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From Minutes To Seconds: How Manifold Is Using NVIDIA CUDA To Transform GIS Technology


Geographic Information Systems are the Latest to be Transformed by NVIDIA CUDA Technology.
SANTA CLARA, CA.—From tracking 911 calls and studying carbon dioxide levels to keeping track of pesticide use, the applications of geographic information systems (GIS) are growing rapidly. NVIDIA Corporation, the world leader in visual computing technologies, and Manifold today announced that they are working closely to make GIS even more powerful through the use of the award-winning NVIDIA CUDA™ development environment for accelerating applications on the GPU.

“GIS datasets are growing increasingly complex, often involving many gigabytes of interactive maps. We are under pressure to deliver products capable of crunching through these datasets fast, efficiently, and accurately,” said Dimitri Rotow, product manager, “With the CUDA configuration, calculations that previously took 20 minutes to complete are now done in 30 seconds. Moreover, calculations that previously took 30 to 40 seconds are now real-time. It is no exaggeration to say that, at least for our industry, NVIDIA CUDA technology could be the most revolutionary development in computing since the invention of the microprocessor.”

The main reason for the increasing complexity of GIS datasets is simply that more data is being collected and more detailed analysis is required. Satellite photos that were once only available to intelligence analysts are now viewable by anyone with an internet connection. In addition, “remote sensing” satellites now image the Earth using multiple sensors which collect data in multiple wavelengths and resolutions and from many different angles and the compositing of these images is an arduous task. Without GPU acceleration through CUDA, GIS users would need to settle for lower resolution data which can miss subtle terrain artifacts – for an archeologist for example, this lower resolution could mean finding the outline of a buried fort but not the individual walls, making a dig problematic and costly.

Manifold began using CUDA in May 2007 and it took just 2 months to re-code their system to take advantage of the parallel processing power of the GPU. Manifold System Release 8, the world’s most powerful, full-featured GIS package recently beat out 12 distinguished nominees including AutoDesk, Gaia, and Magellan to win the 2008 Geospatial Leadership Award at the 2008 GeoTec Conference held in Ottawa, Canada.

The Manifold nomination and award citation reads, “Manifold is the first GIS to exploit massively parallel supercomputer technology on a desktop using inexpensive plug-in cards that provide hundreds of processors for less than $500. That enables GIS tasks and analysis to be completed hundreds of times faster than before through an innovative use of inexpensive, consumer hardware.”


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