Where is geospatial technology headed in year 2020

It seems that major innovation affecting the GIS industry happens in waves. In my time at Blue Marble Geographics®, I have seen the advent of LiDAR in everyday GIS, the acquisition and subsequent public release of Google Earth, the growth of open source GIS, and the proliferation of smartphones, which put GPS in the hands of virtually everyone. We are currently riding two separate waves; one for enterprise GIS and one for drone or UAV-data collecting and processing.

Enterprise GIS: data sharing and accessibility

By “enterprise GIS” we mean the ability to share not only GIS data easily and fluidly across an organization but also the ability for those users to conduct analysis on that data even if GIS is outside of their area of expertise. There are large, expensive, “stack”-focused commercial solutions available for this. However, thanks to Google, AWS, and other easy-to-use free or low-cost web GIS tools, products like Global Mapper® are able to enable that process relatively seamlessly with an everyday GIS perspective.

Enterprise GIS will continue to expand as GIS and general software users and managers innovate with the available toolsets they have access to. Many users are seeing that this does not have to be an expensive, overbearing process thanks to the surge in open source GIS and cell phone technology.

A point cloud generated from 3D mesh of 192 drone-captured images.

Drone-captured imagery and data processing

For the GIS analyst or professional surveyor, the more likely place for innovation from technology will be on the drone or UAV data collecting and processing side.

The advent of low-cost drones has been a boon to the average surveyor over the past years. Many surveyors dove headfirst into the process of becoming an FAA certified pilot so they could expand their business or add value to their company by collecting high-resolution imagery with drones. The improvements in the ability of GIS software like Global Mapper and Pix4D to process this imagery into derivative products such as point clouds, orthoimages, and meshes has created a great symbiotic relationship between user and vendor. These GIS professionals are pushing vendors to innovate their software solutions far beyond 2D GIS. It was not that long ago that the concept of automatically processing raster data into vectors was a pipe dream. … Now, that is yesterday.

This area of GIS is enabling the everyday GIS professional to collect better, more compelling data in ways they could never afford to dream of just a few years ago. 2020 will see more ways to process and output various data products related to this area. Look for improvements in 3D products and in the accuracy of data sets in positioning and resolution as well.

Upcoming changes to NATRF 2022

Speaking of accuracy, surveyors and GIS professionals will be able to begin the process of converting legacy data and enabling new data collection to be compliant with NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey’s upcoming change to NATRF 2022.

This new spatial reference frame will replace NAD83 and NAVD88 changing from a focus on latitude, longitude and height in coordinate reference frames (aka coordinate systems to many users) to a focus on scale, gravity and orientation, and their time variations. This new system will reduce errors and increase the accuracy of geospatial data. GIS analysts’ and surveyors’ unique knowledge and skill with highly accurate geospatial data processing will be tested, and required, in order to make compliant datasets. Internationally we will see more government entities embrace time-dependent datum transformation models as we are able to more readily deal with local shifts in the Earth’s surface and makeup.

Accurate data translation is not going away but will silently continue to remain important in the background of everyday GIS. It will be interesting to see how successfully the experts enable the novices to engage in GIS while retaining its underlying scientific power in 2020.

 

What is an SDK? Using the Global Mapper SDK in third-party software and extensions

“SDK” stands for Software Development Kit. It’s an installable package of software development tools that enables programmers and engineers to create applications and extensions. In other words, software developers use SDKs like car mechanics use car parts. Mechanics don’t reinvent the brakes, axle, or transmission when they build a car. They buy the parts and put the car together.

When software developers want to add a certain functionality to their application, they don’t necessarily need to build everything from scratch. Instead, they might be able to use an SDK that offers the functionality they need. To make development easier and faster, SDKs are often packaged with other programs for translating code, testing, and debugging.

Blue Marble Geographics® offers SDKs that include the functionality of most of its GIS and geodetics applications to assist developers with their projects. In this blog entry, we’ll take a look at two user-case examples involving the Global Mapper® SDK: one in which the kit was used within the third-party software WindSim; and another in which a custom Global Mapper extension was created for BGC Engineering’s cloud-based platform.

But first, a little information on Global Mapper

Global Mapper is Blue Marble’s all-in-one geographic information system (GIS) software. It is designed for analyzing geographic information, making maps, visualizing 3D and point cloud data, generating and editing digital terrain models, and managing other geographic information. It’s used in a broad range of industries — ranging from military and defense to natural resources management — for countless purposes.

With every release of Blue Marble desktop software, there is an update to the accompanying SDK. The latest releases of the Global Mapper SDK and LiDAR Module® SDK, for example, incorporate several enhancements from the recent version 21 releases. A major addition to the LiDAR Module SDK is the ability to leverage the LiDAR Module’s photogrammetric tool — Pixels-to-Points® — for generating point clouds from drone or UAV images.

