Friday, June 29, 2012

Weekend Edition: Smartphone Weather Warnings, Google's Project Glass, Bird Flu, SEC Charges LightSquared Backer Falcone With Fraud

Hot off the press, here are updates on some stories we've been following:

Smartphone Weather Warnings: Yesterday, the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system was activated that will allow the National Weather Service to issue geographically targeted weather warnings directly to service subscriber smartphones. To learn more, click the desired link below:

Google's Project Glass: This week at Google's I/O Conference in San Francisco, Google's head mounted augmented reality display called "Project Glass" was publicly offered for purchase for the first time. Attendees could buy a prototype version of the head worn computer, camera, GPS, and kitchen sink for $1500. To learn more, click the desired link below:

Bird Flu: Late last week, the Dutch version of research on how to make Bird Flu into an airborne transmittable virus was published in Science. Turns out, release of the information was not the security threat most had feared. Developments leading up to the event did, however, go a long way toward establishing protocols for release of scientific research that could be used for terrorist purposes. To learn more, click the desired link below:  

SEC Charges LightSquared Backer Falcone With Fraud: On Wednesday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) formerly charged Minnesota hockey phenom turned hedge fund manager, Phillip Falcone, with fraud. It's a sad fall from grace for the "man behind the curtain" of the LightSquared effort that would have disconnected functionality of GPS nationwide. Don't worry though, the Chisholm native has more than a few billion in his pocket to fight the charges. To learn more, click the desired link below: 
Comment: Things are moving fast in a big way.  You'll need to stay tuned in if you don't want to get left behind by the revolution in geospatial and related technologies! Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Senator Schumer to Google and Apple: Don't Be a Peeping Tom!

Coming on the heels of Senator Rand (R-KY) introducing legislation earlier this month that would require police to obtain a warrant before using an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) to conduct surveillance (See: Preserving Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012), Senator Schumer (D-NY) has recently warned Google, Apple, and others about their current and future plans to collect aerial imagery.  Of specific concern are emerging systems that will deliver imagery to the public that is as accurate as previously found only in the classified world. A thought which has lead Senator Schumer to level the following warning: Don't Be a Peeping Tom!  For more on this development, use the appropriate link below:

Comment: It's going to be a fine line we walk going forward.  On the one hand, the technology Senator Schumer is concerned about serves the common good - particularly so when it comes to emergency preparedness and response.  On the other hand, in order to safeguard personal privacy, there needs to be limits on how that technology is used.  So it's a good thing Senator Schumer and others on the Hill are paying attention now, because in the years going forward, they are going to have a lot of work to do defining those boundaries.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wildfire Maps and Information Resources

For those with interest in the current Western wildfires, as well as future wildfires across the U.S., find below links to the known, publicly available Federal information resources. Where available, a brief description of the product as offered by responsible entity's website is provided.  Other comments are those of this author:

Situation Overview - Currently Active Fires

National Fire News - Current Wildfires: A textual update of the current national wildfire situation as provided by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).  Information with a region specific focus is available by selecting the appropriate geographic region at the Geographic Area Coordination Centers (GACG) web sites.

Current Large Incidents: An overview map by the U.S. Forest Service Active Mapping Program that uses data provided by NIFC.

InciWeb: A collaborative website that delivers a fusion of several data streams. Detailed information about any specific wildfire can be obtained by clicking on the incident name. Available hard copy map resources are available through the Maps link.

Detailed Information - Currently Active Fires

Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group or GeoMAC, is an internet-based mapping application originally designed for fire managers to access online maps of current fire locations and perimeters in the conterminous 48 States and Alaska. Using a standard web browser, fire personnel can view this information to pinpoint the affected areas.

Active Fire Mapping Program is an operational, satellite-based fire detection and monitoring program managed by the USDA Forest Service Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC) located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Active Fire Mapping program provides near real-time detection and characterization of wildland fire conditions in a geospatial context for the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii and Canada. Detectable fire activity across all administrative ownerships in the United States and Canada are mapped and characterized by the program. From this webpage access is provided to a wide range of map based products and data by using links on the left side bar.  Pages of note:

Fire and Smoke Products: NOAA's new home page for its various fire and smoke products.  Other related pages of note:


Outlooks: Textual information about the potential for wildfires for the entire United States as provided by NIFC.

