Blue Marble Monthly: Getting Ready for Our Free Online Geospatial Conference

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

Can you believe it’s 2019 already? This year promises to be an exciting one for Blue Marble with ambitious plans already in place for the next generation of both Global Mapper and Geographic Calculator. The new year also sees us take a fresh approach to our annual conference. Blue Marble GeoTalks, scheduled for March 21, will be a daylong online gathering of geospatial enthusiasts who share a common interest in Blue Marble’s spatial technology. See below for more details and registration information.

Also in this month’s newsletter we explore the simple process for creating a 3D mesh from a point cloud in Global Mapper, we introduce mapcodes, we invite you to join us for a live webinar on the latest features and functions of Geographic Calculator, and as always, we gauge your geographic prowess in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge.

NEWS  |  Registration Open for Blue Marble GeoTalks

One of the inherent limitations of hosting a user conference at a specific location is the logistical and financial burden placed on both hosts and attendees. The solution? Move it online. Scheduled for March 21, Blue Marble GeoTalks will provide a forum for the worldwide Blue Marble community to gather for an exchange of ideas, to hear from a variety of industry experts, and to learn about what’s new and what’s upcoming from Blue Marble.

 

DID YOU KNOW  |  Searching by Mapcode in Global Mapper

While most of us are accustomed to conveying location based on a street number, street name, city, etc., in many parts of the world this information is simply not available. This inevitably causes problems for government officials, emergency responders, and many others. To address this disparity, a system of alphanumeric mapcodes was developed in 2001 creating a simple and universally accepted spatial reference system for the entire world. Global Mapper’s search function supports the entry of a mapcode to locate a specific point or to generate the corresponding coordinates. If you want to try it for yourself, select Find Address from Global Mapper’s Search menu and enter the following: “ME XBY.JS”. Add some online imagery and you should see the Blue Marble headquarters in Hallowell, Maine.

 

VIDEOS | Creating a 3D Model from a Point Cloud

One of the highlights of the version 20 release of Global Mapper is a new tool for generating a 3D mesh or model from a selection of LiDAR or other point cloud points. The resulting layer contains a complex vector feature comprised of an array of abutting triangles that, when displayed in Global Mapper’s 3D Viewer, take the form of a realistic three-dimensional representation of the object. As is typical with Global Mapper, the process of creating a 3D mesh is remarkably straightforward.

 

WEBINAR  |  What’s New in Geographic Calculator 2019

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the What’s New in Geographic Calculator 2019 webinar, which had been scheduled for January 10, has been moved to January 17. Those who registered should have received an email with the updated information and we hope you can still make it to this live presentation. The good news is that there is still time to sign up. Join us as we explore the latest updates to the software’s data processing tools and to the underlying geodetic datasource.

 

Deadline Extended for Global Mapper Academic Scholarship

Over the last two years, hundreds of colleges and universities throughout North America have taken advantage of Blue Marble’s free academic licensing program and have been able to introduce more and more students to the broad field of geospatial technology. To recognize and reward some of the creative work being done in labs and classrooms, Blue Marble is offering a $500 scholarship to a student who has used Global Mapper in their field of study. The deadline for submission has just been extended to the end of January, which means there is still time to share the details of your project.

 

 

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

Someone, who has obviously been participating in the Geo-Challenge for some time, recently inquired if we were beginning to run out of countries or capitals. Fear not, we have a long way to go, and if the need arises, we can ultimately recycle what we’ve used before. So it pays to follow along.

January’s winner and recipient of a copy of Global Mapper is Nirmalya Maitra from Riddhi Management Services in Kolkata, India. To see how well you fared, click here and to take a shot at January’s challenge click the link below.

 

See complete terms and conditions here.

EVENTS  |  Global Mapper Training in 2019

After our recent announcement about the tentative locations for Global Mapper training classes in 2019, we were inundated with inquiries. Registration is now open for the classes in Orlando in March, Denver in April, and Ottawa in June. Space is limited so be sure to reserve a slot at your preferred venue as soon as possible.

For those with a more immediate need for training, there is still space in the three-day class to be conducted at Blue Marble’s headquarters in Maine from January 29 – 31.

Additional training locations for 2019 include:

Orlando  |  March 12 – 14, December (TBD)

Denver  |  April 9 – 11

Ottawa  |  June 11 – 13

Australia  |  July (TBD)

Calgary  |  August (TBD)

Houston  |  October (TBD)

The Top 5 New Features of Global Mapper 20

point cloud from 3D mesh
Global Mapper 20 not only offers the ability to create point clouds from 3D meshes, but also offers the option to create a flattened orthoimage derived from the colors in the mesh.

What’s New in Global Mapper version 20?

If you are like most people, it’s unlikely that you take the time to read the plethora of dialog boxes that appear when installing software but if you did, you might actually learn some interesting details about the application. In the case of Global Mapper, one of the windows that beckons for your attention is the “What’s New…” list. While we understand the eagerness of most users to repeatedly click the Next button and finish the installation process so they can “play” with their new toy, it might be worth pausing on this one for just a moment.

