Wednesday, November 30, 2011

U.S. National Grid and the New U.S. Topo

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (31.9 MB)

In late September 2011, the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) released the final Product Standard guide for the U.S. Topo - the map series that has been under production for the past couple of years as the replacement for the traditional USGS topographic map.  Beyond serving as an in depth "user guide" for the U.S. Topo, the document is significant for its explanation of the gridding system used on the maps - the U.S. National Grid (USNG).  From the "Applicability" section regarding intended use of the U.S. Topo, comes the following:

"US Topo maps integrate an orthoimage, which is a significant enhancement to the original USGS topographic maps regarding currency and completeness. These products are built on standard coordinate systems, include full United States (U.S.) National Grid lines and are particularly useful for emergency first-response operations...."

In addition to a discussion on use of the USNG coordinate system, the following definition of the U.S. National Grid is provided: "The official grid coordinate system of the U.S. Government. See for information and specifications."

If you would like to obtain a copy of the Product Standard or other US Topo supporting products, here are the links:

The USGS's US Topo home page can be found here.

Links to Minnesota USNG resources include:

Comment: Much like efforts to ensure interoperability of Emergency Services Sector (ESS) communications systems (800 MHz), the ability to communicate during a response will not be optimized until all parts of the ESS are speaking the same language of location.  USNG is that language.

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Next Quarterly Meeting of the EPC - December 8th

    The snow will be in the air, but don't let that keep you away!  Great presentations and holiday party to follow!

    Presentation highlights of the December 8th event:
    For event details, to include online participation information, go here.

    If you will be attending in person, please send an "I will be attending" email to:  (We are trying to make sure we order enough food and cold drinks for the holiday party.)  Thanks!

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    License Plate Readers - Another Part of the Location-Privacy Debate

    On November 19th, the Washington Post ran an article by and , concerning the use of automatic number plate recognition (license plate readers) by police in the District.  Here's the lead into that article:

    "An armed robber burst into a Northeast Washington market, scuffled with the cashier, and then shot him and the clerk’s father, who also owned the store. The killer sped off in a silver Pontiac, but a witness was able to write down the license plate number.

    Police figured out the name of the suspect very quickly. But locating and arresting him took a little-known investigative tool: a vast system that tracks the comings and goings of anyone driving around the District.

    Scores of cameras across the city capture 1,800 images a minute and download the information into a rapidly expanding archive that can pinpoint people’s movements all over town."  Go here to read more.

    Comment: As with all remote sensing systems, the data stream coming in from them is meaningless unless there is a way to relate that information to location. Although police have long been able to create that understanding by using banks of TV's slaved to remote camera known locations, the growing number and types of sensors leave only one real answer going forward: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) serving as the situational awareness fusion platform.  Consequently, geospatial information technologies sit smack dab in the middle of this "good-versus-bad uses" discussion as related in the closing section of the article.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    GIS During the Recovery Phase of the Joplin Tornado

    American Sentential University recently published an article concerning Geographic Information System (GIS) use subsequent to the tornado response efforts in Joplin, Missouri.  The article, which was later picked up by the online V1 Magazine, correctly relates that one of the most daunting tasks after a major disaster is the basic task of debris management.  It's an area of endeavor where geospatial technologies have no rival.  Go here to read the article.

    Comment: Traditionally, there are four phases in the Emergency Management Cycle: Mitigation, Preparedness (Planning), Response, and Recovery.  Within each phase, there may be several different uses of geospatial technology taking place at the same time, but the primary use is usually substantially different.  For example, as related in the article, during the Recovery Phase in Joplin, geospatial technology is being used as a decision support tool for ongoing cleanup operations, whereas during the Mitigation Phase it will be used primarily as a modeling tool for community risk reduction efforts.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    EMI Webinar: Social Media

    The Mission Support Branch of the Emergency Management Institute will be conducting a webinar for Federal, State, Local, Tribal and emergency management personnel and their staff on the use of social media.  Here are the details: 

    Date/Time: December 7, 2011 from 1:00-2:00 PM Eastern Time (ET)

    • The webinar is an informational brief.  Therefore, participants do not register.

