Blue Marble Monthly — June 2018

Product News, User Stories, Events, and a Chance to Win a Copy of Global Mapper Every Month

As with any significant anniversary, Blue Marble’s 25th birthday, which we celebrate this month, offers an opportunity for us to look back at how far we have come while inspiring us to look forward to the next 25 years and beyond. The early impetus behind Blue Marble’s growth was the development of Geographic Calculator, a geodetic application that, at the time, filled a void in the rapidly expanding field of geospatial technology.

To pay homage to the important role that Geographic Calculator has played and continues to play for the company, in this month’s Blue Marble Monthly, we take a look at how the application has changed over time. We also hear from a couple of Blue Marble’s technical staff members as they help us navigate Geographic Calculator’s expansive Datasource; we introduce Blue Marble’s strategic partners in South Africa; and as always, we challenge your geographic prowess in the monthly Where in the World Geo-Challenge.

ON TURNING 25 | A Letter from Our President

Patrick Cunningham
Patrick Cunningham

Little would Jeff Cole and his compatriots have anticipated that the startup company they established in 1993 in a small town in central Maine, would grow to the extent that it now boasts hundreds of thousands of customers in virtually every country in the world.

As we pause to reflect on the path that has brought Blue Marble Geographics to this point, it is worth taking a moment to acknowledge two groups of people without whom the journey would not have been possible. First, we must recognize the efforts of the many staff members who have contributed their talents over the years. For those who have moved on to other pursuits, rest assured that although you are no longer with Blue Marble, you have left an indelible mark on the success of the company. Second, it goes without saying that we could not have succeeded without our loyal customers. You invested in us and hopefully we have been able to provide you with a viable return on that investment.

Later this month, Blue Marble will be hosting a 25th birthday party for both current and former staff members as well as some key partners and customers. While we cannot invite everyone we’d like to see to this celebration, we hope you can be there in spirit as we look forward to the next 25 years.

Patrick Cunningham
Blue Marble President

PROJECTIONS | Geographic Calculator after 25 Years

Since its founding, Blue Marble Geographics has been synonymous with Geographic Calculator. Indeed, for many years, the application was known simply as the Blue Marble Desktop. This innovative software was introduced at a time when companies and organizations were embracing geospatial technology and were facing the inevitable challenges that managing the resulting datasets incurred. The first versions of the Geographic Calculator were relatively basic although the underlying geodetic processing technology was largely the same as it is in today’s release.

To help shed light on some of the more significant changes that have occurred over its 25-year history, we asked Sam Knight, Director of Product Management, to list the five most important differences between the early and most recent versions.

 

DID YOU KNOW? | Moving a Global Mapper License

Application licensing is one of the inevitable tasks faced by virtually all software developers. Ensuring that each user is legitimately authorized to use the software provides the necessary finances for companies such as Blue Marble to continue to innovate and to expand the capability of the software. This is very much a win-win situation. License violation, on the other hand, not only inhibits Blue Marble’s ability to improve the software, it is also, well, stealing.

So while some may regard the licensing process as inconvenient, it is a necessary inconvenience. That said, Blue Marble offers a number of creative solutions for streamlining the licensing process, including offering the option to move a license to a new computer.

 

RESELLER SPOTLIGHT | South Africa-Based SMC Synergy

Many business strategists have suggested that Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s new economic frontier and with this in mind, Blue Marble is fortunate to have a well-established strategic partner in the region. South Africa-based SMC Synergy is the latest company to feature in the Reseller Spotlight and recently shared some insight on their business, which is increasingly focused on the growth in use of Global Mapper in the region.

 

VIDEOS | Navigating the Datasource in Geographic Calculator

The Datasource has been described as the epicenter of Geographic Calculator. It is fundamentally a database containing the detailed definitions of every conceivable variable that can be used in the geodetic calculation process. In the Datasource, you will find over 5,000 projected coordinate systems; over 1,800 coordinate transformations; over 500 horizontal datums; and much more. To the uninitiated, it can be an intimidating component of the application so in a recent webcast, Blue Marble technical staff members Jeff Hatzel and Scott Webber provided some navigational assistance.