Blue Marble’s development process requires each new tool, functional upgrade, bug fix, and performance improvement to be meticulously documented and archived. What you are presented within the “What’s New …” list is an abbreviated version of this archive. In a sense, the list offers a summary report of what the development staff has been working on over the preceding weeks and months. It can make for some interesting reading.

For the soon-to-be-released Global Mapper version 20, there are more than 200 individual changes that have been noted. Given the dynamic nature of the development process, this number will likely increase by the actual date of release.

For those of you who do not have the time or the wherewithal to peruse the entire list, what follows, in no particular order, is a summary of five of the most significant new features that you will find in Global Mapper 20.


Map Layout tools have been streamlined in Global Mapper 20.

1) Improvements to the Map Layout function

One of the surprising findings from last year’s Global Mapper user survey was the importance of map printing. For years, the prevailing opinion has been that printed maps would eventually bite the proverbial dust, but this has not been the case. Global Mapper’s Map Layout functionality was completely redesigned a couple of years ago and it has been undergoing continual improvements ever since. For this release we have introduced a new tool for creating a map book or atlas from selected features;  a new option to filter the legend by layer; and a custom macro function that allows you to create title blocks with name, company, etc. Suffice to say, if your workflow requires the printing of maps, Global Mapper 20 has all the tools you need.

2) Support for Windows Tablets with improved touchscreen functionality

While Global Mapper has always been supported on Windows-based touchscreen devices, certain actions and UI procedures have been difficult. In version 20, there have been significant improvements that allow a wider range of actions to be controlled with your fingers. Pinching to zoom the map is now supported as well as swiping with two fingers to pan the map in both the 2D and 3D views. Previous enhancements to support touchscreen interaction include, touching the screen to activate contextual menus and tapping on the screen with any of the digitizing tools enabled to place points or vertices.

3) Ability to create a point cloud or flattened orthoimage from a 3D mesh or model

Creating a point cloud, similar in structure to LiDAR data, from an existing 3D model or mesh may seem like an inverted procedure. It is the reverse of what would be considered a normal workflow. It does, however, open up a number of interesting 3D analysis workflows, in which the source data is an existing 3D mesh. For instance, the point cloud created from the model can be readily classified, edited, and filtered using Global Mapper’s LiDAR processing tools, and points representing ground can be used to create a DTM. Version 20 of Global Mapper not only offers this new point cloud creation tool but it also offers the option to create a flattened orthoimage derived from the colors in the mesh.

4) Speed improvements when loading large vector files

Citing any type of performance improvement as a new version highlight is often perceived as subjective and difficult to quantify or validate. In the case of Global Mapper 20, the improved speed when working with larger vector files is tangible. During our internal testing, the load time for a specific large shapefile was measured at just over four minutes in version 19 of Global Mapper. In version 20, on the same multi-core machine, the load time was shaved to 2.5 seconds. That’s almost 100 times faster. Improvements have also been made to the rendering of large vector files in the 3D View.

Global Mapper 20 now offers a color picker option, with which users can simply click the section of a raster image that they want to extract color from.

5) Eyedropper tool for accurate color selection

Perhaps not a major functional upgrade, however, when considered in the context of one of the author’s favorite Global Mapper tools, it is a godsend. The tool in question is a feature informally referred to as “Raster Vectorization” or, to give its proper name, “Create Area Features from Equal Values”. The premise is simple: By identifying a specific color in an image, you can create polygons that enclose the extent of the pixels of that color or you can expand the tolerance to accommodate similar colors. Previously, fine-tuning the color selection involved manually entering the required RGB values. In version 20, there now is a color picker option, with which you simply click the section of the raster image that you want to extract. This color picker is also available when choosing a transparent color for a raster layer.

And a couple of bonus highlights for LiDAR Module users:

Tool for creating a 3D model or mesh from selected LiDAR points

The underlying technology that enables the creation of an orthoimage was incorporated into Global Mapper within the Pixels-to-Points tool, introduced in the LiDAR Module in version 19. As a byproduct of the photogrammetric 3D point cloud generation process, there is also an option to generate a flattened raster representation of the area in question. Previously, the only way to create either of these data outputs was from drone images. With version 20 of the LiDAR Module, there is now an option to create a mesh or orthoimage from selected points in an existing LiDAR file or point cloud.

Version 20 of the LiDAR Module will come with a new function to spatially thin a LiDAR layer. This tool allows users to specify a target resolution for the point cloud which eliminates redundancy, reduces file size, and improves performance.

Option to spatially thin a point cloud

The LiDAR Module offers an extensive array of point cloud filtering and editing tools. Among the options are: deleting selected points, geographically cropping a point cloud, removal of noise points, manual or automatic reclassification of points, and horizontal or vertical shifting of the point cloud layer. Added to this list in version 20 is a new function to spatially thin a LiDAR layer. This tool allows the user to specify a target resolution for the point cloud which eliminates redundancy, reduces file size, and improves performance.

Version 20 Coming in Mid September

Global Mapper 20 is scheduled for release in the second half of September 2018. Check your inbox or visit bluemarblegeo.com to find out when it is available for download. As always, you can activate a free two-week trial and if you have time, check out the full What’s New list to see what improvements have been made to your favorite Global Mapper tools.