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  • FME in a Nutshell!

    By Safe Software - August 8, 2007 (Printer Friendly)

    FME FME, have you heard about it? Chances are if you work with spatial data on a daily basis then you may be familiar with the product. If not, then you should be! Simply put, Safe Software's FME is a spatial ETL platform that provides a complete data access solution for reading, writing and transforming spatial data. To the casual user FME is a data translation utility - and even better, one that is available as a free, fully functional time-stamped evaluation copy. However, it's actually much more than that.

    Introduced in 1993, FME is one of only a handful of data conversion tools that can preserve all the information content of the source data by allowing restructuring of the underlying data model during the data translation. And it stands alone as the only complete tool that can manage both vector and raster datasets. Data can be imported or exported between hundreds of supported formats, with complete control over the data restructuring - including geometric and attribute operations, and coordinate conversion. With this advanced data handling capability, FME opens the door to a host of data transformation possibilities for spatial data.

    So what exactly can you accomplish with FME? The following list describes the main functions that a typical user can access by using some or all of the utilities bundled in the latest product offering.

    Translate - FME Universal Translator: Quickly and easily perform basic translations using the supplied defaults, or, if you’re an advanced user, perform more sophisticated processing by creating and running your own mapping files. FME supports conversions between over 190 CAD, GIS, raster and database formats. More than 30 raster file types are supported, including MrSID, GeoTIFF, ECW, ERDAS IMAGINE, and JPEG 2000. A complete list of supported formats is available at www.safe.com/formats.

    Transform - FME Workbench: Completely control your data translation and transformation tasks by graphically adjusting the way your data flows from its source to the destination. And the Workbench interface gets full marks for usability. Simply drag-and-drop prepackaged transformation processes or "transformers" onto a workspace to create your data transformation workflow. Linking these transformers together in inventive ways creates the workflow you need to streamline any number of routine data manipulation chores. Common tasks that can be fast-tracked with FME include combining data sources, testing data quality, renaming and recalculating attributes, joining attributes stored in a database to map features, and building feature geometry from disconnected point or linework.

    View - FME Universal Viewer: View multiple datasets before, after and even during a translation. Examine features, identify attributes and values, and enhance the display using color, symbols and labeling.

    Integrate - Combine data from multiple sources into a single translation run, regardless of the source data's format or structure.

    Convert - Coordinate Conversion Support: Choose from a gallery containing thousands of coordinate systems based on a variety of different projections, ellipsoids, and datums. You can also define your own coordinate system.

    Embed - FME Objects: Add FME functionality to applications that you develop.

    Use - FME Application Extenders: Use FME directly in your own GIS to import or publish dozens of additional formats. FME supports products provided by Autodesk, ESRI, Informatica, Intergraph, Microsoft and Smallworld.

    Extend - FME Plug-in SDK: Add your own formats or processing facilities to the FME translation core.

    Deliver – FME SpatialDirect: Sitting atop the FME Server, FME SpatialDirect employs the full transformation capability of FME to deliver data via the web. Data is delivered in the format and projection requested by the end user from a standard web browser.

    If you'd like to try out FME's capabilities for yourself, you can download a free evaluation copy from www.safe.com/evaluation.

    FME Users at-a-Glance

    So who's using FME? That's no simple answer as the user-base is rather exhausting, however, here are two success stories from some noteworthy users of FME.

    Talisman Energy
    Talisman Energy must obtain oil and gas exploration permits from many different provincial, state, and federal regulatory agencies across North America. These agencies use a variety of survey systems to divide up public lands within their jurisdiction. Land tenure is assigned via a sealed-bid auction, with each regulatory agency conducting land auctions at different intervals. In some regions, land auctions are held as frequently as every two weeks.

    Since new oil and gas exploration tenure agreements are issued almost continually across North America, Talisman Energy’s Exploration Technology Department needed to create processes that would rapidly generate current tenure maps. The department required a solution that would join Talisman’s internal tenure data to publicly available spatial data from various jurisdictions, and be flexible enough to accommodate the many systems of land division.

