Riveting hydrographic innovations set the pace for change elsewhere
From Shipcrunch_5956n by Ryan Skinner
Read this, from Peio Elissalde
of the little French geo-informatics outfit Marine GeoGarage
"[We're ushering in] a new era of nautical mapping services with the
launch of a marine charts portal built on cloud computing technology."
It's probably the first time I've seen the "cloud computing" buzzword in the marine world.
What is cloud computing
Basically, you plug into the information and services you want wherever
you have Internet access.
All those things that you used to find on
your hard drive or your company's proprietary servers?
Now they're in
the cloud - huge server clusters run by the likes of Amazon, Microsoft,
Google or IBM.
The crazy idea Marine GeoGarage had was to give
marine chart users an online account, from which they can access the
latest updated charts from a number of international hydrographic
The way Marine GeoGarage builds the chart views for users, and
how users interact with them, uses cloud computing technology.
put it best: "You don't own charts anymore, just use them and share
them anytime, anywhere you are via computer, mobile phone or any other
Internet device." Google Maps for mariners, in other words.
Meanwhile, another guy named Tim Thornton
has a complementary idea.
They want to crowdsource hydrographic data.
If you put some sensors on any commercial ship or leisure craft to
record depth and such, and gather this data based on its location, you
have the foundation for making and updating marine charts. Imagine a
hydrographic service with thousands of ships creating a firehose of new
data, instead of a couple ships with multi-beam echo sounders mowing the
proverbial oceanic lawn.
It's not too great a stretch to imagine
TeamSurv feeding hydrographic data into the cloud, with hydrographic
offices providing norms and quality certification, so suppliers like
Marine GeoGarage can package value-added services.
Yes, both companies
are initially focusing on the light marine market; that's where much of
our innovation comes from.
In fact, there's every reason to believe the
above model resembles the future.
Some chart suppliers are preparing
themselves for a future a lot like this.
What can the rest of the
industry learn from this example?
Anyone who can scale services
worldwide around a core pool of data or functions, and fashion it into a
subscription model service, for example, would be wise to explore a
cloud model. Brokers, box-ship operators, even component suppliers,
could exploit this.
What if you could log in to your vessel from any
Internet connection and pull down real-time operating data, with
comparisons to similar plants?
The core idea is turning what used
to be assets that you had to own and maintain into services you
Software's an obvious candidate.
infrastructure will follow.
For one client, we held a workshop positing
"Propulsion as a Service".
Cloud propulsion may be a bridge too far, but
it gets minds racing.
For nerds interested in the full online chat between me and Elissalde of Marine GeoGarage, just click through:
[5/28/10 3:02:37 PM] redwood.skinner: Hi
[5/28/10 3:03:37 PM] redwood.skinner: Are
[5/28/10 3:04:21 PM] Peio Elissalde: Hello
[5/28/10 3:04:33 PM] Peio Elissalde: Yes
I'm ready to discuss with you
[5/28/10 3:04:38 PM] redwood.skinner:
Right. I'll just fire away then
[5/28/10 3:05:05 PM] redwood.skinner: First
question: who is this product meant for exactly?
[5/28/10 3:05:50 PM] Peio Elissalde: At firts,
our website is dedicated to any sailor or mariner who plans to study his next
trip at sea, comfortably installed at home.
[5/28/10 3:06:18 PM] redwood.skinner: in
other words, primarily leisure craft sailors?
[5/28/10 3:06:55 PM] Peio Elissalde: Yes but
we are not racists : so any mariner is welcome
[5/28/10 3:07:40 PM] redwood.skinner: ok.
do i understand correctly that access to many charts is free, with access to
others (chart premium) at a cost?
[5/28/10 3:08:33 PM] Peio Elissalde: Yes
some Hydrographic Services (UKHO, CHS, AHS..) don't intend to display their
[5/28/10 3:09:04 PM] Peio Elissalde: So we
provide a 'private' access via some monthly subscription. The reason is because
Marine GeoGarage is required to royalty fee to display them online.
