Working with Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego and Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles, designers of the laser imager, OTI deployed the laser scan system, which was towed through the salvage area, sweeping 100-foot swaths of the ocean floor with a narrow beam of laser light, creating images of the bottom.
A geographic information system developed by Environmental Systems Research Institute of Redlands, Calif., used those images to construct a map, plotting with great accuracy the whereabouts of even small, soft targets that would have eluded detection by the acoustic sensors.
This is just one example of the expanding role of GIS technology, which uses computer hardware and software to combine and display topographic, demographic and other geographically referenced data. Other new applications include the use of GIS technology in flood analysis and predicting crime trends.
Generating about $6.4 billion in worldwide revenues last year, the GIS market is expected to grow 7 percent annually through the year 2000, said Bruce Jenkins, vice president of Daratech Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based market research firm. However, the single largest customer for GIS, the U.S. government, is nonetheless looking for ways to trim its expenditures in the face of tighter budgets.
The leading GIS software vendors are ESRI and Intergraph Corp. of Huntsville, Ala., which together controlled more than 60 percent of the market in 1996, according to Daratech. Chasing them are a growing roster of companies including MapInfo Corp. of Troy, N.Y., which holds almost a 10 percent share of the market for PC-based GIS software, and Autodesk of San Rafael, Calif., which unveiled new GIS products for the PC this year.
Software revenues accounted for $591 million or 9 percent of the $6.4 billion in worldwide GIS revenues, but the segment is projected to grow by 23 percent annually through 2000. Hardware tallied 18 percent of the total GIS revenues, while 73 percent, or roughly $4.7 billion, went to service providers, consisting mainly of independent systems integrators and consultants, said Jenkins. Expected to grow at a 4 percent annual rate through 2000, the services market segment has attracted a long list of integrators, including Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., Computer Sciences Corp. of El Segundo, Calif., and IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y.
For its efforts, SAIC claims about $200 million in annual revenues from GIS. Revenue figures are harder to come by for the other systems integrators. Often a small part of a larger program, GIS' value is sometimes hard to quantify and there are differences on what technologies fit under the GIS heading, industry officials said.
A mainstay for land mapping and tracking resources, GIS has over the past few years been moving well beyond its traditional base. "GIS is a pretty new thing to oceanography," noted Rob Morton, operations manager at SAIC's Newport, R.I., office. "And it's going to revolutionize the way that we can look at data and then assemble it in a way that makes some sense," added Drew Carey, an SAIC senior scientist.
At the same time, the technology is becoming accessible to users beyond technology specialists. "In the last two or three years, we've been focused on providing products to two other types of customers: People that need to analyze the data but don't have overall responsibility for the GIS operations ... [and] the people who just want to view the data," said George Korte, executive marketing manager of Intergraph Corp.'s Federal Systems Division, Reston, Va.
Spurring the changes is the trend to break apart the GIS technologies and sell separate, less costly and easier-to-use components. These off-the-shelf products can cost as little as $100 - like Select Phone from Pro CD of Danvers, Mass., which includes the Select Street Atlas product - while the higher-end products, such as ESRI's Arcview, cost more than $1,000. The more complex, customized software sold to government users can cost nearly $20,000 per user.
Also forcing change is the steady migration of the technology from Unix to the Microsoft Windows NT platform, which now accounts for more than half of GIS software sales.
Eventually industry officials believe GIS will become part of desktop office suites, like Microsoft Office, but they concede this will not happen without industrywide standards. Several groups are making headway in this area, including the OpenGIS Consortium, composed of over 100 members from industry, government and universities. "There have been some standards particularly in the communications infrastructure that are pretty far along, and they have been voted on by the membership; there are other standards, like metadata standards, that are being worked on," said Jackie McAlexander. As manager of spatial and scientific solutions at Informix of Menlo Park, Calif., McAlexander represents Informix on the OGC Management Committee.
A key market for these vendors, the federal government generated 19 percent of the software revenues last year. Recent budget cuts have forced agencies to economize, however. "It is hard to say, given the shrinking budget, whether the GIS market is actually growing," said Cliff Congreve, vice president and director of imaging and remote sensing engineering at SAIC. "In the civilian agencies they're having a very hard time keeping their budgets together ... [but the Department of Defense] market is growing. There are very ambitious projects underway," he added.
"As a general observation you see the agencies working closer together now in a drive toward common standards and common user data," noted Scott Webster, vice president at SAIC in the area of geospatial. Some agencies, such as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency and the Geological Survey, are looking to outsource production of GIS data, while others, including the Defense Department, are stressing the use of commercial, off-the-shelf products, added Congreve.
