Surveying, Mapping and GIS

Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development and enterprise architecture...

  • Geospatial Technology, End to End...

    Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development, enterprise architecture and policy

iPhone Madness

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/30/2007 10:58:00 AM 5 comments

Yesterday, I was offered an iPhone, out of the blue. Yea, it's really cool, has an incredible interface, is power-packed with features, and just amazing technological innovations. But... I remain skeptical, I just don't share the enthusiasm that Peter Batty and others are demonstrating. Just a few things I have found thus far:

  • Maps, but no GPS. Huh? No apparent map APIs for us technogeeks who would seek to leverage it with other GIS capabilities. I'd just as soon run my mobile navigation software, along with ArcPad and other goodies...

  • Runs OSX, but it's not really OSX - It's stripped down and locked down so you can't use OSX software, can't use 3rd-party software, can't develop for it.

  • Security - Apple's smug arrogance that they are invulnerable to hacks, viruses and everything really does not sit well with me. It's a function of many things - the "get big evil Micro$oft" syndrome among hackers, market share, accessibility of development tools, and other things, not so much that Apple is in actually any more secure.

  • When you're not connected to the internet via WiFi, you get AT&T Edge - at 40kbps, that's slower than dial-up. Granted, they are upgrading to 80kbps...

  • And so on...
Maybe I will pass this time around, and instead wait for the next-generation iPhone. For the interim, I might prefer to go with a GPS-integrated Windows Mobile SmartPhone instead.

Get It Surveyed?

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/30/2007 10:03:00 AM 1 comments

I was amazed to see the articles in the news about the border fence debacle, where construction evidently went full-tilt along the US-Mexico border to construct a fence to prevent illegal immigration, following 120-year-old barbed wire strands, and without any apparent proper surveying research, and construction stakeout.

Evidently there are legal monuments spaced along the border, tall metal or concrete markers managed by the International Boundary and Water Commission, jointly operated by the US and Mexican government, but in constructing the fence, they evidently failed to do their due dilligence, and in fact the fence was revealed to be encroaching into Mexican territory. Certainly historic fence lines can have some meaning and significance as boundary evidence and as lines of possession in certain circumstances, but in this circumstance, particularly where an international boundary is concerned, I am frankly disturbed that proper survey work went by the wayside.

Technology Workers, H1B Visas and Controversy

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/29/2007 04:22:00 PM 1 comments

There have been a number of news stories circulating about the H1B visas and overseas technology workers finding employment in the US:

A fraud aspect of it stems from the appearance that employers are going out of their way to deny Americans jobs - more details here:

There are a number of additional videos and clips on YouTube and others relating to this...

I don't think that I have any problem whatsoever with foreign developers coming here in and of itself - I know and work with a lot of very wonderful and talented people from overseas.

What concerns me on one side is the pure profit motive of industry, and on the other side, I am also concerned by the protectionist and xenophobic attitude of some others, and so on. However even these seem to be stuck in the weeds and shallow water - there is also a bigger picture that needs to be examined -for example if Americans cannot find gainful employ in technology sectors, it creates many other cascading impacts and disincentives - and this in turn begins to undermine technology curricula at schools and universities, it impacts research and innovation, and so on. And ultimately, all of these may also adversely impact profit.

Gains and losses should be balanced judiciously.

Life isn't just about cold hard cash.

As of June 4, 2007, the USGS will be releasing selected Landsat 7 image data of the United States through the Web ( or These data are of high quality with limited cloud cover (referred to as the Landsat ETM+ SLC-off L1T Standard Product).

This Web-enabled distribution of new and recently acquired data is a pilot project for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), currently projected for launch in 2011.

The project will allow the Landsat data user community to help refine the distribution system planned for the upcoming LDCM. Each scene will be registered to the terrain, or “ortho-rectified,” prior to being placed on the Web. Copies of these data will also be available on CD or DVD at the cost of reproduction.

Landsat data have proven useful for a wide range of applications. From disaster monitoring after Hurricane Katrina and the Indonesian tsunami to global crop condition analysis, Landsat data are being used by scientists around the world.

