Archive for the ‘Google Earth’ Category

Google Earth… in your browser… on your Mac! (Google)

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

[Editor’s note: Google Earth web browser plugin finally arrives for Mac, too. See related article about Google Maps for Flash AS3 now working for AIR.]

Republished from Google Geo Developers Blog.

A long time ago, at a conference not too far away, Google launched the Google Earth Browser Plugin, with the Google Earth API. At the time, we promised that we would bring it to the Mac, and now we have.

Today, we’re excited to announce the release of the Google Earth Browser Plugin for Mac OS X 10.4+ (PowerPC and Intel). The Mac plugin is supported on Safari 3.1+ and Firefox 3.0+. The download link should now be available to all users from any Earth API-powered site. We also released a game, Puzzler, in honor of the new Mac plugin. It is, of course, playable on a PC as well. And as usual, it’s open source, so you’re free to adopt the code.

In addition to the Mac release, we’ve also upgraded the Windows version of the plugin. See the release notes for more details.

Google Earth helps yet worries government (USA Today)

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

[Editor’s note: I was able to attend the reception for GeoEye-1 at the fabulous Newseum last week in Washington, DC. The imagery from this new satellite is truly awesome. Look for it soon in The Washington Post, and in Google Earth.]

Republished from USA Today, Nov. 6, 2008. By Peter Eisler.

WASHINGTON — The secretive National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is rushing to get the latest, high-definition satellite photos of Afghanistan into the hands of U.S. ground troops as they ramp up operations in the country’s tangled terrain.

The NGA analysts aren’t tapping the government’s huge network of highly classified spy satellites; they’re getting the pictures from commercial vendors. That’s the same stuff pretty much anyone can get, either through free, online programs, such as Google Earth, or by buying it from the same companies supplying Uncle Sam.

It’s a remarkable turn, given the warnings that security experts in the USA and worldwide raised a few years ago about giving the entire planet — terrorists and rogue states included — access to high-resolution satellite photos once available only to superpowers.

Last month, the most powerful commercial satellite in history sent its first pictures back to Earth, and another with similar capabilities is set for launch in mid-2009. The imagery provided by those and other commercial satellites has transformed global security in fundamental ways, forcing even the most powerful nations to hide facilities and activities that are visible not only to rival nations, but even to their own citizens.

Although no one disputes that commercial imagery poses threats, it has been embraced in ways few predicted.

“It’s created a lot of opportunities to do things we couldn’t do with (classified) imagery,” says Jack Hild, a deputy director at NGA, which provides imagery and mapping for defense and homeland security operations.

Pictures from government satellites are better than commercial photos, but how much better is a secret. Only people with security clearances generally are allowed to see them. Using commercial products, intelligence agencies can provide imagery for combat troops, which wasn’t possible before because of the risk of it reaching enemy hands and even international coalition partners.

Federal agencies use commercial imagery to guide emergency response and inform the public during natural disasters, such as this year’s Hurricane Ike. It’s also used by government scientists to monitor glacial melting and drought effects in the Farm Belt.

When commercial satellite photos first hit the market, “the gut reaction was, ‘We can’t allow this imagery to be out there because someone might do us harm with it,’ ” Hild says. “Are there still bad things that people can do with commercial imagery? Absolutely … but we think the benefits far outweigh the risks.”

Other nations share the sentiment. U.S. and foreign government contracts provide critical income for commercial imagery companies, such as Digital Globe and GeoEye — both of which supply photos for Google Earth.

“Most of our revenue (is) from governments,” says Mark Brender, vice president of GeoEye, which got half its 2007 revenue from the U.S. government and 35% from foreign governments. “They have a core competency in understanding how to use this technology — and a national security imperative to do so.”

In August 2006, the Islamic Army in Iraq circulated an instructional video on how to aim rockets at U.S. military sites using Google Earth.

Posted on a jihadist website, the video showed a computer using the program to zoom in for close-up views of buildings at Iraq’s Rasheed Airport, according to an unclassified U.S. intelligence report obtained by USA TODAY. The segment ended with the caption, “Islamic Army in Iraq/The Military Engineering Unit — Preparations for Rocket Attack.”

The video appeared to fulfill the dire predictions raised by security experts in the USA and across the globe when Google began offering free Internet access to worldwide satellite imagery in 2005. Officials in countries as diverse as Australia, India, Israel and the Netherlands complained publicly that it would be a boon to terrorists and hostile states, especially since the pictures often provide a site’s map coordinates.

Indeed, some terrorist attacks have been planned with the help of Google Earth, including an event in 2006 in which terrorists used car bombs in an unsuccessful effort to destroy oil facilities in Yemen, according to Yemeni press reports. Images from Google Earth and other commercial sources have been found in safe houses used by al-Qaeda and other terror groups, according to the Pentagon.

Many security experts say commercial imagery does little to enhance the capabilities of such organizations.

“You can get the same (scouting) information just by walking around” with a map and a GPS device, says John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a research organization specializing in defense and intelligence policy. The imagery “may give someone precise coordinates (for a target), but they need precise weapons … and their ability to target discrete parts of a particular site is pretty limited. People who think this gives you magical powers watch too many Tom Clancy movies.”

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Earthscape Digital Globe app for iPhone (Churchill Nav)

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008
[Editor’s note: At $10 this app seems a bit pricey for basic digital earth viewer ala Google Earth but the YouTube video is nifty and demonstrates the wikipedia geotags and the app is sure to wow your friends. The comments in iTunes App Store say the quality is fuzzy zoomed into local areas. I have yet to try this app myself.

Republished from the app’s promotional website. Get app via iTunes.

Earthscape Basic is the world’s first virtual globe application for mobile devices — available now for the iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPod Touch.

Screenshots:

Our planet isn’t flat — from the breathtaking mountain ranges of America’s Glacier National Park, to Australia’s great barrier reef; from the Death Valley desert to meteor impact craters around the globe, Earthscape presents our planet as it was meant to be seen — in full 3D

With hundreds of thousands of geotagged wikipedia articles, you can learn about the geological forces that shaped our world, historic events that changed civilization, and monuments we have built in our quest to understand the universe we live in. Or perhaps you are more interested in finding out exactly where the Hollywood sign is, or where the Coliseum in Rome is located — it’s all there. If you like Google Earth on your desktop, you will love Earthscape in your palm.

FAQ:
See our Earthscape Basic support page

Watch the video:

(YouTube)

GPS Kit – New software app for iPhone 3G (Kelso)

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

 

Garafa published GPS Kit for the iPhone 3G on August 14th for $10. YouTube demonstration above from Garafa. I’ve spent the weekend experimenting with the app and the accuracy seems comparable to RunKeeper and iTrail which I reviewed last week. However, GPS Kit has better features, though by the time you read this iTrail will have nearly caught up. GPS Kit meets 10 of my 22 criteria for GPS on the iPhone, the same as iTrail but with GPS Kit having a higher price point but with slightly nicer package. 

The three main functions of GPS Kit are:

  • Dashboard
    • See real time information like latitude, longitude, speed, altitude, heading (cardinal direction, degree), and distance
    • User modifiable statistics (including averages) and units
  • Tracks
    • Intelligent data collection intervals: If you move fast, more points, if slow less points.
    • Save your route
    • View on iPhone in app
    • Share with anyone via email in Google Earth (KML) or Google Maps
  • Waypoints
    • Save points of interest 
    • See how far you are from each waypoint. 
    • View on iPhone in app
    • Share with anyone via email in Google Earth (KML) or Google Maps

Features I wish GPS Kit had:

  • Tracks
    • Better way to see live-GPS route tracking (now a several step process)
    • Resume dialog on restart of app after taking call or other interruption ala Distance Meter
    • Screen lock while recording tracks ala iTrail
    • View on live Google map (now just blank screen?) with both satellite, hybrid, and map tiles
    • Save with KML the stats that are currently displayed on screen for that segment of track
    • In KML record GPS accuracy (eg: accurate to 10m, 310m).
    • KML that does not have 3 nodes at each data point
    • Provide altitude readjustment by matching lat/long against SRTM elevations
    • Import tracks via KML or GPX
  • Waypoints
    • View on live Google map (now just blank screen?) with both satellite, hybrid, and map tiles
    • Set custom icon with preset of common icons
    • Import waypoints via KML or GPX
    • Attach photos to location (location is created on capture of photo)
    • See photo waypoints on the map as icons (multiple, not just active photo waypoint)
    • Click on the photo icon in map view get a big view of the photo and edit text description
    • Attach a longer text description to each location, not just the name

Screenshots of GPS Kit:

Other applications on the App Store that provide portions of similar functionality and their prices:

  • iTrail @ $3- in app map of route, plotting of statistics; has a screen lock while recording. Export to GPX and KML. No waypoint support (coming in version 1.3). Read my review.
  • RunKeeper @ $10- Geared more towards fitness activities with stats like “pace”. Needs to upload data to web service (free) to see route on map. Read my review.
  • GPS Tracker @ free – real-time tracking service including lat, long, altitude, speed, heading, and accuracy. Can export to CVS and KML. Requires web service to record and see on map.
  • gSpot @ $2 –  no privacy concerns (not published online for anyone to see as you move with the app on): lat, long, altitude, speed, heading, and accuracy. Can share waypoints via email. Can display waypoints in the iPhone’s mapping application. 
  • PathTracker @ $1 – real time map showing route/track; distance, time, average speed, current location and altitude; save your path and export in GPX and KML. Available in many different languages including Chinese, French, and Spanish.
  • gps Compass @ $2 – real time stats that are user modifiable; multiple languages including German and Japanese. No map.
  • Speedster GPS @ $1 – speed and altitude in real time with history of pervious data points. No map.
  • Distance Meter @ $3- distance, speed, and pace tracker. No map. Altitude and XY shown for current location only.
  • Geopher Lite @ $2 – distance and heading to waypoint. No map. Ability to turn GPS off in certain functions to save battery. 
  • OverHere @ $1 – email waypoint (current location). No map.
  • Altitude @ $1 – altitude with accuracy (but is it Z accuracy or XY accuracy?). No map.
  • Speed @ free – real time speedometer. No map.

All of these applications require an iPhone 3G with GPS for best performance. 

References: 

iPhone Chat.org and iPhoneFreakz.com.

Panorama, Peak Identification And Viewsheds In Google Earth (Free Geography Tools)

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

free geo tools logo[Editor’s note: This is the website for the “Hey, What’s That” tool featured in the Where iPod app reviewed in this blog last week.]

Reprinted from Free Geography Tools blog (posted there March 14, 2007).

OgleEarth posts about Hey, What’s That?, a website that lets you enter a location and then gives you:

  • A panorama of what’s visible from that location, marking the position of peak geographic landmarks
  • A list of the peaks, and the ability to show their position relative to your location on Google Maps
  • Terrain profiles (elevation versus distance from the location to any point on the map)
  • A plot all the areas visible from that location in red on Google Maps (aka the “viewshed” or “weapons fan”)
  • Contour lines (zoom in for these)
  • Google Earth export of position, viewshed, horizon line and horizon extent. If the viewshed area is large, this might strain the memory capacity of lesser systems.

It uses 30-meter SRTM version 1 data for its calculations, so there may be some quirks depending on whether there are holes in the SRTM coverage for your area. They’re switching over to SRTM version 2 soon, which is better but still not perfect. It only works in the US right now, but according to OgleEarth, they hope to expand coverage worldwide. A cool site! Check the OgleEarth posting for more info.

Our city in 3D (Google Lat-Long Blog)

Friday, July 18th, 2008

 [Editor's note: Local interest to DC but promising in sharing of public GIS data.]

Reprinted from the Google Lat-Long Blog. Published: July 16, 2008

The District of Columbia government has submitted more than 84,000 3D models to Google Earth via the Cities in 3D program. But why would a city, let alone one that is known as a horizontal city because of a strictly enforced height limit, be so eager to participate? Here’s a glimpse into our thinking in the District’s GIS department.

1. It is the right thing to do. Fundamentally, the District Government believes that data created with public funds should be available to the public. Making this data now available via Google Earth is an important step in making our data truly accessible to the public at large.

2. Because every neighborhood can benefit from 3D. Instead of modeling just a select few landmarks in exquisite detail, we wanted to model every building in every neighborhood. Economic development was a primary driver behind development of the dataset. The buildings provide the context in which to plan and debate proposed new developments. Despite our aforementioned reputation as a horizontal city, we are also a city of spires, penthouses and domes, as you can now see. As public sector mappers, we put the entire city on Google Earth, not just downtown, because every neighborhood needs planning and development. We hope that the private sector will follow suit and create rich 3D models of proposed developments as KML downloads in the future.

3. We get better 3D performance from the cloud and we don’t pay for it. Some GIS users in the DC government, have made excellent use of the data, but with the city’s current technology, the 3D data had to be used locally on high-end desktops. Frankly, the District did not have the technical capabilities for distributing nearly 100,000 3D building across the enterprise. With the data now hosted on Google Earth 4.3, we expect DC Government users to turn to Google Earth just like the public. And using the same tools as our citizens is another powerful way to connect with them and ensure the quality of their experience.

4. We want to communicate with our residents. It is important to us that citizens, particularly DC taxpayers, understand what we do. We posted the “coolest” data set DC GIS has, because now that we have your attention we want to show you all of the other stuff we do. As part of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s drive for transparency, the DC government now makes more than 200 geospatial data sets publically available. So admire the thousands of 3D buildings, but also extend your virtual tour. You can add these datasets as layers on Google Earth, and view things like wards, trails, parks, museums, building permits, fire hydrants, zoning and even things the city isn’t proud of, like calls for rodent abatement.

Way to go? Mapping looks to be the web’s next big thing (Financial Times)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Reprinted from the Financial Times. By Richard Waters in San Francisco. Published: May 21 2008.

When European regulators last week cleared the €2.9bn ($4.5bn, £2.3bn) purchase of TeleAtlas, a digital mapping company, by TomTom, the maker of navigation devices, they were giving a nudge along to one of the hottest business fads on the internet.

Approval for that deal makes it almost certain that a bigger transaction will also get the nod: Nokia’s proposed $8.1bn purchase of Navteq, the largest acquisition undertaken by the mobile handset maker.

Navteq’s database of maps covers more than 70 countries. Yet as a source for the next world-changing online idea, digital maps might appear a distinctly unpromising place to start. These basic graphical representations of the world seem a rather humdrum commodity, hardly a key to unlocking the riches of the internet.

That is not how it appears to Nokia. Anssi Vanjoki, a senior executive of the Finnish company, recently summed up the reason for its acquisition: “We can locate our experiences, our history, on the map. It’s a very concrete expression of a context.” Displayed on the bigger, higher-resolution screens that are becoming more common on mobile handsets, maps can become “a user interface to many things”.

This is turning into a prevailing view in the internet industry – partly because mapping does not stop at simple two-dimensional representations. Mike Liebhold, a veteran technologist who is now a fellow at Silicon Valley’s Institute for the Future, calls it a “3D data arms race”, with some of the biggest technology companies rushing to amass vast libraries of information describing the world in painstaking detail.

Erik Jorgensen, a senior executive in Microsoft’s online operations, says the software company is building a “digital representation of the globe to a high degree of accuracy” that will bring about “a change in how you think about the internet”. He adds: “We’re very much betting on a paradigm shift. We believe it will be a way that people can socialise, shop and share information.”

The bet, in short, is that the map is about to become the interface to many of the things people do on the internet – and that the company that controls this interface could one day own something as prevalent and powerful as Google’s simple search box. This proposition takes on added power when applied to the mobile world. Displayed on location-aware handsets, digital maps can be used to order information around the user. The information that matters most is information about things that are closest.

That explains why a car navigation company and a maker of mobile phones are leading the charge. A collision with established internet powers such as Google, which has itself identified the mobile internet as its next big money-making opportunity, is inevitable.

Reordering the internet around this new geographic interface is a project that has been under way for some time. It starts with what engineers at Google call the “base canvas” – a detailed digital representation of the physical world on to which other information can be “hung”. Thanks to the plunging costs of technologies such as digital imaging and geolocation equipment, the world is being mapped, measured, plotted and photographed in almost unimaginable detail.

At one end of the spectrum are people like Steve Coast, a British amateur who is hoping to create a communal map of the world as comprehensive as Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Volunteers who contribute to Mr Coast’s OpenStreetMap.org literally redraw the map. “You buy a GPS [global positioning system] unit and cycle around the roads,” he says. “It drops a data point every second, like Hansel and Gretel dropping breadcrumbs.” Collecting those data points and joining the dots is the first step in sketching a map of the road network.

At the other extreme are the likes of Google, which is approaching the task with its usual unbounded ambition. “Our goal is to make a kind of mirror world, a replica world,” declares John Hanke, head of its Google Earth unit. Many of these data are being gathered through painstaking methods and put into private databases. For instance, Navteq and TeleAtlas each use their own fleets of vehicles to collect a mass of street-level information useful to motorists but not shown on official maps – covering everything from speed limits and one-way streets to big construction projects.

These are not the only trucks and vans crawling the kerbsides of cities to suck up information. Google is there too. “Every five feet or so, we’re capturing a 360-degree image that is many megapixels,” says Mr Hanke. Those pictures add a detailed street-level view. Microsoft, not to be outdone, has taken to the air. It has gone as far as designing and building specialised cameras, flying them around to collect three-dimensional images using a technology called Lidar, a variant of radar.

This is about more than mapping and photographing the planet. It also involves modelling it, collecting enough geographic and spatial data points to be able to render a detailed digital version. With a service called Sketch-up, for instance, Google lets users draw their own digital models of real-world buildings and add them to its 3D “warehouse”.

These are expensive undertakings and are based on an untested proposition: that the resulting digital representations will form the new backdrop for a whole range of money-making online activities. Also, with several companies all racing to create what are essentially the same basic geo-spatial frameworks, the costs have been multiplied across a number of rivals.

