Corrections or additions?
These stories by Teena S. Chandy, Barbara Fox, and Melinda Sherwood were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 19,
All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane: Maptext
The mapmaking trade erupted into controversy not once
but twice in the past year — first when a Marine pilot severed
the cable of a ski lift in Italy, killing 20 people, and then again
in the Kosovo conflict when NATO bombs mistakenly hit the Chinese
embassy in Belgrade, killing three people. In both cases the pilots
were apparently using outdated maps. The National Imagery and Mapping
Agency (NIMA), providers of maps to the defense department, is taking
criticism because of these incidents, and the controversy serves to
highlight the significance of accurate maps.
Herbert Freeman, founder and president of Maptext at the Princeton
Meadows Office Center, aims to improve mapmaking by providing software
for automatic name placement, the labeling of features such as roads,
rivers, mountains, parks, and villages on a map. Founded in 1997,
the Maptext operated from the homes of its employees, but it now has
its own 1,600-square-foot office with eight technical staff members.
"Mapping is a very important business, and our software will help
speed up the creation of maps," says Freeman.
Over the centuries cartographers have refined the art of manual name
placement and achieved a high level of quality to which the map-reading
public has become accustomed, says Freeman. "Until recently name
placement was regarded as something that computers just would not
be able to do," he says. While a computer could generate the graphics
— the points and lines that represent the features — name
placement required the manual efforts of a skilled cartographer.
Maptext is one of the two companies in the world seriously
working on name placement, says Freeman, and his new software system
can reduce weeks of manual name placement to a matter of minutes.
The software developed by Maptext will be used to label more than
2 million different maps for the federal census bureau for the Census
2000. This contract is worth approximately half a million dollars
for the first year.
The son of a German physician, Freeman immigrated to the United States
in 1938 at the age of 12. He received his electrical engineering degree
from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and his doctorate in
electrical engineering from Columbia University. He joined the department
of electrical engineering at New York University in 1960 and was chairman
of the department in 1968. Since 1985 he has been professor of computer
engineering at Rutgers, where he also served as director of the Center
for Computer Aids for Industrial Productivity until 1990.
Freeman says he developed an interest in mapmaking when a geographer
approached him at a conference in 1979. Computers were being used
in cartography for everything except two tasks — name placement
and generalization, the process of adjusting the scale of a map when
going from a larger to a smaller size. The geographer asked Freeman,
who was then working in computer graphics and image processing in
a university environment, if he could help.
"I took that as a challenge," says Freeman. He suggested this
problem to a doctoral student, John Ahn. Four years later they achieved
a measure of success, says Freeman. "Ahn got his doctorate and
at a technical geographers’ conference the audience applauded when
he made his presentation." Freeman and Ahn continued working on
map name placement and, in 1984, were successful in developing a software
system that could handle the complete problem.
"Generalization" still remains a challenge for cartographers.
For example, if you wanted a wall map of New Jersey to be reduced
to fit into your glove compartment, a simple reduction of the map
might obliterate important features such as the New Jersey Turnpike
or Route 1. Maintaining proper representation of important features
must still be accomplished, for the most part, by hand, says Freeman.
Researchers are working on this problem.
"Maps are based on data from nature," says Freeman. "There
are inherent ambiguities that nature presents that we have to overcome.
As a medium of communication, a map must quickly and effectively communicate
spatial relationships to its viewer, whether he or she is an expert
skilled in the art of map reading or a layperson."
Name placement requires that there should be no ambiguity
between the name and its corresponding feature, names should not overlap,
cartographic conventions have to be obeyed, and a high level of esthetic
quality should be maintained. Automatic name placement had to match
the quality of manual name placement, says Freeman. "A map cannot
be labeled like an engineering drawing."
Maptext is presently working very intensively with the census bureau
to assure that everything will be ready when the census officially
begins in April of next year, says Freeman. "At this moment they
are making test maps, preparing for the 2000 census. They are sending
them out to the municipalities to verify that the data is correct.
The final maps will be made beginning in the fall." Most commercial
users get maps from the census bureau or the U.S. Geological Survey.
Maptext is also developing a commercial version of its map labeling
software called Label-EZ, which can be customized to fit a particular
user’s mapping requirements and standards. Though it is presently
at the beta stage, the software could be available for sale in the
next few months. Freeman is also negotiating to sell his software
to NIMA. "We have a big proposal to work with them that is currently
under review," says Freeman.
No stranger to innovation, Freeman has the distinction of having designed
SPEEDAC, Sperry Corporation’s first digital computer in 1953. Next
to the laptop he uses now, Freeman says, "it would be like comparing
the Wright brothers’ model of the airplane to the 747 of today."