The Web-based distribution system will allow the user community easier access to Landsat 7 data. The pilot project will be carefully examined. Customer response will be evaluated and their insight will influence the future distribution system.

Rachel Kurtz, PhD
Data Acquisition Manager, Acting
Landsat Project

Land Remote Sensing Program
Sioux Falls, SD 57198

Vector Data, SOA and Scalability

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/26/2007 04:35:00 PM 3 comments

One of the things I am still trying to get my head around is scalability in vector-based web services, such as OGC Web Feature Services or ArcIMS Feature Services. Certainly with image services, one can do a lot of magic behind the scenes - such as tiling, caching, load balancing.

In many instances, an image service will suffice well, but for power users, for ad-hoc queries and analysis, the full geometry and attribute data is often needed. And in the case of a distributed enterprise, here is one place where a purely SOA-oriented approach begins to break down.

Things becomes a bit more difficult when it comes to vector geometry, as most GIS clients are still only geared toward consuming and processing vector data in one chunk.

Further, vector geometries can't well be broken into tiles without causing other breakage - polygons and linear features need to retain their topological integrity in order to work.

Yes, one can certainly cache vector feature services, provided the underlying data is relatively static, or apply constraints limiting the amount of data that one can fetch at a time, but is there any possibility, looking down the road, of utilizing more efficient serial or multiple parallel processes to rapidly and efficiently stream large and complex vector datasets?

I think there will need to be, and I don't yet see OGC, ESRI or anyone else looking at this. I'd be interested in hearing other folks' thoughts and experiences on this...

San Diego Trolley - Consumer-friendly?

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/25/2007 10:18:00 AM 5 comments

While I'm airing complaints... I was amazed to see that the San Diego Trolley system does not accept credit or debit cards for purchases. So cash only. And then, they don't give out any more than $5 in change (maybe all you have is a $20...)

Further still, they give change in those cheeezy new $1 coins that look like arcade game tokens (at least the Sacajawea dollars had some aesthetic...)

Also, they don't seem to have a 5-day or week pass right front and center. I ended up having to get a 4-day pass and then wing it on an individual fare for the last day.

Not exactly consumer-friendly or commuter-friendly, unless you get a more permanent pass...

Cancelled Paper Sessions at the ESRI UC...

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/25/2007 09:07:00 AM 2 comments

As with ESRI User Conferences in the past, there were several cancelled paper sessions. Not that this is unusual in and of itself, but it did seem that there were more cancellations than usual this time around. For example, one person commented that virtually everything relating to geology was cancelled.

The puzzling thing to me is why they didn't consider stepping up and having other folks present. This year, I also submitted two abstracts which were not accepted - good projects, built on ArcGIS Server and ArcIMS, using realtime sensor data, realtime analysis and other things which nobody else was presenting this year - and several other people I know also submitted abstracts for other good projects, but were not accepted.

Perhaps they should consider a "standby" list for presenters and presentations, rather than just having all of the glaring and disappointing instances of "Session Cancelled" ...

San Diego Trolley Victim

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/24/2007 11:34:00 PM 6 comments

I have not heard anything more about the young lady that was hit by the Orange Line trolley on her way to the ESRI UC Wednesday morning...

There is still only sparse information available online:

I was on the next southbound Orange line, we had to disembark and walk from Seaport Village, she had already been rescued and sent off by ambulance, but police were still working the accident scene.

My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family for a speedy recovery.

ESRI Plenary, yet more notes...

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/24/2007 10:32:00 AM 0 comments

ESRI International User Conference 2007

Plenary Session, 6/18/2007 - Continued

Here continues my posting of notes from the UC... Still enumerating new features for 9.3...

Multiple Views

Yes, the much-awaited multiple views for ArcGIS Desktop 9.3 are coming...


9.3 brings enhanced label management, with a "pause labeling" feature, which skips labels in interim operations, and thereby allows faster redraws and navigation.

Polygon labeling offers new options as well - "label at fixed position within polygon", labeling of all polygons on a given layer at upper right, lower left, bottom center, and so on.

Contour labeling has been enhanced, to allow groups of contour labels to be linear, in holding with cartographic standards.

