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Thoughts

Why Google Earth Won’t Be the Default Viewer for GIS Information

I’ve been talking quite a bit over the past few weeks about why I think Google Earth will become the default GIS viewer in the next year, but I thought I’d also post about what might keep it from coming that viewer.

  • Support for projections – Sure one can always change the projection of files, but I shouldn’t have to do that. GE should be able to handle different projections on the fly. ArcGIS has done this for years and I think it is a requirement for any GIS data viewer. Because most of our work is for the U.S. Department of Defense, we deal in UTM and State Plane most of the time. I’d just rather not have to worry about changing projections (or have an ArcGIS extension do this for me).

  • Customization – I’ve seen some really nice attempts at creating an interface inside GE (the National Geographic example is great), but I’d like to have an API exposed so I can add buttons and forms so I can add or subtract features I don’t need. Google Earth is simple, but sometimes I need something even more simple.

  • Printing – I know you can upgrade to a paid version of Google Earth that allows better printing, but I’d like to be able to set up templates that would standardize how maps are being printed. Some will say this isn’t what Google Earth is about, but I say any competitor to ArcReader/ArcExplorer should be able to print maps as I want them to be.

  • Advanced Query Tool – As we load up more complex information into Google Earth, we’ll need a better “Find” dialog to get at this data. I’m not sure how Google will view this since they are all about “I feel lucky”, but I know many Engineers and Planners who will want this capability.

  • Metadata – I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. We need better information about what the acquire date of the satellite imagery is and the source of the road information. I don’t want phone calls from clients telling me that the photo is out of date when at the bottom of the screen it says “Copyright 2005 Google”.

I know what you are thinking as you are reading this and I agree. Google Earth is a “geoviewer”, not an analysis tool. GE is about a 70% solution toward a great GIS tool, but its limitations are showing up in how I’d like to deploy it for my clients. I can see many cases when Google Earth is all they would need, but I suspect unless Google Earth opens up more on many of the above points as well as their planned updates to the datasets, I’ll probably be looking more toward ArcExplorer (I say this without even having a test drive so I reserve the right to say I don’t like ArcExplorer in the future) which will do many and more of what I want/need in a GIS viewer rather than Google Earth on its own.

More Google Earth Wishlist Items.

From Matt Perry

  • Support for other file formats– importing shapefiles, sde layers, wms, wfs would prevent forcing users to convert their data (and consquently have to maintain two datasets). Another route is that some real-time conversion utilities will arise that will let you add these disparate data sources with some server-side logic allowing you to maintain the data in it’s native format while serving it up as KML on-the-fly
  • Support for large vector datasets – I recently converted a 60,000 feature line shapefile into KML and the display totally choked. I cut it down to 600 and it was fine. The stock Google road layer doesn’t even render properly at all scales/angles. (At least not on my machine). If GE is going to be for real, they need to gracefully handle big vector datasets.
Categories
Thoughts

National Geographic and Google Earth

National Geographic has been one of the most prolific ESRI users out there, but they have begun to utilize Google Earth. Now appearing in the Google Earth layers are Features Articles and & Photograph, Sights & Sounds, African Megaflyover and Live Wildcam. The Map Machine has been using ESRI server software for years, but could we be seeing a change where companies are rushing to make sure their information is available inside Google Earth. Check out a couple screen shots below.

Google Earth is becoming a GIS “browser” where you can find information from all over the world, perfect for the NGS.

Ng ge 4

 

Ng ge

 

Ng ge 2

Ng ge 3

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Thoughts

Export to KML Extension for ArcGIS 9.x

Link – Export_to_KML_V10

Export to KML is an extension developed for ArcGIS 9.x by the City of Portland, Bureau of Planning. The extension allows ArcGIS users to export any dataset in “keyhole markup language” [KML] format for viewing in the free Google Earth data viewer. Any point, polyline, or polygon features, in any defined projection, can be exported. Features can be “grouped” by an attribute for creating categorical symbology in Google Earth. Features can also be exported as 2-dimensional features, or “extruded” by an attribute (or, in the case of true 3D features, by z-value).