[5/28/10 3:09:19 PM] redwood.skinner: how
does the 9.9 EUR/month fee stand up to competitors' offers?
[5/28/10 3:10:01 PM] Peio Elissalde: You
mean comparatively to official WMS servers from the Hydrographic Services ?
[5/28/10 3:10:12 PM] redwood.skinner: for
[5/28/10 3:10:43 PM] Peio Elissalde: Do you
know other web services ?
[5/28/10 3:11:03 PM] redwood.skinner: no.
[5/28/10 3:11:53 PM] Peio Elissalde: That's
the reason why I haven't set this price comparatively to professional WMS
access. The purpose is not the same.
[5/28/10 3:12:47 PM] Peio Elissalde: But as
we are a pioneer in matter of nautical charts display online, difficult to
imagine what is the real price of the market.
[5/28/10 3:13:07 PM] redwood.skinner: OK. you
mentioned Cloud computing technology and then GeoGarage servers. Is the data
"in the cloud" or on your servers? Can you help me understand this?
[5/28/10 3:15:07 PM] Peio Elissalde: That's
exact there is some difference between classical client/server and Cloud
[5/28/10 3:15:58 PM] redwood.skinner: OK,
but what about your service is in the cloud, so to speak?
[5/28/10 3:17:26 PM] Peio Elissalde: The
Cloud computing part of the service provides some resources in back-end to
ensure regular processes for updating the charts. And the ressources we use are
dynamically scalable for accepting more chart data for example or future
additional web services.
[5/28/10 3:18:34 PM] redwood.skinner: So it
looks to me like you're laying HOs raster charts over a Google Earth presentation,
and then allowing some manipulation. Is that it?
[5/28/10 3:18:40 PM] Peio Elissalde: What
Marine GeoGarage changes is the concept of nautical electronic charts viewing:
you don't "own" anymore the
charts, just "use" them and share them, anytime, anywhere you are via
computer, mobile phone or any other Internet enabled personal device.
[5/28/10 3:18:56 PM] Peio Elissalde: Not
Google Earth : Google Maps
[5/28/10 3:19:21 PM] redwood.skinner:
Right. What kind of user numbers are you seeing so far?
[5/28/10 3:19:24 PM] Peio Elissalde: Google
Earth is a stand-alone application, Google maps is the application accessible
with some web browser.
[5/28/10 3:20:39 PM] Peio Elissalde: The
web has just started at the beginning of March so 3 months old.
[5/28/10 3:21:25 PM] Peio Elissalde: But
Marine GeoGarage is also the next step of our previous app :
[5/28/10 3:21:52 PM] redwood.skinner: OK.
And what kind of usership did you see from that app?
[5/28/10 3:22:07 PM] Peio Elissalde: Today
we have between 500 and 1000 users which visits the website (mainly from the US
because of the previous website)
[5/28/10 3:23:03 PM] redwood.skinner:
what's the business plan, exactly? where does GeoGarage plan to make its
[5/28/10 3:23:07 PM] Peio Elissalde: We
have not push a lot regarding communication for the marine press for the moment
because we prefer to study the increasing of the charge.
[5/28/10 3:23:44 PM] Peio Elissalde: Marine
GeoGarage uses a Freemium business model -mix of ad supported and
subscription-, offering these Web services (described above) for free while
charging a Chart Premium for accessing to certain nautical charts layers and
[5/28/10 3:24:29 PM] Peio Elissalde: The
other wy to earn money is the Mobile side : we have just released the first
iPad/iPhone application for New Zealand.
[5/28/10 3:25:22 PM] Peio Elissalde: In the
future, we plan to add other web services such as tides, hight-resolution
weather forecasts, vessel tracking...
[5/28/10 3:25:47 PM] redwood.skinner:
Interesting. So you get a little mark-up from the fee-based charts. Would you
prefer these charts go free (to increase usership) or prefer them stay on a
royalty basis so you have that revenue stream?
[5/28/10 3:26:21 PM] Peio Elissalde:
Personnally, I would prefer that all charts go to free.