    Conference Bridge Information: 1-800-320-4330 and Pin #: 885312

    Course Description: The webinar defines social media and presents the emerging trends and best practices in using social media applications (Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, etc.) during all phases of emergency management.  It also provides a tutorial on how to access and work within these social media applications.  The webinar concludes with an overview on how emergency management and response personnel can help their organizations find their unique voice in social media.

    Course Goals: At the completion of this training, participants will have a basic knowledge of:
    • Social media best practices;
    • Working within various social media; and
    • Finding your unique voice in social media.

    EMI Point of Contact:  For course information, contact the EMI course manager, Doug Kuhn, at (301) 447-1287, 1-800-238-3358 (ext. 1287) or email:

    Adobe Connect Information:  

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    Attention Shoppers - You're Being Tracked By Your Cell Phone

    Just in time for the holidays, retailers have begun tracking your cell phone whether you want them to or not.  To get the update on this one, select either link below:

    • For the CNN Money version of the story, go here.
    • For the PCMag version of the story, go here.

    Comment: As mentioned in the comments section of "Meanwhile....Over In the Senate: Senator Kirk and the GPS Act", there are all sorts of twists and turns when it comes to the use (bad/good) of location information available from hand held devices like cell phones.  What would work in a Mall, would work just as well  for crowd management by the Emergency Services Sector during a disaster.  Hopefully, whatever law is headed our way concerning GPS tracking will recognize that fact.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Turkey Herding in Minnesota

    He-ah, move'em on, head'em up, get them turkeys rolling....rolling, rolling, rolling....

    Happy Thanksgiving from Minnesota, the Nation's number one producer of turkeys large birds "gobbled" down for Thanksgiving dinner!  (two of which were spared untimely ends by the President)

    Comment: An often overlooked element of the emergency response sector is agriculture.  However, from animal health to invasive species to hazardous chemicals, an emergency in this sector could quickly turn into a disaster that would rival anything caused by the ground shaking or wind blowing.  For that reason, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have staff dedicated to emergency preparedness and response efforts.  In many cases, geospatial technologies are an absolutely essential part of their tool kits.  Select any of the links above to learn more.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    USGS Software: Land Use Portfolio Model and HAZUS-MH Data Extractor

    The November 15, 2011, HAZUS User Group (HUG) conference call highlighted two pieces of free software developed by the U.S. Geologic Survey's (USGS) Western Geographic Science Center.  Each product interlocks with FEMA's HAZUS-MH (Hazard U.S.- Multi Hazard) software. 

    As described in the teleconference notice, the two pieces of software are:

    • "The Land Use Portfolio Model (LUPM), a scenario-based risk-analysis tool developed to provide information to support decisions on investing in natural-hazard mitigation measures. HAZUS damage probabilities and loss estimates are key sources of data for the LUPM calculations and critical to assessing the utility of mitigation investments.
    • The HAZUS-MH Data Extractor (Beta v1.0), which lets users extract HAZUS damage and loss-estimate data from an earthquake or flood analysis to a geodatabase for future use. The data extractor was originally developed to prepare HAZUS output data for input to the LUPM, but it can be useful for a variety of purposes."

    To learn more about these products and download the free software, use the hyperlinks above.

    Comment: HAZUS User Group calls are conducted on a regular basis and are recorded. A link to access information related to these calls and other HUG efforts has been added to the right side bar. 

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Safecast: Crowd Sourcing Radiation Measurements In Japan


    Reacting to circumstances where information about radiation levels in Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster was not readily available to the general public, in March 2011, a group of global experts self-organized to create Safecast.  Initially coalescing around Sean Bonner, Los Angeles based entrepreneur, journalist, and activist, Pieter Franken, Invited Senior Researcher at Keio University, and Joi Ito, Director of MIT’s Media Lab, Safecast has become an international team working to break down the radiation information barrier in Japan.  They have been doing this by deploying a fleet of mobile monitors that collect radiation data at set distance intervals during a "drive through the countryside".  To learn more about the effort, watch the superb video below from the PBS NewsHour:

    Collected data is then displayed using a Google base map that is viewable down to street level.  Although the effort remains ongoing, to date, over one million time-sequenced readings have been collected.  Additionally, because fallout intensity does not disperse in perfect concentric circles, readings are being taken from the northern tip of Honshu to well south of Tokyo.  Find below two example views from this effort (click the link below either map to jump to the online version of the respective mapping application).