So, as you can imagine, the Blue Marble SDKs allow for infinite possibilities.


3D model of the wind conditions of an area
This illustration displays the wind speed over an area of turbines. The red colored wind turbines produce the highest amount of energy. The yellow and white turbines produce only half of that energy.

WindSim: Extracting elevation and vegetation data with the Global Mapper SDK

WindSim is a wind energy software that uses computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to optimize the placement of wind turbines for maximum energy production and profitability. The application provides a fast and easy way to simulate and assess the local wind conditions of prospective sites for wind-energy development.

3D model for calculating wind conditions
To determine local wind conditions, WindSim uses CFD and 3D numerical models that have been discretized into millions of cells. Behind these 3D models is the elevation and vegetation data that has been extracted using the Global Mapper SDK.

Topography plays an important role in determining the position of a turbine. A difference of only a few hundred meters in positioning can have a significant impact on a turbine’s energy production. In order to calculate local wind or “flow” conditions for any given location, WindSim needed the ability to extract global terrain and vegetation data. This functionality was added to WindSim with the Global Mapper SDK.

“Within the wind energy sector, knowledge about the local wind conditions are particularly valuable,” said Dr. Arne R. Gravdahl, CTO and Founder of WindSim. “The success of WindSim Express relies on the easy extraction of terrain data globally.”

Learn more about WindSim at windsim.com.


BGC Engineering: Creating an extension for Global Mapper to export maps

BGC Engineering Inc. (BGC) is an international consulting firm that developed the mixed-reality software system The Ada Platform™ (Ada) for the holographic visualization of applied earth science engineering data.

Viewing 3D holograms in the HoloLens
By viewing 3D holograms in the HoloLens, both technical and non-technical stakeholders can see, interact with, and collaborate on complex applied earth science data.

Ada is cutting edge technology that uses the Global Mapper SDK in a button extension for exporting files from the Global Mapper desktop software. The extension prepares the data for use in Ada’s cloud-based platform. Users can simply drag and drop these files into the tool to quickly share tabletop maps as 3D holograms.

“[The SDK] allows users to access unprecedented viewing capabilities that add considerable value to the high-quality GIS data that Global Mapper provides,” said Keith Lay, Digital Marketing Manager at BGC Engineering Inc. “By viewing this data on the HoloLens, both technical and non-technical stakeholders can view, interact with, and collaborate on complex applied earth science data as never before.”

Dragging and dropping files into The Ada Platform
After GIS files have been packaged and exported using a custom button by BGC Engineering, they can be dragged and dropped into The Ada Platform to share maps as 3D holograms.

Learn more about BGC Engineering’s mixed-reality software system The Ada Platform here: adaplatform.io

SDK updates with each Blue Marble software release

As Blue Marble Geographics’ products grow more sophisticated with every release, so do the possibilities for its development customers who are working on geospatial technology.

To learn more about the GIS and geodetics SDKs that Blue Marble Geographics offers, visit bluemarblegeo.com.

Where in the World Geo-Challenge – April 2019

View the form at Google Forms >

Blue Got Mail – Finding the coordinates of a point from a loaded point cloud in Global Mapper

Billy Noble, Applications Specialist at Blue Marble Geographics, answers questions that come into the technical support inbox. In this video, Billy demonstrates how to find the coordinates of a point in a loaded point cloud in LAS format using Global Mapper.

Five Reasons to Sign Up for Global Mapper Training

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Product Manager Katrina Schweikert leads a Global Mapper training course in Hallowell, Maine in January of 2019.

Blue Marble Geographics® offers several training options to help users get the most out of their all-in-one geographic information system (GIS) software, Global Mapper®: Customized training for companies or organizations needing tailored instruction based on specific workflow needs; self-training that are comprised of a series of lessons that users can tackle at home at their own pace; and public training courses that cover the extensive functionality of Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module®.

While all three options have their benefits, the public training courses that take place at a variety of locations around the world, come with a handful of perks on top of being great opportunities for users to increase the return on their Global Mapper investment.

Here are the top five reasons why you should sign up for a public training class:

1. GIS training for both beginners and professionals

Public training that molds to the GIS skill levels and knowledge of the attendees.

A couple of weeks before the class, attendees receive a Getting Started package, which includes the following resources:

  • PDF of the training manual
  • Data files that will be used in the course
  • Links to the Getting Started Guide and video
  • Self-training materials

While it’s not required for attendees to look at these resources, the package gives them the opportunity to see the topics covered in the courses. It also gives attendees time to reach out to Blue Marble’s training team with any specific questions or concerns they may have about the material.

This pre-course communication helps trainers understand attendees’ skills in GIS, ensuring that all attendees get the most out of their individual training experience.

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Trainees listen to instructions in the Global Mapper training course that took place in Hallowell, Maine in January of 2019.

