This week, TerraGo Technologies announced that it has entered into a strategic agreement with In-Q-Tel – an independent venture capital fund tasked with identifying new technologies for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the larger intelligence community (IC) – to spark the development of new mapping solutions needed by such IC leaders as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
For several years now, many government agencies (including the US Army Corps of Engineers, USACE), have relied on TerraGo’s innovative GeoPDF proprietary data-sharing format to exchange geospatial data between users of varying skills levels – from engineers on the scene of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina to soldiers in the field who can use Adobe Reader to manipulate maps. The agreement between TerraGo and In-Q-Tel is expected to advance the development of GeoPDF and related technologies to meet the operational demands of these organizations, as they continue tackling such challenges as the Global War on Terror and emergency response for major natural and manmade disasters.
Since its first MAP2PDF for Adobe Acrobat product was introduced seven years ago, TerraGo has evolved the technology that allows for the creation and sharing of digital map display files in a user-friendly format. Today’s GeoPDF format allows users to convert raster and proprietary CAD and GIS mapping and database information to text-searchable, georeferenced PDF files. It also allows for the creation of both georegistered and GIS database-embedded PDF files – hence the term GeoPDF.
With GeoPDF, users can send complex, georegistered maps as PDF files with layers and embedded feature attributes. A GeoPDF can be distributed and used in connected or disconnected modes with the free Adobe Reader and GeoPDF Toolbar software. Users can view finished digital maps, turn layers on and off, query attributes, display coordinates, measure distances, and track locations via GPS . . . all without the need for specialized geospatial knowledge or training.
For an example of how USACE is using the GeoPDF file format, we can look to the corps’ Topographic Engineering Center (TEC). Currently, TEC is creating unclassified/for official use only digital map displays for regions of the world where the Global War on Terror is being fought. TEC has created DVDs for five countries in support of the war, and it has distributed these DVDs to the military. The project has included taking all of the NGA standard map sheets of Korea, having them scanned and converted to GeoPDFs, and packaging them with an index sheet. By the end of the year, TEC anticipates having created 30-plus country DVDs that consist of all NGA standard products in raster GeoPDF format. The center is also awaiting NGA’s delivery of vector-based GeoPDFs for inclusion in the country DVDs.
It’s abundantly evident that TEC and NGA have bought into the GeoPDF concept in a big way. Whether TerraGo will be the only GeoPDF name in town remains to be seen, but I think it’s inevitable that the technology itself is here to stay, in both the private and the public sector. In the intelligence community, GeoPDF is clearly a smart way to share geospatial information quickly and easily, especially when the nation’s welfare – and American lives – might be on the line.
Editor’s Note: Eric Gakstatter, a GPS/GIS consultant with Discovery Management Group LLC, and Ray Caputo, a geographer with the US Army Corps of Engineers Topographic Engineering Center, contributed to this editorial.