This and previous Blue Marble Webinars and Webcasts can be viewed at Blue Marble YouTube Channel and on the Webinars page on the Blue Marble web site.

 

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

May’s Where in the World Geo-Challenge was, unlike the two preceding editions, controversy-free. Seemingly few were overly challenged as almost all correctly identified all five geographic locations. The first randomly drawn name and winner of a copy of Global Mapper is Marnie Dunbar from OGL Engineering. Check out the answers here to see how well you did.
This month another copy of Global Mapper will be given away so why not try your luck.

 

See complete terms and conditions here.

TRAINING | LiDAR Workshop in San Diego

Are you heading to San Diego for the Esri UC in July? Why not take a break from the conference for a day and join us for a hands-on LiDAR workshop? Scheduled for July 12th, the workshop will cover all aspects of LiDAR processing from editing and filtering to feature extraction. It will also offer a chance to try out the new Pixels-to-Points tool. Space is limited so be sure to reserve your seat as soon as possible.

Upcoming Events

European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers Annual 2018
Copenhagen, DK | June 11 – 14

Global Mapper & LiDAR Module Training
Seattle, WE | June 19

LiDAR Workshop
San Diego, CA | July 12

Blue Marble User Conference in Maine
Portland, ME | Sept 21

 

Navigating the Datasource in Geographic Calculator

The Datasource in Geographic Calculator contains information on all coordinate systems, datums, transformations, and associated components. Understanding the structure of the Datasource and how to access it are key to fully utilizing Geographic Calculator’s capabilities. This video will walk through the structure of the Datasource, covering how and where objects are stored and will address navigation when choosing coordinate systems and transformations within a job (selection mode), after first getting into the details of the Datasource’s structure in edit mode.

The examples covered in this video can be applied to any object in the Datasource. If you have questions about any of the workflows or topics covered in this presentation, email geohelp@bluemarblegeo.com.

For licensing or sales questions, email orders@bluemarblegeo.com.

To download an evaluation copy of Geographic Calculator, visit: www.bluemarblegeo.com/products/geographic-calculator.php

5 Features of Geographic Calculator That Didn’t Exist 25 Years Ago

The year 2018 marks a significant milestone in the Blue Marble Story. A quarter of a century ago, a group of enterprising geospatial technologists, recognizing the importance of geodetic accuracy and precision in a wide variety of fields, initiated a project that would result in the first version of Geographic Calculator. Little did they anticipate that 25 years later – a veritable eternity in the world of technology — the application would still be going strong and would have established itself as the go-to coordinate management tool for countless companies throughout the world.

The basic premise behind Geographic Calculator is to ensure the maximum possible degree of accuracy in any type of spatially referenced data when it is assigned to a different frame of reference. In short, it is a geodetic toolkit. Built on the foundation of the world’s most extensive and up-to-date database of coordinate system and transformation parameters, the Calculator, as it is often idiomatically referred, has been adopted by many major companies and government departments. It is deployed both as a standalone application and increasingly as an embedded component in third party applications through its SDK variant, GeoCalc.

Needless to say, an application that has been in existence for 25 years has undergone significant changes since its early versions. To help put this in perspective, we asked Sam Knight, Director of Product Management and universally recognized Calculator guru, to take a trip down memory lane and come up with the five most significant differences between the first release of the Calculator and today’s version.

Vector and Raster Data Conversions

Blue Marble Geographics
Raster processing in Geographic Calculator 2017

The first several releases of Geographic Calculator dealt exclusively with numeric data, lists of coordinate values if you will. If you needed to apply a conversion to raster or vector files, you would have to wait few years for that to be available. When it was finally introduced, the raster processing component was actually a completely separate application called Geographic Transformer. Eventually it was integrated into a complete suite of tools under the title, Blue Marble Desktop. The name of this suite of tools would eventually come full circle and once again be branded Geographic Calculator.

Coordinate Transformations (Datum Shifts)

Blue Marble Geographics
The late-binding transformation dialog box in Geographic Calculator 2017

The complicated, multi-parameter computation that is needed to assign data to a differed horizontal datum, usually referred to as a datum shift, was a much more basic process in the first release. Referred to as early-binding, the transformation parameters were predefined within the Datasource.  When you selected a datum, it came with transformation parameters to WGS 84.  With the introduction of late-binding in 2006, it became possible to select a single or multi-step transformation method with any datum as the intermediary, not just WGS 84. This opened the possibility of more accurately transforming between regional or specialized systems.