08536. Herbert Freeman, president. 609-716-7552; fax, 609-716-7553.
— Teena Chandy
Intellectual capital is of prime importance, says Neil
Bhaskar, founder of NovaSoft Information Technology, a computer company
that has grown like topsy every year for six years. Bhaskar says he
is making an investment in intellectual capital when he divulges the
firm’s financial situation to every worker on whatever level: "The
intangible assets reside between the ears of my people," says
Bhaskar. "If they do not have access to the same information that
the CEO has, their decisions will be suboptimal. As opposed to me
holding the numbers to my chest, they are part of the decision-making
process. That is how we keep our costs down."
Another reason to keep company information out in the open is that
NovaSoft plans to go public by the end of next year. By having a board
of directors, quarterly meetings, and reports, the firm is learning
how to be a public company.
NovaSoft Information Technology Corp. has expanded into a new office
building on Quakerbridge Road and has a new phone and fax. The 18,000
feet square-foot brick one-story building was developed by an investment
group headed by Joe Pintinalli. One of the conference rooms seats
25 people for board meetings, another adjoins the president’s office,
and a third conference room at the front of the building is available
for members of the sales team to meet with visiting clients. The building
also has a gym/workout room and a lounge with sleep sofas for catnaps.
Fifty people work in the building now, which has room for 100 more;
the firm is looking for 15 people right now. Last year NovaSoft grossed
about $14 million, and this year it projects $42 million.
Founder Bhaskar grew up in Delhi, where his grandmother ran a large
trucking business, his father was a mechanical engineer, and his mother
did social work. He was inspired by Neil Armstrong’s historic flight,
and his boyhood dream was to be an aeronautical engineer. He did get
that degree from the Indian equivalent to MIT, the Institute of Technology
in 1981, followed by a master’s degree from the Indian Institute of
Management. After working for the largest bank in Australia and meeting
his future wife (a New Zealand native), he immigrated to Florida,
where he helped to found a company called IMR that grew from 5 to
500 people in three years.
In 1993 Bhaskar opened his own firm, Novasoft, as a company for computer
language and database conversion with six employees. The following
year he followed his largest client, Saks Fifth Avenue, to Princeton.
He helped expand the retailer’s systems so it could handle, not just
99 stores, but 100 or more accounts.
Among the current offerings are Enterprise Resource
Planning (ERP), global consulting services, outsourcing (managing
the data center for a New Jersey hospital) and professional services.
NovaSoft gave high-end computer training to 1,100 people in major
corporations from January to March this year, and it expects to ramp
up these efforts in its new 4,000 square foot education center. NovaSoft
is moving away from Year 2000 applications and toward its newest focus,
E-commerce; it will migrate its products toward more web-based design
and offer web-based training for both clients and consultants.
In its fifth year the company began to rack up awards: it was in the
New Jersey Technology Fast 50, one of New Jersey’s Finest 25, and
was ranked in the Inc. 500. It has nearly 300 employees worldwide
with offices in Singapore, India, and the United Kingdom.
This year Bhaskar made the biggest splash by giving away Mercedes
Benz sedans to outstanding performers — nine of them in the past
16 months. "People like to work for companies that are going places
and having fun," he says. This year’s slogan is "People Matter,"
and the workforce is divided the workforce into eight-person teams
for planning such activities as bowling and picnics.
One of the newest departments, headed by a recent MBA graduate, is
capturing accumulated company knowledge and putting it on a corporate
database so that, as Bhaskar says, "people can look at it, share
it, and use it."
"I strongly believe that my biggest asset is my people. I learned
from my grandmother how to respect people and how to motivate them
and bring out the best of them," says Bhaskar. From his grandfather
he learned the importance of reputation: "Reputation travels faster
than anything else. Part of our intellectual capital branding is for
people to hear that `you are from that company that gives out Mercedes.’"
— Barbara Fox
Road, Lawrenceville 08648. Neil Bhaskar, CEO. 609-588-5500; fax, 609-588-5577.
Home page: http://www.novasoftinfo.com.
From factory engineering to factoring to computer schools
— as he prepares to celebrate his 50th birthday, Haresh Sheth
has begun a new career. Janus Computer Training firm had its grand
opening on Scotch Road in early May. It is a Microsoft-certified solution
provider and has 45 current students, and soon Sheth expects to expand
A native of Bombay, his family has been in business for 80 years as
distributors and marketers in India for such pharmaceutical giants
as Parke-Davis, Squibb, and Glaxo. Sheth studied mechanical engineering
at West Virginia University in Morgantown and did factory design in
Denver and Philadelphia before moving to Hong Kong, where he rose
in a firm that manufactured modules for digital electronic watches
and became president.
Then Sheth went into the financing business, doing export commodity
financing in Hong Kong, and opening a factoring company, Janus Finance
Corp. in Chicago. But he missed the frenetic atmosphere of Hong Kong,
and, yearning for New York, moved with his wife and teenage daughter
to New Jersey in 1995. "I thought I could `have New York’ whenever
I wanted," he says. "I wanted a faster pace."
Sheth took his time figuring out what business to open here and concluded
that computer training was a growth industry; his school joins nearly
two dozen other Princeton area schools. "But we don’t do things
like other schools," says Sheth. He says his students will range
from those with no computer skills to those who are looking for advanced
computer training to be a network systems engineer, administrator,
or a programmer.
His courses include Systems Engineer/Microsoft Certified System Engineer
Preparation (MCSE), Help Desk Engineer and Microsoft Certified Professional
Preparation (MCP), Client Server/Database Professional, Client Server
and Internet Programming, and Microsoft Office 97 Professional course.
The average cost of a fulltime or part-time course is $7,000.
Janus Computer Training is self-financed because Sheth is unwilling
to commit to a personally guaranteed loan that would jeopardize his
family’s future. "I can only do so much with the money I have
and must be careful that I do not jeopardize my family’s wealth. I
have to leave something aside. I could retire," says Sheth, "but
one does not retire at the age of 49."
5, Ewing 08628. Haresh Sheth, president and financial officer. 609-637-0900;
When more and more American companies are depending
on overseas recruits to work on their software projects, Uma Pandey,
chairman and president of ERP Advantage, a computer consulting company,
believes in scouting for talent within the United States. "Our
philosophy is to hire guys locally and mold them as per our business
needs and put them to work for us."
There is a lot of high tech software out there but not enough people
are familiar with it, says Pandey. "We used to go to India and
recruit people to work here. But a majority of the people who are
coming from India and other countries have just taken a three-months
or six-months computer course. Some of them were incompetent and we
were losing money. We realized that there is no sense in going to
India for people. Our goal is to build expertise in the ERP related
fields within the United States."
ERP refers to Enterprise Resource Planning and includes complex management,
industrial, and financial software packages such as BAAN, SAP, PeopleSoft,
SEIBEL, and Oracle applications used widely by leaders of the industry,
says Pandey. "We also focus on high tech areas like Internet,
Intranet, and E-commerce." Pandey has about 25 consultants working
across the U.S. and is opening a training division on June 1.
Students graduating from colleges with management, engineering, and
computer degrees are not familiar with the latest software packages
that companies use, says Pandey. "When they graduate they don’t
have the skills required, but these guys from India with no technical
knowledge are familiar with these packages and have an edge over the
Pandey’s courses are designed for students who are currently in undergraduate
and graduate schools and also for those already in the workforce.
By taking these courses on a part-time basis, students can come to
the job — not only with a management background — but also
with knowledge about the latest software packages. For instance, the
administrator of a telephone bank must know both how to manage people
and how to understand the telephone bank software.
Pandey hopes to hire some of the ERP graduates. "That way, as
a company, we have good expertise we can brag about, and students
can get hold of the latest technology by the time they graduate,"
says Pandey. "Some of the students we will employ and train to
work for us. Others will start as students and if they are good we
will employ them after they have completed the course."
Courses include an introduction to ERP, ERM (Enterprise Relationship
Management), Web Development, and E-Commerce. "We will also offer
Windows and MTE certification courses but our focus will be on ERP-related
courses," says Pandey. He recommends that those with no computer
knowledge at all should go to a community college and take a few courses.
It would be less expensive, he says.
Pandey’s courses are offered part time, both on weekdays and on weekends.
Their duration varies from four weeks to 24 weeks, and their cost
from $5,000 to $10,000.
The son of an Indian air force officer, Pandey is a native of Lucknow,
India. He came to the United States in 1985 with a masters degree
in physics and earned a degree in computer science from the City University
of New York in 1987. Pandey started his career working for AT&T Bell
Labs in the language development department and then for IBM. In 1997
he founded his own consulting business in Iselin.
"There are too many training institutes in Iselin," Pandey
says of his decision to shift to Princeton, "and Iselin was too
expensive for us. Being in Princeton, we can also attract students
from Trenton and Philadelphia as well." Pandey, 37, lives with
his wife and 10-month-old baby in Edison.
Princeton 08540. Uma S. Pandey, chairman and president. 609-683-4474;
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.