Leica Titan (beta)

Seven months after it was “unannounced”, Leica Titan is now available for download as a public beta (Windows only), reports GCN. So what is Leica Titan?

“Leica Titan is positioned as a social network for sharing geospatial data, whether it’s imagery, terrain, features [or] 3-D models,” said Mladen Stojic, director of enterprise products at Leica. “We assume that individuals and organizations around the world have geospatial data that they want to share. Leica Titan is similar to some of the other media-sharing applications that we have for sharing music, pictures and other media files.”

Aha, so it’s a peer-to-peer geospatial filesharing application similar to Napster of old or Gnutella? It’s a bit more than that. Yes, you can share individual files with others that are online, but the coolest thing about Leica Titan is that it lets you load up various geospatial files to your own globe, called your “MyWorld”, and then share that globe with others that are logged into the network. You’re not quite sharing the live state of your virtual globe, as you have to publish a version, but it is getting there.

But why use P2P for sharing states and geospatial files? In the case of most music and movie files, people use P2P because these files are being shared illegally, and owners of central file servers would get sued by copyright owners. In other cases, P2P makes it more difficult for authoritarian governments to control the free flow of information. Is that Leica’s justification for it’s geo-P2P solution? No:

“We’re bypassing the need for a heavyweight server application and facilitating users within the social network to immediately share data for emergency response, where they really need that data turned around rapidly as opposed to having to wait for some IT manager to upload it onto a server, publish it and then tell everyone it’s available,” said Stojic.

Couldn’t that problem be solved more robustly by putting an automated centralized file server online? Google Earth Community and 3D Warehouse serve as models, minus the permissioning. P2P scales horribly. In case of a large-scale disaster involving many respondents, is P2P really the best solution, instead of, say, relaying to a server and then multicasting? And is requiring a Windows machine such a good idea in a disaster scenario, instead of, say, focusing on a cross-platform or web-browser accessible solution?

Regardless of the merits of P2P publishing for this kind of content, I think the concept behind sharing the state of your virtual globe certainly carries a big appeal and can be very useful, not just in disaster response scenarios but when making presentations remotely, whether for business or to grandparents. Indeed, Unype 0.2 for Windows lets you share individual KML and 3D Warehouse files in Google Earth.

Down the line, however, what I would really like is a robust solution where I can reveal the contents of “My Places” in Google Earth, perhaps by having it be linked to my Google account and mirrored on Google servers (just like my Gmail, where space does not appear to be a problem), and also update live the current object of my attention, as GE Sharing does.

2 thoughts on “Leica Titan (beta)”

  1. Interesting concept, but I can imagine the bottlenecks immediately.

    What I’d finally like to see, is an actual web storage hosting solution — that allows data producers to house their data for distribution at a comparable cost to a web hosting plan (which would in essense be – a web hosting plan). Now that – would be some kind of magic.

    There’s WeoGeo, and I’m looking closely at them — though, I think it’s convoluting the real need in the market to a slight extent.

    In all practicality, the problem with web host entities, is that while the pricing of equipment has gone dramatically down for their existing infrastructure — and the possibilities for building onto that existing infrastructure (namely, harddrive capacity), they have continued to charge variably the same rate. The reality is, they have the capacity to store more data and to distribute more data — but until they actually acknowledge this, they’ll continue to miss the boat and the potential.

  2. I saw Titan demoed at the ESRI UC, and have downloaded it but have not yet had much time to play with it. What had me mystified is that they stated that it essentially streams data on demand, so that you can begin viewing another user’s data almost instantaneously. What protocol? Is it a mini WMS server, or is there some other magic behind the scenes? Unfortunately the folks manning the Leica booth didn’t have any quick answers for this, but nonetheless, some questions are still revolving around in the back of my mind…

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