"They've been tightening the purse strings, but at the same time they've been making it easier to do business with them," noted Dana Paxon, federal marketing coordinator for ESRI. "You can go more direct to the government now whereas before ... you had to go through contracting officers," she said.
With $207.7 million in software revenues last year - a 23 percent increase over 1995 - ESRI topped the GIS software vendor list, according to Daratech. About 25 percent of those sales came from federal government business, Paxon said, noting that the company deals with the government buyers both directly and through systems integrators, including Computer Sciences Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., SAIC, Hughes Information Technologies, Electronic Data Systems Corp., GTE and AT&T.
ESRI's alliance with IBM has boosted its role in the federal market. "IBM has brought their reputation and their ability to do systems integration to the table for ESRI, specifically with our work on the U.S. Forest Service Project 615 and the Bureau of Land Management's ALMRs [Automated Land and Mineral Record System] contracts - two or our largest federal contracts," said Paxon.
An eight-year contract valued at $187 million, Project 615 calls for a fundamental upgrade of the Forest Service's information system, providing 30,000 users across the agency with the ability to access and use GIS data. Begun in February 1995, the agency expects all users to have access to the system by the end of 1999, said Ed Pena, project executive for the Forest Service contract at IBM, the prime contractor for the project.
CSC is the systems integrator for the other contract, the $400 million Bureau of Land Management project. To be deployed at work sites in 156 offices in 18 states, ALMRs is projected to be one of the largest GIS-based software systems in the world.
A 10-year project, the program was begun in 1993 and is about to be deployed in its first state - New Mexico. ESRI is also playing a role in several other large government programs and has developed the Integrated Geographical Information Repository, a single enterprisewide database for the U.S. Marine Corps, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
With a 26.5 percent share, Intergraph placed second in the overall software market but was the clear leader in the rapidly growing Windows-based GIS software market, valued at $313 million last year - a fact that could be traced in part to the company's long-term alliance with Microsoft.
"Our whole product line is built on Windows [now]. We built the whole ranch on Windows when it was still a gleam in [Microsoft Chairman] Bill Gates' eye," said Korte. The company also has key partnerships with Oracle Corp. of Redwood Shores, Calif., and Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif.
Overall, Intergraph claims $180 million in GIS software revenues last year, a 19 percent increase over 1995, and considerably more than the $156.7 million Daratech allots it. A substantial portion of the company's $165 million in software sales to the federal government came from GIS, said Korte.
Like ESRI, the company deals with the government directly and through large integrators. For example, it has worked very closely with Lockheed Martin over the last three years on a program called Sustaining Base Information Services, said Korte. "We were selected as the standard GIS and CAD [computer-aided design] product for this Army program." In that vein, company officials worked with Lockheed Martin to field prototypes of the technology at two sites: Fort Knox, Ky. and Fort Drum, N.Y., he said.
"Those have been very successful, [and] ... are being evaluated by the Army now," said Korte. Valued at $474 million, the SBIS program is aimed at modernizing the Army's installation information system by converting it to an open systems environment.
A parallel program is being developed for the Air Force, called the Global Combat Support Systems. That program is not as far along as the Army program, so company officials can only anticipate working with Lockheed Martin and the Air Force the same way that Intergraph has with the Army, he added. Intergraph also has installed extensive geographic information systems at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., which is about to install a basewide intranet for the data, and at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., which is now implementing a facility management system, and at Norfolk Naval Base, Hampton Roads, Va.
Despite their commanding position in the market, ESRI's and Intergraph's hold on federal government business is not going unchallenged. "The public sector is really the second largest vertical market that we're going after right now behind telecommunications on the commercial side," said Brian Lantz, public sector director of MapInfo Corp. of Troy, N.Y.
One of the company's big customers is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which uses GIS to track information about hurricanes and floods, he said. The company also helped design the Closing Unit Research Tool for the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard, under the Reserve Component Manpower System, a five-year program valued at about $13.6 million.
Supporting efforts to downsize the Guard and Reserve, CURT provides detailed profiles of soldiers leaving the service and matches them with service vacancies or personnel requirements within that geographic location, according to Fred McKenzie, deputy project manager for the reserve component manpower system at GRC International, Vienna, Va., the systems integrator on the project.
Smaller companies, like Washington-based Ecologic Corp., also are making inroads into the market. The company is applying its own GIS technology, which it calls enterprise spatial computing, on NASA projects including the Tropical Rainfall Monitoring Mission, a key element of the Mission to Planet Earth program. In this program, NASA is studying the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment.