Top 5 Geospatial Tips For your next vacation

Top 5 Geospatial Tips For your next vacation

This is a great website for planning your route and your stops.  It has an excellent interactive map that allows the user to turn on and off layers including, hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, points of interest, natural wonders, parks, gardens, and more.  It tallies your total mileage, travel time and includes an estimate for fuel expenses that updates as you alter your route.  Depending on what your interests are, just turn on the layers and you'll be sure not to miss anything along the way.

All Moved In (Guest Writer)

Below you'll find an article in our local paper from Journalist Cheryl Wolfe of the Pantagraph papers in Bloomington, Illinois. She did a fantastic job and we wanted to include her article in our blog as a "Thanks!". 

(Reprinted with Permission)

ALL MOVED IN--Employees at Cloudpoint Geographic, Inc. are: (left to right) Jodi Hoffman, Paul Stephenson, Micah Williamson, Joe Christian, Matt Junker, Tyler Severson, and Jonathan Hodel

ALL MOVED IN--Employees at Cloudpoint Geographic, Inc. are: (left to right) Jodi Hoffman, Paul Stephenson, Micah Williamson, Joe Christian, Matt Junker, Tyler Severson, and Jonathan Hodel


 Cloudpoint Geographics moves to new office

Hodel plans open house


 ROANOKE—These days, Jon Hodel often has his head in the clouds and is always thinking higher.

When office space for his growing business, Cloudpoint Geographics, Inc. got too small, Hodel started looking for something bigger. He found it, just a block away in the building that formerly housed Dr. Michael Meier’s dental office.

A building with several smaller rooms might not fit the needs of most businesses, but for Hodel and his employees, it was literally a godsend.

“This office has been a perfect fit for us,” Hodel said of the building. “The Lord provided for us; we couldn’t have asked for a better fit.”

Hodel said it was getting crowded in his old office on Main Street, but now all employees have their own space, in addition to a conference room and a kitchenette. And, the move kept Hodel’s business in his hometown, just where he wants it to be. There was a time when Hodel was thinking of re-locating to another town because he could not get enough high speed Internet service in Roanoke, a service that is vital to his business. But he recently found a way to get by with the service in place.

 “We don’t have fiber yet due to the cost, but we’re using the Amazon cloud, and we’re getting by for now,” Hodel said. “We have seen increased efficiency, and cost savings came into play.”

Most people don’t really understand the kind of work Hodel does unless they are very technologically savvy. Hodel is a licensed professional engineer and certified Geographic Information System (GIS) professional. His business started with him, by himself in an office with a laptop, and grew to where it is today with one part-time and five full-time employees. Their work includes GIS mapping for government utilities and public works and asset management, among other projects. Simply put, they make maps, Hodel said. But the maps are not simple.

GIS maps are detailed and made using satellite technology. They allow clients to visualize, question, analyze and interpret data to better understand patterns and trends, as well as what is happening in geographic space. They are also valuable in creating and maintaining more accurate records.

There is a growing interest and awareness of the economic value of GIS. It can be used to manage assets, such as the life expectancy of streetlights or to schedule garbage truck routes to maximize efficiency in fuel and labor. Cloudpoint performs both small jobs and big ones, like a utility mapping job in Mendota that has taken all summer.

These descriptions are only a fraction of the work that Cloudpoint is capable of doing, and they barely scratch the surface of what will be available in the future. Hodel said drones will be used as a powerful commercial tool in the future pinpointing a number of things, from agriculture applications to other commercial uses. He plans to be a part of that technology as it is implemented.

”We’re really excited about the new technology drones will bring,” Hodel said. “It’s fascinating. I really enjoy new things. It’s the engineer coming out in me.”

Hodel said he hopes to hire a licensed pilot to work with drones in the future to create another arm of his business.

The work of Cloudpoint Geographics is far above most of the public’s head, so getting his name out and helping others learn about the services he provides to gain new business is sometimes challenging.

“We find we do a lot of door knocking, and use our web presence,” Hodel said. “Most of our business comes from referrals or face-to-face marketing.”

Hodel wants to do a little face-to-face marketing with the people of Roanoke where he has lived most of his life. He has invited them to come see his new office during an Open House, on Friday, Oct. 2, from 4-6 p.m. He will be glad to explain some of the fascinating aspects of his work to anyone who is interested. And, he wants everyone to know how much he enjoys his new office in Roanoke.

“We’re really happy to be here,” Hodel said.

Cycle AWS instances to save on your monthly bill.

Cycle AWS instances to save on your monthly bill.

More and more of us are moving our infrastructure into the cloud. Practically speaking this is just the way of things. What do you do when you have several Amazon Web Servers (instances) that do don't need to have on  all of the time? Ideally, by now Amazon should have come up with some kind of scheduler but they probably would charge for it. Or maybe they've intentionally left that up to third party products....

So what's my accuracy??? Mobile Device GPS with iPad, iPhone, & Android

If you have ever been involved with a GIS project that requires data collection using a handheld device there is no doubt that you at some point ask yourself "Is this spatially accurate enough?".  Well here is some evidence that proves those little tiny GPS chips within those smart phones are actually pretty good.

We wanted to get some numbers for this idea so we took five different mobile devices (listed below) and tested their GPS accuracy against a known control point (NGS Point ID: DF4314).  Our chosen devices were:

  1. iPad 4th Gen (16GB WiFi + LTE)
  2. iPhone 4S (3G)
  3. Motorola Droid Razr Maxx
  4. Garmin Colorado 300
  5. Trimble Geo XH 6000

What we discovered was somewhat surprising.  As you can see from the list these devices vary in use from the simple smart phone for  GPS navigation & driving directions, to the professional series Trimble Geo capable of providing survey grade GPS positioning.  Below is a map showing the different precision & accuracy for each device in relation to the benchmark.  We stood over the known control point and collected five GPS points with each device and averaged them and found the following observations as a result:

Click here for map of plotted points

  • When it comes to accuracy, you get what you pay for as it was no surprise that the Trimble unit provided the greatest accuracy when used with real time corrections.
  • Most of the devices, such as the Motorola, had good precision but lacked in accuracy.
  • All devices, except for the Trimble, missed the mark in the northwest direction.
  • The uncorrected data from the Trimble provided very high precision but low accuracy.
  • The iPhone was all over the place on its readings but came within 4 feet of the target when the points were averaged (that's outstanding!)
  • In general, the iOS devices outperforms all of the competition when averaged except for the professional grade systems

So what does all of this show us?  It proves that you still have to pay big dollars (+$10k) to get a "high accuracy" GPS device but you can make an awfully strong case for a $600 iPad with the right data collection app.  Who knows, maybe the day of "survey grade" accuracy in a smartphone is in the very near future.  

A pile of GPS mobile devices sitting atop our known control point.

Getting beyond the electric fence with a Trimble Geo XH...

Avoiding the shock of the fence and the charge of the bull....

So how do you get a highly accurate GPS location on something that is not accessible???  Using the Trimble Geo XH 6000 series and Terrasync (cm) Edition we are able to use the "Offset" command in the Data collection tools within Terrasync software.  We simply tell the unit that the point is exactly 10 feet south of our current location and we start collecting data.  The system will automatically assign the GPS location with an offset of the given distance and bearing.  Out in the woods and not sure on the bearing??? Simply pull out your iphone and use a compass app to come within a couple degrees of the actual direction.  Keep in mind you will need to calibrate the app prior to using it but it is very simple to do.  In addition, remember that the farther away you are standing from your target, any error in the bearing will be greatly exaggerated so its generally good practice to keep the offset distance to a minimum.  For more tips and tricks on GPS data collection visit us at www.cloudpointgeo.com.

Visit us at www.cloudpointgeo.com

Look For Us at Upcoming Events! ILGISA, IACE, IPLSA, ILCMA

Cloudpoint Geographics is coming to a location near you...

Visit us at our New Display!

