Bumps along the road

Experts say the government must overcome several technological challenges

before Digital Earth takes shape:

* Computational science: New methods will be needed to handle the

modeling and simulation of geospatial data if Digital Earth is to provide

useful information.

* Mass storage: NASA's "Mission to Planet Earth" will churn out more

than a terabyte of data each day, and Digital Earth will need to handle

many times that amount.

* Satellite imagery: The administration has licensed commercial satellites

that provide 1 meter resolution imagery; even finer resolutions may come

in the future.

* Broadband networks: The good news is that 10 gigabits/sec networking — the level needed to deliver Digital Earth to the public — is being developed.

The bad news is that it might not be available to home users for a long

time.

* Metadata: The Federal Geographic Data Committee is working with

industry and state and local governments to develop standards for the "data

about data" needed to make georeferenced data useful.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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