Estimating Property Modifications in Global Mapper

Connecting to the US NAIP high-resolution imagery.
Connecting to the US NAIP high-resolution imagery.

 

I recently purchased a house in Hallowell, Maine, where the Blue Marble Geographics office is located. Hallowell is a teeny tiny city with lots of historic homes that sit on a rather large hill overlooking the Kennebec River. One aspect of my historic fixer-upper property that needs some work is the drainage. I have decided to explore drainage solutions by estimating property modifications using Global Mapper and publicly available data.

Finding Data in Global Mapper

The first step is finding the right data. So, to start with, I use the search tool in Global Mapper to create a point feature at my address. I also change the projection to something that works for the area, such as the State Plane projection for Maine. Next, with the online data tool, I easily connect to the US NAIP high-resolution imagery.

The State of Maine GIS site, MEGIS, has a number of other helpful layers that can be added. Vector data can be downloaded as shapefiles using a web browser and can be loaded into Global Mapper by simply dragging the files into the software. Like a lot of states, Maine’s GIS site also offers web services that can be added to the list of online sources in the software. For my project, I need the outline of my individual property, so, I first download the property parcels layer for the entire city and drag the downloaded zip file onto the map to import it. I use the Digitizer to select my property and then use CTRL+C and CTRL+V to copy it to a new layer.

Using the Digitizer tool
I use the Digitizer to select my property and then use CTRL+C and CTRL+V to copy it to a new layer.

What I really need for this analysis is some high-resolution terrain data, and luckily my property is close enough to the coast to be included in the NOAA coastal LiDAR data. I use the online data source tool again to search the Digital Coast for data that matches my current map bounds.

Cleaning up LiDAR Data in Global Mapper

A quick look at the LiDAR data confirms that it contains preexisting point classifications, including a lot of points marked as noise that look fine to me.

Raw LiDAR Data
Cleaning up and improving the classification of LiDAR points with the Automatic Classification tool.

My first task is to clean up and then improve the classification with the Automatic Classification tools. Using the Path Profile tool, which renders a lateral view of the point cloud data, I can clean the data up even more with some manual editing, since it is such a small area that I am interested in.

Classified LiDAR Data
Note the edges of the property boundary in blue on the profile window. There are some trees on both sides.

Applying Colors to a Point Cloud in Global Mapper

The Maine GIS site also provides 4-band ortho-imagery that was collected in a similar time frame to the publicly available LiDAR data. From that imagery, I apply the RGB color values to my point cloud using the Apply Color tool, which improves the point cloud analysis capability and creates an interesting visual perspective of the data. The imagery is leaf-off, so it does not match up perfectly with the point cloud, but it adds some detail that can help with identification and analysis.

View From the House in LiDAR Data
Looking down at the Kennebec River from my property with 3D colorized LiDAR points.
CIR
False color infrared (IR) display of the points highlights the coniferous vegetation and other late autumn greenery in red.
House Profile in False Color IR
Profile of the false color IR with the house in the middle.

Estimating Property Modifications with Global Mapper

After creating a terrain surface from the classified and filtered LiDAR data, I estimate the modifications that are needed to improve the drainage around the base of the house.

Using the new Breakline and Hydro-flattening tools, I create a flattened foundation by applying a height to the buildings in the terrain modeling process. Next, using the Watershed tool, I see the current drainage problem.

Drainage area that flows through the house and garage
Drainage area that flows through the house and garage shown in pink.

By using the digitizer tool and calculating the elevations, I create a line for a back drainage that would allow water to flow from start to finish. Then using buffering and site planning tools, I create a modified terrain surface that will calculate the necessary terrain modification.

I create a line for a back drainage that would allow water to flow off of the property.

Finally, I measure the volume of soil to be removed, and calculate the benching and terracing for the back retaining wall.

Site Plan Volume
Measuring the volume of soil to be removed for the drainage plan.

After the modification, the drainage from the back of the house to the road is much better. I am also glad to have some warning of just how much dirt removal a plan like this will involve.

Cross sectional path profile view of property
A cross sectional path profile view shows the new drainage line compared to the original terrain and classified LiDAR data.

 

Modified Drainage Watershed
Flow modeling shows how the terrain modification improves the flow of water around the back of the house.

