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Image(ry) is Everything

In March 2006 Infoterra Limited, a world leader in the provision of
geographic information products and services, celebrates its fifth
birthday. Dr Andy Wells, director of sales and marketing, looks back at
the company’s history and how the launch of GeoStore™ is transforming
the market for geospatial data.

The use of geographic information as a source of competitive
advantage has become increasingly used by both public and private
organisations over the past few years. As a result, geographic
information now affects almost every aspect of business
decision-making, from property planning and insurance through to
environmental assessment and risk management.
order to meet the demand for accurate and timely geographic
information, capable of adding immediate insight to any situation,
Infoterra launched, a unique web based service giving
businesses seamless access to highly accurate geographical data.
Offering the immediate availability of geographic information, provides aerial data across England which can be viewed,
analysed and purchased on-line. Launched in October 2005,
has been warmly welcomed by the geo-community and has been commended
for its use of uncompressed data. As the only on-line system of its
kind (to provide images that have not been compressed in storage),
images are delivered directly to the end user without having decreased
in quality due to storage or transmission techniques.
A data challenge like no other
As part of EADS Astrium, Europe’s
leading space company, Infoterra was able to draw from a 25 year
history of commercial earth observation and geospatial knowledge.
Despite this breadth of knowledge already within the group, the
challenge of storing and distributing vast amounts of aerial
photography and other geospatial data was immense. However, for many
business processes to benefit from this valuable resource, the need to
solve the technical challenges associated with storing, managing and
delivering such data required a solution. Begun in 2000, the £2m
research and development programme finally culminated in the recent
success of
With England-wide aerial photography
requiring 13 terabytes of storage, overcoming the problems of loading,
management and viewing aerial imagery, was crucial.
Infoterra invested in technologies that
would enable aerial images to be rapidly loaded and easily managed,
while still providing rapid delivery over thin bandwidths, such as the
web and mobile phones.
Utilising a technology that allows the
user to immediately receive accurate aerial images, irrespective of how
the user roams, pans or zooms, has guaranteed that the user waits the
same brief amount of time for the delivery of any image.
Europe’s largest geo-information service centre
Established 10 years ago for the management
of data from ESA satellites ERS1, ERS2 and EnviSAT, the data hosting
centre in Farnborough is the largest commercial geographical data
hosting facility in the UK with 1,500 terabytes of data available on or
near-line and an archive in excess of 7,000 terabytes.
The core of the system is a storage area
network (SAN) linked to multiple server configurations. The choice of
the SAN was made following extensive testing and optimisation using
geographical datasets. This enables multiple services to link to a
single datastore with no loss in performance, providing significant
financial benefits to our clients. The system is supported by a number
of additional services including a state-of-the-art fire suppression
system, flood detection, environmental control, four levels of building
security, a secondary external generator, two separate lines from
separate bandwidth suppliers and a nearline file restoration system
capable of replacing 10 terabytes of data in less than a day.
The latest technology is complimented by a
team of trained staff with 15 years of facilities management expertise
with geographical datasets. All are experienced in data management,
archiving, on-line update, order fulfilment, disaster recovery
processes and programme management, all skill sets required for a
successful geospatial internet service provider (G-ISP).
This centre provides the service backbone
for GeoStore, ensuring high availability, rapid and consistent
performance, high level of data quality and the use of market leading
The results speak for themselves ….
In the few months since
launched the site has already delivered hundreds of aerial images to
customers throughout the world. As the service continues to develop two
additional services will accompany GeoStore Select, the service
initially launched that allows a precise location to be identified and
displayed by using roam, pan and zoom functionality.
The two additional services include
GeoStore Explore, which offers the ability to view and analyse
geographic data through a web browser without the need to store a local
copy of the data or for GIS software. This added functionality is ideal
for rapid site investigation, including risk assessments, planning
reviews and environmental enquiries.
