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Taking GIS into IT mainstream

 


Preetha Pulsani
[email protected]
On the eve of GeoSpatial World 2001, Preetha Pulsani, Executive Vice President, Intergraph Mapping and GIS Solutions shares her vision with [email protected] about Intergraph, its products, market trends and upcoming scenario.

 

  • Would you like to tell us about Intergraph and it’s GIS and Mapping products?

    Intergraph has a rich history in the mapping and GIS business that spans more than 30 years. In fact, one of the early systems delivered by M&S Computing (later changed to Intergraph Corporation) was a mapping system sold to the City of Nashville, Tennessee in 1974. We are consistently rated as one of the top vendors in this marketplace as a result of our leadership, solid, high-quality products and services, and strong global presence. At the core of our success are software products, comprehensive project implementation and production services, and solutions for enterprise-wide Mapping/GIS and map and chart production.

    In the GIS area we have two distinct offerings. First, we have core GIS products, the GeoMedia product suite, that can be used in a broad range of geospatial applications. Key strengths of these products include data integration, geographic visualisation, and analysis tools that are useful in many business applications — transportation networks, site assessment, real estate, redistricting, economic development, agriculture, and insurance.

    Second, we offer industry products that expand the level of functionality we provide today in our core products to serve the government and transportation industries. Industry-specific workflow solutions include land management, road and rail transportation, water and wastewater infrastructure management, environmental and military. Industry products are targeted to specific industry workflows. They enable our customers to extend their core product capabilities or address unique customer requirements with a combination of products and services.

    Mapping has always been a key strength of Intergraph Mapping and GIS Solutions. We’re an acknowledged leader for comprehensive map production and cartography solutions, including MGE, Digital Cartographic Studio products, and Map Publisher. For more than two decades, Intergraph has provided high-quality software products and services to a customer base numbering in the thousands, including professional cartographers working in the most prestigious mapping agencies in the world.

    We have a very loyal global customer base that includes civil aviation authorities, mapping agencies, military, local, state, federal, and national governments, U.S. Departments of Transportation (DOTs), railways, airports, transit authorities, and educational institutions. These customers employ our broad array of products and solutions to augment or integrate with their current solutions.

  • Intergraph Corporation is known to often redefine itself, how has this been useful in the overall business of Intergraph?

    Intergraph has overcome some very difficult challenges during the nineties decade with several changes occurring to the overall company structure and business model. Last year, we finalized our exit from the hardware business, and we continue to deal with the Intel lawsuit.

    Today, Intergraph is focused on its core competencies and skills as a sustainable software solutions company. The result, despite the general softening of technology stocks in the U.S., is that our share price has been stable, and is demonstrating a rising trend.

    The new focus is very exciting for our mapping and GIS organisation. As a new business unit, we have removed the borders between territories and countries for a true global organisation. We’re already reaping benefits from this new structure, which in turn benefits our customers. For example, if we have a customer applying our technology effectively in the U.S. or Europe, it is now much easier to apply that same solution in an Asian country. With a solid focus on delivering high-quality geospatial solutions, we are now able to create solutions faster and to be more responsive in meeting customer requirements. On a local basis, there is a direct line back to the corporate office which means customer requests are dealt with more expediently in the development group.

    Our communication and sharing of information around the world has improved because everyone is motivated by the single objective of enabling the profitable growth of the Mapping and GIS Solutions division. This contrasts with the many diverse objectives of the previous company business model. So, I think Intergraph is on the right track and focused for success.

  • Intergraph has had a long presence in India. What do you think has been the biggest accomplishment of Intergraph in India?

    Intergraph has enjoyed an excellent partnership with Rolta as our exclusive distributor in India since 1988. I really see two large accomplishments that have occurred because of this relationship.

    From a business perspective, Intergraph technology is the dominant force in the Indian market for all mapping applications. This can be seen in the end-to-end solutions provided to many government agencies in India. These solutions support everything in the workflow from photogrammetry, map scanning, and map maintenance to analysis and high-end cartography.

    The second largest accomplishment has been in the area of education of the populace. In the beginning, users in India had to be sold and educated on the concepts and benefits of using mapping and GIS technology. Intergraph and Rolta are responsible for a significant portion of the growth and early adoption of mapping and GIS technology within the Indian subcontinent.

  • What trends do you foresee in the geospatial markets in the coming years?

    There is a convergence of technology occurring between geospatial technology and mobile communications. Infrastructure-focused organisations that use geospatial asset and workforce information to support their operations are a good example.

    In December 2000, we formed a new global division, IntelliWhere, giving us a focused, go-to-market presence in wireless and location-based services. We are targeting business-to-business types of services for enterprise solutions, system integrators, and mobile operators rather than catering only to the consumer marketplace.

    Our IntelliWhere Genie solutions enable the customer to combine wireless messaging, mobile Internet, and full Web-based technologies with location-based services to deliver and receive intelligent information related to a particular service location. This includes real-time asset information directly accessible on your wireless apparatus of choice, from the field, or wherever you are. The utility or communications industries are prime candidates for IntelliWhere Genie since there is a fair amount of work conducted in the field using data from corporate information systems.