Predictive Services Program: This website facilitates integration of comprehensive climate, weather, situation and fuels information in geospatial format. Predictive Services personnel at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and Geographic Area Coordination Centers (GACCs) utilize these data to produce daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal Fire Weather and Fire Danger Outlook products that provide decision support information to anticipate fire activity. From this website three different map products may be selected.

WFAS Interactive Map is a prototype project by the Fire Behavior Research and Fire Modeling Institute work units at the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab to develop the methods necessary for delivering nationwide observed and 24-hour forecast fire danger maps to the public through a compact web mapping program.

Weather Fire Outlooks: NOAA's National Weather Service's map based wildfire outlook service.

Comment: Although massive kudos go out the wildfire community for their many years of seeing geospatial information technology as absolutely essential to their operations, one can only wonder when looking at the expansive variety of data streams - why isn't there ONE place where data is shared?  Add to the mix state and local sites such as the one for Colorado, and we are back to the same point made last week about floods in Duluth (See: Comparing Mapping Approaches for the Duluth Floods).  Where, oh where, in the web enabled world - one that is becoming geospatially driven - are the national/regional disaster situational awareness viewer(s) for the public?  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Location Determines If Your Home Will Burn In a Wildfire

Earlier this year, a research team focusing on wildland urban fires that have taken place in Southern California since 2001, came to a conclusion that runs counter to conventional wisdom. Instead of finding that the proximity of combustible materials to a building was the key factor in determing if a building burns during a wildland urban fire event, they found that the raw location of the building itself was the primary factor. For more on this story, click the appropriate link below:

Comment:  I know there are folks in the Firewise Program who will be crying bull feathers about this finding, so I'm going to keep things simple by offering just two thoughts.  First, Southern California does not have the same wildland urban fire setting that is found in the vast majority of the country, so I think it fair to say these findings are probably appropriate for that environment, but won't have as strong a correlation for the rest of the nation. Second, although the authors used the length of road leading to a structure to factor in if accessibility to firefighters played a role in the response sent to a location, what appears missing from their calculations is the perceived sense of danger. By that I mean, it may be perceived it is far safer to deploy a crew down a long road to a home from which there are multiple escape routes, then it is sending a response crew to a home with a short driveway that sits on a peninsula cliff with one way in and out.

However, despite Southern California being a significantly different urban setting than most of the nation, and a review of the available data 
potentially could have been more thorough, the reality remains the geospatial information technology approach used by this study offers a new way of thinking about wildland urban fires.  It's not just the micro setting, it's also the macro setting that suggests likely outcome.        

Lead graphic: Alexandra D. Syphard, et. al.

Monday, June 25, 2012

EPC Updates Is One Year Old!

It's hard for me to believe, but this past Saturday EPC Updates celebrated its first birthday.  Launched with the simple intent of delivering an occasional Minnesota-focused, breaking news item about how the Geospatial Revolution is impacting the Emergency Services Sector (ESS), this blog is now home to 400 posts and has readers around the globe. I think that is indicative of the magnitude of change currently taking place in the technologies this blog follows.  When it comes to the ESS, the world of "electronic maps" is no longer just about how to effectively use a particular piece of GIS software to support a sector mission, it's also about knowing how to acquire and manage various forms of static information (data bases) and dynamic feeds (sensors) that can be used to create real-time situational awareness.  Consequently, with that educational need in mind, every post offered on this blog to date is available for quick review by using the Subject and Title Archive search features located at the top of each blog page. So, whether it's information about Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Common Operating Pictures, Smart Phones, Social Media, Location Tracking, or any other topic related to this blog's intent, there is an easy way for readers to stop by and efficiently look for background information on a given topic.

In addition to the educational aspect of this site, there has also been an effort to put forward ideas that have an element of advocacy to them.  Over the past year, I believe there are three worthy of special note:

Each represents a significant way in which a pervasive lack of awareness about the capabilities or limitations of geospatial technologies means we are loosing out on the opportunity to enhance our national preparedness and response infrastructure.  To understand my pointI'd suggest a review of each post listed above (and the associated materials).

