Since the advent of GPS technology in the 1980s, people have been using GPS receivers to collect ground control points. Ideally, these ground control points secure a proper horizontal location on the surface of the Earth as well as a height. Most GPS receivers record points referenced in a geographic coordinate system, most likely World Geodetic System (WGS84). Geographic Calculator allows GIS professionals to load data points that were collected in the field to perform complex mathematical conversions to nearly any known coordinate system to make sure their transformations are accurate.
Geographic Calculator is a powerful geodetic application with particular strength in survey, seismic, and energy exploration. In addition to a single point, point database, and file conversion tools, this highly accurate transformation software includes many specialized tools such as Canadian DLS (Dominion Land Survey) Land Grid tools, Seismic Survey Conversion tools, Area of Use tools for guiding users to the most appropriate transformation settings for a specific location, Horizontal Time-Dependent Positioning (HTDP), Geoid Creation tools, and much more. Additionally, Geographic Calculator supports a wide range of file formats and is built on the foundation of the largest geodetic parameter database available anywhere. Finally, there are a number of powerful administrative tools for managing and customizing that database.
The 2020 version of Geographic Calculator comes with many new features and improvements, including a new Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)-enabled Single-User Floating license option for customers who need to access Geographic Calculator from another computer. Other important features are new magnetic declination models including World Magnetic Model 2020 and IGRF13 as well as support for converting lidar using local best-fit engineering coordinate systems. There is also a new early-bound coordinate system function for allowing a coordinate system to be paired with a datum transformation to streamline business rules on commonly used transformations. This release includes expanded Enterprise Datasource management to streamline updates in an enterprise-wide deployment with an automatic update function to keep users in sync and it introduces support for Geoid 18 for the United States.
Since 1993, Geographic Calculator has been the coordinate conversion tool of choice for GIS and survey professionals around the world. The software quickly grew in popularity over that first decade and has maintained its reputation as the best coordinate conversion solution on the market. Geographic Calculator has come a long way since then with many improvements over the years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
In my first couple of weeks as graphic designer at Blue Marble Geographics in 2016, I heard my coworkers use an unfamiliar term in our marketing meetings. They said things like: “do we have bee-muck speakers yet?”; or “when is the bee-muck e-mail going out?”; or “the bee-muck numbers are looking good so far.”
What the heck is a “bee-muck”?!
I figured it was one of dozens of conferences that Blue Marble attends each year, like AUVSI or InterGeo, and not a term used to describe mud on a yellow and black insect pollinator. “Bee-muck” is actually how the Blue Marble team pronounces the acronym BMUC for Blue Marble User Conference, and BMUC is not just another event the company attends. It’s a series of conferences organized by Blue Marble in cities around North America (and sometimes the world) to show appreciation for the users of Blue Marble software. The one-day conferences offer users a chance to chat face-to-face with Blue Marble team members, to hear success stories from GIS peers, and to share a meal with everyone. I admit, I was skeptical when I heard the “share a meal” part. But when Blue Marble hosted a BMUC in Maine, I had the opportunity to take part in the rich experience the conferences actually have to offer.
Product News that Fosters a Collaborative Culture
At every BMUC, Blue Marble software specialists give talks on the latest product news. During the presentations at the Maine conference, I noticed one phrase that prefaced most of the announcements about new software developments — “We received requests for this feature.”
Global Mapper and Geographic Calculator have evolved into the cutting edge software they are today because of user feedback. Whether a user emails, calls, sends a Facebook message, or speaks to a staff member at a BMUC or other conference, the team at Blue Marble hears and considers what that user has to say. A couple of examples of user-requested features that were highlighted at the Maine BMUC were Global Mapper’s advanced attribute editor, which allows for streamlined editing of data assigned to map features; and the real-time hillshading feature, which allows for dynamic positioning of a light source by clicking and dragging a sun icon.
