MapInfo Professional Release 9.0

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Industry News
MapInfo Professional Release 9.0
by Susan Smith

Moshe Binyamin, senior product manager at Pitney Bowes MapInfo, talked about the new release of MapInfo Professional 9.0, which focuses on what problems customers are trying to solve with location intelligence.

Areas of focus include:
- Deployment and installation
- Data access advances
- Better visualization and easier to read maps
- Time based analysis
- Productivity

Drilling down into each of those areas, Binyamin explained them further:

Deployment and installation

MapInfo Pro is a desktop application, and Microsoft Windows VISTA is the latest desktop operating system. There are substantial installed bases of Windows XP as well as 2000. “We have chosen the highest version of VISTA, the Ultimate, and certified against it, and the certification flows through all the flavors below it.

“The major enhancement Microsoft has implemented was in access rights. Microsoft became very stringent with Microsoft VISTA on where applications can write their data and in which directories. Vendors should not take it for granted that just because your application worked on XP it will continue to work on VISTA, so we have made some changes to make sure VISTA is supported.”

Larger organizations purchase tens of thousands of seats of the product, and for them, the ability to use more advanced operating systems and deployment options becomes critical from an IT perspective. “We have enabled the support of Windows 2003 server with terminal services as well as the Citrix metaframe and technology that goes on top of the terminal services operating system,” said Binyamin. “This allows customers to install MapInfo Professional on a single server environment and it removes the need to install the product on each individual desktop. By using Citrix, they can install the software and administer it in a much easier way. That in turn reduces the cost of maintenance and management of MapInfo Professional especially for organizations that have 50 plus seats of the product.” Terminal services are in another operating system from Microsoft that goes on their 2003 server which allows a product such as MapInfo Pro to be installed in Windows 2003 and customers can connect that machine and run the application. It feels as though it’s running on your local machine when in fact it is running on the server. From the IT perspective they only have one installation to manage which is on the terminal service machine so they only have to upgrade that version.

IT can also install the product silently, which means they write a script and push the product to desktops.

Data Access Advances

Pitney Bowes MapInfo has held the view of wanting to access data where it lived -- both business as well as geographic data. In prior versions, the ability to read and write directly for Oracle Spatial, and direct read of shapefiles was added. Recently included with the product is the Universal Translator, a derivative from Safe Software that allows customers to translate data from CAD data from Autodesk or MicroStation to MapInfo TAB files and back and forth. “In this release we wanted to make that integration closer and more direct,” said Binyamin. “We’ve added a new menu item in MapInfo Pro called Open Universal Data and we’ve embedded the FME SDK which is the FME engine which allows the MapInfo Pro user to open the formats that they couldn’t translate before.” This includes direct access to ESRI formats SHP, EOO, SDE, Personal Geodatabase, and DWG, DXF or DGN files. MapInfo has also partnered with Safe in a much more integrated way and added a button on the dialog itself that says “add more formats.” This takes the customers to a specific page on the Safe Software website that is designed for MapInfo Pro. It allows the customer to expand the number of exported formats within MapInfo Pro to over 150.

You can also save a map or analysis as a GeoTiff, and save the image itself, plus encode the geographic information inside the image. Any program that supports GeoTiff files will automatically open that image and position it on the earth.

Better visualization and easier to read maps

Three capabilities in the visualization make maps easier to read in MapInfo Pro 9.0:

1) Sometimes the only way to decipher lines as roads, or other marks on maps is to label. However, labeling can get in the way of the map itself, and it can be difficult to know which label belongs to which geography. Added to MapInfo Pro 9.0 is curved labels or labels that follow the streets, so this way the association of the information is tightly coupled with the geography itself. In the past, you could rotate the label on the dominant angle of the street but it didn’t accommodate curvy streets, and didn’t create the most visually pleasing maps.

2) Homeland Security issued fonts for general consumption for different events. These fonts have standard symbology and they are now part of MapInfo Professional. These include symbologies for incidents of fire, shooting, accident, and descriptions of natural events, such as hurricane, tornado, mudslide, etc. These are symbologies that a vendor independent organization has developed. The map becomes more readable because you’re using a common way of communicating critical information.

3) Ability to create organizational specific templates. Customers often produce the analysis map, but at some point they need to produce a hard copy output they can share with others. They may need metadata information such as a legend, a scale bar, a disclaimer, a logo or title, a department, that go on a map. Dynamic templates can now be produced in MapInfo Pro 9.0 which allow you to describe or define the areas where you would want to have legend and layout and maybe some on the fly prompt text such as current data, current time, or a short description of what the map is about. When you use a template, you can drop in any maps that you’ve produced and produce professional looking output.

Time based analysis

As an emergency organization collects GPS data, they also collect location and speed, and the time they were driving that speed. “This allows the organization to analyze the average speed an emergency vehicle was traveling, as opposed to what speed they should be traveling, but also estimates response times,” Binyamin noted. “They are finding out response times dramatically vary if they respond at different times of day. In New York City, between 4 and 7 p.m. they will find areas where they are standing in traffic traveling under 30 miles per hour, when they should be traveling at 60 mph. This allows them to set parameters with both the calling party and the commissioners to say this is what’s going to happen if we get a call during this time, because it’s rush hour, and no one can’t drive faster.”

Another example is with crime. Police departments know that crimes happen in different locations at different times of day. “They’re able to collect all the crimes, the map puts a dot at everywhere a crime has occurred. If you shade an area according to crimes appearing at certain times of day, what you will see is crime tends to migrate from one location to another based on time of day,” Binyamin said. “During the day you might find crime happens most often in the downtown area – that’s where most of the population is. At night, the crime often migrates to the more industrial areas, to parks.” This allows the police department to allocate resources during the different times of day.

In the private sector different buying patterns are analyzed. What stores have always known but can now visualize is the fact that the demographics of people buying in their stores are different from those who buy after 5 p.m. As you capture buyer information such as zip code, etc., you can better understand where the shoppers are coming from.

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