[5/28/10 3:27:19 PM] Peio Elissalde: I
guess this is a way among other to struggle against nautical maps piracy
onboard, proposing up-to-date charts for the user.
[5/28/10 3:28:26 PM] redwood.skinner: how
exactly does the machinery work? i mean, you have the google maps as API
presumably, then how do you put the raster charts over them? Are you buying
licenses, then hosting on own server and presenting? Or is the machine calling
up the chart from (for example) NOAA as people access it through GeoGarage?
How's this work?
[5/28/10 3:31:10 PM] Peio Elissalde:
Actually, we have done some analysis about how Google stores and displays their
charts in Google Maps. So we are using the same process to build some
multi-resolution image pyramids (Tile Map Service)
[5/28/10 3:31:40 PM] redwood.skinner: ???
[5/28/10 3:31:42 PM] Peio Elissalde:
Actually, our tile map server is composed of a static set of tiles, each one
having a size of 256 pixels x 256 pixels. These small and regularly sized tiles
form together on a screen a partial visual representation of some area at
different levels of scale.
[5/28/10 3:33:32 PM] Peio Elissalde: Only
the tiles needed to display the area currently on the screen are transported
over the network.
The client/server communication is fast
because the system is deterministic: all the tiles have been pre-generated so
there is not any ‘on the fly’ calculation process such as in the WMS server
(Web Map Service) which returns a section of a map based on the request with
specified geographic coordinates.
All the tiles are prepared in advance for a
fixed area in fixed zoom levels, so they are immediately available (no waiting
as in the case of dynamically generated WMS requests).
[5/28/10 3:33:50 PM] Peio Elissalde: So the
tiles are pre-generated instead of per-user way (WMS case).
[5/28/10 3:34:54 PM] redwood.skinner: would
that mean that you are uploading the HO charts and updates onto your servers,
then these are presented on the Google Maps infrastructure (as you say,
[5/28/10 3:35:30 PM] Peio Elissalde: Yes
exactly in the same way.
[5/28/10 3:35:59 PM] redwood.skinner: I
guess there's no way you're going to do the same thing with vector charts?
[5/28/10 3:37:19 PM] Peio Elissalde: But
today I'm not sure Google is rendering the tiles in a pre-generation way but
certainly on the fly using cache on their big servers.
[5/28/10 3:37:38 PM] Peio Elissalde: You
mean with ENC ?
[5/28/10 3:37:45 PM] redwood.skinner: Yes.
[5/28/10 3:39:00 PM] Peio Elissalde: Yes we
have already done this with all the NOAA ENC but for technical reasons we are
obliged to render the vector charts in raster.
[5/28/10 3:39:15 PM] redwood.skinner: files
[5/28/10 3:40:16 PM] Peio Elissalde: The
problem is that thz s-52 presentation norm (used in ECDIS) is not the best way
for displaying charts on the web :
[5/28/10 3:40:40 PM] Peio Elissalde: No
this is only a problem of presentation.
[5/28/10 3:42:01 PM] redwood.skinner: OK.
New question: You have deals with NOAA, UKHO, etc. What's preventing you from
signing up with all the HOs from Oman to Croatia, Japan and Chile? Time and
trouble? Contracting? Expense?
[5/28/10 3:42:07 PM] Peio Elissalde: The
other issue is exceptly NOAA and UKHO all the other Hydrographic Services
consider that the ENC data is only for ECDIS.
[5/28/10 3:43:01 PM] Peio Elissalde: So
distributed by Primar in s-63 encryted format for registered ECS or ECDIS.
[5/28/10 3:43:20 PM] Peio Elissalde: Good
[5/28/10 3:43:44 PM] Peio Elissalde:
Actually different situations :
[5/28/10 3:44:11 PM] Peio Elissalde: - some
HS have not any georeferenced maps... So no way for us
[5/28/10 3:44:59 PM] Peio Elissalde: - some
HS service have some entrance ticket too expensive for our small business
[5/28/10 3:45:46 PM] Peio Elissalde: - some
HS service haven't study the possibility to distribute charts for web/mobile
applications. So they need to study that on a legal form and a commercial form.
