GIS APPROACHES THE STATE OF THE ART
This paper describes GRASSLAND, a Geographic Information System Software. For more information please contact LAS' sales department at 1-800-584-0345, by fax at (514) 389-9373 or by email: GRASSLAND@las.com

Historical Background

In recent years, the evolution of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) has advanced rapidly. With the development of GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) software by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1981, analysis and management of land-based operations of all kinds began to enter the information age.
GRASS represented a major step forward, but remembering the more than 250 keywords, together with each one's numerous options and/or parameters, challenges even the most programming-oriented GIS professional.
Yet GRASS is currently in use at several thousand sites around the world, mainly because of the unprecedented quality of its spatial analysis capabilities. Many powerful new applications based on the GRASS software engine are now becoming available on the GIS market.

Setting a new standard

At the forefront of this wave of new customized GIS-based applications is L.A.S., a Montreal company founded in 1989. L.A.S. specializes in developing software for the display, analysis and transformation of geographic data for the earth sciences and military applications.
L.A.S.'s GRASSLAND software package is a GIS decision-assistance tool that facilitates strategic planning, management and tracking of land-oriented operations. Intended for use by decision-makers responsible for the management of any land-based resource or operation, GRASSLAND brings state-of-the-art information technology to the complex field of geographic information management.
Whether in mining, forestry, natural resources, military command and control, research or other applications, GRASSLAND is indispensable to any person or organization requiring detailed, customizable cartographic displays and information manipulation capabilities at a reasonable cost.
With a powerful built-in map builder, GRASSLAND's intuitive graphical user interface lets you drag and drop overlays onto your map background to display rivers, tree cover, geological layers, topography, wildlife population or any other GIS element to create fast, customized visual decision-assistance tools. GRASSLAND also lets users familiar with GRASS initiate tasks from the command line.
"The basic program offers a wide range of optional display and analysis configurations, and comes complete with a software development tool kit that allows almost unlimited custom application building," says Gilles Clement, President of L.A.S.
For Clement, the decision to develop GRASSLAND was based on a number of problems in the field of GIS. He cites existing software that is too complex and difficult to learn, a lack of standardization in geographic data exchange and the high cost of data, software and hardware.,/br> "GRASSLAND is our attempt and we believe successfully, to transform GRASS into the best software for the land resources management specialist, and for command and control applications," says Clement.
Whereas GRASS requires a separate command, with its parameters and options specified correctly, to perform each function, GRASSLAND features descending menus that display commands, together with all of their options and parameters, on screen at the same time.
The Procedure Workbench is another very popular feature. From the Workbench,the user can specify a series of sequential tasks that will be applied to the data in turn. Procedures saved within a library can be chosen from a menu and linked in series to accomplish the most complex series of tasks by simply linking the desired icons on screen with the mouse.
GRASSLAND also handles data from almost all major GIS packages, integrates cartographic and satellite data, runs on both high-end UNIX workstations and on less expensive PCs, and sells for just $849. GRASSLAND's technology includes client/server architecture, an open system approach, a Software Development Kit, raster/vector display and printing, image analysis, an easy to use graphical user interface based on Tcl/Tk.
The software offers numerous other important features, including a very fast map viewer to replace the original GRASS "d.mon" visualization tool, dynamic cartographic symbology, WYSIWYG display, spreadsheet and graphing capability, a visual programming environment, and client/server architecture that facilitates data integration from various geographic data banks. GRASSLAND also features an open GUI development environment based on Tcl/Tk instead of the Bourne shell, and enhanced printing and data import/export capabilities.
The visualization tool was developed based on near real-time command and control work for the Department of National Defence. The tool uses concepts that were not available in GRASS, including a map viewer intelligent enough to display multiple layers simultaneously, and the ability to pan across the display or change scale with a simple mouse click.
GRASSLAND is available for the UNIX X Windows, Windows 95 and Windows NT platforms. It will very soon be available as a freeware for a few flavor of UNIX, including Solaris 2.4 and Ultrix. The software is compatible with all of the major GIS data exchange formats, including DIGEST VRF/VPF/VMAP, Arc/Info(tm) coverages, DLG, DXF, Erdas(tm) rasters and many others.

Forestry applications

Within the forestry industry, numerous applications are envisaged. The product allows automated generation of forestry inventories from satellite images, acts as a decision tool for harvest planning, allows diverse analyses on digitized forest inventory data, assists in performing technical and economic calculations to improve management of forest development and significantly reduces overall operating costs.
Examples of such use would include facilitating the creation of access routes while minimizing wood cutting, allowing reduction of harmful environmental impacts, facilitating the preparation of integrated forest development plans and assisting in determining the optimal track for transportation routes as a function of volume to extract, gradient and soil quality.
The product would also allow the user to evaluate the visual and environmental impacts of a cut, facilitate the implementation of long-term cutting programs, allow calculation of the volume of wood that can be extracted immediately and in several years, and let the user easily calculate cutting zones allowing for environmental factors such as the proximity of lakes and protected wildlife habitats, and perform harvest planning as a function of growth and planting, and relative to the possibility of infestation.

Mining exploration

In mining, the software facilitates the identification of sites with strong mineralization potential, allows the user to establish a cartographic or satellite image basis on which several geological thematic layers can be superimposed and on which numerous analyses can be performed, allows precise positioning of the exact geographic location of digitized geological maps (satellite images), allows simultaneous acquisition, analysis, storage and utilization of numerous large-scale data banks for regional exploration projects, and permits enhanced logistical and administrative management of exploration programs.
Examples used would include verification of mineralization models from digitized mineralogical, geophysical, radiometric and geochemical data and from remote-sensing information (satellite images), and simulation of a mineralization model on a large territory to obtain an index of mineral probabilities.

Military applications

For the military, GRASSLAND allows visualization of land-oriented and tactical data, integrates easily into existing command and control systems, facilitates mobility analyses, allows simulation of maneuver scenarios, allows calculation of visibility analyses, and constitutes an ideal tool for developing real-time applications.

Natural resources management and development organizations

In resource-based organizations, GRASSLAND assists natural resources managers in making the best decisions faced with a world in which environmental constraints are increasingly complex. The product facilitates integrated resource management, offers a choice among numerous natural resource development scenarios, allows rapid visualization of matrices and vectors as well as basic matrix manipulation, and assists in optimal decision-making for wildlife development.
These capabilities facilitate the management of endangered species and the analysis of habitat quality indices, and allow unconstrained analysis of the ecological landscape.

Future plans

Although users find the software extraordinarily useful, Mr. Clement is not content to rest on his laurels. He plans to enhance the software with more datastore servers, add a 3D visualization tool and include more editing capabilities, more complex AI features, and more image-processing and spatial analysis features as the program evolves.

More information

Using the following ftp access, you can get the Postscript/RTF/ Word6.0 versions of this article with screen snapshots.
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* FTP   :  ftp ftp.lasinc.login.net   *
* Login :  anonymous                  *
* Passwd:  your e-mail address        *
*                                     *
* cd /clients/lasinc                  *
* bin                                 *
* get gl_ps.zip    for Postscript     *
* get gl_wd6.zip   for Word6.0        *
* get gl_rtf.zip   for RTF            *
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If you need more information about GRASSLAND commercial version,
please contact GRASSLAND@las.com or our direct line 1-800-584-0345
(North America).
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