A "river labeling" style has been added, to better follow rivers.



ArcGIS 9.3 brings true What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) editing of features and for cartographic representations. Currently, when a user drags an entity, it is shown in wireframe mode, but 9.3 dynamically shows what the actual feature will look like while being dragged.


9.3 has functionality that highlights overlaps, as well as a great new "disperse markers" feature, which allows overlapping markers to be automatically rearranged in a number of styles.

Cartographic Representations

For tips and tricks for enhanced cartographic standards and representations, and toward optimizing features and functionality in ArcGIS Desktop 9.3, ESRI has set up a "Mapping Center" website, located at

Job Tracking Extension (JTX)

The new Job Tracking Extension offers interesting new functionalities for ArcGIS Desktop and Server 9.3. Essentially, it tracks and manages workflows.

(more to follow... trying to catch up with family first)

ESRI UC Photos on Flickr

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/24/2007 09:57:00 AM 0 comments

I had a chance to get my photos from the ESRI Conference trip off of my camera, and have posted a sampling of them to Flickr...

See the slideshow...

Unfortunately it's an old camera, I didn't have it with me for some of the events and sessions, and several of my photos did not come out, but I am posting what I can.

Plenary: Analysis!


Map Gallery: Some of my stuff:


Cadastral Fabric:


Marston Smith doing his electric cello thing...


Some good friends at the EPA booth: Left to right: Ayhan Ergul (Innovate), Wendy Blake-Coleman (EPA), Claudia Benesch (CSC), Jessica Zichichi (Innovate), and Riva San Juan (Indus)... Ayhan and Jessica won first place for the Embedded GIS category in the User Application Fair for the Metadata Editor, and Jessica also won the Women's Overall in the ESRI 5k run.




And more... check the slideshow out...

ESRI UC 2007 - Plenary Notes, Continued...

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/23/2007 09:57:00 PM 0 comments

ESRI International User Conference 2007

Plenary Session, 6/18/2007 - Continued

Here continues my posting of notes from the UC... I left off with enhancements through the 9.2 SP 3, SP4 and 9.3 releases...


ArcGIS Server will bring improved support for imagery, to allow more sophisticated processing and hyperspectral imagery. Tools from ERDAS and Leica systems will be able to work with imagery hosted on ArcGIS Server.

Raw imagery will be able to be sent directly to a web service.

Web Mapping

Web mapping tools will improve, with Ajax Map Tips, and transparent tools (such as for navigation).

ArcGIS Mobile

ArcGIS Mobile is a new set of components as a lightweight alternative to ArcPad, which allows integration with GPS, connected and disconnected editing.

ArcGIS Explorer

ArcGIS Explorer and ArcGIS Online continue to evolve.

Open Standards and Interoperability

Toward expanded support for Open Standards and Interoperability, a REST API for ArcGIS Server is being developed. Additionally, stronger OGC support is being pursued, along with improved ability to support mashups in Google and Microsoft Virtual Earth.

CAD Interoperability

ESRI Continues to develop and enhance ArcGIS for AutoCAD, and is pursuing improvements to support the CAD->GIS Workflow. In polling, 50% of ESRI users indicated they also use CAD software.

I wonder if ESRI is pursuing complete, if simple, CAD capabilities, to obviate the need for CAD packages for more casual users.

Other Notes:

Continued support for mashups is being pursued. Additionally, Replication within ArcSDE is being developed and expanded, to support work within an organization, where multiple departments must be coordinated.

ArcGIS Explorer and ArcGIS Online

Bernie Szukalski gave an overview of ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS Online makes a number of ready-to-use resources available to ArcGIS Explorer. These come in the form of prepublished map services and documents, which can be saved as .lyr files, and then consumed within ArcGIS Explorer. These include resources such as 1m US imagery, 2.5m SPOT imagery, and a number of other other data assets.

The ArcGIS Online site provides links to a number of online resources. Additionally, user data assets can be brought in. In an ArcGIS Explorer demo, USGS topos were brought in and draped over topography. Additionally, the Swipe tool allows users to swipe-drag layer visibility status to examine changes.