    Greater Fukushima Local Area - Click here to jump to live map of this information
    1KM Street Level View shown for the Narita Airport Hilton Hotel - Click here to jump to a live map of this information

    Believing in the value of this work, on October 21, 2011, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation provided Safecast with $250,000 to continue its work in Japan and to expand efforts globally.  To learn more, and/or view maps, visit the Safecast Home Page.

    Comment:  As related in several earlier postings on this blog, the flow of information to the general public in Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster has been far less than optimal, and at times has been outright neglectful.  Those posts are available here:

    In contrast, efforts like Safecast are a very clear warning to the worldwide Emergency Management and public sector geospatial communities.  Get on board with the technology and Geospatial Revolutions, or others will be doing your job for you.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    First Successful Cyber Attack Against U.S. Infrastructure

    On Friday, November 18th, the Washington Post reported that hackers at an IP address in Russia had successfully shut down a water treatment plant in Illinois.  According to the article: "Experts said the cyber-attack, if confirmed, would be the first known to have damaged one of the systems that supply Americans with water, electricity and other essentials of modern life."   Go here to read the article.

    Oddly enough, this attack came less than a month after DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano had briefed the press that, "hackers have “come close” to shutting down parts of the nation’s critical infrastructure."  Although those attacks had been thwarted, they were sufficiently robust to raise serious concerns in Washington.  Go here to read that article.

    Comment:  Attacks, such as the one cited above, go after the Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) system used to manage the associated piece of infrastructure. Numerous and diverse elements of the nation's infrastructure use SCADA to include electric, water and waste, transportation, communications, and even 9-1-1.  In addition, while over the years SCADA systems have come to rely more and more on the Internet for functionality, they use virtually none of the standard security protocols such as firewalls, antivirus software or routers.  Consequently, as time has gone by, the nation's infrastructure has become more and more exposed to malicious attacks by hackers.  Recently, two very reliable sources of information have explored this topic:

    Although not directly related to these developments, some infrastructure owners have begun adding geospatial visualization to their control systems in order to be better prepared to deal with a variety of future demands and threats to their networks.  As such, the infrastructure community is beginning to move from the wiring diagram style visualization component of past SCADA systems, to a location based presentation of information.  Two references in this regard are:

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    FGDC Launches Geospatial Platform

    On November 9th, the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) launched its Geospatial Platform, which it touts as providing, "shared and trusted geospatial data, services, and applications for use by government agencies, their partners and the public."  There are three basic services available through the application.  Users can:

    • Create their own maps by combining their data with public domain data,
    • Collaborate in public and private groups, and
    • Share maps with others through web browsers and mobile technologies.

    Go here to read the news release by the FGDC.

    Comment: The Geospatial Platform is a nice start toward making all federal geospatial data reliably available (and viewable) in one place, but it has a LONG way to go meet a news release goal stated by Joe Klimavicz, NOAA’s Chief Information Officer:

    “We believe the Geospatial Platform will be an extremely valuable resource in both responding to, as well as sharing information on, future natural and man-made disasters. This authoritative resource of geospatial data and services will provide users with access to the information necessary to make informed decisions about critical issues."

    Beyond the fact there is already Virtual USA, OneView, The National Map, and several other competing federal platforms for that very same function of government, a check of fire station location data in the Geospatial Platform found only the information for Indiana was available.  The USGS's National Map on the other hand, displayed that data for the entire United States.

    On the plus side, the Geospatial Platform hosts in one place a variety of selectable base layers such as NAIP Imagery, Bing Maps and Open Street Map.  Thus, given time and a clearer definition of goals, it appears the Geospatial Platform will be a solid way forward for the delivery of geospatial data to the majority of Americans.