Finally, if you find this blog of value to you, I have a favor to ask. Please pass along this blog's existence to others who you think might find it useful.  Individuals working in the topic areas this blog covers tend to be their own worst enemy when it comes to public relations.  Practitioners understand the importance and value, but sometimes the boss does not.  So here's an opportunity to build engagement and awareness through examples that clearly demonstrate the world of geospatial technology is exploding around us.  In an era of shrinking budgets, the job you save, may be your own. Similarly, the more individuals who are aware of the variety and extent of issues in play, the easier it will be to create meaningful change that will help us all.

Have a great week!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Twin Cities GECCo Workshop After Action Report and Improvement Plan

After an extended period of dialogue and consideration by Twin Cities geospatial stakeholders, last week the Geospatial Information and Technology Association (GITA) formally released the Twin Cities GECCo Workshop After Action Report and Improvement Plan (AAR/IP).  In addition to providing a comprehensive review of findings from the Geospatial Enabling Community Collaboration (GECCo) workshop held at Fort Snelling, Minnesota in October 2011, the document’s Improvement Plan outlines steps that can be taken to create an ongoing, metro-focused process that will improve geospatial data collaboration and cooperation among the region’s business, emergency services, infrastructure and geospatial communities.  MetroGIS, a voluntary collaboration of local and regional governments, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations and businesses in the Twin Cities, will initially coordinate efforts to pursue Improvement Plan recommendations.

Although written with a focus on Twin Cities issues, it is thought much of the report has value for other U.S. major metropolitan areas as well.

To download a copy of the AAR/IP, and an explanatory cover letter that accompanied its release, click the link below (look for these items at the bottom of the page that opens):

Comment: This AAR/IP is believed to be the first time the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) report template has been used to deliver findings from a geospatially focused event.  Although the HSEEP standardized format substantially contributed to the document’s overall size of 96 pages, it also allows for selective/speed reading, with delivery of details as needed.  Thus, the following “quick read” sequence for the document is thought appropriate for most:  
  • Executive Summary (pages 5-10), 
  • Section 3 as needed to clarify Executive Summary details (pages 25-37), 
  • Section 4 (pages 39-40), and 
  • other pages as desired.

With issuance of the report, the Twin Cities GECCo is officially complete.  Kudos and thanks go out to GITA, Department of Homeland Security, and all individuals who volunteered their time to make the Twin Cities GECCo possible! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Comparing Mapping Approaches for the Duluth Floods

Over the past couple of days, the Lake Superior harbor town of Duluth, Minnesota has been hit by torrential rains that have created substantial flooding and 10's of millions of dollars of damage (click here for photos by Minnesota Public Radio).  Yesterday, June 20, 2012, in recognition of these circumstances, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency for the state.  In light of these developments, find below links to the known examples of how various entities have tried to use maps to provide situational awareness to the public about this disaster:

Minnesota Department of Transportation (Road conditions/closures)

Minnesota Public Radio (Government sources and reports by the public) 

Star Tribune (Government sources and Star Tribune field reports)

Google Public Alerts (Government generated warnings)

Comment: In any disaster, it's critical that the public has a clear understanding of what is taking place.  And as Katrina proved, the bigger the disaster, the more important that information flow is to the public. Correspondingly,the art of making information about a disaster useful to the public hinges on the ability to narrow down large and diverse data streams into focused information delivered in a usable format. In an era where the majority of Americans rely on the Internet for information services, and increasingly greater numbers understand electronic maps through GPS ownership, it is my belief that a web-based mapping approach similar to the ones offered above would be the best possible way to deliver that refined stream of data to the public. However, as can be seen from a review of these current state-of-the-art examples - examples that could be found almost anywhere in the country during a disaster - the potential value to the public has been lost by the lack of an officially sanctioned viewer that delivers the "total picture" and has granularity. Instead, what is available is being dispensed by mostly unofficial sources with varying access to data and varying beliefs about what is important. Consequently, there can be little doubt that if geospatial information systems are ever going to be successfully used by the Emergency Services Sector for internal and external purposes, engagement on the issue of data management will have to be a key part of the equation.       

