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Update from Houma Incident Command Post (ICP), Louisiana

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I got an interesting report from Drew Stephens, Director of the GIS Institute, on his organization’s contribution to GIS at the Houma Incident Command Post (ICP) in Louisiana:

“Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and sinking, the ICP was established in Houma. As you can imagine, GIS was quickly a major component of the response. Beginning April 30, a team of  “GIS Smoke Jumpers” from across the USA deployed to Houma, LA to build and operate an enterprise-class GIS for the ICP. Waypoint Mapping’s Devon Humphrey served as the initial GIS Team Leader and was transferred to serve as Geographic Intelligence Officer for ICP Houma. Drew Stephens of The GIS Institute was named GIS Unit Lead. Mr. Humphrey served as liaison to Incident Command and NIMS-compliant system architect advisor, while Mr. Stephens recruited and managed a team of GIS professionals to operate the GIS Unit, most having 10-20 years GIS experience.

At first, GIS staff & products were primarily serving US Coast Guard task forces on the water, and overflight / plume mapping. The team quickly migrated away from the fragmented skills, flash drives and personal laptops, to a networked drive with a file geodatabase, then to an Enterprise SDE and ArcGIS Server. ArcGIS Mobile figured prominently into the overall design, and by last Friday, The Louisiana National Guard was posting data directly to a server from the field. There are now over 150 layers of base map and operational data served to users of ArcGIS desktop, a browser-based Flex viewer and a Google Earth app. The system, which would have normally taken a year or more to plan and implement, was fully operational in less than two weeks. Map requests were dominating the GIS staff time, so standardized map products were created on a schedule, each following a data deliverable to the team – for example, the twice-daily airborne SLAR imagery would be followed by a map product available from the document management team.
The range and depth of talent was truly remarkable. As the demand for GIS products and services grew, so did the GIS team, and its ability to deliver. Federal and Intelligence assets were put into play against the spill, as were staff. The GIS lab was a common stop by visiting Admirals, Captains, Colonels, and many others. The team had the honor of meeting various members of the Unified Command, including the outgoing Commandant of the Coast Guard (Admiral Thad Allen), Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp, Area Command FOSC Admiral Landry, Admiral Watson, Tom Strickland (Chief of Staff for Interior Secretary Salazar), David Hayes (Deputy Secretary of Department of Interior), Jane Lute (Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security), representatives from the State of Louisiana Governor’s Office, Army National Guard, Air Force, US Fish & Wildlife and many others.

There are now many more senior-level administrators who understand the power of GIS! I just returned from 21 days of service, resting and standing-by to go back…
Also, it’s tough to watch the news these days without being swept-up in the anger and blame – please know, that regardless of your take on all of this, there are many hard-working and passionate oil spill responders working really long hours with no time off in support of this ecological disaster.  Thanks for your support!

PS: if you see this by 5:20PM EDT Friday June 4, Drew will be on 880 AM in Asheville, NC and – it will be saved as podcast at the site under Local Edge Radio.”

Drew with US Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp  Drew with US Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp

Drew with US Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp Drew with US Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp

Lt. Gen James Clapper nominated for director of national intelligence position

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

After the September 11 attacks, the position of director of national intelligence was formed. On Saturday, President Obama nominated Lt. Gen. James Clapper, former head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and retired from the Air Force since 1995 after a 32-year career, to the position.

Obama called him one of America’s “most experienced and most respected intelligence professionals.”

Clapper would replace Dennis Blair, who resigned at the end of last month. Obama said he’ll be looking for Clapper “to ensure that we have the most capable and efficient intelligence community possible.”

Below are some news stories written about Clapper:

What Clapper Means For Intel by Colin Clark, DoD Buzz, June 8, 2010

Monday’s intriguing people CNN News, June 7, 2010

Maponics offers School Attendance Zones Boundaries

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Maponics continues to pioneer GIS data products and is the first to provide School Attendance Zones Boundaries as part of a comprehensive dataset that includes not only school attendance zones but nationwide school district boundaries and public and private school locations and profiles.

