SketchUp models in 3DVIA Scenes

Cliff Medling is my counterpart over at Dassault Systèmes; he’s the Evangelist for 3DVIA. Since we’re both in the business of spreading the word about the power and glory of 3D modeling (regardless of which tool you choose), we figured it would be productive to work together from time to time.

The first fruit of this collaboration is a video that Cliff made specifically for SketchUp modelers. It shows how to use 3DVIA Scenes to explore an imported SketchUp model by walking around inside it. The killer app (in my opinion) is a feature that lets multiple people explore the same model simultaneously as avatars. SketchUp’s Walk Tool offers a similar, first-person experience, but having the model online and accessible to anyone with a web connection is enormously powerful.

Two things: Cliff tells me that Mac compatibility for 3DVIA Scenes is on its way. Also, the clever folks over at Dassault have built an iOS app (for Apple mobile devices) that lets you view and interact with models you’ve uploaded to Since COLLADA (.dae) is one of the formats they accept, you can use these apps to view SketchUp models, too. 3D everywhere!

Video Demonstration: Illinois Public Health Map

We’re very happy to be able to show-off our collaboration with the Illinois Department of Public Health and IPRO. This map makes information about the quality of health in communities available to the public, highlighting socioeconomic disparities that may exist. When combined with our indiemapper platform as well as linked graphs and charts, the clinical data in the map can be used to examine the health needs of a community, county or region for better policy and planning.

Above is a quick demonstration video showing the basic functionality. After watching the video, check-out the map itself.

The Eye of the Storm

We all know the cliché that in the United States the vacations are limited to christmas eve, president’s day and the fourth of July. Bosses get nervous when their staff asks for a full week off, and two weeks is generally called sebatical… You can imagine what happens after a four week vacation that ends on the day that Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in Louisiana.

It is like hitting the wall of the storm again, right after being in the quiet eye of the storm for four weeks. My mind was set to complete the new version of the Geospatial One-Stop Portal ( for which I am project manager at ESRI and to think about the next steps in this project.

Little did I know how my schedule would be affected by Hurricane Katrina that cost many lives, cost business owners their life’s work, and destroyed many local governments databases, IT infrastructures, and buildings.

Apart from the human rescue operations, many GIS volunteers went to the affected areas and helped recreate the data and maps needed by first responders using equipment and software donated by private industries from accross the United States.

Within a week the United States Geological Survey initiated a concerted and focused effort aimed at creating a comprehensive seemless database of geographic information for the affected areas. This meant collecting data from many sources, in many different formats, assessing which data was usefull for the new database, creating mapping of the individual data models to a common data model, loading this data into the new database, and making this data available to those people who needed it in the first place. Apart from this effort, data is being collected in the field by first responders, areal photography is being acquired, and satellite imagery of the area is becoming available.

The amount of data that has become available todate after Hurricane Katrina made landfall is enormous. With the initial response activities changing in to a recovery operation. The amount of reports, data, and analysis results of the effects of the hurricane and of the reconstruction of the area that will become available within the next year is mind blowing.

To find ones way in this sudden wealth of information, metadata catalogs and search capabilities on those catalogs will play a key role. Here is where portals suchs as the Geospatial One-Stop Portal can have a significant contribution. These portals act as the card catalog for a library, allowing you to browse through a description of the information rather than requiring you to walk through the entire library in search of that one book. The new generation portals such as the Geospatial One-Stop portal provides more than just a card catalog with a search interface. These new portals provide for collaboration tools that allow users and producers of geospatial information to communicate with each other about a specific topic. This collaboration can be through the sharing of working documents, listing of and linking to relevant news feeds from a variety of agencies, or by participating in chat rooms.

Directly after the storm made landfall, a community of interest was set up on the Geospatial One-Stop Portal that was populated with information as it became available. This unstructured collection of resources was useful at the time (it was all there was!). However, as the stream of avaiable data grew, and after the realization that this information channel would exist for many months, a more structured approach would be necessary. This structure was provided by metadata about the datasets, clearinghouses, and mapping applications, that was published to the Geospatial One-Stop Portal. Existing resources already available on the Geospatial One-Stop Portal was updated to include a simple keyword ‘Katrina’ (and later on ‘Rita’) to indentify resources as relevant for the response and recovery effort. The Geospatial One-Stop Portal has proven its tremendous value as a mechanism for the dissemination of key geospatial resources to users of these resources.

The hurricanes also made it clear that although we all love the magic of web services, there are situations in which the good old floppy is unbeatable. The fact that 1.4 Megabyte floppydisk, has been replaced with a 120 GB Firewire Drive aside…

Appeared in GeoInformatics Magazine ( in October 2005