Batch Processing

Blue Marble Geographics
Batch processing in Geographic Calculator 2017

After the initial release of the Calculator, it quickly became apparent that users were interested in processing multiple files simultaneously using the same conversion settings. Unfortunately, batch processing, such as is seen in today’s release, was not available. Files had to be managed individually. Today’s batch processing tool is easy to set up and saves much time and effort. Simply define the specific parameters for a certain type of job and use this job as the basis of the batch process.

Ability to Save Work on Projects

Blue Marble Geographics
Calculator project in Geographic Calculator 2017

In any application, efficient file and project management is essential, but unfortunately, the development of the early versions of the Geographic Calculator focused more on the fundamental geodetic processing capabilities, while relegating workflow efficiency to a lower priority. The current method for saving projects, which allows users to establish templates containing commonly used conversion and transformation jobs, was finally introduced in 2006.

EPSG Database

Blue Marble Geographics
EPSG datasource in Geographic Calculator 2017

At the heart of the Calculator is the extensive Datasource, a vast library of coordinate system and datum parameters. In the early releases, this was largely derived from a publication that was managed by the U.S. Defense Mapping Agency (DMA), which would later become the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). This offered no more than a few hundred coordinate systems. The emergence of the European Petroleum Survey Group (EPSG, now known as IOGP) Geodetic Parameter Registry was the basis for a significant expansion of the Datasource which now provides users with over 5,000 coordinate system definitions, over 2,000 datum transformations, and much more.

Ensuring Geodetic Accuracy for 25 Years

Having been in development for 25 years, it is little wonder that Geographic Calculator has established itself as the preeminent geodetic software. While much has changed since the first release, its fundamental function is the same: to ensure geodetic accuracy and precision.

Reseller Spotlight: South Africa-Based SMC Synergy

SMC Synergy
Dirk Pretorius (second from left), Blaise Kumba (third from left), and Renier Balt (center at a recent customized Global Mapper training session.

Thus far, our Reseller Spotlight series has taken us from Northern Europe to South America. This month, we shift our focus to the African Continent as we hear from Renier Balt from South Africa-based SMC Synergy. Widely regarded as a challenging market to penetrate, Africa has seen a significant expansion in the use of Global Mapper over recent years thanks in no short measure to the efforts and endeavor of Renier and his partner, Dirk Pretorius.  We convinced Renier to take a short break from his Global Mapper outreach efforts to share some insights into his experience working with Blue Marble.

Tell us a little bit about your company, SMC Synergy?

SMC Synergy based in South Africa, was accepted as a Reseller of Blue Marble Geographics in May 2013 and is the preferred distributor of Global Mapper GIS software in Africa. Our experience in the fields of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing applications in all sectors (such as Agriculture, Environment and Mining) spans more than 30 years.

SMC provides Global Mapper training, accredited by Blue Marble and the South African Geomatics Council (SAGC), and provides maintenance and support for specific requests and requirements.

Global Mapper is the preferred GIS software for SMC as well as many other organisations. The reasons are ease of use, affordability, excellent mapping tools, links to online data, many import and export formats, the availability of the LiDAR module, the release of Global Mapper Mobile and the excellent support from the Blue Marble staff.

Being a reseller of Global Mapper software enables SMC to establish strong relationships with clients, both locally and globally, and integrate the products, services and expertise of this excellent GIS software into our whole product and service offering.

How long has the company been in business?

SMC has been in business since 2002 starting with GIS consulting and focusing on mineral exploration. South Africa is a mineral rich environment, which provides many opportunities in this field.

What are your target markets?

We target many markets including:

  •         Agricultural Development (Land capability assessments and farm land use planning projects in South Africa and Nigeria)
  •         Environmental monitoring and evaluation including various environmental monitoring projects for the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa
  •         Mining and exploration including diamond exploration
  •         Civil engineering projects
  •         Infrastructure development
  •         Academia including various projects with the North West University (NWU) and University of the Free State in South Africa
  •         And many more…

What geographic area do you cover?