Here is a quick update on where we plan to be (the Lord and weather willing):

Sept 27, 2012- IACE (Illinois County Engineers Association)-

Bloomington, IL

October 16-17, 2012- ILGISA (Illinois GIS Association)- Naperville, ILNovember 5-8, 2012- Trimble Dimensions 2012- Las Vegas, NV

February 14-15- IPLSA (Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association)-

Springfield, IL

February 20-22- ILCMA (

Illinois City / County Management Association


Peoria, IL

Be sure to stop by for a visit to find our more information on the following:

  • GPS inventories & asset management
  • GIS for Mobile Devices (including Androids & iOS)
  • ArcGIS products, extensions, & training
  • Trimble Mapping & GIS Product training
  • Web-hosted GIS solutions
  • LIDAR data collection & processing

Visit us at www.cloudpointgeo.com

Big Fish Tales!

Normally I only post every couple of weeks but this one couldn't wait.

Jon Hodel with a 33+ inch Northern Pike
42.490217, -85.426408

We went on our annual fishing trip with a great group of friends this past weekend and had some great success.  We hit the water as soon as we arrived on Thursday late afternoon and there was a front moving through that must have gotten these toothy critters excited.  The northern were explosively hitting almost anything we threw at them.  This one was caught on the SE corner of the large island in about 8 feet of water with lots of weeds on a Mepps No. 5 Aglia with red & yellow stem.  If you are patient enough to cast into the weedy areas and pull the "veggy tales" off your line, you can expect these guys to attack at any time.  Overall our group pulled in over 500 fish (blue gill, crappie, bass, and northern) and 8 of them that were over 30 inches in length.  Don't worry, we threw them all back except for a few pan fish so you can give it a try yourself.

So Where are Your Underground Utilities?

How do you find your underground utilities?  Does your method of relocating them consist of your veteran public works director and the third-generation local excavator estimating them based upon a combined 70 years of memory?  We find this all to common in today's communities where their baby-boom staff will soon retire and take with them an incredible amount of "tribal knowledge".  Although they may have an incredible ability to tell where those 50 year old lines are at, someday these folks will not be available.  That's why mapping these utilities with GPS equipment is so critical!  Don't loose all of that valuable information, you just can't take that risk.  It doesn't have to be expensive equipment that costs thousands of dollars.  Even a simple $200 Garmin eTrex will get you headed in the right direction.  Today's GPS equipment can provide accuracies that vary from five feet to five millimeters.In addition if you are a local government agency that has a permitting process for underground utilities, why not start requiring the permittee to provide you as-builts with GPS coordinates.  You can do this with a simple ordinance update and even specify the accuracy requirements, and they don't have to be overly tight.  This is not an unreasonable request and will not place an "undue" hardship on them when the cost of GPS equipment is so insignificant these days.  The point is once you have the data it can be used in so many different capacities.  So why not set your agency on the right course today and make things better for the next generation!

Visit us at www.cloudpointgeo.com

Former County Employees teaming up!

Micah Williamson, the current GIS Manager for Peoria County recently announced he will be leaving his current post to join former Woodford County employee, Jonathan Hodel, at Cloudpoint Geographics, a geospatial services company located in Roanoke, IL.  Hodel resigned from the Woodford County Engineer position last year to pursue his life-long desire of starting a geospatial engineering company, utilizing the latest technology in mapping and remote sensing for geogaphic information systems (GIS).  Hodel says, "Micah's talents and outgoing personality make him a perfect fit for our team.  He has a great ability to help the layperson understand new technologies and how they can benefit from them."

Williamson, a resident of Eureka, IL has held the GIS manager position at Peoria County for more than five years and will continue there on a part-time basis until a replacement is found. Prior to working for the County, Williamson worked as the GIS Analyst for the Greater Peoria Sanitary District and has also taught GIS classes at Illinois Central College and Geography at Eureka College.  He will join a staff of three employees at the young and growing company.

Micah Williamson, Peoria County GIS Manager

Visit us at www.cloudpointgeo.com

Where is rain most needed? 2012 Illinois Drought Map

Here is a recent map of the severity of the current drought in Illinois.  This map shows the lack of rainfall throughout the state for the month of June.  We are currently obtaining additional data for the entire summer that will provide greater insight as to the hardest hit areas.  Contact us for more details!

