GeoWorld October 2012

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Everything Old Is New Again ... but Better A WORLD OF INFORMATION the basements of large office buildings sometime during the 1980s and functioned as the "brains" of a business. It seems like a lifetime ago, and, for some, it was. Just think of the mainframe as the dinosaur of informa- tion technology. What happened next was the rise R BY PETE MCINTOSH of the affordable and powerful PC that opened the floodgates for migrating data from the centralized location of the mainframe onto the desktop— many desktops. And to the dismay of their pocket-protector wearing caretakers, the mainframe dinosaur became extinct. The PC was a more-efficient way to manage data, and it allowed more people to access and utilize information and tools to do their jobs. To put it into historical perspective, this was when our ances- tors started walking upright. And next ... well, we all know what happened next: the Internet. We could liken this to the discovery of fire. As the Internet's infrastructure developed, and the amount of data housed "there" increased, there has been a move to migrate data back to a centralized model: out "there" in the cloud. Pete McIntosh is solutions engineering manager for Exelis Visual Information Solutions, developers of ENVI image- analysis and E3De LiDAR data-analysis software; e-mail: pete.mcintosh@, Web: 12 Cloud-Based Data Access What drives the back-and-forth movement of data from one place to another is simply the demand to give people what they want, when they want it and where they need it. The cloud is all about being able to access data and functionality, anytime, anyplace and from any device. Music is the perfect example of how the cloud can completely transform an industry. With just one purchase of a song on iTunes, you can listen to it a million times, on any device—tablet, phone, iPod or laptop. GEO W ORLD / O CT O BE R 2O12 emember the mainframe? Perhaps not, but you've likely heard stories about those living, breathing behemoths that hid out in The concept is the same in the world of geospatial imagery. The data live on a host server and are accessed through a "thin client" (e.g., Web browser), but all the commands are pushed through to the server, where the calculations occur. Imagery in the Cloud There are some real advantages to employing a cloud-based model for geospatial imagery. There are enormous amounts of data in the geospatial world that already exist, and more constantly are being created. In a cloud-based model, there's an opportunity to central- ize such data and manage them from one place. There's also the opportunity to create a collabora- tive work environment where work is saved on the host server, rather than the desktop, allowing others to access and add to what already has been accom- plished, rather than duplicate efforts. And although the cost/benefit of using the cloud-delivery model for geospatial imagery is an attractive component, the overwhelming advantage is being able to deliver what people want, when they want it and where they need it most. The cloud makes imagery available to more people in less time. For example, Exelis Visual Information Solutions is developing a cloud-based product, ENVI Services Engine, designed to deliver ENVI image-analysis ser- vices. This new product should be available by early 2013 and will allow image-analysis techniques to be available to more people. The following are some scenarios of how such a service could be used. After a farmer applies for disaster assistance with the USDA, a claims agent visits the drought-stricken field to assess the situation. Before paying the claim, the agent uses cloud-hosted imagery to determine if a crop was actually planted on the field in question.

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