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    ESRI's Russ Johnson on Social Media, Disasters and More

    In the online version of Emergency Management magazine, Eric Holdeman recently posted an interview with ESRI's Public Safety and Homeland Security Director, Russ Johnson.  In the interview, Russ offers his opinions on a variety of topics related to the use of geospatial technologies for emergency preparedness and response, to include integration of social media.  Go here to read the article.

    Comment: While this article reads at points like an ESRI sales pitch, it's still worth a review for anyone interested emerging trends.

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Google's Trike Pedals Through Central Park

    Click the link below to read the article from the New York Times:

    N.Y. / REGION   | November 15, 2011
    Quietly, Google Gets Its View of the Park
    A tight-lipped team behind the Street View feature on Google Maps is using a tricycle fitted with an elaborate camera system to photograph Central Park's winding pathways for online exploration.

    Comment: As noted in the article, Google's trike has already visited all sorts of famous places around the world like the pathways of Paris, surprising it has taken this long to show up in New York City..... 

    The flip side of the situation is, its one thing to collect data like this once, its completely another thing to maintain it over time.  To do that, you would have to have as much money as....well, Google.

    To view the various ways Google collects their Street Views, go here. 

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Meanwhile....Over In the Senate: Senator Kirk and the GPS Act

    On June 14, 2011, Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah's 3rd introduced H.R.2168 in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The next day, Senator Ron Wyden or Oregon, introduced a companion bill, S. 1212, in the U.S. Senate.  Officially stated, the purpose of the bills is: "Bipartisan Legislation Provides Needed Legal Clarity for Use of Geolocation Information".  Unofficially, Congress is working to define limits on the use of location data collected from GPS enabled electronic devices.  Included in the bills are some specific exemptions for the Law Enforcement and 9-1-1 communities.

    Recently, the lone co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois released a video explaining why he is supporting the bill.  To view, click the picture above or go here.

    Additional information can be found here:
    • Senator Wyden's bill release page is here.
    • Representative Chaffetz's bill release page is here.
    • Detailed information about the progress of this bill can be found here.

    Comment: It's encouraging to see elected representatives acknowledging that the law of the land has not kept up with the geolocation times.  However, the question in the balance is this: Will the final legislation adequately address the very real need for access to geolocation information by parts of the Emergency Services Sector that are not Law Enforcement or 9-1-1 (i.e. pandemic event management), and will it be written with enough flexibility to handle the Geospatial Revolution going forward?

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Saab's "Magic Maps" for the Military

    Of all places, Fox News recently ran a news clip meant to demonstrate to the general public the ever increasing power of geospatial technologies.  In this case, the subject matter was a program that the Swedish firm Saab has developed for its country's military called Rapid 3D Mapping.  During the clip, the Saab demonstration team shows how the program can be used to view highly accurate aerial imagery, calculate dynamic "shooter line-of-sight" positions, and measure object and distances with an accuracy within inches.  There are two ways to tune into this story:

    • Go here to watch the stand alone news clip in the largest presentation format available (4:27)

    • Go here to access the written version of the story and a small format copy of the news clip.  Note in this article the strong plug for how this technology could be used to support the Emergency Services Sector.

    Comment: Regretatably, there is no way to remove the advertisement at the beginning of the video clip.  However, it is a very interesting news piece, and well worth your time.  That being said, here are a couple of background thoughts:

    • Each element of the technology being demonstrated here is nothing new.  During the Republican National Convention in 2008, the EPC demonstrated how to use the Civil Air Patrol ARCHER platform to obtain aerial imagery with 6 inch accuracy and display it to users in about the same processing time as advertised in the clip.  3D flash LiDAR and 3D aerial imagery collection have been around for about as long.  And, the shooter line-of-sight feature is something that has been available from National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) for National Special Security Events for even longer.  What is new here is the fusion of technologies and the simplification of interface to create a product that a non-GIS type can understand and use.  That is a significant and important development in this field.