Maponics continues to pioneer GIS data products and is the first to provide School Attendance Zones Boundaries as part of a comprehensive dataset that includes not only school attendance zones but nationwide school district boundaries and public and private school locations and profiles.

A huge undertaking for Maponics is their newly released School Attendance Zones Boundaries. Darrin Clement filled me in on the product which is included in their Maponics School Boundaries product.

“Most people are familiar with the concept of a school district, those areas governed by some local government, usually a school board,” said Clement. “Within a school district there might be multiple elementary schools and so the challenge for people trying to buy a home, they may know that the area in which they are considering buying a home is in a good school district overall. Out of five elementary schools there are only two of them that are good so I make sure I buy a home so my kids can go to that school and those are governed by what are called school attendance zones. That’s what we have now mapped out. Customers in the real estate space are pleased as it will attract new consumers to their websites and is an additional tool in determining what homes to buy.”

In most cases, if a school district has five elementary schools, the households that go to each school are based on location, said Clement.  In most cases the school district has done some level of mapping themselves, so usually Maponics establishes a strong relationship with that school district so they give them that information and then they digitize it.

“From a school district standpoint we have the entire U.S.; from a school attendance zone standpoint, we’ve got about 20 percent of the student population mapped out. We have the information – how many students attend certain schools,” said Clement.

An example is in Miami, where there might be 10 school districts in the county, but within those districts there might be hundreds of school attendance zones. You’ve got different attendance zones for elementary school than middle school than high school and they don’t always overlap properly. “By the time we’re done, there will be about 120,000 school attendance zones, whereas I think there are only 15,000 or so school districts,” said Clement. “And there are cases where it’s a single zone district, in small communities, therefore the district is the attendance zone.”

For Attendance Zones Maponics has put the school location on the rooftop of the school. “By this time next year we’ll have 100 percent of the country covered at the School Attendance Zone level as well,” said Clement.

13-year-old to climb Mount Everest

Monday, May 10th, 2010

“Thirteen-year-old Jordan Romero partnered with ESRI to share his Mount Everest climb with the world via geographic information system (GIS) technology. The Jordan Romero Web site features an ESRI GIS mapping application that integrates Web services to track Romero’s journey. The application lets the public see Team Romero’s location in near real time, explore daily tracks, view distance and elevation statistics, and browse weather and route information. The application also gives geographic context to social media—for example, Flickr photos and Twitter posts from the team throughout the trip,” according to a press release issued today.

The thirteen-year-old Romero is already a mountain climbing pro, having already climbed six of the “Seven Summits,” the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents. Joined by his father, Paul Romero, and his stepmother, Karen Lundgren, the trio left for Everest on April 5 and expects to reach the summit some time this month. The trio have reached all six summits together. The young Romero is aiming to be the youngest person ever to summit Everest, which would beat the current record by three years.

Around the World

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Some interesting GIS news from different parts of the world:

New Technology Generates Database on Spill Damage by Sarah Wheaton, May 4, 2010, The New York Times (registration required)

China Information Security Ups Guidance, May 10, 2010, The Street

Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Crime Mapping Frederick County GIS

A social map of the Gulf oil spill May 10, 2010, Robert L. Mitchell, Reality Check, ComputerWorld

Flood control projects under way locally May 09, 2010, by Neil Young, Mohave Valley News

5 top features in new ERDAS 2010 10.1 release

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

In a conversation with vice president of product marketing Mladen Stojic, here’s what’s new in the ERDAS 2010 10.1 release:

1) new capability called LPS eATE – an enhanced automated terrain extraction tool that automatically extracts very accurate and very dense point clouds from imagery;

2) ERDAS APOLLO software application, ERDAS’ enterprise solution for managing and delivering large quantities of geospatial information, was released a couple of years ago. It works on a server and manages data whether its high volumes of image data, terrain data or vector for customers that have a lot of diverse data. What is new with this release is the Microsoft SQL support (noted below) and ERDAS APOLLO Feature Interoperability. ERDAS APOLLO Feature Interoperability is a new module that provides a DGN Connector to ERDAS APOLLO, enabling direct access to MicroStation’s DGN v7 and v8 format files via web services.

