Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ECW Support in ArcGIS 10 Desktop

With the release of ArcGIS 10, ESRI’s desktop products support ECW image files natively through GDAL. The GDAL move was part of ESRI's switch from the ERDAS Raster Data Objects (RDO) that ESRI paid ERDAS to use. It was very low cost, as ESRI has historically been a business partner, but ESRI wanted to go in another direction. (The ESRI community can expect a bumpy raster ride for a few releases.)

The GDAL version used in ArcGIS 10 uses an older version of the ERDAS ECW JPEG2000 SDK (ECW SDK), so opacity is not supported and the speed is a little slower than what will be available using the latest version of the ECW SDK, v4.1.

ERDAS is working with GDAL to upgrade GDAL to the latest version of the ECW SDK, scheduled to be complete before Feb 1, 2011. Once the GDAL work is complete, software companies using GDAL (such as ESRI) need only download the Read Only ECW SDK and build in their desktop application as defined by GDAL and according to the ECW SDK EULA for free ECW, ECWP and JPEG2000 desktop read capability.

GDAL is a SDK and the ECW SDK EULA states a SDK cannot deliver the ECW SDK with their SDK. The solution is for GDAL to build against the ECW SDK, but not deliver the ECW SDK. Then the companies using GDAL can simply download the Read Only ECW SDK from ERDAS and put GDAL and the ECW SDK in their desktop software application.

The beauty of the way the Read Only and Full ECW SDKs were put together, once the developer has done the work for ECW, the work to implement ECWP and JPEG2000 may take as few as 30 more minutes’ development time.

If a company wishes their software application to write ECW and JPEG2000 data, they can use the same GDAL approach noted above; and with a purchase of the Full ECW SDK from ERDAS, they add writing ECW and JPEG2000 data.

For ECW support in ArcGIS Server see: http://field-guide.blogspot.com/2011/04/news-release-erdas-releases-new-product.html

For streaming ECW and JP2 data via ECWP in ArcGIS desktop see: http://field-guide.blogspot.com/2011/05/esri-adding-for-ecwp-in-arcgis.html

Why ECW?
Many in the geospatial community correctly think of ECW (Enhanced Compression Wavelet) as a data format that saves disk space. A more powerful aspect of ECW, because of its fundamental mathematical breakthrough enabling fast compression, the same breakthrough provides very fast decompression as well; while only using a small amount of RAM. Whether accessing ECW on a desktop, over a LAN, or over the internet, ECW is very fast. In many cases, ECW is much faster than accessing the imagery in an uncompressed format.

What is ECWP?
Geospatial images can be hundreds or thousands of gigabytes in size. Traditional mechanisms for serving image data over the internet are inadequate when high-speed performance is required. ECWP (Enhanced Compression Wavelet Protocol) leverages the benefits of a the mathematically efficient ECW format and allows the server to stream these large geospatial images to a user's application, rather than sending a regular image ver HTTP, while only using a tiny amount of RAM. JPEG2000 can be streamed with ECWP as well, with higher performance than JPIP.

Why JPEG2000?
JPEG2000 is an ISO-certified wavelet compression image format that is commonly used for geospatial imagery. The format is defined by the Joint Photographic Experts Group. Because JPEG2000 was designed by a committee to do a great many things, it will never be as fast as ECW. Because JPEG2000 compression and decompression technology is similar to ECW, it was simple to add this capability to the ERDAS ECW JPEG2000 SDK, even supporting JPEG2000 streaming within ECWP. But, because JPEG2000 was created by a committee to a great many things, JPEG2000 is unlikely to ever be as fast as ECW.

ECW on Wikipedia

Monday, September 20, 2010

ERDAS Releases New Version of ERDAS ECW JPEG2000 SDK

As many of you know, I am also the Product Manager for the ERDAS ECW JPEG2000 SDK. I am proud of the work the SDK development team in Perth has done. Components of this released version of the SDK are being used in all ERDAS 2010 v10.1 products. There is a discussion forum for the SDK on ERDAS Communities.

The following was released to the press earlier today:

Norcross, GA — ERDAS announces the release of a new version of the ERDAS ECW JPEG2000 SDK, which enables software developers to include robust support for selected wavelet compression formats and protocols in the desktop applications they create.

The ERDAS ECW JPEG2000 SDK provides read and write support for the visually-lossless ECW and numerically-lossless JPEG2000 imagery formats, and read support for the ECWP protocol. Enhanced Compression Wavelet (ECW) is a compressed format designed specifically for geospatial imagery, which can quickly compress and decompress huge images using minimal memory. Enhanced Compression Wavelet Protocol ECWP) allows streaming of ECW images, enabling rapid delivery of terabyte-sized images over the internet using inexpensive server technology. JPEG2000 is an ISO-certified compressed image format that is commonly used for geospatial imagery.

Originally used in the ER Mapper products, this SDK has been implemented in all ERDAS software. ERDAS IMAGINE, LPS and ERDAS APOLLO use the SDK to provide support for these wavelet compression and transmission technologies. For over ten years, this industry-proven SDK has produced stable, high-quality commercial applications.

