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Mapping is only the beginning

Dr William B. Gail
Director of Strategic Development
Public Sector Product Group, Microsoft Corp
Web mapping and the advent of APIs like Virtual Earth have brought in a sudden spurt in users’ awareness about everything ‘geospatial’. How is the geospatial community capitalising on this awareness?

The geospatial community views this as an opportunity to extend its expertise from the limited domain of GIS departments to the larger user base associated with people who are not geospatial experts. Many small companies have started up to take advantage of the platform capability now available through Virtual Earth.

How do you see these Web services evolving?

Web delivery of geospatial services will continue to grow and expand. Mapping is only the beginning. Mobile services, augmented reality and many things we can today hardly even imagine will be enabled by geospatial Web services.

What is the business model of MS that enables it to gain return on investment in terms of huge money spent on data?

We operate an advertisingfunded consumer site (Live.com) that uses our Virtual Earth services. We also provide Virtual Earth as a platform for enterprises to incorporate into their own websites, paid for on a transaction basis. Finally, we license Virtual Earth for internal enterprise use on a per-seat basis.

How has VE taken care of interoperability issues for developers and users who want to integrate local data?

We have a number of means for ingesting external data, including Collections (groups of user- annotated pushpins and polygons), Mapcruncher (map and image overlays), KML layers, geoRSS, and 3dvia (3D object authoring tool).

Building 3D city models has become a strong forte of VE. How has VE achieved this and what more is expected on these lines?

Our 3D city models are built using the proprietary 3D photogrammetric processing algorithms we have developed for large-scale 3D production. We will continue to advance our technology in this area.

How does Microsoft handle privacy and national security issues?

We have thought extensively about these issues and have both operating procedures and technological processes that address them. Internet mapping is a cutting edge technology that will continue to raise new and challenging issues in these areas. We will respond aggressively as new issues arise.

Geospatial scientists do not take efforts like Virtual Earth seriously. They feel that accuracy is compromised. Comment.

On the contrary, we find that geospatial scientists understand the value of Virtual Earth as a strong complement to the hard-to-learn engineering tools they use for technical work. Virtual Earth does not replace these tools

but rather provides a means to do simple geospatial tasks with simple tools.