3) ERDAS has an ongoing partnership with Microsoft, which is now also reflected within the APOLLO application. Microsoft has been spending more and more money on its spatial capabilities on its SQL Server platform, so ERDAS is now working and will support the Microsoft SQL Server database in ERDAS APOLLO applications

4) Defense market, homeland security and intelligence are interested in the new “add-on” to ERDAS’ existing Stereo Analyst product. StereoAnalyst for ArcGIS Extension that ERDAS has built to serve Stereo Analyst customers who need additional Defense formats in the ArcGIS environment. This product collects native 3D data directly at a much greater accuracy rate with direct sensor model support for those classified sources on the ArcGIS platform.

5) According to Stojic,

Pixel-wise data extracted with LPS eATE. Point cloud, 3D, and cross sectional views of the surface are shown in Fugro Viewer.

Pixel-wise data extracted with LPS eATE. Point cloud, 3D, and cross sectional views of the surface are shown in Fugro Viewer.

ERDAS has been building high performance server systems and with this 10.1 release they have done even more to produce what they say is the fastest server in the market for serving geographic data and information.

Regional Australia needs more surveyors and GIS professionals

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

A University of New South Wales professor said surveyors and GIS professionals are sorely needed in the rural areas. Fewer locals are taking courses or returning from college to their country roots to work in those areas.

More rural surveyors needed, April 14, 2010, ABC News

GLANSER for emergency responders

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

“Many incidents (such as the events of 9/11 and the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire that killed six firefighters) have highlighted the need for an accountability system to accurately locate, track, monitor, and visualize the locations of responders on a geospatial map. This will allow incident commanders and tactical-decision makers to virtually observe personnel movements in real time to avoid loss of life.”

This article talks about the “development of the geospatial location accountability and navigation system for emergency responders (GLANSER). The system is a ‘cocktail solution’ in which several components have been fused together to provide an estimate of the user’s location, whether inside or outside a building. We have combined GPS, IMU, ultrawide-band ranging radio, Doppler radar, as well as a magnetometer, compass, pedometer, and altimeter, to fit into a 2×4×6in3 wearable electronic unit. This combination of sensors works in harmony so that when GPS is not available, or in periods of suboptimal RF ranging, other signals are exploited”

Tracking emergency responders in challenging environments, by Jalal Mapar, April 13, 2010, SPIE

Rolta acquires One GIS

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Rolta acquires U.S. firm One GIS, April 14, 2010, Reuters, India

Geospatial as underlying component for Autodesk product line

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

At AU it appeared that geospatial had an uncertain future at Autodesk. Senior director, Infrastructure Modeling Product Line Paul McRoberts stated at Autodesk’s AEC Technology Day this week that geospatial is the underlying component for all of Autodesk products. The FDO platform is extensible open source software that can be noted in transportation, water and waste water, land development, power and energy.

McRoberts said that 24% of the gross revenue collected by AEC firms is for planning, according to an American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) study. It might appear that the role of geospatial at Autodesk is visual in nature: modeling and visualization for water, transportation, energy and water and wastewater, where getting public approval is primary to getting projects off the ground. What is needed here is a way to show a workflow including location and geospatial data. The technologies spoken most about – 3ds Max for visualization and Dynamite VSP Exporter are for showing how problems can be solved, interoperability, and being able to migrate information to others.

The laser scanning environment and lidar data play a part in this. McRoberts said that surveying may become a thing of the past. With the need in many places for ground truth data, particularly in areas that aren’t readily accessible with laser scanning equipment or lidar, I think it may be a long time before this is realized.

“Digital cities,” a hot buzz term of a year or two ago, will now go by the name “sustainable cities” as one part of a greater vision including extension of assets such as tranmission lines into rural communities. It is part of the scope of LandXplorer, in its quest to address large scale projects and visualization. McRoberts said LandXplorer holds a GIS layer underneath that contains real data.

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