Yet it is not hard to see how these companies justify the costs to themselves: gross profit margins on internet search are above 80 per cent and, for any company that can generate scale, these development costs are likely to pale by comparison. In addition, as the acquisitions of TeleAtlas and Navteq show, companies that have created parts of what could become the web’s next compelling interface already command high values.

(more…)

KML: Now An Open OGC Standard For Sharing GeoData

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

(Reprinted from Google’s Lat-Long Blog, view here)

Google Earth and other similar tools have done much to bring mapping into the digital age. Nowadays we all take for granted that you can easily go online and map search results for pizza in your zip code or zoom into satellite imagery of a small town on the other side of the world.

However, the internet is about much more than just searching and viewing information. It’s also about publishing. It wouldn’t be what it is today without blogs, wikis, social networking sites, and other forms of user-generated content. The web is what makes all of this possible, and HTML is what makes the web possible — a standard format that enables any web browser to view any web page. HTML’s standardization was a very powerful thing. Rather than being locked up in a proprietary format, or only viewable using one specific vendor’s product, web pages can be viewed and shared without encumbrance, for free.

This brings me to today’s wonderful news: KML is now an international standard!

Continue reading at Google.com . . .

Getting from Google Earth KML to Google Maps Javascript markup

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

It irks me to no end you have to have the Pro version of Google Earth to import Shapefiles. This is useful if you want to turn shapefiles into KML and pass them around, use them as an overlay on a plain vanilla Google map, etc. But why can’t I just save out marker points and polygons into the Google Maps javascript markup?

This PHP script helps with converting kml POLYGONS to google maps polygons. It needs some tweeking to adapt to PLACEMARKS, which I’m more interested in.

Script source from the google-maps-api Google Group originally seen here:

<?php

$kmlfile = 'http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&output=kml&msid=109250181535574469723.00043cb961e5234cea628';

$xml = simplexml_load_file($kmlfile) or die("url not loading");

echo "var states = { <br/>";
foreach($xml->Document->Placemark as $placemark) {
  $name = $placemark->name;
  echo "'" . $name . "' : [";
  $coords = $placemark->Polygon->outerBoundaryIs->LinearRing->coordinates;
  $coordsArray = split("\n", $coords);
  for ($i = 0; $i < count($coordsArray); $i++) {
    $latlngArray = split(",", $coordsArray[$i]);
      if (count($latlngArray) == 3) {
      $lat = $latlngArray[1];
      $lng = $latlngArray[0];
      echo "new GLatLng(" . $lat . "," . $lng . ")";
      if ($i != count($coordsArray) -2) echo ", ";
    }
  }
  echo "],<br/>";
}
echo "}";
?>

Sample results here which are used by this HTML page to draw the polygons using this function (below):

function initialize() {
   if (GBrowserIsCompatible()) {
     map = new GMap2(document.getElementById("map_canvas"), {draggableCursor: 'crosshair'});
     map.setCenter(new GLatLng(42, -99), 3);
     map.addControl(new GSmallMapControl());
     for (stateCode in stateBorders) {
       var polygon = createPoly(stateCode);
       map.addOverlay(polygon);
     }
  }
}

So still not there, but closer.

2008 Mountain Cartography Confernce in Switzerland Approaches

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

 The 6th ICA Mountain Cartography Workshop is approaching  (11 – 15 February 2008) and I just sent in my abstract (see below). This year’s conference will be in Lenk, Switzerland and will focus on Mountain Mapping and Visualisation.

Mountain Cartography Conference

TITLE
Building Smart Interactive Maps: Enabling Map Projections in Adobe Flash

KEYWORDS
Flash, Projection, Mashup, KML, Interactive

ABSTRACT
Adobe Flash allows cartographers the opportunity to build interactive graphics with rich user experiences. However, there are few cartographic tools available for Flash. Most are limited to merely integrating Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, and Microsoft Virtual Earth services into the Flash display. What if you have created your own map with a custom graphic style and a more appropriate, non-Mercator projection? This presentation demonstrates several working examples that read data from external files and then plot features onto world, continent, and country level maps. Choropleth map shading is also supported with several classification options. Using a generalized component tool, maps can quickly be “registered” in Flash by setting several control points and providing projection parameters. More than 10 common projections are supported, including several interrupted forms. Map users are able to interact with the map by reading specific feature names, descriptions, and even data values. Flash’s ability to spatially enable your maps and its many graphic tools allowing interface customization give it a real advantage over generic online services.