    Talisman configured Safe Software’s FME spatial data manipulation technology to create new map features representing current tenure tracts. FME extracted information for current leases from an Oracle database and joined this data to pre-existing polygon map features. Once the basic data transformation workflow had been created, only minor changes were required to apply the transformation to systems of land division.

    FME enables Talisman to rapidly generate up-to-date digital maps of constantly changing oil and gas leases. The maps allow Talisman staff to not only view current tenure tracts, but also query details about each tenure parcel. The tool’s flexibility enables Talisman to apply similar methodology to different grid systems employed in different regions, and allows for easy reconfiguration to accommodate new geographic areas, new datasets, or changes to systems of land division.

    GeoStor at the Arkansas Geographic Information Office (AGIO)
    The Arkansas Geographic Information Offi ce (AGIO) maintains GeoStor – the first statewide, enterprise-class geospatial data warehouse available in the United States. First open to the public in January 2001,GeoStor now stores over four terabytes of raster and vector spatial data covering the 75 counties of Arkansas. GeoStor is built over ESRI ArcSDE® running atop an Oracle 10g database, and offers web-based data search and delivery capability using any standard web browser.

    In 2005 the AGIO began designing a new architecture for GeoStor that would incorporate a new data delivery solution. Project specifications required that the new solution work with GeoStor’s Portal Toolkit and ArcIMS map viewer application to: deliver raster as well as vector data via the web, and provide both data types in multiple formats and coordinate systems, as specified by the end user.

    After researching the data transformation capability of Safe Software’s FME platform, the AGIO chose Safe Software’s FME SpatialDirect® product, powered by FME 2007, to provide web-based delivery of GeoStor data.

    Extended by FME SpatialDirect, GeoStor 5.0 now offers data in up to eight raster formats and sixteen vector formats, and has the flexibility to deliver this data in multiple coordinate systems. FME SpatialDirect also eliminates post-download processing of the data by “clipping” the area specified by the user from a larger map of the state before compressing the file for delivery. The user is provided with exactly the data they need, and is not required to “stitch together” multiple files or extract data from a larger file. The customizable order form interface and translation results page is also provided by FME SpatialDirect. As an additional feature, FME SpatialDirect provides the AGIO with the option to configure GeoStor to act as a Web Feature Server (WFS), and Web Map Server (WMS).

    FME SpatialDirect’s ability to handle both raster and vector translations considerably reduced the reconfiguration effort for the AGIO by alleviating the need to work with multiple software products. Another advantage was the ease with which FME SpatialDirect could be configured in terms of scalability and customization. The AGIO has a distributed configuration powered by twelve FME servers, eight of which are dedicated to raster translations. FME SpatialDirect’s load distribution mechanism ensures that requests are sent to the appropriate FME server, and sends the translation request into a queue if all FME servers are busy.

    Customization of FME SpatialDirect enabled GeoStor 5 to deliver a metadata file (in XML format) along with the search results. The metadata is updated on the fly, and reflects the extents, coordinate system, and process steps of the data request.

    (User case studies provided by Safe Software Inc.)


    What is Spatial ETL? Spatial ETL tools aim to bring geospatial intelligence to organizations by allowing them to harness the potency of location data. The objective of ETL tools is to transfer data from one datastore to another. To reach that objective they perform three separate functions. First, the extract function reads data from a specified source datastore, extracting the desired data. Next, the transform function processes the acquired data - transforming it and even perhaps combining it with other data - to package it into the correct structure for the destination datastore. Finally, the load function writes the resulting data to a target datastore.

    Where does the name Safe Software come from? Safe Software was originally named after the Spatial Archive and Interchange Format (SAIF)

    What is FME Objects? FME Objects enables third parties to embed Safe Software's technology within their applications. If you have an application and you want it to be able to read or write one or more of our formats, then FME Objects is for you. Want an example, just check out the FME Universal Viewer!

    How does FME handle the support for new and/or proprietary data formats? If you want FME to support your GIS format or new database format, then you should use the FME Plug-in SDK. Using the FME Plug-in SDK to add support for a new format or database allows your format to participate fully in all applications within the FME platform.

    Need more info? Be sure to check out Safe Software's website at www.safe.com or you can request a guided online demonstration by emailing Safe at sales@safe.com.