“The ERDAS ECW JPEG2000 SDK allows any software developer to quickly implement industry-proven support of the ECW and JPEG2000 formats in their desktop applications, easily increasing the value and appeal of those applications to end users. On top of that, we’ve included changes in the latest release that result in remarkable performance increases, allowing your customers to decode ECW and JPEG2000 images and stream via ECWP faster than ever before,” said Mark Sheridan, Director of Engineering at ERDAS and one of the original developers of ER Mapper and ECW technology.

Developers can use the newest SDK to implement read and write support for ECW and JPEG200 images with opacity bands, allowing images to overlay other imagery cleanly without showing compression artifacts around the edges. Also, the SDK can now store compressed blocks delivered over an ECWP stream in the client cache, so previously viewed data can be opened faster. This also reduces the server’s bandwidth requirement, since less data is transferred to the client.

The C++ API provided in the SDK includes new functions for file decoding, rendering and accessing lower-level JPEG2000 features, such as the number of quality layers to include during decoding. Additionally, the API allows developers to retrieve and set options related to opacity, fussy or resilient modes in the decoder, the configuration of J2I index files, and caching parameters.

ERDAS distributes a free version of the SDK that enables read support for ECW, JPEG2000 and ECWP on its product web site.

For more information about ERDAS or its products and services, please call +1 770 776 3400, toll free +1 877 GO ERDAS, or visit www.erdas.com.

Monday, September 13, 2010

ERDAS IMAGINE 2010 Ribbon UI: Invest one week and experiment for yourself

There have been many positive comments about the ERDAS IMAGINE 2010 Ribbon user interface (UI). There are some users who have not made the transition, saying they do not want to learn a new UI. I understand the comfortable feeling we have with an old UI. I remember not liking the move from a command prompt / menu system of the ERDAS 7.x series and the pre-ArcGIS versions to the graphical user interface (GUI) of ERDAS IMAGINE in the 1990s and of ArcGIS in the 2000s. Notwithstanding humans seeking to stay within a comfort zone of what is known, if we are not learning something new every day, are we wasting the learning skills we developed in all our years in school?

Val Clarke, a wise friend of mine and Dr. John Jensen's, told me in about 1983, "There is no growth without change." I have discovered over the subsequent 27 years, he is correct.

To help with ERDAS' customers transition (or growth), ERDAS wrote a document last year to help the transition. This document is named, "Increasing Workflow Efficiency with ERDAS IMAGINE 2010" and
can be found on the ERDAS IMAGINE Product page under the "Product Literature" tab (see: http://www.erdas.com/tabid/84/currentid/1050/default.aspx).

The move to the Ribbon design has allowed ERDAS to expose more of the power of ERDAS IMAGINE than ever before. We spend a lot of time on placement of functions, and continue to debate and improve each development iteration. If you have not spent one-week using the ERDAS IMAGINE 2010 Ribbon User Interface, you are missing out. Invest one-week and then tell me if the old UI is better than the new.

Don't take my word for it. Invest one week and experiment for yourself.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hexagon participates at Intergraph 2010 event

Today Ola Rollén, President and CEO of Hexagon AB, participates at the Intergraph Corporation's annual international users' conference in Las Vegas, USA. The event "Intergraph 2010" hosts approximately 2 000 Intergraph customers from across the world and offers previews of new Intergraph technology, presentations by industry experts and hands-on training of Intergraph technology.

In a keynote address Ola Rollén comments on the planned acquisition of Intergraph announced on 7 July 2010. He reiterates Hexagon's intentions of continuous commitment and investment in Intergraph's vision, solutions, customers and employees. Ola Rollén also confirms Hexagon's intent to support Intergraph's product roadmap and to further invest in research and development.

"It is our intention that Intergraph's solutions will become Hexagon's core software platform, providing differentiated and vertically-focused software solutions. By combining Intergraph's technologies with our global resources and technologies, Hexagon will be able to create new exciting solutions to customers going forward", says Ola Rollén.

The acquisition of Intergraph is subject to completion of regulatory process and satisfaction of customary closing conditions. Competition law notifications have been submitted to the relevant regulatory authorities and the applicable waiting periods have expired. Completion of the remaining regulatory procedures is pending. Financial consolidation is estimated to take place in the fourth quarter of 2010.

At closing, Intergraph will become a fully owned subsidiary of Hexagon AB and will operate as a separate Hexagon division under the Intergraph name and branding. Following closing, it is planned that Ola Rollén will assume the role of CEO of Intergraph in accordance with the Hexagon model for successful integration into the Hexagon Group. Following closing, the two Intergraph divisions Process, Power & Marine and Security Government & Infrastructure will continue to operate under the leadership of Gerhard Sallinger and John Graham, respectively.

For further information please contact: Sara Kraft, Corporate Communications, Hexagon AB, +46 8 601 26 23, sara.kraft@hexagon.se

Hexagon AB is a global measurement technologies company with strong market positions. Hexagon's mission is to develop and market leading technologies and services to measure in one, two or three dimensions, to position and update objects and to time processes. The group has about 7 500 employees in 39 countries and net sales of about 12 000 MSEK.

Extracted 09/01/2010 http://investors.hexagon.se/index.php?p=press&afw_lang=en

See Ola's Keynote at the Intergraph User Conference