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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

You know how exhibitors have toys and games to attract attention to their booths at trade shows? The one at the ESRI Business GeoInfo Summit wasn’t a toy at all. It actually mapped!

The robot, Sarah, has a laser range finder, video camera, and harddrive and can be remote controlled to map an indoor environment. She’s one of the smaller units in Penobscot Bay Media’s fleet, but she was the talk of the floor. As the staff explained it to me, more an more floor plans are out of date and realtors don’t know what they are selling. Hence the need for these mapping robots. More complex siblings can carry sensors and send back real time information, often from places people would rather not venture.

I was impressed with the raw maps Sarah made of the floor. These can be enhanced by technicians who can help interpret what the objects are (to her they are just things) and add 3D visualization. Penobscot Bay uses the robots to perform service work for the
most part, serving the real estate industry.

by Adena Schutzberg on 05/03 at 10:24 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

From Eugene Oregon comes a proposal to add a new type of public transportation : the TaxiBus. It’s a minibus that acts as a taxi - picking people where they are and dropping them where they are going. Ideally it could funding with payment paralleling that of regular bus service. But, there are few differences: TaxiBuses do not have defined routes and go where people need to go by use GPS and logistics routing (the same used by Fedex, the article says). TaxiBuses are typically at capacity of 15 or so. TaxiBuses charge fares directly to credit cards, so there’s no fumbling for tokens or change.

It sounds great, but a website dedicated to the idea does not include details of where such programs are underway. Shouldn’t we have tried this idea somewhere by now?

The idea reminds me of a minibus service we had in my home town for a few years when I was in high school. These were really buses, with determined routes, that traveled the suburban community of 25,000. I took it when I was too tired to walk home from track practice, but it didn’t get enough ridership and shut down quickly.

by Adena Schutzberg on 05/03 at 07:53 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

While I respect that many companies are ready to implement integrated GIS and ERP, CRM and BI solutions, many are just trying to use GIS to achieve their business goals. I was pleased to find a session titled “Market Analsyis” which dealt with pretty straightforward GIS use in business that made a difference in the final afternoon of the ESRI Business GeoInfo Summit.

Susan Zwillinger did tips and tricks sesssion for Business Analyst. It was one of those very popular “I’m not a programmer, but here are things that you can do that can immediately boost your productivity.” I liked that a non-ESRI employee presented this topic, and to see all the folks asking for her presentation afterwards made me think this might be a great ESRI Virtual Campus Session.

Pat Wellen of the Boy Scouts of America described how that organization has evolved in its use of TAY (Total Available Youth) data to help local council recruit more Scouts. Of paticular interest to me were what the local councils learned about how to market. In one area fliers were put out in outboard motors showrooms. Turns out there’s a high overlap of potential scouting families with boaters! In another, after learning that Mom usually makes the decision to enroll boys in Scouting, they turned to advertising during soap operas. They also used GIS to present a case for foundation founding for a program to reach out to underserved youth. Wellen was confident their complete report helped them win the founding.

My favorite presentation of the whole event was from Robert Chetham from Avencia. He was standing in for his wife, Rachael Richard, who works at the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia. Turns out Avencia, a GIS consulting firm that focuses on Web mapping, has a pro bono program to help non-profits with GIS…and the theatre took it up on that to examine its subscriber, donor and single ticket buyer distribution to aid in growing all three. With some very basic mapping (and some very basic freely available data) the theatre learned about pockets of subscribers in places it didn’t expect - like Camden. It also learned, and I found this particularly interesting, that the demographics of subscribers and donors were very close, suggesting to me at least it’s possible for one to be encouraged to join the ranks of the other.

by Adena Schutzberg on 05/03 at 07:37 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

The title above is the gist of the report from Intralink but, what interested me were the queries used for evaluation (discussed in this “editorial” titled “Which Search Engine is Best?”: they are spatial!

If we’re doing a search engine optimization project for a car dealer in Chicago we need to know how many car dealers are on the first page. The short answer for most search engines is, not many. The directories of car dealers push the actual dealers to the bottom. The same is true of an insurance company in Cincinnati or a real estate agency in San Jose. So we further our research and find other terms that will add up to results and find the holes we can exploit.

Virtually every example cited was a “local” type search. (Google did get high priase there (see last paragraph.)

Why the firm used that sort of query is unclear. Maybe its because of the proliferation of local search services? Maybe its because that’s how many people are using the Web? No matter, hopefully it rekindles efforts to make the Web more spatially savvy!

by Adena Schutzberg on 05/03 at 06:52 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

It’s important to understand why MapInfo’s performance is crtical to understanding the growth in the location intelligence IT sector because, as a public company whose sole focus is on mapping and location technology, it acts as a bellwether stock for the rest of the industry. And since no other public company’s stock performance is tied directly to location technology, it is hard to compare it to, say, Autodesk or Intergraph.

So, in a conversation with Mark Cattini and Mike Hickey, CEO and COO of MapInfo respectively, I got a clearer picture of why the company’s stock price is somewhat stagnant. Cattini explained that two elements are at play: quarterly per share revenue, adjusted for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and market capitalization. While non-GAAP revenues show strong growth ($.14 per share), GAAP-adjusted performance ($.11) looks somewhat weaker. The difference in GAAP vs. non-GAAP is in stock compensation, which is a non-cash charge, essentially costs the company nearly $1 Million per quarter in adjusted revenues. The other main factor is in overall market capitalization. As a $200 million company with guidance of roughly 20% growth for the year, the stock doesn’t get much attention from investors. As Cattini explained, MapInfo is not a small company that is catching a wave or a large cap company that has steady growth. Perhaps stuck in the middle, investors may shun the stock looking for other IT sector players and as such may be missing an inflection point perhaps started by Google.

This fact should be noted by anyone connected with the industry looking for this huge uptick in industry growth. It won’t be by enterprise solution providers, like MapInfo, just yet. Investments MapInfo is making in market awareness might be slow to be recognized, notes Hickey. But the company is looking at a long term investment in marketing and sales to drive business. What is noteworthy is that they had 10% organic growth in the quarter; i.e. new business. While that may not seem like a significant number, it is to MapInfo and the three analysts who follow the stock, all of which have issued a BUY rating.

Again, regardless of what you think if its technology or solutions, it is a bellwether for the location technology business. Are other companies experiencing similar growth? Intergraph’s ISD group is laying off people; Autodesk is also experiencing organic growth to license revenue and is speaking with Autodesk a lot of that is due to mapping licenses. But for a "pure play" watch MapInfo and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the growth trends for location technology.

by Joe Francica on 05/02 at 07:07 PM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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