Kevin Martin over at the City of Portland Bureau of Planning just uploaded a new extension to export any dataset to KML.

Export2KML

Structure height

One problem with all these great tools for KML export is that they have all chosen to use the Google Earth icon on their toolbar. Kind of makes it hard to remember which one is which huh?

Kml extensions

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Thoughts

Keeping Google Earth at Bay

With the explosive introduction of Google Earth, it is hard to imagine what the world was like before we were all started looking up our old high school on satellite imagery. As the novelty of Google Earth wears off, GIS professionals are beginning to come up with different way to utilize this new tool to disseminate GIS data and in turn are creating tools to export data to Google Earth. Right now ESRI doesn’t have any answer to Google Earth. Their viewers are either too expensive or too old to compete leaving a void that Google Earth is beginning to fill. At the UC, we saw the new ArcExplorer, but as with most development at ESRI it becomes hidden from view until the next big conference (I guess that means we’ll see it at the Business Partner Conference?). In the mean time, tools such as Arc2Earth and KML Home Companion will be matured and assimilated into workflows making Google Earth an integrated part of GIS distribution.

I’m sure there are many at ESRI who feel that ArcExplorer will be a “Google Killer”, but to them I say don’t look at it that way. Google Earth is just another tool to help sell products that ESRI develops. In the end it will be ESRI desktop and server software that will power most of this new way of sharing GIS information and that is what matters. I can only guess to how well ArcExplorer will perform but if I use ArcGlobe as any reference point, ArcExplorer could be DOA. Again as I said above, this might not be the case, but since we get no updates from ESRI to the development of the software it is hard to say. So in this absence of information, many will continue to explore using KML and KMZ in conjunction with Google Earth. Even if ArcExplorer is a home run, why would users change their workflows when their customers are already used to Google Earth?

I’ve said before that I think ESRI should leverage support for KML/KMZ into their products and jump on the Google Earth bandwagon while its hot. CNN seems quite intent on using Google Earth on their newscasts and anyone with a broadband internet connection can join in that fun. I can’t imagine a scenario where people type in ESRI.com and grab the latest copy of ArcExplorer to view the huge earthquake in Southern California (though ESRI would have a front row seat) unless somehow ArcExplorer is pushed by Yahoo! to compete against Microsoft and Google.

I think in the end if there is any hope that ArcExplorer can compete against Google Earth in our marketplace, we need to know more about what to expect from ArcExplorer, a timetable for its release and even a broad beta release (beyond the ones at ESRI’s beta site).

Categories
Thoughts

Keeping Google Earth at Bay

With the explosive introduction of Google Earth, it is hard to imagine what the world was like before we were all started looking up our old high school on satellite imagery. As the novelty of Google Earth wears off, GIS professionals are beginning to come up with different way to utilize this new tool to disseminate GIS data and in turn are creating tools to export data to Google Earth. Right now ESRI doesn’t have any answer to Google Earth. Their viewers are either too expensive or too old to compete leaving a void that Google Earth is beginning to fill. At the UC, we saw the new ArcExplorer, but as with most development at ESRI it becomes hidden from view until the next big conference (I guess that means we’ll see it at the Business Partner Conference?). In the mean time, tools such as Arc2Earth and KML Home Companion will be matured and assimilated into workflows making Google Earth an integrated part of GIS distribution.

I’m sure there are many at ESRI who feel that ArcExplorer will be a “Google Killer”, but to them I say don’t look at it that way. Google Earth is just another tool to help sell products that ESRI develops. In the end it will be ESRI desktop and server software that will power most of this new way of sharing GIS information and that is what matters. I can only guess to how well ArcExplorer will perform but if I use ArcGlobe as any reference point, ArcExplorer could be DOA. Again as I said above, this might not be the case, but since we get no updates from ESRI to the development of the software it is hard to say. So in this absence of information, many will continue to explore using KML and KMZ in conjunction with Google Earth. Even if ArcExplorer is a home run, why would users change their workflows when their customers are already used to Google Earth?