Another demo showed an ArcGIS Explorer task to perform ALOHA modelling of a toxic plume in ArcGIS Explorer. Here, a user could create a custom task to allow the user to specify a point and supply parameters, and then fetch and overlay the resultant plume.

Another ArcGIS Online feature discussed was online data delivery, using DataDoors technology, or via FTP or DVD.

Another new technology being promoted is the availability of ArcGIS Data Appliances. Here, ArcGIS data could be deployed in the field to remote locations, or deployed to secure environments residing behind an enterprise firewall. It was noted that currently ESRI is the leading provider of demographic data.

Other new technologies:

  • ArcWeb Services - continues to be developed and expanded

  • Geospatial Portal Toolkit - a new release is coming on the horizon

  • JTX - for Workflow management


ArcLogistics was demonstrated by Carl Terry, which allows users to perform more sophisticated, rules-based routing and logistics than conventional routing tools such as ArcIMS Route Server and others offer. For example, ridership rules, appointment times, vehicle capacities and other parameters can be entered to build optimized routes. Terry stated 15-30% savings could be almost instantly realized for enterprises through the use of this type of logistics optimization.

Tech Support, Training and Education

Nick Frunzi gave an overview of efforts ongoing in customer support, training and other areas - he cited demand as resulting in a gap in support that was seen with the release of 9.2. Toward mitigating and improving customer support, his team is adding 30% more staff, and embedding support staff with developer teams to provide more robust domain expertise. As other new embedded support capability, diagnostic reporting and crash analysis is to be released in 9.3 products.

One piece of particularly exciting self-service support news is that in the next month, the internal ESRI knowledge base would be made available, in an online support center.

So overall, how is ESRI Doing?

15% growth this year...

(To be continued...)

Home from ESRI UC...

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/23/2007 09:03:00 PM 0 comments

Got home from the ESRI UC safe and sound... Barely slept, squeezed in on a packed redeye from San Diego to JFK. VerySpatial's Frank was also aboard my flight, we compared notes on the lack of sleep and cramped leg quarters... Like me, he is still working on digesting his notes and materials, but it sounds like the VerySpatial crew will have some great audio and other stuff to mix down, compile and otherwise post over the next week. Looking forward to it. I'm still on about page 5 of 40 of my notes...

I had a 2 hour nap earlier this afternoon, and have been spending the day catching up with my wonderful family, and I know I will sleep like a rock tonight.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Some ESRI Awards close to home...

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/22/2007 10:44:00 AM 0 comments

Our good friends at Innovate won a few awards - Their Metadata Editor won an award, developed by Ayhan Ergul and Jessica Zichichi, and Jessica, who's a big runner, won herself a humongous trophy in the 5k race... More awards to be announced tonight.

Way to go!

For the second time in a row, I got ALL of the "Where In The World" imagery correct... though I imagine there are a number of other folks who also got them right... There are often a number of giveaways to help identify them, such as the glacial sediment at Nahanni NP, the distinctive shapes of Belize City, Arecibo Observatory and Angkor Wat, and so on...

It's always tricky to be in the right place at the right time for the drawings... always too much stuff going on.

Notes from the ESRI UC: Plenary

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/22/2007 10:41:00 AM 5 comments

This is one of hopefully many installments of notes:

ESRI International User Conference 2007

Plenary Session, 6/18/2007

The theme of the conference was The Geographic Approach, with emphasis on GIS as the Medium. For a battle-scarred veteran like myself, this is Mastery of the Obvious, and preaching to the choir, but again always good for reinforcing place-based approaches and toward refining the elevator speech for the less-initiated. My own mindset is of actually making GIS transparent, to the point of making it intuitive and invisible, to allow users to focus on the underlying field - such as environmental science and environmental protection - be it tracking where the a contaminant originated, where it's going and who it's impacting, or transportation networks, and the like.

ArcGIS 9.3

With regard to the roadmap for ArcGIS, there are anticipated to be several service packs prior to 9.3: ArcGIS 9.2 SP3 and 9.2 SP4 to serve as incremental releases. With 9.3, a number of other issues will be addressed, which may then also be released as hotfixes for 9.2.

