GeoCarta Has Moved

Nov 30, 2007

GLONASS Major Part of Russian Plans to be a High-Tech Leader

R ussian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, wants to spend at least $60 billion over the next 10 years to make Russia a global high-tech titan, according to Bloomberg News. LyubovPronina has posted a wide-ranging article outlining the country's goals for competing globally in high-tech. Among the highlights:

Russia is spending 9.9 billion rubles [about $405 million USD] in 2007 to turn its Global Navigation Satellite System, Glonass, into a rival of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS. Russia plans to have full global coverage with 24 satellites in orbit by 2010.

By 2015, says Yuriy Urlichich, head of the Russian Research Institute of Space Instrument Building, Glonass will be selling tens of billions of dollars of services annually to operators of mobile communications devices around the world.

For Putin and Ivanov, space remains a high priority. Anatoly Perminov, head of the Federal Space Agency, told the RIA Novosti news agency it spent 24.4 billion rubles ($1 billion) in 2007 on the International Space Station and other projects. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration spent $16.2 billion.

Among the Russian government's other tech plans are:

  • To capture 10 percent of the global market for information technology and office equipment by 2020.
  • To put a man on the moon by 2025
  • To put a man on Mars after 2035.
  • To become the No. 3 maker of commercial airplanes.

To accomplish their lofty goals, Russia is abandoning the free-market if favor of Soviet-style central planning, combining smaller companies into single government- controlled conglomerates. Boris Chertok, who worked on the first Sputnik satellite told Bloomberg, "We need to restore what we have lost over 15 years of destructive reforms. The market economy is incapable of fulfilling such large national programs as flight to the moon."

It remains to be seen how well large, government-controlled companies can compete in a high-tech field where victory generally goes to the quick and nimble.

In addition to bureaucratic hurdles, there are at two other obstacles to Russian plans of becoming a high-tech power.

  1. Many of the country's smartest math and science students leave for better paying jobs elsewhere, while many young people favor business degrees, ignoring science and math altogether.
  2. The country is a technological backwater. A recent ranking by Economist Intelligence Unit put Russia 48th, behind India and the Philippines, in ability to support a competitive IT environment.

See also: Report: GLONASS Could Be Operating By 2009
GLONASS to Top U.S.'s GPS, Putin Says

Photo courtesy of Masta Bord.

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Nov 28, 2007

A New Way to Map The World

Earth's 6.6 billion people have reshaped about 3/4 of the planet and now represent a “force of nature rivaling climate and geology in shaping the terrestrial biosphere.” In response, two scientists have proposed a new way to map ecosystems that takes people into account.

More from EarthSky:

The new method divides the globe into anthropogenic biomes, or anthromes, to better describe the human-altered landscape.

So, instead of traditional biomes based on climate and vegetation (tundra, tropical rainforests, grasslands, deserts, etc.), Prof. Erle Ellis of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Prof. Navin Ramankutty of McGill University propose using major categories of anthromes such as “dense settlements,” “villages,” “croplands,” “rangelands,” “forested” and “wildlands.”

They continue: “This new model of the biosphere moves us away from an outdated view of the world as ‘natural ecosystems with humans disturbing them’ and towards a vision of ‘human systems with natural ecosystems embedded within them’.” They contend that the new system is critical to ecological studies and sustainable management of the biosphere in the 21st century.

Full map here.

See also: Worldmapper: A New Way to View the Planet


EU Lauches Probe Into TomTom-Tele Atlas Deal

The European Union has opened a detailed probe of Dutch technology group TomTom's takeover of Dutch firm Tele Atlas, RTE' Business reported today, citing concerns the deal could stifle competition in the market for personal navigation devices:

The European Commission said it would rule by mid April whether to allow the €2.9 billion takeover of Tele Atlas, a leading maker of digital maps, by TomTom, which makes portable navigation devices.

The European Union's top competition watchdog said it had 'serious doubts' the deal would 'lead to a significant impediment to effective competition.'