Visit us at www.cloudpointgeo.com

Introducing Cloudpoint's latest edition!

Cloudpoint Geographics is pleased to announce the hiring of Matthew Dondanville to the position of GIS Technician!  Matt will be filling an important role in performing GPS mapping and data collection and providing client services involving GIS training and consultation.  He comes as a highly regarded graduate from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI with strong technical skills involving CAD and GIS applications.  Matt plans to pursue a Master's degree in GIS through the online program at Penn State University and his GISP certificate soon thereafter.  Welcome aboard Matt!Stay connected with Matt: Cloudpoint is always looking for talented people.  Send your resume to jhodel@cloudpointgeo.com if you are interested in joining our team!

Cloudpoint acquires ArcGIS Server 10.....

We have recently signed up for an

AWS (Amazon Web Services)

account and setup

ArcGIS Server on an EC2 instance

.  To describe it in non-technical terms, we are using Amazon Web Services as a "server" instead of buying our own.  It's not only less direct overhead but also allows for scalability (only use what we need).  To learn more about this visit the

AWS website

.  This means Cloudpoint will be looking to offer a way for our clients to follow the progress of their mapping projects live and up-to-date as they are being completed.  It will also allow us to build some customized applications and have a method for field testing them before deployment.  Many of our clients are looking for ways to better manage their infrastructure and utility assets by way of a centralized GIS and we are working hard to bring the right solutions at an affordable price.  Also we have been telling you about our new website and new look that will be rolling out this summer.  Here is a sneak peak at our new logo...

Visit us at www.cloudpointgeo.com

Cloudpoint selected for fiber contract!

Cass Communications

has contracted with Cloudpoint Geographics to complete utility mapping of its fiber optic network.  The project consist of gps data collection of the utility's fiber optic lines and infrastructure over a 13 county area.  The collected data will be used to implement a GIS system that will help the utility manage it's fiber network more efficiently.

CASSCOMM is comprised of many different companies specializing in the telecommunications industry. Based out of central Illinois and serving thirteen counties with the latest in technology, CASSCOMM operates Cass Communications Management Incorporated, Cass Cable TV, Cass Internet, Cass Telephone, Cass Long Distance, Cass Advertising and Greene County Partners offering services including: cable television, high-speed internet, digital phone, landline telephone service and cable television advertising.

Visit us at www.cloudpointgeo.com

The Blizzard of 2012!!!



Spring is just around the corner and it appears that we may be finishing one of the mildest winter season's on record.  If your snow removal budget is in great shape and you are looking how to best allocate those savings,  why not look at what

Cloudpoint Geographics

has to offer you.  Now is the perfect opportunity to upgrade your sign or culvert inventory, complete that town-wide water main mapping project, or explore how LiDAR can help with your next reconstruction project.  Whatever the case, Cloudpoint's engineering and GIS expertise can get you headed in the right direction.

Visit us at www.cloudpointgeo.com

Slow & steady.

Keeping up a blog to let people know what's going on sounds easy to do but I am learning that it can be difficult to stay consistent.  Things are going well at Cloudpoint with projects continuing to surface.  Just completed a sign inventory for Gold Township in Bureau County and have had several calls from other agencies requesting the same.  Having an engineering background in transportation has been a great advantage in this area.  Sign inventories, evaluation of software, Christmas cards going out, and marketing trips have been keeping me busy lately.

Some people have asked what it is that I actually do (Including my father-in-law in his own tactful way).  The best way to describe it is GIS (Geographic Information Systems).  For public works, transportation, and utilities, colleges, parks, etc.  Anyone that has numerous facilities that they need to track and manage within a geographic boundary.  For example right now I am working with a public utility on enhancing their map books and implementing better practices for their GIS system.  I am also in the process of evaluating two kinds of software, ESRI Arc Editor, and Que Coherent LP360.  It might sound link technical mumbo-jumbo but I think its a lot of fun.

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and remember that Jesus is the reason for the season!