October 18, 2004
Mile-High GIS -- GIS in the Rockies Special Report
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly!A small local conference offers a consolidation of what we in the press experience all year long at our various national GIS conferences. GIS in the Rockies, held October 6-8 in Denver at the Plaza at the Mart, expectedly reaffirmed top issues and/or technologies addressed at other conferences this year - openness and interoperability, sensor networks, advanced mobile technology, critical infrastructure protection. Yet the conference also offered a closer look at GIS efforts and issues specific to the Colorado Rockies. Read about all about it in this week's Industry News.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Appointments, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Mile-High GIS -- GIS in the Rockies Special Report

By Susan Smith

Focus on Mobile and Sensors
A small local conference offers a consolidation of what we in the press experience all year long at our various national GIS conferences. GIS in the Rockies, held October 6-8 in Denver at the Plaza at the Mart, expectedly reaffirmed top issues and/or technologies addressed at other conferences this year - openness and interoperability, sensor networks, advanced mobile technology, critical infrastructure protection.

Perhaps more importantly, what a local conference like GIS in the Rockies offers is a closer look at GIS activities in the region, by way of keynotes and educational tracks. According to attendees (I was there only for Thursday's events), Denver's Mayor John Hickenlooper is a former exploration geologist and very GIS-aware, focusing his keynote on advanced mobile and sensor technology topics. Since taking office, Hickenlooper has passed an initiative to modernize Denver's personnel system, overcome a $70 million deficit to balance the City budget while averting major cuts in services and massive layoffs, and implemented a huge set of police modernizations, among other achievements.

In his keynote address, Will Wilbrink, chief solutions architect for MapInfo Corporation, also focused on mobile and sensor technologies. Wilbrink has been instrumental in developing mobile and web services technologies at MapInfo.

Wilbrink has been in the GIS industry for 17 years and has also done Java 2 programming. He began by saying that people are interested in what's around them these days and 'how do I get there?' The advent of wireless locations has made location based technology cheaper, faster, better.

GPS transponders inside phones have now made it possible for people to know where other people are, and where other locations are. “Assisted GPS” as they are called, take about 30 seconds to 3 minutes to find out where you are. These are consumer devices that take too long for some people. In “urban canyons” - such as downtown areas, the GPS can't see the satellites, so it takes longer. The technology will improve to meet the demand of users who cannot wait to find out their peers' location or need to overcome what have now become 'geographic' obstacles -- buildings.

Advanced mobile technology is driven by e911, said Wilbrink. “It is estimated 50% of all 911 calls come from a mobile device now.”

Although we call it “advanced mobile technology,” “the 911 system today is based on 1950s technology - completely outdated,” according to Wilbrink. PSAT should be free and be provided by the state.

Voice calls are still primary. Telephone companies create networks to allow more voice calls, not data. Phone companies would like to see LBS providers serving up position of subscribers to anyone who wants it. Of course, this brings up privacy issues that the OGC is working on with its OpenLS standards.

Homeland Security data must be available across different agencies which will include location aware search engines, and the more widespread use of GIS data.

Wilbrink posed what he felt was the more difficult question: how does the private sector share data with agencies? How do you ensure data doesn't end up in customers' hands?

When people are asked if they want to be tracked, there are differing opinions about it. Privacy remains a big issue behind the dissemination of location data. Homeland security really requires that you have access to information when you need it, and that is dependent upon high speed networks. Soon wireless carriers will provide high connection speed over large metropolitan areas.

Wilbrink cited field service automation, fleet management and sales force automation as the most important service areas, which happen to be product and service areas that MapInfo Corporation focuses on.

The talk continued with more examples of great LBS, RFID and sensor technology challenged by privacy issues: RFID replaces UPC codes, retailers tracking purchases, Boomerang tracking your credit card to be sure no one has stolen it and is trying to buy something with it. With Onstar in cars, drivers can send and receive calls like with wireless except without having to dial. It also offers other services such as airbag deployment notification, stolen vehicle tracking, driving directions, and remote diagnostics.

Enterprise GIS - Southgate Water & Sewer Realizes Infrastructure Management Opportunities

Bill Jennings, P.E. District Manager, Southgate Water & Sanitation District and Phil Lidov, GIS Manager, Carter & Burgess, Inc. related their experience of working with the Southgate Water & Sewer Districts that distributes drinking water and collects sanitary sewage for approximately 80,000 residents in the southern part of the Denver metropolitan area.

The Districts identified GIS as a core component of their integrated information management system that will support maintenance of facilities, customer relations, and system planning for approximately 200 miles of water main, and 200 miles of sanitary sewer main that are flushed on a regular basis.

Southgate does not necessarily lend itself to a customized GIS, asset management and customer relationship management system because of its small staff and conservative nature. They do all their own repairs, maintenance on water mains, locates, and any time contractors dig in the area they must be onsite. However, with the help of Carter & Burgess, they were able to proceed through a multiphase process to create a GIS centered information management strategy.

Jennings related the history of technology at the Districts: “We started our CAD mapping in 1984 when I came here. Our supervisor was the database who had it all in his head. We just became networked. Computer expertise is a new thing in our office. We don't have a lot. Our CAD technician just took his first AutoCAD class; prior to that he has been learning from other people. I'm a civil engineer by background, and everything I know is with the computer in front of me.”

Lidov said, “We've been consultants with Southgate for about 1 1/2 years now. We began with a Needs Assessment of the organization, created an implementation plan, did an in-depth proof of concept with a pilot project. Right now Bill has gotten preliminary approval which will involve building the GIS across the organization.”

With the Needs Assessment Carter & Burgess tried to figure out the day to day needs of the different groups within the organization, where were opportunities to increase availability of information within organization, and looked at an example of an inspection and repair process - to figure out underlying goals.

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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.

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