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Interview: Partnering in progress

Arnold Hougham
Vice President
Sales and Product Marketing
PCI Geomatics
[email protected]

What is your perception of Oracle 10g?
With Oracle 10g, every database is “spatially” enabled, allowing enterprise users to create, store and access spatial information such as points lines and areas in the database. As far as I know, the fact that this is a default characteristic of the database, is unique to Oracle. This is supported, of course, by spatial queries.

While this is extremely important, of greater significance to PCI Geomatics and our customers is imagery. As you may know, while our products embrace all important spatial information types, PCI Geomatics special expertise lies in the ingestion, spatial geocoding, and extraction of information from geographic images such as those acquired from space satellites and aircraft. So, the fact that Oracle 10g now supports imagery as a spatial entity in the database is of great importance to the entire geomatics community.

We are seeing an explosion in the types of geographic images available to operational users of geographic information. The increase in the availability of remotely sensed images, which was predicted years ago, is now happening. The best-known examples of these are the images available from the US high-resolution data vendors Digital Globe, Space Imaging, and OrbImage. Governments such as the Indian government are also in the game, of course. The recent launch of India’s ResourceSat late in 2003 is one such example. The plethora of image data of a type appropriate for solving real world problems will mean that the use of imagery will become commonplace, at least in the government. Oracle, in the release of Oracle 10g, has provided a critical piece of IT infrastructure necessary for this to occur.

Please explain in detail about your partnership with Oracle in general and in context with Oracle 10g.
Our relationship with Oracle began more than 5 years ago through our mutual interest in the promotion of open standards and specifications via our general philosophy of open architecture software, and specifically via the Open GIS Consortium. It’s our belief that open standards encourage multiple vendor participation in the geomatics marketplace, which only benefits organizations using geographic information. Of course we’re pleased that when Oracle went looking for an advisor on customers’ requirements related to remotely sensed images, they chose us. We helped during their product specification phase in an informal way. As Oracle neared product release, they established a formal beta testing programme, and PCI Geomatics was invited to participate. Some people at Oracle have referred to PCI Geomatics as Oracle’s “go to market partner” in the area of remote sensing.

All of this will benefit the users in two major ways. First, because Oracle solicited and accepted PCI Geomatics’ expertise during the product specification phase, we feel that the geographic image-enabled aspects of Oracle 10g will be what the market needs. For example, this means handling projection information properly, and giving the user the capability to handle images from such vendors as Digital Globe and Space Imaging in the way in which they intend. Second, it means that when Oracle 10g is released by Oracle, that customers will have a geomatics software choice that already supports Oracle 10g. Normally it takes vendors such as PCI Geomatics several months or even years to embrace revolutionary technologies such as Oracle 10g. In this case, Geomatica 9, which is already in release, supports it.

In what ways will Oracle 10g be utilized by PCI Geomatics?
Well, I think that the real question is “how will PCI Geomatics’ customers utilize Oracle 10g, as supported by PCI’s Geomatica software?”. It’s not us that take advantage of this unique combination, it’s our mutual clients.

In a simple way, clients using both Geomatica 9 and Oracle 10g together will be able to obtain remote sensing images from a host of sources, load them into Oracle, and then access them for any application that depends on remotely sensed images, such as forestry, geology, municipal mapping, national security, and others.

But of course there’s more to it than that. First, the digital integrity of the original data is preserved. Second, the spatial characteristics of the data are preserved. This includes any pre-processing steps, such as orthorectification, creation of mosaics, land use/land cover classifications, elevation model extraction, and combining colour and black and white information, something we call pan-sharpening. These are all value added products on top of the data products available from the data vendors and distributors. They are all possible with PCI products.

So, now there are images in the database at a variety of resolutions, areas of coverage and type, perhaps multi-spectral, hyperspectral, black and white, or maybe radar images. Perhaps there are images from multiple dates, spanning years. Users can then run a spatial and/or non-spatial query to get the images needed for an application. For example, a client may wish to “find all of the images less than 2 years old, within 10 km of the multi-lane highway between Mumbai and Pune, classify the images (perhaps occupied vs. non-occupied), and use the elevation model and soils information (coming from other GIS layers in the database) to create a rockfall hazards map”. The result could then be used to make a map for engineering decision makers. Perhaps the map would be served over the internet.

All of the steps I described above would be possible with the combination of Geomatica and Oracle 10g.

How do you see the present market for geomatics products in India and how do you perceive the future?
PCI and other software vendors have been in the Indian market for decades now. India is a leader in the launching of satellites for acquiring imagery. We enjoy almost as much success in India as we do in our home market of Canada. The future looks bright for geomatics in India. Not only does India have its own remote sensing satellites, but the geospatial data infrastructure needed to support economic development in agriculture, for example, seems to be moving in the right direction. Solutions such as those afforded by the combination of Oracle, which provides a key infrastructure component, and Geomatica, which provides Oracle loading, access, and imagery-centric geomatics applications will only serve to accelerate this progress.