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PYXIS Adages you should know...
  • PYXIS is a data independent or agnostic data structure that addresses uniquely and uniformly any “spot” on the Earth.
  • The technology was developed under military R&D where requirements for on-the-fly integration of disparate Geospatial-Intelligence sources has been deemed a grand challenge problem. The resulting breakthrough is the creation of an optimal and statistically valid “Digital” Earth Reference Model (DERM) as an alternative to the “Analog” approach of conventional geographic coordinates. See Digital Earth Reference Model in Wikipedia
  • The PYXIS DERM is optimized for combining geospatial data or conflation, - thus it relies on sensor, observation, GIS and other methods of data processing, vetting and certifying.
  • A client application of PYXIS is not a Geographic Information System or an Image Processing System, but a hybrid Discrete Global Grid System. – PYXIS is not intended to replace these conventional systems but to empower their products.
  • Core to PYXIS is the INTEGRATION of two or more geospatially referenced data sources – of multi: scale, type, format, datum, projection, temporal, frequency.
  • PYXIS, as a simple database indexing, allows geographic queries using efficient set theory as opposed to complex geometry.
  • PYXIS promotes location from an attribute of an object in a database to a highest order primary key and object – Old paradigm: Aircraft ABC is at X, Y, a satellite image shows green as X, Y, J. Doe lives at X, Y | New Paradigm at Loc Flight ABC is over the back yard of J. Doe
  • If two or more distributed databases contain PYXIS fielded objects then an efficient distributed query is enabled to support the question “What Is Here?” .
  • PYXIS is assembled on peer reviewed science - a great summative of this work can be found here with current citations: http://www.sou.edu/cs/sahr/dgg/pubs/gdggs03.pdf
  • PYXIS is not optimized for geometric transformations, thus content creation and manipulation should rely on other methods.
  • PYXIS is not an interoperability solution and therefore relies on a defined understanding of how data sources can be accessed – OGC etc..
  • PYXIS is not another Virtual Globe like Google Earth – PYXIS is more like a geospatially enable Google Search as PYXIS is an indexing and enables the ability to get an answer to “What is here” – although, given data availability, an amateur PYXIS user could rapidly build/populate their own PYXIS version of “Google Earth” on-the-fly.
  • PYXIS participates in an emerging commercial value network called Digital Earth or the Geoweb - where users can rapidly pull any information as evidence into their own environment to support their own questions and decisions; hence, giving rise to new distribution models for single source data providers.

PYXIS Interoperability Model

What is PYXIS?

We need digital standards to access the best features of computing systems – storage, processing, integration, data discovery, visualization, aggregation, transformations like analysis and modeling. Just like having a standard for Digital music, we also need a Digital standard to encode information about the Earth. Geographic coordinates of latitude and longitude represent an “analog” standard for referencing the Earth which has changed little in four centuries, and which fails to meet the optimal requirements of today's large, distributed, and disparate spatial-data systems. The result is lack of accessibility, profuse duplication, and underutilization of spatial-data resources. Yet there is a growing expectation for general on-demand access to rich and diverse spatial knowledge that an analog reference will not be able to meet.

PYXIS is a Digital Earth Reference Model. This does not mean we need to abandon conventional coordinates - the PYXIS innovation is losslessly compatible and inter-operable with all geo-spatial reference systems and legacy data types.

I want to know more about how the PYXIS DERM works.

It is quite simple. The Digital Earth Reference Model is a tiling over the whole Earth surface. We can think of each tile like a cell in a spreadsheet. Each cell can hold values or instructions. One can manually enter a value into each cell but that would be unreasonable as there are about a half a billion cells covering the Earth at the 1 square meter cell size. Instead, PYXIS allows us to drag and drop conventional spatial data - vector maps, raster images, terrain, even text, any digital information containing a known location - to populate values into the cells.

This Earth spreadsheet is unique as one can populate more than one value in any cell. Also, each cell references 3 smaller cells underneath it and those three more, so there is a hierarchy of cells layered on top of one another. In this way data of one scale can interact and merge with data of a different scale without losing the understanding of the data's granularity.