 

I am still considering options for creating a small pond, ending with a tile drain, and many other possibilities. But thanks to freely available data and some quick calculating and visualization with Global Mapper, I have a much better sense of the scope of this project and what the final results might look like.


Katrina Schweikert
Katrina Schweikert


Katrina Schweikert is an Application Specialist at Blue Marble Geographics. She provides technical support, training, and software documentation. Katrina has over five years of professional experience in GIS, a GIS certificate from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a degree in Geography from Middlebury College. She is happy to be working in technology back in her home state, as well as meeting GIS users across the globe.

A World of Free, Quality GIS Data: Global Mapper’s Online Data Access

The Online Service Now Includes Data for all 50 States

Global Mapper Online Data access
The Online Data access in Global Mapper™ provides streaming access to over 100 built-in sources of imagery and terrain data as well as topographic, geological, and land cover maps.

Starting a GIS project can often seem like a daunting task. When presented with a blank canvas or low resolution background map you may wonder how to get started. In a typical case, you have a few small data files in some format (like one of the 300 or so that Global Mapper supports) for your project area. However, just a few lines and points on a blank background do not provide much context and certainly nothing you would want to present to a customer. Where does one go for online data access to find additional high quality data?

Global Mapper’s Online Data Access

Luckily there is a vast quantity of free online data ready to stream right into your project to give it meaning. The Online Data services in Global Mapper provide streaming access to over 100 built-in sources of imagery and terrain data as well as topographic, geological, and land cover maps. For the Global Mapper 19 release, the services were expanded to include data for all 50 U.S. states and several Canadian provinces.

Online terrain data in Global Mapper
What is unique about Global Mapper is that you also get access to multiple sources of streaming terrain data for the entire world.

Access to streaming raster map data is pretty standard stuff. After all, everyone has used Google Maps or another online mapping service at one time or another. What is unique about Global Mapper is that you also get access to multiple sources of streaming terrain data for the entire world. These are not pre-rendered hill-shade images of terrain, but the raw terrain data itself, ready for use in any terrain-enabled function, like contour generation, view shed, path profile, 3D display, and stream generation.

We have built in access to the following terrain data sources, hosted right on our servers in the hyper-efficient GMG (Global Mapper Grid) format for maximum speed:

  • SRTM 1-arc-second (30m) – Worldwide Terrain Data (excluding polar regions)
  • ASTER GDEM 1-arc-second (30m) – Worldwide Terrain Data (including most of polar regions)
  • USGS NED 1/3rd Arc Second (10m) Resolution – Terrain for the Entire Continental US
  • [COMING SOON] US 3DEP 10m Resolution – Terrain for Entire US (Including Hawaii and Alaska)

For users working in environmental and wind power fields, we have tiled and hosted a number of land cover data sets for streaming, including the CORINE data for Europe, the NLCD data for the US, and ESA CCI data for the entire world. The NASA GIBS sources provide daily updates from several NASA satellite sensors, allowing you to pull in things like global-scale imagery, snow and sea ice cover, and temperature data for any desired date. You might pull in a couple of different dates and use the Image Swipe Tool to compare the conditions at different times or perhaps you will want to conduct some more complicated change detection analysis using any number of appropriate tools in Global Mapper (raster calculator, volume calculations, etc).

Online imagery in Global Mapper
Pre-tiled imagery and terrain data sets are also supported using the OSM (OpenStreetMaps), TMS (Tiled Map Service), and Google Maps tile schemas. You simply need to select the appropriate source type and provide the service URL from the data provider and Global Mapper should handle the rest.

Add Your Own Data Sources to Global Mapper

While Global Mapper has a huge variety of built-in sources, we can’t even begin to include all of the streaming data sources available. We provide a mechanism on the Online Data dialog to add your own sources to the built-in list, allowing you to stream data from them just like any other source. All of the OGC standard source types are supported, like WMS/WMTS for streaming raster maps, WFS for vector data sets, and WCS for downloading individual data files for a defined area. Pre-tiled imagery and terrain data sets are also supported using the OSM (OpenStreetMaps), TMS (Tiled Map Service), and Google Maps tile schemas. You simply need to select the appropriate source type and provide the service URL from the data provider and Global Mapper should handle the rest.

Finally, if you have your own collection of data that you want to host as a streaming source, Global Mapper provides the means to distribute your data in to the tiles that GIS software can handle. The web export option allows you to export any loaded data to JPG or PNG tiles (as appropriate) with the appropriate folder and filename structure for upload to a server for streaming access on an internal or external network. Support even exists for creating an OSM tile set with GMG (Global Mapper Grid) tiles so you can create your own streaming terrain (or other gridded) data source in Global Mapper. User-created streaming sources provided a way for you to host your data once and allow your colleagues and customers to browse the data quickly without needing to download many GB (or TB) of data. You can even choose to create a sample web page for embedding your data in the Google Maps or Bing Maps interface in a web page, or browse it in WorldWind!

We are constantly adding to our default list of free online data so if you have a particular dataset that you think others would like to have access please let us know. We will do our best to add it in the release version as soon as possible.  And remember to stay current with our updates to Global Mapper so you always have the latest data and fastest way to consume it.  Happy mapping!

NOTE: For more blog entries on Global Mapper, see:
Got LiDAR? Now What?,
  Global Mapper for UAV Operations,  The Myth of Free GIS — A Lesson from Nelson


Mike Childs

Mike Childs is currently the Global Mapper Guru at Blue Marble Geographics. Mike was the original developer of Global Mapper and has over 20 years of experience developing mapping/GIS applications. He has been with Blue Marble Geographics since 2011, when Blue Marble acquired Global Mapper.

Blue Marble Supports Scientific Research on Climate Change

Sun rising over EarthPixabay
Blue Marble supports the scientific research on climate change that has helped in the development of international climate treaties such as the Paris Accord.

Blue Marble Geographics is a geospatial software company with customers throughout the world in all types of industries. Our customers are typically, though not always, geoscientists across all disciplines who analyze the world and create products for their companies and organizations based on the results of their scientific work. Surveyors, software developers, soil scientists, academics, biologists, environmental scientists, engineers, geophysicists, geologists, hydrologists, cartographers and of course geographers are all using Blue Marble products to help us gain a better understanding of the natural mechanisms of the planet and the impact of human activity on these natural processes. Many are focused on measuring change in our world, specifically in the area of climate change. We stand with these scientists and support the research they have done, both directly and indirectly, to assist with the development and hopefully fulfillment of international climate treaties such as the Paris Climate Accord. Blue Marble accepts the findings of the vast majority of the global scientific community that unanimously concludes that climate change is exacerbated by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases that are the result of human activity.  This, we believe, is a proven fact as supported by the peer reviewed scientific community.

United States Politics and Climate Change

How Americans Think about Climate ChangeNew York Times
New York Times story: How Americans Think About Climate Change, in Six Maps

Unfortunately, there is a political constituency in the United States that has swayed some of the public into believing that this reality is not true. Recently, this issue came to the forefront when the current Administration decided to have the U.S. join Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations in the world that are not bound by the findings of the Paris Accord, despite overwhelming international and domestic public opinion.

The ongoing conflict between politics and science is one that many of our customers deal with on a daily basis and in the current political climate, these conflicts are becoming much more divisive.

Global Mapper COAST Measures Cost of Climate Change

Many users are familiar with the Global Mapper COAST extension, a free add-on to the software for measuring the financial impact of both severe coastal storms and sea level rise, both of which have been scientifically attributed to climate change. This tool is used to model impact from storms and sea level rise based on historical data and to create an adaption technology, such as a sea wall or a dam, to mitigate the effects of flooding. The costs of damage based on flooding and the costs of adaption are factored in to develop a return on investment or total cost of ownership calculation along with a GIS mapping model. Coastal communities are using this tool to make decisions about how to protect their assets or property of concern.

COAST software tool
The above output shows the results from a COAST analysis as displayed in Google Earth. The COAST (COastal Adaptation to Sea level rise Tool) software tool, built on the Global Mapper software developer toolkit, helps users answer questions in regards to the costs and benefits of actions and strategies to avoid damages from sea level rise and/or coastal flooding.