When asked about what new features of Global Mapper v19 came from user requests, Product Manager Sam Knight began listing them off:
The new attribute editor function
Playing multiple videos attached to a feature
The dynamic hillshading control
All the new raster band math formulae, which include Normalized Difference Snow Index (NDSI) and Advanced Vegetation Index (AVI)
Drag and drop docking for the 3D viewer and path profile
Exporting/importing flythrough paths
After giving this handful of examples, he stopped himself and said, “Actually, literally every significant new feature is a user request.”
The point I’m trying to make is that the product news shared at BMUCs not only keeps users in the loop, but it also fosters the collaborative culture that makes Blue Marble software great. It lets users know that they have a hand in improving these already powerful tools.
Peer-to-Peer Learning in the GIS Community
There are at least two guest speakers at every BMUC, who share their real-life experiences using Blue Marble products. These professionals come from a variety of GIS backgrounds — from oil and gas to filmmaking; from city planning to conservation. While members of the Blue Marble team bring their software expertise to the BMUC agenda, the stories from others in the GIS community add valuable outside perspectives.
At the Maine BMUC, attendees heard from GIS Specialist Thea Youngs, who uses Global Mapper for Portland city projects. She explained how the software fits in her workflow, and how fast it is to view and select an area of interest from a large point cloud. “Global Mapper helps with making LiDAR data play better with drafting software.” She also commended Global Mapper for its extensive list of supported file formats, since her work sometimes deals with older and less common formats.
Attendees also heard from GIS Specialist Alex Gray of GEI Consultants Inc., whose presentation focused on a hydrology analysis for which he created digital terrain models from a combination of LiDAR and sonar data in Global Mapper.
While both speakers use Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module for their powerful point cloud processing functionality, both work with very different workflows and could provide unique ideas on how to use the software. The presentations, as well as the variety of occupations in the BMUC audience, exemplified how versatile Global Mapper is and how BMUCs are a great place to share tips on how to use the software.
Let’s Call it Lunch, not “Networking”
It’s probably safe to say that the word “lunch” elicits a positive reaction from more people than the word “networking”. I mean, who can’t bond over a good sandwich?
During lunch at the Maine BMUC, attendees had the opportunity to share their own stories, ask more questions, discuss projects with their peers, and to make connections in their local GIS community. I was able to hear from attendees about what developments they’d like to see from Blue Marble in the near future, like the ability to create point clouds from drone imagery, which is actually something that Blue Marble is currently testing.
Other than providing lunch, Blue Marble also offers opportunities to win prizes such as T-shirts and a license of the latest version of Global Mapper. At the Maine BMUC, this opportunity came in the form of a “Name That Country” game, in which attendees had to identify countries from a series of slides.
An Affordable and Rich GIS Experience
After the conference, two thoughts struck me as I drank a beer with my co-workers and BMUC attendees who were able to join us for happy hour. My first thought: How cool is it that this small company can serve customers all over the world and still have intimate events like BMUCs? Second: BMUCs truly embody the user-focused mission of Blue Marble.
They are an affordable opportunity (only $25 to register) to gain insights from company experts and other GIS professionals; to meet new people in the GIS community; to win a copy of the latest version of Global Mapper; to have an opinion about a Blue Marble software and to have it heard; and did I mention lunch?
As I write this entry, the Blue Marble team is planning its BMUC 2018 schedule. Drop us a line at email@example.com if you’d like to see this experience come to your neck of the woods, and keep an eye on the BMUC page to find out where we will be next.
There’s an abundance of knowledge to be shared in the GIS and Blue Marble community, and BMUC is a tap on the barrel. Cheers!
Chelsea Ellis is Graphics and Content Coordinator at Blue Marble Geographics. Her responsibilities range from creating the new button graphics for the redesigned interface of Global Mapper 18 to editing promotional videos; from designing print marketing material to scheduling social media posts. Prior to joining the Blue Marble team, Ellis worked in graphic design at Maine newspapers, and as a freelance photographer.