Friday, September 14, 2007
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has licensed the Microsoft Virtual Earth platform on which to develop its mission-critical geospatial and mapping applications. The commitment to Virtual Earth will improve data sharing, analysis and insight for partner agencies, citizens and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on topics ranging from superfund sites and oil spills to waterways and the quality of beach water.
EPA sought an easy-to-use solution that includes maps and imagery that can be integrated into its numerous line-of-business applications, such as Web-based mapping applications, and environmental monitoring systems to better serve EPA programs.
Virtual Earth provides an accurate digital representation of the Earth. Agencies and other organizations can layer their unique data on top of Virtual Earth, allowing them to focus on their core missions instead of creating base map data. Virtual Earth is the only existing platform that offers developers and end users the ability to work with and view satellite, aerial, oblique and 3-D imagery of the Earth.
Previously, when the EPA sought to develop geospatial applications, the agency bought imagery from disparate sources to combine it with agency maps, often an intensely time-consuming and costly process. Virtual Earth provides not only three-dimensional city models and satellite and aerial imagery but bird's-eye imagery, which gives users a unique 45-degree-angle perspective, a feature found only in Virtual Earth. Combined, these models and imagery allow agencies to build applications that layer business data directly over Virtual Earth imagery that is kept current by Microsoft Corp. For example, using Virtual Earth, the EPA is designing a Web-based mapping tool for anyone to access information on beach and water quality.
"Before we selected Microsoft's Web-based Virtual Earth, the EPA relied on more expensive and cumbersome desktop applications," said Pat Garvey, manager of the Facility Registry System at the EPA. "Our goal was to provide our customers a consistent, richer user experience. We can do that with Virtual Earth because its performance and imagery make it easy for us to focus on our core environmental-data and mission applications."
The benefits of Virtual Earth for the EPA will be both internal and external:
- A common operational platform. The EPA can layer its data on Virtual Earth to deliver a consistent look and feel throughout the agency.
- Integrated approach. Virtual Earth allows agencies to extend their heterogeneous technology investments. For example, Virtual Earth can disseminate data from ESRI-based geographic information system (GIS) tools, or data from an Oracle database.
- Simple development platform. Virtual Earth enables developers to incorporate rich maps into their applications. The Virtual Earth platform provides a single application programming interface (API) for developers to focus on their data rather than the base map and imagery. Using a single API that is well-documented, developers can create line-of-business applications that incorporate satellite, aerial, oblique and 3-D imagery.
- Enhanced business intelligence. Because roughly 80 percent of the world's business data has a location component, the Virtual Earth tool adds significant value to the EPA's efforts to unlock, view and act upon the location component inherent in its data.
- Improved information sharing through data visualization. Aided by Virtual Earth, the EPA will be able to more easily facilitate collaboration among citizens, employees and other agencies through information-sharing and data-visualization portals. Citizens will be able to view EPA data overlaid on the Virtual Earth platform using a standard Internet browser.
"We're thrilled to be partnering with the EPA to deliver the agency's common operational mapping platform through a combination of Software plus Services," said Curt Kolcun, vice president of the Federal Division at Microsoft. "The EPA, like other agencies, is looking for ways to build citizen-facing applications around a geospatial core with the ultimate goal of better connecting Americans with their government."
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