See map below – Expanding our footprint into Africa has been an important objective, and it grows continuously. Providing complete product support and service to clients is key. Clients need training and we have found the webinars and online tools available from Blue Marble are excellent for this purpose. Usually our African clients also need public or customised training to complement this. Training therefore is a key component of our marketing strategy to expand the Global Mapper footprint in Africa.

SMC Synergy
This map of Africa shows SMC Synergy’s growing customer base.

How long have you been reselling Global Mapper?

SMC was officially appointed as reseller in 2013. Prior to that we were long-time users of Global Mapper and have been using and recommending the software since version 8.

Why were you originally interested in reselling Global Mapper?

The combination of functionality and price – the catch phrase then was “Your GIS Swiss Army Knife”, and it lived up to the promise. Being able to create print quality maps within a day of first contact with Global Mapper software speaks volumes of the intuitive and user friendly interface.

There are many other key features: 3D visualisation has been impressive and unique and the continued improvement and updating of this functionality ensures this remains a key product differentiator.

What is your favorite feature of Global Mapper?

It is impossible to choose, but we can highlight the 3D functionalities and analyses available, and most are nowadays available with one click icons.

The ability to easily access Web Map Services and datasets from many sources globally was a reason why we found Global Mapper an attractive option – and the options keep growing steadily for free or affordable data.

Then the LiDAR Module grew in stature and functionality; the recently added Pixel to Point option is, in our view, a game changer.

With the recently improved attribute search functionalities none of the alternative GIS platforms can compete at this price point.

Add to this Global Mapper Mobile available on both IOS and Android devices, and the Global Mapper platform provides a full suite of tools that fits the pocket of our target market segment.

By using the software in practice in our many projects, we have made many recommendations to the developers of Global Mapper and have been impressed with the responsiveness. Many of our proposals for improvement are now available in the software. Kudos to Blue Marble and the developers.

SMC Synergy
A Global Mapper training session lead by the team at SMC Synergy.

Other than reselling Blue Marble software, what other services do you provide? Training etc?

Our focus, in addition to Reselling Global Mapper, is GIS consulting. The Global Mapper software remains our primary communication and implementation tool.

Training is key for providing a complete product and service for our clients. We are able to support clients in French speaking countries, which helps to expand our footprint for the whole of Africa. Countries in West and North Africa are responding well to our ability to service them in their language of choice.

Our expertise extends to data and we know where Satellite imagery can be sourced, while considering its timeliness, availability and cost implications. We can therefore support clients to make decisions how and where to get affordable and fresh data for their applications.

With the advent and growth of available Drone imagery and LiDAR data, we are able to advise clients about these new technologies, both for visionary and creative applications as well as supporting mainstream clients.

How has your partnership with Blue Marble benefited your business?

Global Mapper is an important focal point of most of our business activities:

  •         It complements most of our projects.
  •         It links with our spatial database applications (Intermon – the NRM Intervention and Monitoring System) which makes use of cloud based database applications to support the Natural Resource Monitoring Program of the Department of Environmental Affairs. (http://www.intermon.co.za/ for more information).
  •         Capacity building and training of interns is a crucial activity. Exposing the next generation of GIS experts to Global Mapper is the most affordable GIS training option available. We also support post-graduate initiatives at the Northwest University and other academic institutions.

How do you see your business growing with Global Mapper? New markets?

Global Mapper, through our reselling efforts, must become the GIS software of choice in all African countries. We want to increase sales and support to all African countries with a 100% footprint on the continent. We aim to present training courses on Global Mapper in the major cities on the continent and to promote the visibility of this GIS software to all of Africa.

SMC Synergy
The team from SMC Synergy and Agence Congolaise des Grandes Travailles (ACGT) collecting data at a construction site for the Pixel to Point Tool in Global Mapper.

 

Where in the World May 2018 Answers

How Well Did You Do?

Name the capital city – Valletta

Valletta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the lake – Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the country – The Gambia

The Gambia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the mountain – Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the river – The Congo

The Congo