Not just another pretty map

Earthmine, presenting at Demofall last week in San Diego, just seemed, at first, to be a rip-off of Google StreetView, ho-hum. But there turned out to be a lot behind those pictures of a San Francisco street. In fact, company senior vice president Kris Kelsay told me later, the pictures are really just an overlay, the user interface to a powerful geospacial database.

In the demonstration, a few mouse clicks outlined a building and the software instantly brought up calculations of the buildingâ''s volume; useful, perhaps, in calculating material volume for teardowns, or, perhaps, scaffolding needs for a renovation. The company also expects customers to include insurance and real estate companies. The software can tag the map to note the exact location of manhole covers; this is not exciting to me, for the average user, itâ''s probably more fun zooming in your neighborâ''s window on Google StreetView, but to city planners and others who have to deal with the city infrastructure, this info is really useful.

Earthmine does a drive-by, using GPS locators and a bank of high resolution SLR cameras, to gather the data; a city the size of San Francisco takes the company three weeks to map. That data can be manipulated or exported to other applications.

But Earthmine is easier to understand when youâ''re looking at it. So Iâ''ll tell you more about the technology while you watch this minute or so of video.

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