2. Hands-on instruction from GIS experts

In a public training class, Blue Marble’s applications specialists walk through workflows that attendees follow, and provide plenty of opportunities for attendees to ask questions.

Introducing functionality that attendees may not have previously known, this hands-on experience allows trainees to apply new knowledge with real data and in meaningful ways. Their earned skills — ranging from basic Digitizer usage to more advanced functions such as a variety of terrain analysis functions — can later be remembered and practiced at home with the training manual and data files trainees will take with them.

See the agenda for the Global Mapper class here.

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Outreach and Training Manager David McKittrick gives an overview of the Global Mapper toolbars in a training course in Hallowell, Maine.

3. A resume builder with an official certification

The complete Global Mapper training course is a three-day program incorporating two separate courses that attendees can sign up for, either individually or as one continuous program. The first two days are dedicated to the core functionality of Global Mapper, and the third day focuses on the LiDAR Module and point cloud processing.

Individually, the courses are great resume builders. When taken together, they earn attendees an official Global Mapper User certification. If an attendee is just starting their GIS-related career, a certificate can be a valuable credential proving their broad range of terrain analysis, 3D data editing, LiDAR processing skills, and more.

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Trainees are given data sets to follow along with workflows during the training courses.

4. An introduction to LiDAR and point cloud processing

With increased access to affordable ways of collecting LiDAR and point cloud data, it’s become more important for GIS professionals to understand what to do with this data and to have access to tools that can efficiently process it.

The third day of training focuses on point cloud processing, covering a range of topics, including: LiDAR filtering and editing techniques, photogrammetric point cloud creation with the Pixels-to-Points® tool, feature extraction, and more. Whether trainees are just starting to use point cloud data, or if they are experienced, this one-day intensive class will cover everything they need to know about Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module’s capabilities.

See the full LiDAR agenda here.

5. A networking opportunity – connecting with GM users

Supplementing the learning experience, the public training courses also offer the opportunity for trainees to meet other members of the Global-Mapper-user community and to network within the industry. A broad range of professionals — from government workers to UAV pilots — attend and benefit from Blue Marble’s training courses, which makes these courses rich in a different way every time.

Public Training – A valuable GIS experience

Whether it’s to boost a burgeoning GIS career or to re-energize and enrich a mature one, Blue Marble’s public training is a valuable experience that provides insight into the basics of Global Mapper, lesser known software features, certification, and networking opportunities.

View Our 2020 Training Calendar

Blue Marble Comes to Town: Holiday Week at the Office

Last week, we, at Blue Marble, held our annual “Winter Holiday” week — seven days of festivities and team-building fun. It’s one of the few times each year that our remote employees join us at the office and we have the chance to show them a good time.

During the week, we enjoyed dinner and a post-work game of trivia at our favorite local pub, where we came in second place … not too shabby. We had a fierce winter-wonderland-themed decorating contest. 22 of us entered, but only 1 was crowned the winner – Jess, with her gingerbread-themed desk that offered cookies, beer, and hot chocolate.

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Blue Marble Office Manager Jess won the first holiday decorating contest.
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Scott and Billy walk around the office to vote for their favorite festive offices and cubicles.
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Blue Marble President Patrick sits in his Nick-Offerman-Holiday-themed office.

We also took some time for some team building within departments. The Development team watched a movie, Tech Support and QA went bowling, and Sales and Marketing went out to breakfast.

The Company Holiday Party

At the end of the week, the whole company came together for our annual Holiday Party, where we looked back on 2018 in this video:

We had fun sharing a meal together, participating in a team gingerbread-building contest, playing spoons (the card game), and opening gifts in our Yankee swap, during which the infamous nose-hair trimmer was re-gifted once again.

From our work family to yours, have a safe and happy Holiday!

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The Blue Marble Team at the 2018 company holiday party.
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Step into Blue Marble’s Gift Guide

If you have been watching TV, listening to the radio, or gone to a store, you know it’s that time of year again … Have you thoughtfully picked out all your gifts? No? Well don’t worry we have the gifts for you and all of your family members!

For the punny dad or mom in your life:

Shift Happens T-shirt

For the misunderstood rebel :

“GIS is not a four letter word” Global Mapper T-shirt

For the one searching for the truth:

The X + Y Files T-shirt

For the one who hates t-shirts, but loves GIS & software:

 

Global Mapper v20

Download Global Mapper today!

For the one who wants to project all over the word:

Geographic Calculator 2019

Download Geographic Calculator today!

For these items and more please visit the Blue Marble Emporium today!


Rachael Landry

Rachael Landry is one of Blue Marble’s license gurus on the official Sales Support team. She is one of the people you are most likely to work with when you call or email our office, and she is always ready to answer your questions.
Please send all your fan mail to orders@bluemarblegeo.com.

Where in the World Geo-Challenge – December 2018

View the form at Google Forms >