    • Always remember - technology is not the issue.  We have long since passed the point where technology was the roadblock to the delivery of geospatial services to communities in need.  The two  roadblocks that remain are the same ones the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) identified many years ago when it assumed responsibility for promoting implementation of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)  - People and Policies.  Consequently, until the leadership of the Emergency Services Sector (ESS) comes to understand the amazing degree of geospatial capability that it has failed to utilize, the People (training) and Policies elements will remain unchanged within ESS institutions, and what Saab is offering will be only a dream about what is possible.  

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    DHS Data and Services Reference Guide

    In mid-October, the National Protection and Programs Directorate, Office of Infrastructure Protection, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a fact sheet to help the geospatial community gain better understanding of the various homeland security data products and services that DHS sponsors.  All of the programs mentioned in the fact sheet have a strong geospatial component.  To view and/or download the fact sheet, go here.

    Comment: This is an excellent basic reference document for those who wish to understand the range of DHS efforts along these lines.  A permanent link to the document will also be posted in the right-hand side bar.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    The Official Version: Geospatial Technologies and the Emergency Services Sector

    The lead story in most recent Emergency Management and Response - Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) Infogram from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) highlights the value geospatial technologies can bring the Emergency Services Sector (ESS).  Go here to read the article.

    Comment: While this article won't be an eye-opener for anyone familiar with the significant role geospatial technologies can play in the ESS, it is encouraging to see this level of mention from an “official voice” of the federal government.   Furthermore, the recent appointment of a progressive supporter of geospatial technologies like Carla Boyce as Director of FEMA’s National Integration Center, would seem to be another step in the right direction.  Keep it coming DHS!    

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    NSGIC Releases Best Practices for Geospatial Data Sharing

    On the last day of October 2011, the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) released "Geospatial Data Sharing - Guidelines for Best Practices ".  This four-page (4) document is intended to be an outreach piece that can be used by individuals interested in promoting the removal of barriers that impede geospatial data sharing.  In it, NSGIC describes why geospatial data sharing generates greater community good than anything gained from activities like local units of government selling their geospatial data.  Go here to read and/or download the document.

    Comment: This is a superb read and a great tool to have at the ready next time the boss wants to know why, especially in an era of smaller budgets, geospatial data should be just "given away".  Note also in the document the link to the Federal Geographic Data Committee's paper on how to determine sensitive geospatial data.  This is another great reference document that can be used to answer every boss's question: "what can we share?".

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    DHS Opens Virtual USA Website


    During October, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) opened a substantial outreach website dedicated to Virtual USA.   Go here to learn everything you ever wanted to know about this geospatial effort and plans to make it the future "eyes" of the Emergency Services Sector.

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    A Geospatial Story for Veterans Day

    As originally reported in Geoplace, there's a great Minnesota-based program that brings geospatial technology to those in harm's way.  Here's the byline: 

    "Getting lost can be a frustrating, time-consuming endeavor. In a war zone, it can mean life and death. Operation Waypoint, a Minnesota-based, nonprofit program administered by the St. Augusta American Legion Women's Auxiliary Post 621, works to address this scenario for military men and women deployed in the Middle East. During the last five years, the program has delivered more than 300 hand-held devices and cartography cards with Iraq and Afghanistan maps to soldiers scheduled for deployment to these counties."  Go here to read more.

    Comment: On this Veterans Day, a sincere thank you to each and every veteran who has served the United States of America.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Supreme Court Justices Show Concern Over GPS Tracking

    On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, the Supreme Court heard a case with the following question at its core: Can the government track a suspect using a GPS device without a warrant?  It's a topic that clearly relates the Geospatial Revolution has gotten ahead of the law.  Indeed, the words used in court to describe GPS tracking included "1984" and Orwellian.

    Here are some options to bring yourself up to speed if you aren't already tuned in:

    1.) The "Cliff Notes" version - a Reuter's article on the subject.  Go here.

    2.) National Public Radio report on the case.  Go here.

    3.) PBS consideration of the case: Judy Woodruff and National Law Journal's Marcia Coyle discuss the oral arguments in the case (5:51).  For full size video and coverage, go here.