[5/28/10 3:46:50 PM] Peio Elissalde: - some
Hydrographic Services have signed bilateral agreement (for example with UKHO) :
so we are waiting for their agreement to get the raster charts corresponding to
their geographical area but UKHO stamped
[5/28/10 3:47:24 PM] redwood.skinner: Have
you gotten any interest from traditional chart suppliers, who might want to buy
you and add you on to their own service portfolio? Or do they all just see you
[5/28/10 3:48:00 PM] Peio Elissalde: But we
continue to push to get more charts (Australian charts will certainly be the
[5/28/10 3:48:59 PM] Peio Elissalde: To buy
[5/28/10 3:49:57 PM] redwood.skinner: Yes,
as a home/office route planning interface, for example. I'm thinking about
industrial users here.
[5/28/10 3:50:49 PM] Peio Elissalde: No for
the moment, we try to establish some links with companies involving selling
charts on paper or CD
[5/28/10 3:51:54 PM] redwood.skinner: when
did you guys start up with this whole business?
[5/28/10 3:52:21 PM] Peio Elissalde:
Another idea (totally different) would be you use our nautical chart website
(and its growing number of users) as a marketing tool to promote their charts.
The idea would be that a 'specific seller'
layer is proposed to our users showing all your charts with a direct link to
your website for purchasing CDs and paper charts.
(such as Amazon Associates Program)
So we could organize some Affiliate program
in order we make money by advertizing 'specific seller' products :
- we advertise 'specific seller' products
on our charts portal (viewing the charts online, the user exactly knows what he
buys in CDs and paper charts from the 'specific seller')
- people follow the links to 'specific
- we earn up to xx% in referrals when our
users concretely buy their products
[5/28/10 3:53:43 PM] redwood.skinner: OK.
Like a shopping mall of sorts.
[5/28/10 3:54:55 PM] Peio Elissalde:
Actually I worked since 1986 in Electronic Marine Navigation (I started in 1986
with MaxSea), then I develop with my associate Loic (an other former member of
MaxSea) the first 3D seafloor mapping software in 1998.
[5/28/10 3:55:55 PM] Peio Elissalde:
Actually our goal is to host all the nautical charts in the world (like Google
Maps is doing for land maps and aerial/satellite imagery).
[5/28/10 3:57:05 PM] redwood.skinner: A
single source of supply for all nautical chart needs (except ENC)? Something
[5/28/10 3:57:49 PM] Peio Elissalde: Not
supply but only viewing.
[5/28/10 3:58:23 PM] Peio Elissalde: I
guess the vector data which is the future of e-navigation is also concerned.
[5/28/10 3:58:40 PM] redwood.skinner:
Right, viewing, with immediate access to the supply.
[5/28/10 3:59:12 PM] redwood.skinner: I
didn't understand the e-navigation statement. what did you mean?
[5/28/10 3:59:41 PM] Peio Elissalde: But
Hydrographic Services must change their mind concerning the availability of ENC
for web/mobile applications.
[5/28/10 4:00:27 PM] redwood.skinner: You
mean it would be good to allow viewing of ENCs AND raster charts with the full
functionality at Marine GeoGarage.
[5/28/10 4:00:57 PM] Peio Elissalde: I
refer to the tem 'a la mode' of E-navigation http://www.imo.org/safety/mainframe.asp?topic_id=1369
[5/28/10 4:01:54 PM] redwood.skinner: yes,
yes, it's a concept I'm familiar with, even if the whole thing's a bit
[5/28/10 4:02:04 PM] Peio Elissalde: Yes
both ENC and raster, and in some years when the catalogue of charts will be
full only ENC
[5/28/10 4:02:58 PM] redwood.skinner: OK,
Peio. This has been good. I appreciate you taking the time. And I believe this
may make an interesting post for the blog. I will also start following marine
geogarage's blog. Interesting stuff for those interested in charts.
[5/28/10 4:03:15 PM] redwood.skinner: Have
a nice weekend!
[5/28/10 4:03:25 PM] Peio Elissalde: