Friday, August 29, 2014

Fired Weekend: Labor Day 2014

I had the above note waiting for me when I sat down at my computer this morning to write today's post. Oh, well. Guess that means my Labor of Love has come to an end and I get a four-day weekend as a result. So....

Here's Hoping YOUR Labor Day Weekend Has Employment on Both Ends!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Too Dumb to Drive a Car? Help is On Its Way!

When a driverless car can venture onto Washington, DC streets, the technology has come a long way in a short amount of time.  Ready or not, driverless cars may be here sooner than you think.  Details of a recent spin around the nation's capital, and proposed Department of Transportation rule making that will support future development, can be found in the stories below.

(, August 27, 2014)

Comment: It would appear that with sensors and GPS, the fantasy of the past is going to be the reality of the future. And just in time for my kids to take away my car keys.... "Dad, YOU are not driving anymore unless YOU are on autopilot." Huh? Seriously though, I'm thinking that after reviewing the expanded version of the great graphic in the Post story, once these vehicles hit the streets in mass the World Health Organization is going to have another major theme to review in its ongoing study of: "Electromagnetic Fields and Public Health: Radars and Human Health".

Photo credit:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Earthquake Damage Report by Drone

We've all seen them. Earthquake damage reports that are visual. Newspapers, magazines, TV or the Internet - the press giving us maps, photos, graphs, and videos. Now comes damage report by drone.

(LA Times, August 26, 2014)

Comment: Very interesting clip. If you need a reason not to go in a building that looks safe but hasn't been inspected after an earthquake, don't miss examination of the church facade found at 2:50. And, for proof that even modern buildings can have issues in "just" a moderate earthquake, check out the building at 3:57. All of this makes me think there is a future in earthquake damage report by drone!

Graphic credit:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

FEMA Looking For Comments on Its New Flood Map Service Center

On the 19th of August, FEMA formally announced release of its new Flood Map Service Center (MSC). According to the announcement:
The FEMA Risk MAP program is pleased to announce the successful launch of the newly redesigned FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC). In addition to a streamlined and intuitive user interface, the upgraded MSC provides a number of new features and benefits to the public.
Importantly, the MSC is requesting feedback from the public on the site's layout and usability. Details below:

(FEMA News Bulletin, August 19, 2014)

Comments: Per feedback, here's a couple of quick first impressions.

  • Kudos to FEMA for working to improve delivery of the associated suite of products.
  • Product search engine does a nice job of pulling in all available items for an area location (city).

  • The geocoder for street addresses needs improvement - my Minnesota street address defaulted to Missouri instead of offering choices.
  • Placement of the MSC inside the standard FEMA web layout creates confusing and distracting top and lower borders/menus.
  • MAP Center?  How about placing the interactive map on the home page?

  • Find in the header of site's MSC map search interface the following: "To find your flood map, enter an address, a place, or a set of longitude/latitude coordinates (emphasis added)." REALLY FEMA? How about also offering a search based on the U.S. National Grid? Try this. And, several versions of the code are available for free so there is no excuse except institutional inertia gone bad.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ferguson Brings Calls For Police Body Cams

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri have brought focus to the discussion about body camera use by police officers. And oddly, it is one of those rare times when virtually everyone is saying the same thing: The technology is a win-win solution that could go a long way toward keeping similar events from happening in the future. More below:

(The Verge, August 18, 2014)

Comment: Mark me down as another one in favor of this idea. While reviewing some of the stories about this topic that were run here in the past (see below), do the math on the cost of a body camera for every police officer in Ferguson (82 x $399), versus the cost of local law enforcement overtime, State Patrol and Missouri National Guard deployments, community ill will, and civil unrest damages. That one is not even close.

(EPC Updates, January 15, 2014)

(EPC Updates, January 24, 2012)

Graphic Credit: Taser

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Crime Satellites Coming Soon

On June 11, 2014, the United States government relaxed restrictions on commercial satellite vendors so that they can now sell imagery with resolutions down to 25cm to non-military customers. If circumstances in the U.K repeat in the U.S, one of the beneficiaries of this development could be police departments across the nation. More below:

(CNN, August 12, 2014)

Comment: Perhaps. But there is nothing specifically special about collecting imagery with a satellite within the jurisdiction boundary of any one police department that can't be done at least as well with a properly configured aircraft. Where the advantage goes to satellites is when dealing with multi-jurisdictional or regional/national cases where a consistent and detailed view of a crime scene is not otherwise available.