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LizardTech, Inc.
Industry Software
Founded Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S. (1992)
Headquarters Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Products GeoExpress, Express Server
Number of employees
30 (August 2008)
Parent Celartem, Inc.

LizardTech is a geospatial software company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, notable for transferring the wavelet-based MrSID image encoding and viewing technology from initial development by the U.S. government to the geospatial market.

LizardTech's products enable users to compress, manipulate, and distribute high-resolution geospatial data such as aerial, satellite imagery and LiDAR data. The company is a division of Celartem Inc. (Hercules: 4330), and has offices in Tokyo and London. Its sister company, Extensis, is based in Portland, Oregon.

LizardTech was founded in 1992 to commercialize the MrSID technology and file format originally developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico. The name of the company is an homage to the lizards of the New Mexican desert.


After working together at Los Alamos, John R "Grizz" Deal and Dr. Vance Faber formed LizardTech to move the MrSID (Multi-resolution Seamless Image Database) technology from LANL, where it was developed for government applications, into the wider arena of private industry. They recruited Dr. Jim White from LANL and Peter Crook from the private sector to drive the first commercial wavelet-based image compression product, LizardTech's early MrSID GeoEncoder software (later renamed GeoExpress) was designed specifically for geospatial professionals working with massive sets of aerial and satellite imagery.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) was one of the early adaptors, and the National Information Mapping Agency (now called the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) and many other government agencies have since embraced the MrSID format. It is now supported by more than 300 GIS applications including those of ESRI, ERDAS (ERDAS IMAGINE), Autodesk and Intergraph.

In the mid-1990s, LizardTech moved its headquarters to Seattle, Washington, where it was identified in 1998 as the Washington Software Alliance’s Most Promising New Company.

In 2000, still a privately owned company funded by venture capital, LizardTech released its Content Server software product (later renamed Express Server), a server add-on that leveraged efficiencies in wavelet-based image compression to "stream" image data over networks on an as-needed basis as users navigated imagery.

With the slow but steady emergence of another wavelet-based compression technology, the powerful but complex JPEG 2000 ISO standard (ISO/IEC 15444-1:2000), LizardTech launched an aggressive R&D program to incorporate JPEG 2000 into its software products and became experts in JPEG 2000 compression for the geospatial industry. A by-product of this research was a gradual shift toward more use of open source tools and software and cooperation with the open source development community.

Deal and Faber left LizardTech in 2002. In 2003 the company was purchased by Celartem Inc., a Tokyo-based imaging technology company.[1] The same year, LizardTech joined the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

In 2005 LizardTech began adding tools to its basic compression product with the aim of supporting geospatial users from a workflow standpoint, such as reprojection, area-of-interest encoding and color balancing. That year the company also released Spatial Express, an API and set of tools for storing and retrieving wavelet-compressed imagery in an Oracle database.

From 2006 onward, development focused on interoperability of LizardTech's products with each other and with the broader geospatial ecosystem. LizardTech rolled out its Express Suite—all three of its geospatial products together—in 2007. The 2008 release of GeoExpress 7 completed the work of making GeoExpress, Spatial Express and Express Server all interoperate fully for the first time.

In 2000 LizardTech negotiated exclusive rights to commercially develop and market the DjVu technology developed at AT&T Laboratories in 1996. The company hoped to widen its market from raster imaging only (mainly in the geospatial arena) to include the complex raster and vector imaging necessary in the growing document imaging industry. LizardTech developed the Document Express enterprise and professional level products in the years 2000–2006. DjVu-based solutions were most successful in Asia, and in 2007 Celartem began transferring all aspects of DjVu development to its Tokyo headquarters. Celartem USA now handles all aspects of DjVu marketing, sales and support in the U.S.

The MrSID image format continues to be an important compressed image format for geospatial applications and is supported in virtually all GIS software products. It is required as a delivery format by the USDA's National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP). Interest in JPEG 2000 has grown slowly but steadily as users become aware of the standard's capabilities for carrying georeferencing and other XML-based metadata via the Geography Markup Language (GML), as well as for fine-tuning compression parameters for particular workflows.

LizardTech and open standards[edit]

LizardTech sits on OGC's Technical Committee and has been a chief contributor[citation needed] in extending the capabilities of JPEG 2000 to geospatial applications. The lack of a geospatial metadata standard had meant that applications and viewers may or may not be able to read geospatial metadata in JPEG 2000 files. Together with Galdos Systems, also an OGC member, LizardTech developed a geography markup language (GML) implementation of JPEG 2000 that was ratified by the OGC in February 2006. Called GMLJP2, this implementation furthers the interoperability of JPEG 2000 as a geospatial image format and helps customers disseminate and maximize return on investment from geospatial imagery by providing a consistent, vendor-independent image format.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • The Washington Software Alliance named LizardTech Most Promising New Company in 1998.
  • LizardTech received an honorable mention in the Innovation Award category for its Express Suite Family of Products during the Geospatial Leadership Awards ceremony at the 2008 GeoTec Event in Ottawa Ontario.

Development rights and patents[edit]

LizardTech holds exclusive rights to develop and market the MrSID technology and holds a number of patents.

See also[edit]