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Nov 26, 2007

Compromise to Allow Galileo to go Forward

Members of the European Union (EU) have reached a compromise that will allow funding of the Galileo satellite project The Register reported:

...States voted to back a €2.4bn funding deal, drawing cash from unused farming subsidies, and restructuring research and industrial spending for the year.

This means the European rival to the US military's GPS system can go ahead, but no extra public funds will be written into the EU's budget to pay for it.

The original plan was to have the scheme be funded at least partly by the private sector, but contractors walked away (probably shaking their heads) saying they couldn't make the numbers stack.

The idea of using taxpayers' cash to fill the gap in funding was particularly abhorrent to Germany, which was worried about creating a precedent of using up excess funds instead of passing them back to the member states. The UK is said to have had similar concerns, but unlike Germany, eventually voted in favour of the plan.

German officials had previously expressed concerns that German contractors would be excluded from contracts to build the system. According to reports, the project will be split into six pieces, with each member state able to be the prime contractor on a maximum of two sections, a process reportedly acceptable to Berlin.

Not everyone in Europe is happy with the plan. In an editorial, The Times called the Galileo system "An overpriced piece of pie in the sky" saying the EU is paying too much for an overcomplicated system that doesn’t yet work.

See also: Germany Says No to Galileo Funding
Galileo's Future Uncertain
Galileo to be Grounded?


18th Century Vermont Maps Now Online

Maps dating to the 18th century have been made available online at the Vermont State Archives website the Associated Press reports:

Many have disappeared or been hidden away in dusty vaults in town clerk's offices. But now the Vermont State Archives is using digital technology to make copies of the maps accessible over the Internet so landowners, lawyers, surveyors and historians can use them to analyze colonial-era roads, boundary lines and titles.

"Some of these records may be based on surveys and maps done 200 years ago, but they continue to have value, legal value and an informational value that has survived the centuries," [State Archivist Gregory] Sanford said.

Besides their practical value, the Vermont maps offer a glimpse into the past. For example, a 1778 map of Royalton bears notations saying the town's four corners are marked by birch trees. Some of the 54 lots have the names of the original European owners, while others describe property as "good upland" or "level and very good."

See also: Vermont Towns Begin Mapping Ancient Roads
Old Maps Of New England Available On CD

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Nov 24, 2007

Artist's Project Makes Invisible Grid, Visible

Artist Perri Lynch became intrigued about an invisible control grid over the land known as real-time networks. The way surveying and geodesy use linear and algebraic terms to give precise definition to that which defies definition: land and landscapes became a source of inspiration.

As the American Surveyor reports:

Perri first came to the attention of the surveying community from her work "Precisely Known Completely Lost," a photographic and sound series. She matched images of survey monuments (from the point of view most familiar to us, looking straight down) with a perfectly skyward image from the same monument. Audio from each site collected at the time of photography was played in loops exhibition.

In the exhibit materials for "Precisely Known Completely Lost," Perri notes, "Sense of place does not exist in the physical world. It is not universal and it is not permanent." Part of her attraction to survey monuments is that they are a manifestation of this human desire for sense of place, and a renewed appreciation for the practical value of such amenities.

Ms. Lynch's latest project is a series of black limestone pillars, set parallel to and along an entire kilometer-long National Geodetic Survey (NGS) baseline. The first and last stone are coincident with the NGS monuments; the rest of the six-foot high stones are placed in a progression of doubling distance at each subsequent stone. One side is rough, the other smooth to the contrast the regular and irregular or natural. Holes are drilled at eye-height (and at child and ADA height) aligned perfectly with holes in each subsequent stone, thereby giving the observer the perspective of a surveyor.

Ms. Lynch told American Surveyor that she sought to "amplify the obscure," as well as to "help folks connect to the specialness of subtle things and provide a new perspective on a familiar scene."

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Nov 22, 2007

Mapping Errors Make News

It's been a tough week for mapmakers it seems.

First the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that flood maps issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contained a elevation error of five feet.

The error resulted from a misplaced minus sign. That means that instead of reducing floodwaters by 5-1/2 feet, the Corps' new gates and levee repairs in the Lakeview and Old Metairie area will only reduce flooding by 1/2 of a foot.