What's new in 9.3? A sampling of features:

  • Geographically-weighted regression

  • Gaussian simulation

  • Proximity analysis

  • Routing with time windows

  • Scatter plots

  • New contouring styles

  • Improved scripting and model building

  • Improved cartographic mapping and labeling

  • WYSIWYG editing for cartographic representation (as opposed to wireframes)

  • Additional options for street numbering

  • Geological strike/dip symbology

  • Multiple view windows

  • Enhancements for 3D surfaces and analysis

  • Realtime tracking enhancements

  • Schematic diagrams - support for additional types of diagrams

  • Improved support for cadastral needs

Survey Analyst

Clint Brown introduced of some of the enhancements to Survey Analyst - Survey Analyst is better supported through workflow functionalities, and greater emphasis was placed on maintaining the integrity of survey measurements within the context of the "parcel fabric".

Christine Leslie ran through a demo of integrating a CAD subdivision plan into an existing cadastral framework. The CAD plan in question was based on a local coordinate system, developed using COGO, and was copied and pasted into the cadastral layer. This brought the corners, along with any other relevant points, such as curve radius points, PCs and PTs in as point features, and brought in linework tied to these point features. Using the autojoin function, reference points in the CAD plan were matched up to the corresponding points in the cadastral base, and the autojoin function topologically integrated the CAD plan into the cadastral base. Next, a least squares adjustment was performed, with a report of residuals available. This of course still leaves me with some unease, however it's still suggested that all of the underlying data will remain with full integrity. Further, the same adjustment can then be applied to other layers, such as utilities or other features tied to the parcel.

"Easy to bring in from CAD"

With this Cadastral Fabric notion, the data model evidently still holds all of the original data, and incremental improvements are made. As long as the "Cadastral Fabric" is not purely rubber...

Evidently the underlying functionality is based on technology from GeoCadastre software, by Geodata Information Systems of Australia a

This piece will come to the market through ArcGIS 9.2 SP3's Survey Analyst.

Other ArcGIS 9.3 Functionality...

With ArcGIS Server 9.3, added improvesments come in terms of:

  • Image Services

  • Security

  • APIs and support for REST and JavaScript - these geared toward mashups.

Support is to be added for:

  • PostgreSQL

  • Oracle Express

  • DB2 in z/OS environments

As a general observation, they seem to be pushing ST_Geometry for PostgreSQL environments, as opposed to SDEBINARY.

SDE 9.2 brings GeoDatabase replication. This continues to evolve and mature in 9.3. The Replication Service can work via robust transaction messaging, update-o-grams. My curiosity is in how well this is supported in heterogenous environments - more on this later.

(to be continued...)

ESRI UC... .NET SIG and Padres

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/21/2007 02:25:00 AM 0 comments

Just got in from another enjoyable day at the ESRI Conference today, last night's adventure was the GeoBlogger meetup at Mr. Tiki - got to met Daniel from FantomPlanet, Zen Master Dave Bouwman, Jesse, Sue and the rest of the Very Spatial team, and several others, close to 20 or so people turned out at Mr. Tiki. Google Earth graciously footed the bill, and filled us in on a lot of great stuff going on at Google. I did sample some of the "one of everything", but stayed away from the Large Drinks With Fruit And Umbrellas In Them.

I got to get out to several good sessions today. So often, however, I go from one item to the next, and find many gaps and overlaps in the projects that are being presented - many people all independently doing ver similar things in parallel, with little or no coordination between them. But fortunately folks like me spur conversation and put people together.

Still more reams of notes, and as it goes with these things, I start to suffer from mental overload. So what I am posting are not any actual notes, they are just a quick snapshot of the afternoon and evening... But time permitting, I will do a more thorough download as I get more time.

I did get to briefly sit in on the .NET SIG, hosted by Art Haddad, to see some very cool things being demoed as custom tasks for ArcExplorer, such as an animated wind velocity demo, which allowed custom symbology which actually changed to successively more sophisticated vectors as the user zooms in and out of the model. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera at the ready, but I did see that Dave Bouwman snapped a shot of it.