I’ve said before that I think ESRI should leverage support for KML/KMZ into their products and jump on the Google Earth bandwagon while its hot. CNN seems quite intent on using Google Earth on their newscasts and anyone with a broadband internet connection can join in that fun. I can’t imagine a scenario where people type in ESRI.com and grab the latest copy of ArcExplorer to view the huge earthquake in Southern California (though ESRI would have a front row seat) unless somehow ArcExplorer is pushed by Yahoo! to compete against Microsoft and Google.

I think in the end if there is any hope that ArcExplorer can compete against Google Earth in our marketplace, we need to know more about what to expect from ArcExplorer, a timetable for its release and even a broad beta release (beyond the ones at ESRI’s beta site).

Categories
Thoughts

The Map Room on Google Earth Privacy and Security

Link – Google Earth Privacy and Security Roundup

When the satellite-photo version of Google Maps came out earlier this year, there was some apprehension about the impact of these high-resolution photos on individual privacy. For example, some nervousness about being able to see the car in your driveway. I’m sensitive to privacy concerns, but for the most part I think these worries are unwarranted: most individual activities wouldn’t show up on even the highest resolution photos, and the age of the photos, as we’ve seen, can be considerable in some cases.

I’ve been on a moratorium over the past couple weeks on these Google Earth/Map privacy/security issues because nothing new has come out of any of them. Well I’ve lifted that ban temporarily to post about an excellent article over at The Map Room by Jonathan Crowe. Jonathan brings up some great new points about the difference between individual privacy concerns and state control over “secret” information. In the end I totally agree with his assertion that this is just a case of everyone overreacting.

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Thoughts

Google Earth Increases Resolution of New Orleans Satellite Imagery

Link – New imagery available as VBR network links via Ogle Earth

VBR in Keyhole speak means ViewBasedRefresh network link which appears to be some kind of dynamic layer type. I couldn’t find too much about VBR on Keyhole’s site, does anyone have a better explanation?

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Thoughts

Google Earth Increases Resolution of New Orleans Satellite Imagery

Link – New imagery available as VBR network links via Ogle Earth

VBR in Keyhole speak means ViewBasedRefresh network link which appears to be some kind of dynamic layer type. I couldn’t find too much about VBR on Keyhole’s site, does anyone have a better explanation?

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Thoughts

Google Earth is becoming the default free viewer for spatial information

Link – More pros support Google Earth

“I’ve never heard of Ambercore before, but that’s because I’m no GIS pro. What I do know is that there is a definite trend by pro GIS software vendors to accommodate KML. It means Google Earth is becoming the default free viewer for spatial information.”

I tend to agree. Google Earth has much going for it (including that the install is only 11mb compared to ESRI’s “free” ArcReader which is about 100mb) and one has to begin to question the need for ArcExplorer. If Google can get Google Earth out of Beta (which they seem to milk for all its worth) then it might become the default viewer. If Google waits too long and somehow ESRI hits a home-run with ArcExplorer then it might be a free for all. Of course there isn’t any information from ESRI about ArcExplorer so smart GIS professionals are beginning to use Google Earth since we don’t know what to expect from ArcExplorer.

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Mapdex Now Supports Google Earth

Link – Mapdex in GoogleEarth 2

Mapdex is fully integrated with Google Earth. All mapservices that return a valid projection will have the ability to be added into Google Earth via network links.

Just like that, Mapdex now supports Google Earth. Jeremy was nice enough to also release the ColdFusion code to take any ArcIMS service and allow it to be viewed in Google Earth. Anyone who is currently offering up ArcIMS services should seriously think about offering Google Earth support as it is so easy to do.

Of course as always you can add these ArcIMS and WMS services to your ArcMap by following these instructions from ESRI.