    4.) Los Angeles Times Editorial Board treatment of the topic.  Go here.  (The irony on this web page was too great to pass up. At the same time the LA Times Editorial Board is decrying the use of warrantless GPS tracking devices, the website's Google Ad feature is hawking GPS tracking devices along the left hand bottom edge of the article.  Products that will let you track things like your kids, wife and dog - without a warrant.)

    Comment: One simple thought - when it comes to this topic, you ain't seen nothing yet........  

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    First Test of the Nationwide EAS System is Today - November 9th, 2:00 PM EST

    FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will conduct the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), today - November 9, at 2:00 PM Eastern.  To learn background information and technical details, check out FEMA's extensive website devoted to the EAS.  Go here.

    Comment: Information concerning this test clearly relates that today is the start of efforts to build out and maintain a nationwide EAS.  Although future EAS plans currently do not relate an intent to add in Reverse 911 or other capabilities that are geospatially driven, logic would suggest that's ultimately where things are headed.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Garmin Greatly Expands the Number of Units With USNG Capability

    While many GPS manufacturers have offered navigation by U.S. National Grid (USNG) or Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) as a selectable feature on their handheld models, Garmin was pretty much alone in offering that capability in dashboard models for the general public.  Even then, the capability was only available in the Garmin nuvi 500 and 550 models. 

    Recently, Garmin made known that it had significantly expanded the number of dashboard models that have USNG "drive-to" capability.  In addition to several models that were introduced in 2011, and those that will be released in 2012, the list now includes 12 different series:
    • nuLink! 2300 series
    • nuvi 500 series
    • nuvi 2400 series
    • nuvi 2405 series
    • nuvi 2505 series
    • nuvi 3400 series
    • nuvi 3700 series
    • zumo 220
    • zumo 400 series
    • zumo 500 series
    • zumo 660
    • zumo 665

    To access the USNG feature of these Garmin GPS units, requires only seven simple steps:
    1. Touch Where To?
    2. Touch Personalize1
    3. Touch Coordinates2
    4. Touch the menu button (three horizontal lines)1
    5. Touch Format
    6. Find US National Grid (see below)
    7. Select OK, Done, or Save

    1Some models do not require this step.
    2On the nuvi 2405, 2505, and 3400 series, you may need to touch Categories before this step.

    After being setup as described above, the unit will provide "drive-to" instructions to a USNG coordinate the same way that feature currently works on the unit for a street address.   However, by tapping into this capability of the unit, a user gains the ability to get navigation information to a location without a street address (i.e. railroad crossing for a responder, or boat landing for recreational use).
    Comment: In addition to education about the capabilities of the U.S. National Grid, successful implementation will require vendor participation in efforts to operationalize the concept.  Kudos go out to Garmin for their vision and willingness to be a front-runner in that effort!

    A big thanks goes out to Lieutenant Al Studt, Cape Canaveral, Florida, Fire Rescue for the steer to this information.


    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Twin Cities GECCo Event Materials and Presentations Now Available

    Over the past week, the Twin Cities GECCo website has been converted to host materials and presentations from the October 27th and 28th workshop.  Items now posted at the website include:
    • Acknowledgements,
    • Event materials:
      • Event Packet for Practitioners,
      • Final agenda,
      • Power Point slides from presentations,
      • Recorded versions of presentations, and
      • Table Top exercise materials.
    • Event pictures, and
    • Letters of support that helped bring the workshop to the Twin Cities.
    Here's the link: TCGECCo

    Comment:  There's lots of hard work and thought behind the items on the Twin Cities GECCo website - if you are reading this blog, you owe it to yourself to go take a look.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    GPS Jamming Devices

    The Emergency Management and Response—Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) recently ran an informational piece on "Jamming Devices", that it described as:
    "...illegal radio frequency transmitters that are designed to block, jam, or otherwise interfere with authorized radio communications. Jamming technology generally does not discriminate between desirable and undesirable communications. A “jammer” can block all radio communications on any device that operates on radio frequencies within its range."
    Primarily hawked as a way to create cell phone "quiet zones" in restaurants, schools, theaters, and other similar public places, these systems are illegal to market, sell or use in the United States because of the degradation they can cause to public safety communications outside the intended zone of jamming.  Nonetheless, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has become very concerned about a signiciant increase in the number of websites selling these devices.  Recently, GPS jamming devices have been added to the mix. 