Another great item was the AGS mobile SDK - looks like a rich set of components for .NET, to support connected and disconnected, cached map viewing and editing, as well as GPS connectivity.

I then departed early to meet up with a group of friends to catch the Padres-Orioles game at Petco Park... Unfortunately the Padres were routed 7-1, some brilliant pitching by the Orioles' Guthrie. On the Padres' side, Branyan managed to hit a homer, the sole score of the night. The Orioles' Tejada took an errant pitch to his wrist, looked painful. Another highlight of the evening was definitely the purposeful loping of a random guy across the field, sliding into base as it were, and culminating with a fullblown tackle and cuffing.

ESRI Kumbaya moment?

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/19/2007 04:42:00 PM 0 comments

ESRI Kumbaya moment?

Yes, go plant a tree...


The Green Belt Movement (GBM) was founded by 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Wangari Maathai

GBM provides income and sustenance to millions of people in Kenya through the planting of trees. It also conducts educational campaigns to raise awareness about women's rights, civic empowerment, and the environment throughout Kenya and Africa.

How You Can Help
There are many ways to contribute to our work. Make a donation directly to GBM. Find out more about our Green Belt Safaris. Offset your carbon footprint by planting trees (forthcoming). Or buy Wangari Maathai’s books.

It's an inspiring movement - essentially organizing women to plant trees as crops, to provide sustainability to Africa, by reducing deforestation, erosion, poor water quality issues and other forms of environmental degradation. With this comes community stewardship and a number of other things - "think globally, act locally".

ESRI UC Realtime IRC...

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/18/2007 05:20:00 PM 0 comments

Christopher Schmidt has an IRC chat set up for realtime info on the ESRI UC....

Get the blow-by-blow:

Live from the UC Plenary

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/18/2007 11:55:00 AM 0 comments

The Nature Conservancy is the recipient of this years Presidents award...

Jack is speaking to the theme of the Geographic Approach, but thus far, another underlying theme is Enterprise GIS and Web 2.0... Will the main focus be pushing ArcGIS Server? Rhetorical question... no answer needed...

Arrived in San Diego...

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/18/2007 03:32:00 AM 0 comments

Just getting settled into my room... My plane was supposed to leave JFK at 5:45PM, we ended up not getting into the air until after 7:45, so it's pretty late at this time... I'll be the sleepy guy if you see me at the ESRI UC tomorrow...


Posted by Dave Smith On 6/18/2007 03:29:00 AM 0 comments

This was written earlier tonight, as I was awaiting my next flight, from JFK to San Diego, no WiFi available...
I shouldn't be so hard on Binghamton, it's actually a nice little airport in a beautiful location, out in the rolling hills of New York's Southern Tier. And no, no cropduster - it was an Embraer 145.

I don't think I've flown out of JFK in quite a few years... Typically it's a much easier drive for me to go straight to Newark, easy-in and easy-out, just a hair over an hour drive, and if I need to fly out of a larger airport, usually Newark does the trick. JFK adds a lot to that trip. But, for whatever odd reason, these airfare pricing schemes are always a mystery. No deals to be had out of Newark this time... and as usual, my local airport's pricing was ridiculous. It also occasionally amazes me how transcontinental airfare from B to C might be $700, but from A to B, and then that identical transcontinental flight from B to C might only total $500.

The guy that devised their pricing algorithms must either be a complete genius, as the methodology is so profoundly inscrutable, or he must be a demented idiot. Given that the airlines are constantly struggling to make ends meet, I unfortunately have to cast my vote for the latter.

Flying to the ESRI UC

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/17/2007 02:06:00 PM 0 comments

Sitting in the Binghamton airport, on the drive up, the thought crossed my mind that I might be flying on a cropduster for the first hop to JFK.

It still mystifys me how the airlines work their pricing algorithms...

But at least I end up saving around 300 bucks... and TSA wasn't screening any sheep and other livestock through...

GIS TechnoGeekdom

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/15/2007 08:41:00 PM 2 comments

I have to admit, I think I'm getting a bit too much of my royal GIS geek on...