Historic data can be analyzed to gauge the most likely outcome with a given set of circumstances or, alternatively, it can be modeled to the subject’s belief in what will happen. The consultants for whom this extension was originally developed, found this to be a very useful feature when dealing with clients who wanted to argue that sea level rise is not occurring. It is a true statement of the times we live in when coastal communities aren’t prepared to acknowledge that flooding can be directly attributable to human-induced climate change, even after being presented with compelling evidence of an increased likelihood of future catastrophic flooding events. It is a strange contradiction.

Blue Marble Stands with Scientists

Today in the U.S. in particular we are faced with a government that not only refutes the findings and recommendations of the Paris Climate Accord, but that is actively attempting to silence and/or remove climate scientists from government along with restricting the work of the Environmental Protection Agency and other similar institutions. We see the effects of these efforts resulting in alt-Twitter accounts, whistle blower YouTube videos and unfortunately the potential for some scientists leaving their government jobs to pursue careers in the private sector where they can continue their work. Blue Marble supports these agencies and wants all of our customers to know that we value the Paris Climate Accord and the necessary and good work of all scientists. We thank you for your work and we’ve got your back!


Patrick Cunningham

Patrick Cunningham is the President of Blue Marble Geographics. He has two decades of experience in software development, marketing, sales, consulting, and project management.  Under his leadership, Blue Marble has become the world leader in coordinate conversion software (the Geographic Calculator) and low cost GIS software with the 2011 acquisition of Global Mapper. Cunningham is Chair of the Maine GIS Users Group, a state appointed member of the Maine Geolibrary Board, a member of the NEURISA board, a GISP and holds a masters in sociology from the University of New Hampshire.

DroneMapper: Using Global Mapper for UAV Data Processing

Once the GRID generation is completed you have a bare earth DTM which can be exported as a GeoTIFF or any other elevation format via Global Mapper.

DroneMapper is one of the success stories in the fledgling field of UAV data collection and processing. After several decades of experience working in the aerospace industry, CEO Pierre Stoermer was quick to recognize the potential for drones as a viable low-cost alternative to manned aircraft for this purpose. Serving customers in a wide variety of industries and business sectors, including agriculture and mining, Stoermer recognized the importance of efficient data management and processing, both for their internal processes and for the value added products that the company delivers to their customers. This lead Stoermer to Global Mapper for UAV data processing.

CHALLENGES

Like most small businesses, one of the main challenges faced by DroneMapper was finding tools that provide the right level of functionality but that fit within the company’s inevitable budgetary constraints. As with any business expenditure, investing in technology must bring some degree of assurance that there will be a return on this investment. Traditional GIS applications are notoriously complex and cumbersome, requiring an inordinate amount of time and a high degree of training and expertise to effectively operate, which significantly impacts the overall cost of any project.

Without a dedicated GIS technician at DroneMapper, the operation and maintenance of the GIS data processing workflow is the responsibility of the current staff. The selected software must therefore be easy to learn and easy to apply.

DroneMapper has an expanding client and customer base, whose needs and requirements necessitate an efficient data processing platform that can generate deliverables in a wide variety of formats and with varying specifications.

A 3D view of piles in Global Mapper that were measured to give the viewer perception of their relative sizes.

SOLUTIONS

Unlike most companies who, when faced with a technology decision, evaluate multiple software alternatives, DroneMapper found Global Mapper first and has stuck with it. The range of functionality in tandem with the unparalleled format support were enough to convince them that Global Mapper was an ideal solution for their needs.

A visualization of what has been filtered from an initial point cloud and digital elevation model.

This versatile, fully functional GIS application has been steadily gaining an eager and dedicated worldwide following among geospatial professionals. Recent development work has focused on the visualization and analysis of 3D data, especially LiDAR and other point cloud formats. According to Stoermer, “Global Mapper provides an outstanding set of tools for efficiently assisting us and our client base in an affordable manner”.

GLOBAL MAPPER FOR DATA PROCESSING

Global Mapper is at the core of most of DroneMapper’s data processing workflows. The company employs the software’s intuitive 2D and 3D visualization tools to provide initial quality control of ortho-rectified imagery and DEMs.

Further along the production line, Global Mapper is the go-to application for filtering point cloud data to create accurate, bare-earth Digital Terrain Models. These DTMs allow the company to generate customized contour lines that can be exported in shapefile or virtually any other vector format. Global Mapper’s powerful cut and fill analysis capability and volumetric calculation tools are used to precisely measure volumes, providing DroneMapper’s clients in a variety of industries with site-specific intelligence that is essential for efficient project management.

