An ever-increasing list of options exist for collecting high resolution topographic data, including airborne LIDAR, terrestrial laser scanners, bathymetric SONAR and structure-from-motion. An equally rich, arguably overwhelming, variety of tools exists with which to organize, quality control, filter, analyze and summarize these data. However, scientists are often left to cobble together their analysis as a series of ad hoc steps, often using custom scripts and one-time processes that are poorly documented and rarely shared with the community. Even when literature-cited software tools are used, the input and output parameters differ from tool to tool. These parameters are rarely archived and the steps performed lost, making the analysis virtually impossible to replicate precisely. What is missing is a coherent, robust, framework for combining reliable, well-documented topographic data-processing steps into a workflow that can be repeated and even shared with others. We have taken several popular topographic data processing tools - including point cloud filtering and decimation as well as DEM differencing - and defined a common protocol for passing inputs and outputs between them. This presentation describes a free, public online portal that enables scientists to create custom workflows for processing topographic data using a number of popular topographic processing tools. Users provide the inputs required for each tool and in what sequence they want to combine them. This information is then stored for future reuse (and optionally sharing with others) before the user then downloads a single package that contains all the input and output specifications together with the software tools themselves. The user then launches the included batch file that executes the workflow on their local computer against their topographic data. This ZCloudTools architecture helps standardize, automate and archive topographic data processing. It also represents a forum for discovering and sharing effective topographic processing workflows.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/joseph_wheaton/69/