GITA 29 Models Future of Interoperability

May 1, 2006  - By
Image: GPS World

GITA (the Geospatial Information & Technology Association) held its Annual Conference 29 in Tampa, Florida, April 23-26. GITA President Susan Ancel called the conference, which included a poster session and a job fair for the first time, “the highlight of the year for the association.”

This year’s theme — “No Barriers: Connected. Responsive. Prepared.” — was explored in an interoperability demonstration that captivated the Opening Session audience. Executive Director Bob Samborski told the attendees, “what you’re about to see this afternoon is what we envision GECCo would look like in many respects,” referring to GITA’s Geospatially Enabling Community Collaboration initiative.

The premise for the demonstration — a scenario about Tampa’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games — may have been fictional, but the applications, data, and interoperability were real. To prepare a proposal that included analyses of emergency response, infrastructure, transportation, and other relevant capabilities, the would-be host city had to pull information from a host of dispersed datasets in a variety of formats. Tampa officials and geospatial vendors who collaborated in the live presentation succeeded at their task, proving that open standards-based software, data, and services can overcome data-sharing obstacles.

During the opening session, GITA also honored winners of the 2006 Excellence, Innovator, and Distinguished Service awards, as well as what Samborski called “the highest award the association can bestow” — the Geospatial Industry Lifetime Achievement award, which went to C. Warren Ferguson. In regard to his long career in the industry, Ferguson said, “understanding the value of location, and being able to communicate it,
is perhaps my greatest contribution to the geospatial community.”

The theme of “No Barriers” carried through to the show floor, where improved data sharing, technology integration, and collaboration reigned. TerraGo Technologies has added a capability to its GeoPDF file format that enables full round-tripping of markups and redlines, transforming a viewing tool into a collaboration tool. Once GeoPDFs are created with TerraGo’s MAP2PDF for GIS, then geo-enabled for commenting with TerraGo’s MAP2PDF for Geo-Enabling software and Adobe Acrobat Professional, any user with Adobe Reader and TerraGo’s Geo-Enabled GeoPDF Toolbar can export shapefiles for round-tripping back to a GIS.

CH2M HILL demonstrated several solutions that combine tracking technologies with Google Earth. The company’s GE Tracker plots the location of GPS-enabled devices (such as cell phones) in real time through the Google Earth interface. Example applications include recording the time a delivery driver spends at a particular location, routing the most conveniently located courier to a job, and keeping tabs on a child’s trip to a movie theater. As Vice-President of C&IS (Communications & Information Solutions) Nigel Nugent said, everyone wants to know “where’s my stuff, and what’s happening to it?”

LizardTech announced its Spatial Express application, which enables users to store raster imagery in an Oracle database in its native MrSID and JPEG 2000 formats. Spatial Express uses Oracle’s GeoRaster application program interface and provides raster imagery compression of up to 95 percent, with no visible loss of quality. Selective decoding reduces the time needed to view imagery by decompressing only the relevant region of an image.

FCSI unveiled IT3D for FME, a plug-in for Safe Software’s Feature Manipulation Engine (FME) that translates GIS data from more than 100 formats into high-resolution three-dimensional (3D) visualizations. IT3D includes 3D conversion software, a 3D viewer, a library of 3D models and textures, and communications interface software for GIS-to-viewer interaction. Visibility of individual features can be toggled on and off, meaning that a user can hide the surface of the ground to expose the locations of buried pipelines or cables.

Outside the exhibit hall, the use of GIS in managing underground utilities data was the focus of educational sessions about locating buried lines and populating “call before you dig” services with up-to-date information. Rather than using outdated paper maps or relying on memory, utilities and other organizations are now turning to a combination of GPS, GIS, and facility location technologies to create accurate maps of underground lines. Other sessions explored the use of GIS in such areas as work and asset management, emergency response, system integration, and planning, design, and engineering.

Throughout the event, the dynamic nature of the geospatial industry and its technology was apparent. Intergraph’s Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer Peter Batty discussed the changes brought about by rapidly evolving technology. Thanks to the increasing accuracy and availability of location-tracking technologies, he said, geospatial technologies once primarily limited to documentation and planning are now being used for dynamically scheduling and assigning work, and a host of other real-time applications.

The 30th Annual Conference and Exhibition, titled “Mission Possible,” will be held in San Antonio, Texas, March 4-7, 2007. For more information, visit

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About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.