Employing Global Mapper’s powerful raster calculation functionality, DroneMapper is able to quickly and accurately analyze vegetation patterns by generating NDVI grids. This provides an invaluable service to clients in the agriculture and forestry industries.

BENEFITS

DroneMapper’s decision to settle on Global Mapper for its spatial data management allows the company to perform both internal data processing as well as customer services on one powerful and easy-to-use platform. The application’s SDK will also provide an opportunity for future custom development projects and will allow DroneMapper to adapt Global Mapper to more specifically meet their needs.

ABOUT GLOBAL MAPPER

Global Mapper is an affordable and easy-to-use GIS application that offers access to an unparalleled variety of spatial datasets and provides just the right level of functionality to satisfy both experienced GIS professionals and beginning users. Equally well suited as a standalone spatial data management tool and as an integral component of an enterprise-wide GIS, Global Mapper is a must-have for anyone who deals with maps or spatial data. The supplementary LiDAR Module provides a powerful set of tools for managing point cloud datasets, including automatic point classification and feature extraction.

ABOUT BLUE MARBLE GEOGRAPHICS

Trusted by thousands of GIS professionals around the world, Blue Marble Geographics is a leading developer of software products and services for geospatial data conversion and GIS.  Pioneering work in geomatics and spatial data conversion quickly established this Maine-based company as a key player in the GIS software field.  Today’s professionals turn to Blue Marble for Global Mapper, a low-cost, easy-to-use yet powerful GIS software tool. Blue Marble is known for coordinate conversion and file format expertise and is the developer of The Geographic Calculator, GeoCalc SDK, Global Mapper, LiDAR Module for Global Mapper, and the Global Mapper SDK.

Blue Marble Monthly | June 2017 GIS Newsletter

Satellite Imagery

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

June’s newsletter is all about you, our loyal customers. We lead with a reminder about our user conference series in which you have a chance to mingle with other Global Mapper or Geographic Calculator users and to learn about the latest goings on from inside Blue Marble. We hear from our President on the importance of genuine customer service and the apparent ineptitude shown by certain companies in this regard. Finally we roll out our monthly (and slightly easier) Where in the World Geo-Challenge, giving you a chance to procure your own copy of Global Mapper.

 

2017 Blue Marble User Conference

Blue Marble User Conference

More than just a meeting of customers interested in learning about the latest news from Blue Marble, BMUC is a mutually beneficial forum in which Blue Marble product developers gain valuable insight into the needs and requirements of our customers. If you want to be a part of this discussion and help shape the future of our software, why not sign up for one of the upcoming BMUC events. Later this month we will be gathering in Amsterdam, followed by San Diego in July. Later in the year we will be hosting a BMUC event in our home state of Maine and we wrap up the 2017 BMUC calendar with a special event in Los Angeles in November. For details and to register, visit www.bluemarblegeo.com/bmuc/.

 

Blue Marble team

The Customer Service Conundrum

How many times have you heard a company extolling the importance of customer service while simultaneously subjecting their clients to what could only be described as abuse? While several shocking incidents have made headlines over recent months, these are by no means isolated events. For a small company such a Blue Marble, maintaining a positive relationship with our customers is not merely an aphorism but it is essential for our business. Patrick Cunningham, Blue Marble President, shared some incisive views on the subject in a recent blog post.

 

GeoCalc Mode

Did You Know?

When Global Mapper became part of the Blue Marble product lineup almost six years ago, questions were asked about how it would interact with the company’s flagship software, Geographic Calculator. On the one hand, we had the world’s foremost coordinate management tool and on the other, a powerful, interoperable GIS application. The amalgamation of these two technologies resulted in GeoCalc Mode, in which the geodic capabilities of Geographic Calculator were made accessible from within Global Mapper. Want to see how this works? For Global Mapper users, download a trial copy of Geographic Calculator or vice versa.