The Corps discovered the error after a public even, held on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landing on the Gulf Coast, to announce the release of the maps:

Federal Gulf Coast Recovery Chief Donald Powell had called the reduced flood risk one of the most important events in the state's recovery. "If I were in the real estate business, or if I were anticipating coming to live in New Orleans, the first thing I would look at are these maps we're releasing today," he said at a June 21 news conference.

Meanwhile, the Delmarva Daily Times says that Snow Hill, Maryland officials met to change the zoning of a piece of property back to residential from business. That same body had just recently changed the zoning to business when the planning department determined early maps zoned the area for business. Unfortunately, there were some streets that was misnamed in those previous zoning maps.

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Nov 21, 2007

Caputured Al-Qaeda Map key to a Safer Baghdad

A map drawn by Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and captured by U.S. forces was instrumental in helping reduced the terrorist groups attacks in Baghdad the Courier-Mail reported today:

Zarqawi was killed in June 2006 but the turning point came in December when the map was found in a safe house.

It gave US war planners insight into the terror network's methods for moving explosives, fighters and money.

"The map essentially laid out how Al-Qaeda controlled Baghdad," Major-General Bob Scales said.

"They did it through four belts that surrounded the city, and these belts controlled access to the city for reinforcements and weapons and money."

US-led forces reduced these belts one at a time and choked off Al-Qaeda's access to the city.


Nov 19, 2007

MapQuest on Your PND

MapQuest, AOL's online mapping service announced today a new partnership with Telmap, that will provide turn-by-turn, voice-guided, directions to GPS-enabled Personal Navigation Devices.

This new version features Live Traffic, AOL CityGuide, which includes listings and ratings of restaurants and nightlife, gas prices near your location, and 3D Map Views. In the future, users will be able send maps and directions from their computer to their handheld device using the system.Users who sign up for the new version 5.0 between now and December 31, 2007 can system for $4.99 per month.

Personally, $60 a year for directions seems a bit high to me, especially since I can access the web with my Treo and get similar information for free. However, it might be worth it for those that travel by car a lot.

See also: Lower Cost to Drive Demand for Auto Navigation Systems
Free Maps for Your Cellphone

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Nov 17, 2007

GPS Gadget of the Week: Bladerunner GPS Jacket

Parents worried that Junior may wander too far from home need fear no longer. Not if the little tyke is wearing the Bladerunner GPS Jacket. The coat comes with a pouch where concerned parents place a rechargeable GPS device. The device, which will last about 15-hours on one charge, can track the wearer to within 43 square feet.

The tracking coat can also be configured to geo-fence the little guy, alerting parents when their offspring wanders too far away, or it can be used to set a curfew which sounds an alarm when junior is out too late. The children's tracking jacket costs $500, plus $20 a month for the tracking technology.

Via Crave.


Surveyor's Collection of Ancient Maps on Display

Maps and antique equipment collected by surveyor Dan Cory is currently on display at the New Smyrna Museum of History, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. "The Early Surveying and Mapping of Southeast Volusia County" features a copy of a 1605 map of the area, which was obtained from the St. Augustine Institute of Science and Historical Society.

The collection also highlights rare manuscript maps of surveys done of East Volusia from 1834 to 1850 as well as two full-color, full-sized Sanborn fire insurance maps of the city from 1895 and 1901. The exhibit runs through November 24, and is free.

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Nov 10, 2007

GPS Gadget of the Week: MySpot

If you want the security of a GPS-enabled panic button but don't want to carry around a separate device, then MySpot by phantomEye may be for you. MySpot is designed to provide a 'panic button' on select cell phone. In an emergency, the user can have the company's server automatically call up to 20 numbers, as well as notify people by email and instant message, including the users location.

The system also comes with a countdown timer. This mode can be used by hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts to notify selected family and friends and their location at pre-determined intervals. The company points out that it could do the same thing for parents of teenagers. The system runs about $1.50 per day plus about $30 for the initial software.

Via iTWire.