Once data is assigned to cells it can be used in a variety of ways. The values can be used to create a full 3D rendering of the planet at any zoom level. Operations on various values can provide for exciting results. Some examples:

  • Add a value to any elevation below a flood line and render this blue to visualize the extents of flooding.
  • Show cells that contain certain soil types, between specified slopes, that are not contained within cells populated by the boundaries of park land. These may indicate areas of erosion to be protected.
  • It's simple to take a mosaic of the world in the day, add a mosaic of the world at night, and average the values to show the lights of populated areas on a daytime view.
  • Classify ranges of values and assign colours to present valuable chloropleth and contoured data.

When analysis gets complex, PYXIS contains access to a query builder. For the advanced user, the PYXIS Image Processing Pipe provides the ability to string together chains of operations as complex as Fourier transforms and advanced image fusion.

Want even more technical explanation on How PYXIS Works?

How can I use PYXIS now?

Download WorldView™ GeoWeb Browser . WorldView™ is a client application that meets a generalized market need for on-demand information discovery, sharing, visualization, analysis and modeling. WorldView™ serves the GeoWeb like a Web Browser with the World Wide Web.

The application is neither a GIS nor an Image Processing application, but a powerful hybrid. Without the rigorous requirements of spatial data integration, the users are empowered to quickly, and cost effectively, build and use spatial information on-the-fly, forgoing a need to seek expensive specialized cartographic expertise.

At the core of the PYXIS DERM™ is a powerful pipe and filter technology - the PYXIS Information Processing Engine™ ( PIPE), links every step in data use and transformation as registered customizable operations in a string of processes.

The PYXIS DERM™ is exposed through 3rd party application development – the PYXIS SDK™, PYXIS Library™, published APIs, SWIG FFI and WorldView™ plug-in COM architecture.

We have built network capability that introduces a physical distribution network called PyxNet™ along with various server and service implementations on the DERM. PyxNet™ is an Internet subsystem that allows data publication and discovery on a Peer-to-Peer architecture. PyxNet™ includes a license server that maintains data control, authority, copyright, updates, transactions, user statistics and messaging between author and user. PyxNet™ and the PYXIS GeoWeb Stream Server™ provide attractive means of sharing geo-spatial information by original data providers, data integrators and resellers. For the Client application WorldView™ provides simplified and unified geospatial search capability.

With PYXIS do I have to change all my data?

Absolutely not. PYXIS handles almost all non-proprietary terrain, image and vector formats. It can integrate these on the fly or provide you with a publishing capability to translate or sample data into PYXIS for more efficient access. Further, PYXIS can integrate data collected and stored in almost any projection or any datum. This is a great place to look at your GPS records on satellite or other imagery.

How is this different from other tools I use?

There are many geo-spatial tools available today, each with its own unique value. All of these tools are built on the analog reference of either geographic spherical coordinates (Lat & Long) or projected to rectilinear coordinates. None of these methods will enable on-the-fly integration of two or more disparate datasets integrated, fused, and close coupled - not overlaid.

We believe that anyone requiring maps or spatial data from several sources in their work could benefit from the flexibility offered by a Digital Earth Reference Model. So if you are using a GIS to do analysis, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to write the analysis to a data structure and then swap all data types in and out of that data structure independent of the data location, format or scale? When doing visualization, wouldn’t it be nice to pull from multiple sources of spatial content you want to have in your map? What about data discovery? It would be great to zoom and pan in and out of an abstract of the Earth to complete a complex query {what, where, when} over multiple servers.

A critical case in point involves polygon vector data...

As a part of the recent pilot trials with the conservation communities PYXIS demonstrated a simple but powerful and elegant example. On a PYXIS client it rapidly generated vectors from UNEP-WCMC representing the entire global protected area database. Zoomed in to a protected area, it requested from the millions of disparate GBIF points, all of the species observations contained within the protected area only. This case points to a critical capability within PYXIS, the ability to efficiently query over multiple distributed and extremely large databases.

What software products use the PYXIS Digital Earth Reference Model?

While the Digital Earth Reference Model is surprisingly a new idea, its inspiration is not. Ecologists have used similar hexagonal grid patterns in GAP analysis for years.