 

 

Global Mapper 18.2 - Join us for a webinar

Webinars and Webcasts

As noted last month, version 18.2 of Global Mapper is now available. To formally introduce the new features and functions included in this release, Blue Marble will be hosting a live interactive webinar on June 22 at 2:00 pm (Eastern US time). Join us as we demonstrate new 3D Digitizing functionality, upgrades to the multiview map display, a new hydro-flattening tool for LiDAR Module users, and much more.

Registration is required and space is limited so be sure to sign up today.

 

Geo-challenge

Where in the World?

May’s Where in the World Geo-Challenge was a little more, well, challenging than the previous edition. Nonetheless, many of you were able to correctly identify all five geographic features. To see how well you did, check out the answers here. The winner, randomly drawn, was Brad McKelvey from Engineering Resources LLC. This month, five new features await your perusal.

 

See complete terms and conditions here.

 

We're Hiring! We are looking to add a software developer to our team

Career Opportunities

Ready for a change of scene? Blue Marble is seeking an experienced software developer to join our team of engineers and programmers working on the company’s next generation GIS applications and toolkits. The successful candidate will have an intimate familiarity with low level C++ software development with experience in GIS preferred. For more information on this and other career opportunities, visit www.bluemarblegeo.com/about-us/careers.php.

 

BMUC presentation

Upcoming Events

Visit with Blue Marble at the following events:

Commercial UAV Expo Europe | Brussels, Belgium | June 20 – 22

Blue Marble User Conference | Amsterdam, Netherlands | June 23

AGIT EXPO 2017 | Salzburg, Austria | July 5 – 7

Blue Marble User Conference | San Diego, CA | July 13

LiDAR Module Training | San Diego, CA | July 14

National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference | Columbus, OH | July 21 – 24

Where in the World May 2017 Answers

The Monthly Blue Marble Geo-Challenge

 

Name the capital city? – Athens

Athens

 

Name the island? – Barbados

Barbados

 

Name the mountain? – Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji

Name the country? – Cambodia

Cambodia

Name the body of water? – Straits of Magellan

Straits of Magellan

Tone-Deaf Customer Service and How to Avoid It

The Blue Marble team
The Blue Marble team outside of the Blue Marble Geographics office in Hallowell, Maine in spring of 2016. The corporate culture at Blue Marble is one that is defined by a sense of day-to-day pride in wanting its customers to succeed.

If you were following the news recently, you probably heard some of the customer horror stories coming from United Airlines. First, there were the two young female passengers who were not allowed to board a flight because they were wearing leggings. Second, there was the doctor who was physically removed from a flight and bloodied in the process. Apparently, the removal of the doctor happened because the airline needed to bump four passengers in order to fly some crew members to Louisville. Both of these stories have some nuances to them I am sure, but there is no avoiding the issue that bothers me most about United as a company: both of these incidents reflect a solid tone-deafness to common sense customer service. Both look horrible from a PR perspective; one is sexism and the other is assault. Interactions like these get plastered all over social media and no amount of damage control can counter-act the horrible message they send to customers and prospective customers. Will United continue as a profitable business generating equity for shareholders? Probably. But at what cost to those profits? At what cost to their reputation? What about common decency and the way we are supposed to treat others? If the truth be told, these stories actually were not shocking to me, as I fly quite a bit and many of my colleagues do as well. Our experiences with United range from consistently rude employees to outright harassment. As a company, we have consciously avoided United Airlines (and the former Continental Airlines) for a few years now.

In order to avoid bad customer service decision making, an organization has to recognize the issues that create an atmosphere of utter tone-deafness. My experience with tone-deaf companies is that there are a number of customer service employees who are out-right hostile towards their customers. They appear to not like their jobs. They are possibly over-worked, under-paid, and either given too little power to make decisions or possibly too much. Think about the gate agent or manager who made the decision to stop offering travel vouchers and a hotel stay before the doctor was removed. They started at $400 and a hotel, but there were no takers so they increased it to $800 and a hotel stay. There were still no takers, so rather than increase the offer they randomly selected four passengers to be removed. One has to ask, why did they stop increasing the offer? The result of the fallout from all of this has turned into an out of court settlement that must be much more expensive than a travel voucher. But another question remains; why did they even board passengers if they knew they had over-sold it. If they had bumped people in the gate, whether those people liked it or not, United could have kept them from getting on the plane and likely defused the situation in a more humane manner. But furthermore, one might ask why airlines over-sell flights in the first place. Why is that legal? You shouldn’t be able to sell something you don’t have as a product. That entire concept to me is a catalyst for corporate cultural problems. However, let’s be clear this situation wasn’t even about overbooking, this was an issue where they needed to fly crew to the destination airport to run another flight, yet it is being framed in the context of overbooking which has been a persistent problem for customers for a few years now. If we try and deconstruct the issue of calling the police to physically remove a passenger that did not want to voluntarily give up their seat, what we have in the end are employees who are angry, frustrated and willing to take those frustrations out on their customers. I think companies like this have a problem when their employees do not believe in their product. They don’t care about providing a good customer experience because the message from corporate is to make as much money at whatever cost. This issue to me is the key behind developing poor corporate culture and, for United, that issue will not be easily fixed considering the size of the company.