Yes, that actually is ArcPad, loaded up with base maps for San Diego, and I created a few extra layers, with trolley routes, BatchGeocoded places of interest, and plenty of other goodies in advance of the ESRI UC, and I'll be tooling around with bluetooth GPS to boot... As usual, I'll be loaded, downloaded, wired, WiFi'd, bluetoothed, GPS'ed, web 2.0'd, AJAXed, geo-enabled, deepfried and sanctified...

Emergency Response and GIS

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/14/2007 07:23:00 AM 0 comments

One of the other events which will be happening concurrent to the ESRI Conference is the SONS 07 event - "Spill Of National Significance", which will replicate a major catastrophic event - to include simulated release of oil, hazardous material, and/or other associated threats to health and safety. This year's event will take place in the midwest, replicating an earthquake along the New Madrid fault zone.

Through our work with USEPA, we will be among the participants in this event, as we did for Hurricane Katrina, supporting the effort through our own GIS staff at the USEPA Emergency Operations Center. The two main stakeholders and participants on the environmental side are USEPA and USCG, along with FEMA, state, regional and private sector participants to support the response as appropriate.

It's good to see these events take place, and it no doubt will give us many more new lessons learned and opportunities to refine response. The bottom line still comes to being proactive, in terms of GIS preparedness, as opposed to reactive. With regard to availability of information on impacted facilities, we will no doubt be in better condition than we were for Katrina, but many of the other pieces are still lacking. Specifically, there is still little transparency or availability of realtime or near-realtime data, when it comes to assessing response capacity and many other pieces.

Here, we should go back to HSPD-5 which deals with communications and interoperability, and examine how well our GIS assets work together, and how well they support standards, how well-documented they are to allow users to make informed decisions regarding the data.

Closely affiliated and associated with this is HSPD-8 for preparedness - which comes along with a host of other questions - how current, scalable, flexible and robust is your GIS data, and does it address the need? For example, how many burn units are immediately available in a 100-mile radius right now, how many pieces of fire apparatus are available right now - with the right now being key. In looking at a dozen or so counties nearby, I see almost 500 fire stations, almost 200 law enforcement offices, and nearly 200 emergency medical providers. Yes, they participate in surveys and report in data, but how timely is it? Now consider that Pennsylvania has 67 counties, and the scale of the problem magnifies greatly. Say your EOC is impacted, loss of power, loss of communications, otherwise rendered inoperable. Can you cascade your operations over to a COOP site and continue seamlessly?

Here in Pennsylvania, we have many gaps, overlaps and stovepipes for data and communications flow, and many points of failure, from local to local, local to county, county to county, local to state, county to state, between state agencies, local to fed, county to fed, state to fed, and fed to fed. I can't think of any one of these which genuinely works seamlessly with the next. This is what we have been referring to as the gap of pain, and something for which we have a concept and team already up and running to address.
The February 2007 snowstorm, which caused widespread damage and notoriously left hundreds of motorists trapped on Interstate 78 for 20 hours, still remains a major fiasco here in Pennsylvania, with solutions still thoroughly unadressed politically, fiscally and bureaucratically. On the other hand, technologically, we can address the data, communications and preparedness issues. This is something that we have been looking at quite closely ever since 9/11, investing a lot of time and thought into, and something I will be running through again, considering the SONS exercise. It's time to act and become proactive, and to break through the stovepipes and fiefdoms.

Letters to Aunt Poly

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/13/2007 02:20:00 PM 1 comments

A GIS Advice Column?

Letters to Aunt Poly...

Dear Aunt Poly,

My name is .tiffany Image and I am 12 years old. I am a very responsible girl and I always keep my pixels organized like my parents have taught me. Before I go out I make sure I have them all arranged nice and neatly. As my parents always say, Image is everything.

My problem is my 8-year old brother .jpeg. He is a total slob! When friends ask him over to play, he is out the door in a flash. He leaves his pixels all over the house and never picks up after himself. Often he loses 80%, even 90% of his pixels! His teachers say he is ADD and unresolved. I say he is irresponsible. It’s really not fair, but my parents just say that I have to be more responsible because I am older. Aunt Poly, how can I teach my little brother to stop being a slob and degrading the family Image?