In essence, PYXIS is a “spreadsheet” of hexagonal cells over the planet surface with special mathematical properties to aggregate and decompose information to coarser or finer resolutions - allowing for fast and progressive transmission, efficient Boolean operations, geometry and algebra. It is essentially a database index that can also represent any real number address or location, so any database application can use PYXIS immediately for integrating and analysis – converting traditional coordinates to PYXIS index (a lossless bidirectional operation).

For a current list of compatable data formats see Supported Data Formats


PYXIS is a new 'digital" way to reference information to the Earth. A powerful GIS could be easily built on it. So can attractive Location Based and Spatial Information Management Services. PYXIS Digital Earth Reference allows ANY spatial data to be integrated on-the-fly providing opportunities for advanced multi source GIS analysis without intense understanding of cartography, geodesy and geomatics. We are building systems for simplified data dissemination and discovery, drag and drop to combine data sets, 3D visualization and tactical analysis that is as simple as a database query.

PYXIS does not eliminate the need for experts working in the fields of GIS. GIS, Digital Cartography and Image Processing, as well as new sensor technologies, are required to create, manipulate and certify spatial data. However, on the GeoWeb, the lack of accessibility, profuse duplication and underutilization of spatial-data resources will no longer be the norm. The PYXIS DERM provides a data-agnostic solution for multisource data integration that uses common Image Processing techniques, Image Algebra and Boolean Logic across all data – raster imagery, vector features, matrix terrain and other structured and nonstructured spatial data.

The PYXIS Digital Earth Reference Model is the solution to one of the remaining grand challenges of the information age – combining two or more geospatial data source on-demand. Connecting disparate spatial data will no longer be a barrier. The PYXIS enabled GeoWeb will meet the growing expectation for general on-demand access to rich and diverse spatial knowledge.

What is Digital Earth?

At this point in time Digital Earth is a vision. At the PYXIS innovation we define Digital Earth as the medium for presenting all spatial data as coherent, accurate and timely information to the care of the one who is posing a question. At the PYXIS innovation we believe that Digital Earth will make a positive contribution to understanding and preserving planet Earth. We believe evidence-based decisions, responsibility and action are a product of knowledgeable choices. We believe knowledgeable choices are made when one is provided coherent, accurate and timely information. We believe that the power of knowledgeable choices is best in the care of the one who is posing the question.

We believe that PYXIS is the best reference model for Digital Earth.

Why the PYXIS innovation name and the turtle logo?

We see that fragile humanity, in its search for identity and survival, has emerged with the capacity to change the Earth. We have accepted the responsibility for keeping this Earth secure and safe. We believe that this stewardship can begin when we each have the unfettered power to survey and witness the Earth’s complexity, its beauty, its condition and its vulnerability. At the heart of our business is a mission to establish, build and commercialize a technology that will fundamentally enable all people to observe the Earth and its systems. Our vision is of a single medium upon which all spatial data can be referenced, discovered, viewed and transformed.

Our logo includes PYXIS the turtle surrounded by dancing images of prehistoric humanity on a swirling Earth. I want the application to enable those who want to be watchers or keepers of the Earth. The turtle named PYXIS conjures up Iroquois legends of the creation of the Earth as Turtle Island. The hexagon cells are the markings on her shell. PYXIS is a genus of endangered tortoise in Madagascar. PYXIS has many other meanings; its origins begin in Ancient Greece as a precious box to keep valuable personal mementos and later sailors carried the meaning for their box of oil and floating needle that showed them the way home. In the 16th century, the astronomer, Abbe Nicholas Louis de laCaille, discovered and named a constellation PYXIS the Navigator. The shape of PYXIS is also similar to a von Koch snowflake that has mystical properties of infinite perimeter with finite area and the subject of a cult classic “The Curve of the Snowflake.” I want PYXIS to provide us with a place of valued possessions, of bearings, of coming together, of inclusion, of observation, of transformations, memetics, awe and empowerment. Innovation is not invention. Although the PYXIS DERM is a powerful invention, social change must be enacted to claim the word innovation: Invention + Social Change = Innovation. This is the PYXIS innovation.” - Perry Peterson