Our corporate culture is one that is defined by a sense of day-to-day pride in what we do — an interest in our customers succeeding and the science they are tackling every day. We want our customers to succeed, and we want them to be happy with our products.

Blue Marble is a much different company than United. We’re a small company of technology experts located mostly in central Maine. Although we have remote employees across the country, the way we approach our customers has more to do with what it means to live and work in Maine than it does with working for a software company. But this runs deeper than the face of it. Our corporate culture is one that is defined by a sense of day-to-day pride in what we do — an interest in our customers succeeding and the science they are tackling every day. We want our customers to succeed, and we want them to be happy with our products. We like helping them solve their challenges. Yes, we have rules about how we sell our software. We have rules about how we license it. But if you have been a customer of Blue Marble or Global Mapper for a while you know that our rules evolve over time and that we really try to listen to every customer. It can be challenging to satisfy the varied perspectives of some of our customers:  the sole-proprietor surveyor who has been running his business on his own for thirty years on a tight budget versus the lead software procurement person for a multi-national corporation, or the remote sensing GIS government professional for an Africa-based agency. We strive to meet the needs of a diverse, global set of customers every day. Our global audience is where we are similar to United, but that is where it ends. The difference starts with caring about our reputation.

The Blue Marble Vice President of Sales Kris Berglund at the 2017 APPEA Conference and Exhibition. Blue Marble employees are empowered to support their customers, to do quality work, and to feel ownership in it.

I think there are two keys to being successful at that. The first are the products we sell.  Making quality products that solve a problem (at least for business software) is key. But taking pride in the product and standing behind it, as cheesy as it sounds, is essential. Secondly, empowering the people who support our customers to do quality work and to feel ownership in it. I will be the first to admit that this has been something I have had to learn how to do over the years. We work at it every day. I have surrounded myself with a solid management team, but we have also worked together to hire and promote good, smart people who actually want you (our customer) to succeed. If new hires do not buy into that, they don’t stick around. We don’t force it on them, however, we try to build that culture. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes a lot of practice actually. It takes pride as well. But it also means we can’t be tone-deaf. We listen to our employees and we listen to our customers.

All of us at Blue Marble want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to meet your needs so if you have a concern please email us at feedback (link to feedback@bluemarblegeo.com). We will be sure to respond. Thank you for being our customer.


Patrick Cunningham

Patrick Cunningham is the President of Blue Marble Geographics. He has two decades of experience in software development, marketing, sales, consulting, and project management.  Under his leadership, Blue Marble has become the world leader in coordinate conversion software (the Geographic Calculator) and low cost GIS software with the 2011 acquisition of Global Mapper. Cunningham is Chair of the Maine GIS Users Group, a state appointed member of the Maine Geolibrary Board, a member of the NEURISA board, a GISP and holds a masters in sociology from the University of New Hampshire.

Back in the Day Part II: CMYK “flats” and Printing Maps

Four-Color PrintingGraphic by Chelsea Ellis
Four-color printing, also known as “four color process” using CMYK, is a conventional color model for printing, similar to RGB in the digital universe. When cyan, magenta, yellow and black blend together, they create a wide range of tones and hues that you and I interpret as a full spectrum color image.

Welcome back! In my last entry, Back in the Day Part I: Making Paper Maps from Scratch, I barely scratched the surface about how printed maps come together. I talked about scribing roads by hand and creating a duplicate negative image from that artwork. Why a negative image? Well let’s take a step back from the actual content of the map and talk a bit about how the printing process actually works.