    Vendors offering software, hardware, and network solutions are announcing daily their entrance into this market space. We think the IntelliWhere Genie solutions will be successful because of two key differentiators: data format independence and device independence. IntelliWhere Genie inherits the data format independence from GeoMedia with the ability to integrate data from many existing map databases and geographic information systems in real time. The benefit of not having to translate data into a new format goes beyond cost savings because the data remains live in real time – not simply an old translated copy. You have device independence, too – the choice is yours. IntelliWhere also takes advantage of the Intergraph global network and resources to provide services closest to the customer.

  • What do you think will be the impact of high-resolution satellite imagery on the use of GIS by the industry?

    The availability of affordable, high-resolution satellite imagery will definitely increase the penetration of mapping and GIS technology around the world. With this capability, you no longer need to be a large organization who can afford the sizable investment of technology to help in creating and maintaining map databases. There will be more commercial organisations in the data business. This means some of the smaller organisations can begin to take advantage of different applications for mapping and GIS. The keyword is APPLICATIONS. It is difficult for me to think of any data that is not geo-referenced. Everything happens somewhere. Now, the availability of geo-referenced data means more business and decision support applications can be deployed to take advantage of it.

  • What according to you is the most important factor in bringing GIS into the mainstream of Information Technology?

    In my opinion, we have not yet reached the full potential that GIS offers in areas such as integration with mainstream business applications. In the past, GIS has been an isolated technology island and a barrier to data sharing. But this is changing.

    Intergraph continues to lead the movement that is taking GIS into the IT mainstream. Openness is the key link. We support open industry standards for GIS technology and have removed a lot of the barriers that once stood in the way of expansive use of geospatial information. We have accomplished this with our GeoMedia technology, enabling people to integrate nonspatial information with geospatial data, to access and view disparate databases, and to use standard database systems to store geospatial information. Data management is also important in this process. We rely on data management rules being owned by standard database software and we work to add functionality on top of these rules for our customer’s special needs.

    With these transformations in technology, GIS has truly become an enterprise information solution. We’ve enabled a broad base of users within an organisation to have access to geospatial information, making it easier to use and more cost-effective for them to access it.

    Ultimately, our customers want to be reassured that the investment they’re making today is “future-proofed” enough that there is a road map for the technology to go forward and take advantage of evolutionary and revolutionary IT advancements. I think that we have created such a platform with GeoMedia. We see that as a significant Intergraph difference in the market today.

  • What are the market opportunities and challenges for Intergraph GIS & Mapping products in Asia Pacific region?

    Intergraph Mapping and GIS Solutions provides products and services to the entire Asian region either through our wholly-owned subsidiaries in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong or through our distributor in South Korea. Intergraph South East Asia, a central distributor headquartered in Singapore, covers the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.

    Intergraph Mapping and GIS Solutions anticipates significant and continued growth in this region. Traditionally, our business in this region has been strong due to the population size and growth rates. Business is also generated from the large-scale development in infrastructure, which is driven by population and growth. Due to the differences in infrastructure development that exist across the Asian region as a whole, our focus is dependent on the level of development in each country. Overall, our areas of major focus include environmental management, infrastructure planning and management, cadastral systems, and new initiatives in the mobile commerce and location-based services arena.

  • Are there any educational software packages, which are available from Intergraph for students, academicians and researchers?

    Launched in 1999, our “Power to Learn” programme has been very successful. This programme brings GIS technology into the classroom – primary, secondary, and higher education (K-16+) – and teaches students the value of GIS by relating it to the theory they are taught and the practical applications that reinforce the learning process.

    Using a GeoMedia GIS Starter Kit, an instructor can enhance the traditional classroom environment by introducing technology tools that make learning fun. The technology tools are tailored for all ages and can be used by instructors, no matter what technical background they have. To date, we have delivered more than 6000 GeoMedia GIS Starter Kits to schools and universities around the world. Schools in just about every country in Asia Pacific have received copies of the kit. This kit is in use today in a number of programmes as a learning resource – similar to a textbook. This includes several academic institutions in India.

    Our approach is not to teach students to push buttons, rather Intergraph encourages teachers and students to use the GeoMedia GIS Starter Kit to reinforce lessons learned in the classroom. We believe it is more critical for students to develop higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills.

    Developing better decision-makers is a goal of our Intergraph Program for Schools. I believe this is a very different strategy from our competition, which focuses on specific technology and tools. I also firmly believe that it’s the right one for the industry – the future decision-makers and workers of this world.

    I encourage anyone from academia – professor, researcher, or student – who is reading this to contact Intergraph for their free GeoMedia GIS Starter Kit. It can easily be ordered from our Web site at www.intergraph.com/schools or by sending an email to [email protected] We also offer a wide range of solutions for schools, faculty, and students. This information is also listed at the Web site.