Dear Aunt Poly,

I’m a geodatabase featureset, just starting my sophomore year in high school. I like hanging out and interfacing with the other objects in my geodatabase. Lately it seems like I’m always in trouble with my parents. They are both coverages and are really strict! I try to do my chores and schoolwork, but the least little gap or dangle, and they go totally command-line of me – I’m locked down in edit mode, no interfacing, no hanging out, not even ODBC calls until I clean and rebuild everything! Aunty Poly, my friends’ parents are all shapefiles, and they’re not nearly so strict. How can I get my parents to lighten up and let me have a little fun?

Dear Aunt Poly,

I always took pride in my data lineage and relations. My parents told me I was descended from original double-precision stereophotogrammetry with first-order control and full AAT. Recently in my spare time I began researching the family metadata. Aunt Poly, I was shocked! I’ve found I’m originally from uncontrolled TIGER line files and old DLG data, with no standards of precision or accuracy! Aunty Poly, I’m mortified. How can I possibly look my friends in the eye? How can I forgive my parents for lying to me? Can I possibly overcome this background to make something of myself?

Dear Aunt Poly,

I’m a 22 year-old .dbf table from a small town in Alabama. My parents raised me to maintain proper rows and columns and high data standards. At a college party a few weeks ago I met a GIS file from New York. We had some foreign keys in common and we started talking. He was so interesting and sophisticated! We’ve dated every week and had several long conversations. I was really beginning to fall for him, Aunty Poly, when suddenly last night he went all graphic on me! He started talking about table-joining with me, how some of my items were so mappable, how great I’d look in 16M colors, how he wanted to see my shape points, oh, Aunt Poly, I can’t repeat the rest! I was shocked! Aunt Poly, I don’t know what to do! Can I have a nice table relationship with him? Or is he just one of those polymorphic objects my parents warned me about?

For those who want to throw tomatoes or give kudos, I cannot take claim, I got these from a friend...

IT Generalists

Posted by Dave Smith On 6/10/2007 10:57:00 PM 1 comments

After combating on proposals for a few recent projects, I am getting a bit frustrated with the preponderance of IT generalist firms chasing after the same work we do. Seems there is still a notion out there that information technology is the solution to everything. Problem is, the reality is that IT in and of itself is not and will be a driver to compare with the actual business. And if the actual business requires understanding of geospatial analysis, or of geodesy and high-accuracy locational data, or of environmental science, or of transportation and congestion, then these are still the primary drivers.

Sure, you can hire some button pushers cheap... but will they really serve the need? Maybe, but most likely not. Will they display any thought leadership or vision? Definitely not. Is any of it meaningful to the IT generalists? No. Just butts in seats, generating revenue, quantity versus quality. Whatever happened to qualifications, domain expertise and past performance?


Posted by Dave Smith On 6/05/2007 09:24:00 PM 2 comments

Have not posted in some time, not that there's enough to talk about, but rather far too much - I frankly have been spending quite a bit of time on the road, between several trips to Research Triangle Park, NC, Washington DC, the EPA GIS Workgroup meeting in Boston, the NCEES Northeast Zone meeting in Newport, RI... have been home for a bare handful of days over the last month and a half, and any free minutes have been devoted to home and family, rather than the blog. A ton of interesting geospatial things going on, but unfortunately I can only talk about a few of them (though I hope to)...

And upcoming... finally sat down long enough to get my flight and hotel booked for the ESRI User Conference coming up in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to it... Arriving Sunday night, and am actually going to be in San Diego until Friday evening (!)... Would have preferred to leave Thurs night or Friday AM, but given availability of flights, it didn't work out - but this way I can do something for fun on Friday.

But hey! Looking forward to going to SD again this year!! Maybe I'll gin up a little "geoblogger" badge, so don't be afraid to say 'Hi' if you see me... I haven't yet even checked to see if there are any blogger meetups. I think there are several other extracurricular events planned as well, have a few invites but haven't yet even had a chance to sort them all out.