Most materials you see printed on paper come from a negative image ­— newspapers, magazines, baseball tickets, paper money, all of it. Printed on paper from some master source that happens to be upside-down and backwards, usually a plate that has been “burned” in a vacuum frame. Some images are black and white, some two-color (black and white and one color) and some four-color, also known as “four color process” using CMYK — a conventional color model for printing, similar to RGB in the digital universe.

So what is CMYK? Sounds like a European hockey team doesn’t it? CMYK stands for Cyan (Cyan or blue, it actually resembles more of a turquoise than anything), Magenta (“process red” that looks more like hot pink), Yellow (enough said), and Key (really, it’s black, but the old timers refer to it as “Key” because the other color plates were registered, or “keyed,” to the black plate during the printing process). When blended together, these four colors create a wide range of tones and hues that you and I interpret as a full spectrum color image.

Four-Color Map PrintingGraphic by Chelsea Ellis
When printing in CMYK, four sets of negatives are required. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (or black). When blended together, these four colors create a wide range of tones and hues that you and I interpret as a full spectrum color image.

When printing a map in CMYK, four sets of negatives are required, organized by color. We call these negatives “flats.”  For example, a set of Cyan flats would contain features that appear blue on a map, such as open water and hydrology. Cyan flats will also contain tones that contribute to compound colors, such as greens and purples. The same principle applies to  magenta, yellow and black flats. We can think of these flats as being similar to layers in digital mapmaking. Each layer adds details to the map, in this case, the flats are adding color. Often times we will have five or six flats for one compound color.

In order to achieve the correct color tone, screens need to be applied to certain map features that we don’t want to print at 100% strength. When we print open water, for example, we use a 10% screen so that when the map gets printed from our open water negative, only 10% of the cyan will print on the paper, resulting in a light blue tone. These screens are measured by percentage and would be merged with other objects in composite form.

When all of the flats of each color have been composited (burned) on their respective plates (there should be four, right? Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black — see?  You’re catching on) The printers take these plates and register them on the press and start printing the “signatures.” A signature, or sig, is basically a printed sheet (both sides) that contains multiple pages. These sheets are then folded in a certain way so that the pages appear in sequence, like a book.  When I was a map technician, each atlas had a good number of signatures that were printed in order (1 through 12 for example), but keep in mind, the total signatures in the job reflected how big the atlas was. Alaska and Texas had over 30 signatures while Maine had only 12 sigs, for example.

After the signatures are printed by all four plates (CMYK), they are then sent along to the bindery where the sigs are trimmed to become one uniform size, then collated and bound into books that you and I recognize.

It’s fair to say that my bosses at the publishing company didn’t trust printers. Whenever we sent atlases for printing, we would order 30,000 or 50,000 books at a time, which, as you can imagine, was an expensive investment. We as publishers, also had to purchase our own paper. so there was no going back if a job got botched. Too many times books would come back with inconsistent blues, reds, greens, you name it.

In order to combat this problem, the map technicians would go on “press checks”, meaning we would QA/QC each signature after the plates were hung and the printing started. If the book had 36 signatures, that meant we did 36 checks. If we were printing 30,000 books, it would take 3-4 hours to print a signature. Every three hours we would be taken into the pressman’s area, shown a printed signature, and sign-off on it before they were given the OK to continue printing. This is what we did every three hours, non-stop, until the job was done. Overnight checks were brutal, and yes sometimes this would go on for days. Plenty of Mountain Dew and Diet Coke, let me tell you.

The golden rule for QA/QC was “CRC”.  COLOR, REGISTRATION, CONTENT.

So after our map  is printed, the books hit the shelves and they start selling like hotcakes. All according to plan, life is good. Then the phone rings in the Revisions Dept., and there’s someone who’s not too happy that their private driveway ended up on page 34.


Kris Berglund

Kris Berglund is currently the Vice-President of Sales at Blue Marble Geographics and has been with the company for over fifteen years. Kris has been involved with digital mapping technology for over twenty years, and demonstrates a diverse level of experience in cartography, geomatics, technical sales & marketing and business development.