Now live, GeoStore Direct enables
immediate access to terabytes of data, delivered on-line through an
open standard solution to the users own geo-information system. By
immediately receiving the image, the user has instant access, without
having to use their own valuable hard disk space to save and then
insert the images required. Through an OGC WMS compliant interface,
environmental reports, property reports, and others can be instantly
enhanced with accurate geographic imagery delivered through
Infoterra now services more than a dozen
clients through this hosting centre including members of the insurance,
property, mapping, government and international community. In each case
clients have remarked on the robust nature of the technology used and
the ability of the software and staff to maintain a high delivery
capability over extended periods of use. In recent a discussion, the
European Space Agency commented that Infoterra continues to be the
leading centre of its type for product delivery and value for money.
This was recently confirmed with the award of two contracts for
development of the site extending still further its remit within the
geospatial market.
Mapping out the future
As 2005 draws to a close, this year marks
the end of an incredible three years for Infoterra, having been awarded
the UK’s largest ever hosting contract from OS in 2002, having
delivered national imagery and data licences to organisations such as
English Nature, Highways Agency and DEFRA, and having been named by IBM
as the ‘partner of Choice’ in delivering DEFRA’s IT outsourcing
implementation in 2004.
In addition to winning new contracts
around the world, Infoterra has continued to invest in new technologies
having recently purchased the ADS40 digital pan broom camera which
unlike frame cameras is able to capture a seamless strip of digital
imagery over large areas. Using a three-line stereo sensor, the camera
can simultaneously capture red-green-blue and colour infra-red imagery,
providing the rapid production of both orthophotos and surface
elevation models.
The ADS40 allows aerial photography to be
captured and delivered faster than ever before and has so far been used
to capture 1,400 square kilometres of Berkshire, producing 16 lines of
imagery that were seamlessly mosaiced into a single image within a
week. Conventional aerial data capture would have processed
approximately 1,400 individual images and would have taken
approximately six to eight weeks to complete.
The use of the ADS40 and, combines the best of technical acquisition and data dissemination.
The development of combines
the power of content created by geo experts, with software built by geo
experts, and hosted in a centre supported by experts in geo information
storage and retrieval.
For Infoterra, it is the final component
in a corporate strategy initiated in 2003 to provide a complete
end-to-end solution for those needing support from geospatial
“Irrespective of whether the customer
required 2 square kilometres of aerial photography, rapid map update of
anywhere in the world, complex database creation using Oracle or a
complete outsourcing of their geospatial need, Infoterra now offers the
whole package” said David Fox Managing Director of Infoterra Ltd. Fox
went onto comment “Any organisation can now grow its geospatial
capability in partnership with Infoterra, without the need to
continually change supply partners at each stage.”
Future plans for are
currently being finalised but early indications offer insight into the
real potential of this portal. Already further data layers are being
planned for loading and dissemination including the recently acquired
“London Heights” layer comprising a ground and building height model
with vertical accuracies better than 15cm. In addition to other UK and
global datasets, increased on-line functionality will further extend
the potential market as non-geo specialists are finally able to harness
the power of geography for their key business purposes.
With the ability to capture the latest
aerial imagery through the ADS40 and disseminate this through, Infoterra are well placed for 2006 and beyond.
About Infoterra Ltd.
Infoterra Ltd. is a world leader in the
provision of geographic information products and services. Its
portfolio of geographic information solutions includes airborne and
satellite data acquisition, geo-information creation, database
management and outsourced hosting. Infoterra provides geospatial
knowledge to companies worldwide to help them make informed decisions.
The company has clients in communications, utilities, engineering,
agriculture, defence and oil, gas & mineral exploration. Infoterra
is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS Astrium.
For more information contact
Simon Corbett ,
Edelman, +44 20 7344 1349,
Infoterra is a trademark of Infoterra Ltd.
All other trademarks and registered trademarks used herein are the
property of their respective owners.
(Credits Infoterra global)