Nov 9, 2007

Texas Map Exhibition Begins Tour in Dallas

An exhibition of 64 historic maps has opened in Dallas. “Going to Texas: Five Centuries of Texas Maps” opened November 3, at the Old Red Museum. The exhibition features cartography dating from 1548 to 2006. The exhibition is a joint project of the Center for Texas Studies at Texas Christian University and the the Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross State University. The maps on display are among more than 1,000 maps collected by Dallas natives Yana & Marty Davis. The collection was acquired by the Museum of the Big Bend in 2006.

After a two-year stay in Dallas, the map collection will travel around the state, ending at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth in 2010. A complete itinerary of the exhibition can be found here. General admission to the Dallas museum is $8.


PND Market to Surpass 100 Million Units by 2011

Worldwide sales of Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs) will continue their strong growth, reaching sales of more than 100 million units by 2011, according to the new report released by ABI Research. The New York-based research firm predicts that dedicated PNDs will continue to be preferred for use in the car. However, it says that in-car navigation systems will be complemented by handset-based systems for pedestrian navigation. The firm also says new devices such as portable media players, ultra mobile PCs, Internet tablets and mobile Internet devices will also integrate navigation systems into their applications.

The recent announcement that Nokia will acquire NAVTEQ has everyone talking about "convergence". Speaking of the involvement of cellular carriers with PNDs, ABI Research principal analyst Dominique Bonte predicts that sales of off-board handset-based navigation devices will grow strongly in North America, reaching a sales volume of 21 million units by 2012. "It will be a catalyst for the uptake of location-based services such as search, friend finder and tracking features” he said.

For future growth, ABI Research says PND manufacturers should look to China and India, saying that by 2012 more navigation systems will ship in Asia-Pacific than in any other region. Currently Europe is the leading navigation market.

Despite the growing market for PNDs, strong competition will continue as well as pressure to lower prices. This will result in a continued consolidation of the market. Manufacturers will likely seek to stand out in the fierce market, adding features such as speech technology, multimedia features and 3D map content.

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Map Design Competition Underway

The Cartography and Geographic Information Society is now taking submissions for their 35th Annual Map Design Competition. The competition is designed to promote interest in map design and recognize significant design advances in cartography. Noted cartographers judge the entries based on: color, overall design and impression, craftsmanship, and typography. Entries are displayed at a number of national and international functions and then become part of the permanent collection of the U.S. Library of Congress.

There are separate categories for professionals and students. If you need some inspiration, you can browse some previous winning maps here. But you had better get busy, the deadline is January 15th, 2008.

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Nov 3, 2007

GPS Gadget of the Week: Spot

In yet another attempt by technology companies to make the wilderness a little less wild, SPOT, Inc. has announced what it says is the world’s first satellite messenger. The SPOT satellite messenger can transmit a user’s exact location and message to a 9-1-1 emergency call center, or to friends, family or co-workers to request help, track their location, or just keep in touch. Because SPOT uses the GPS system to determine a location and transmits over a commercial satellite network, the device works in much of the world regardless of cellular coverage. The users location can be viewed using the SPOT Web service with included Google Maps™ technology.

The device is supposed to be on the shelves of major outdoor, online, wireless and electronics retailers later this month, just in time for the holidays. The SPOT will cost Santa about $170. However, if you find one under your tree this Christmas, your joy may be tempered by the fact that the system requires an annual service fee of $100.


Garmin Makes Move For TeleAtlas

GPS maker Garmin revealed its plans for countering moves by TomTom and Nokia into the digital mapping business, bidding $3.3 billion for TeleAtlas. The move comes three months after TomTom, Garmin's chief rival in the PND market, announced plans to purchase TeleAtlas for $2.8 billion.

Currently, Garmin gets almost all of its digital maps from NAVTEQ. Garmin Chief Financial Officer Kevin Rauckman told Business Week that Nokia's acquisition of the it's chief supplier "... could have potentially ended up being a difficult and awkward situation." The stakes in this bidding war are huge. The firm that fails to purchase TeleAtlas will find itself depending upon its competitors for its maps.

See also: Nokia + NAVTEQ = Trouble for Garmin?
Nokia to Purchase NAVTEQ

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