the tides.

99 km-long Sir Creek is the biggest creek separating India and Pakistan. The boundary has been a source of numerous diputes between the two countries, including the 1965 war.

See also: India & Pakistan Agree to Map Disputed Border.

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Rare Elizabethan Atlas to be Auctioned

If you collect old maps, I hope you've been saving. Leeds Today says that a rare copy of a map made by a pioneering surveyor from Wakefield in the 16th century is expected to bring more than £500,000 (almost $973,000 U.S.) at auction later this month.

The copy of one of the first printed atlases of England and Wales by "the father of English cartography" Christopher Saxton is to be auctioned at Sotheby's on March 15.

The 40 page atlas was printed between 1579 and 1590, and is considered a landmark in Elizabethan cartography.

If a million dollars is a little out of your budget, there's an interesting article with pictures of some of the pages of the atlas here.


Former MapInfo Exec. Invests in Irish Mapping Firm

Sean O’Sullivan, a former president and chairman of U.S. based, MapInfo Corporation has invested $5.1 million in Dublin-based Mapflow it was announced today. The investment was made through Mr. O'Sullivan's venture fund, SOSventures Investments Ltd. Another
$6.6 million is promised if the company achieves future milestones.

Mr. O’Sullivan will also assume the position of Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors. Mapflow founder Simon Dick will leave the board. Harvey Appelbe, another founder of the firm, will remain as Chief Technology Officer and a member of the Board of Directors.

Commenting on his investment, Mr. O'Sullivan praised the current management team and said, “It is truly a gem of the Irish software industry, and the challenge is now to make it a global leader, #1 or #2, in its markets worldwide.”

Mapflow provides location intelligent solutions to the insurance, transport and location services markets. The firm says that the investment will be used primarily be used to fund additional R&D by the company.

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Schoolchildren to Map Light Pollution

Schoolchildren around the world will gaze skyward from March 8 to 21 in an effort to help scientists map light pollution. They will be looking for specific constellations, then share their observations through the Internet. The program, called GLOBE at Night, is designed to both help scientists map light pollution while educating kids about the stars, according to BBS News.

Last year, more than 18,000 people from 96 countries on every continent except Antarctica reported a total of more than 4,500 observations as part of the program. GLOBE at Night is a project of The GLOBE Program (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment), a worldwide science and education program managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and Colorado State University.

Outdoor lighting is a growing problem for astronomical observing programs around the world. By having students in many places hunt for the same constellation, GLOBE at Night will allow students to compare their observations with what others see, giving them a sense of how light pollution varies from place to place.