    Similar in concept to cell phone jammers, GPS jamming devices are designed to keep your boss, family, police, or the company whose truck you just stole, in the dark about "where you are".   For obvious reasons, they are also illegal to market, sell or use in the United States.  However, despite a crackdown by the FCC that started earlier this year, a brief check of websites finds them available for anywhere between $120 and $400.  

    Here are some links if you would like to know more about the issue of GPS jamming:

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    The Date App

    To read the article from the New York Times, click the link below:

    BUSINESS DAY   | November 03, 2011
    With an App, Your Next Date Could Be Just Around the Corner
    Services from sites like OkCupid and eHarmony make it possible to arrange a date with a stranger using location technology.

    Comment: If the technology is available to find the closest date, it should work just fine for finding the closest emergency service like a hospital.  Sure enough - go here.

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    GPS Tracking of Domestic Abusers Comes to New York City!

    Earlier this week, Daniel Donovan, the District Attorney for the New York City Borough of Staten Island, announced that known domestic abusers would soon be required to wear GPS tracking devices to keep them away from past victims.  As envisioned by the program, if an abuser violates a "must keep away distance" set in a restraining order, the tracking device would trigger a text message to a victim's cell phone.  The victim could then take evasive action and call 911 for assistance.  Go here to read more.

    Comment: This announcement came with all the fanfare one would expect from New York City politics.  Furthermore, the New York City press jumped on the story like it was a brand new concept.  Truth of the matter is New York City is a little behind the times.  Similar programs have been in existence in several states, counties and cities for years - and over time the concept of simply tracking abusers, to providing warnings to potential victims, has come to fruition as the technology has matured.

    Why isn't there more awareness about this capability?  Consider this from a 2009 article on the subject in

    "In Isabella County, Michigan, GPS monitoring has been in effect since 2008, with victims and assailants wearing bracelets. With 200 domestic violence cases each year, there have been no violent incidents in the county by the people ordered to wear the bracelet, and only a handful of violations of orders.

    GPS "is there and, if we don't avail ourselves of the technology for the benefits that it does bring, shame on us," said Larry Burdick, a prosecutor in the county."

    Simple answer: A big chunk of America's leadership and popular press have only passing awareness about the Geospatial Revolution and the potential benefits and pitfalls for our society.  Hopefully, with this recent development in New York City, there will be a few more folks with their awareness turned on.

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    FEMA Releases ROVER

    After more than three years of development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has recently announced release of its newest software for emergency preparedness and response - Rapid Observation of Vulnerability and Estimation of Risk (ROVER), which is described as, “fast, free, mobile software for pre- and post-earthquake building safety screening.”  A key feature of the product is its ability to determine and record geolocation of the structure being reviewed.   
    Here are some links if you want to know more:
    ROVER is available on CD-ROM (FEMA P-154 ROVER CD) from the FEMA Publications Warehouse by calling (800) 480-2520 or by faxing a request to (240) 699-0525.  Alternately, the software can be downloaded from the Rover Community Page. 

    Comment: Not that we are expecting earthquakes in Minnesota any time in the near future, but this software is indicative of where the “supporting tools” part of Emergency Management is headed: mobile, handheld, with geospatial at its core.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HEC-RAS Software for River Modeling

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC) has developed the River Analysis System (RAS) that allows users “to perform one-dimensional steady flow, unsteady flow, sediment transport/mobile bed computations and water temperature modeling" at selected locales within a river's basin.   In addition, with the recently introduced RAS Mapper module, users can also develop flood inundation maps.  Although there are very specific data requirements, the software is free and continues to be supported and upgraded by the HEC which has been in operation since 1964.  Go here to find out more about HEC-RAS.

    By using a supporting piece of software, HEC-GeoRAS, an ArcGIS interface can be used to prepare data for HEC RAS import.  To find out more about this capability, go here.
    Comment: Thanks goes out to Teri Alberico of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for passing along information on this software.