Lead photo credit: Derek Montgomery, for Minnesota Public Radio

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Webinar: The Indiana Data Model

As previously noted on this blog, the state of Indiana has put considerable effort into creating tools and approaches that facilitate the sharing of geospatial data (See: IndianaMap).  As a way to share insights about this effort, the Central HAZUS Users Group is sponsoring a free webinar.  Here are the details:

What: “The Indiana Data Model.”  
When:  July 19, 2012
Time: 2:00 to 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time (1:00 Central)

The Sell:  Geographic information is a critical component of the HAZUS work flow.  As the accuracy, currency, and access of that information improves, the HAZUS workflow outcome improves.  The Indiana GIS community has worked collaboratively over the last two decades to create an environment that promotes data sharing and open access to statewide geographic information resources.  This presentation looks at trends, technologies, projects, and possibilities that Indiana GIS brings to the HAZUS community in Indiana as well as across the nation.

Presenter InformationJim Sparks is the Geographic Information Officer for the State of Indiana, a Board Member of the Indiana Geographic Information Council, and a member of the National States Geographic Information Council.   Jim has nearly 30 years of experience in the geospatial technologies field and has worked in multiple levels of government as well as in the private sector.   He has played a pivotal role in making Indiana one of the leading models for data sharing in the nation.

Audio Dial-in: (317) 278-7008 / 710589#

Video - login as Guest

Comment: A big thanks to Kevin Mickey, Director, Geospatial Technologies Education, The Polis Center, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, for passing this one along.  This event will clearly be worth your time! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Orleans Flood Protection Wall Now In Place

Although it sure seems like it has been a long time coming, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) noted it was significantly ahead of schedule when it recently completed a series of storm walls and levees around the City of New Orleans. Thought to be the single most expensive mitigation effort in the history of the nation, the $14.5 billion, 133 mile long flood protection wall is designed to keep New Orleans dry even during a 100-year storm surge.  For more on this accomplishment - which came in response to the disaster that forever changed the way FEMA does business - click the link below:

Comment:  Just like you can't plan for an engineering effort like this without a map, you can't tell the story of this mitigation success without one either.  So going forward, look for a map in every news article about this achievement.

Lead graphic:

Monday, June 18, 2012

RAPIER - Rapid Image Exploitation Resource

As a Department of the Navy research organization, the Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center Pacific works to develop innovative technologies that support the Navy's mission.  One of those efforts has been RAPIER - Rapid Image Exploitation Resource - software that can automatically locate, identify and track a wide range of ship types using satellite imagery.  In 2011, SPAWAR released a RAPIER module funded by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate that can do high speed, high volume searches for wildland fires using commercial satellite imagery.  The exceptionally fast results from this system called RAPIER FDS (Fire Detection System), can then be overlaid onto Google Maps or turned into small, high quality image files suitable for email distribution. You can learn more about RAPIER FDS by using the links, or viewing the video, below.


RAPIER Fact Sheet (PDF)

Comment: For those with current access to the First Responder Communities of Practice, a trial version (116 Mb) of RAPIER FDS can be downloaded from the GIS Repository folder, found in the Documents section of the Fire and Rescue Community of Practice. This is a great way to try out the program and determine if its use makes sense for your response efforts.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Freak - Out Friday: You Can't Make This Stuff Up

I promise - next week I'll get back to stories focused strictly on the use of geospatial information technologies in support of the Emergency Services Sector.  But for today, find below three reports on stuff you can't make up.

Item #1: Man Files Federal Class Action Law Suit Because His Siri Was Location Inept: According to reports coming out of Texas, a Mr. Frank Fazio has filed a federal class action lawsuit because, among other issues related to the Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface (Siri) software installed on his iPhone 4S, his Siri was unable to provide meaningful location information/directions.  As reported by CBSDFW.COM, Mr. Fazio was supposedly harmed because he, “...asked Siri for directions to a certain place, or to locate a store. Siri either did not understand what he was asking or after a very long wait time responded with the wrong answer.”  Click on the link below if you....really do.....want to know more about this one: 

Item #2: UFO Flies Down Washington D.C. Interstate (On Flatbed Truck): Where to start on this one? OK, if it's an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO), how is it that it's on a flatbed truck?  One that is driving down the Interstate right through the middle of the nation's capital?  And, there's a sign on the truck that says, "Oversize Load". Think about that one for a minute before calling 911.  Unfortunately, it's only the start of the fun with where this is headed. Wait until the "UFO" gets in the skies.  Can you say, "Light up my 911 call lines?"  For mystery solved, click the link below:

Item #3: Nobody at Google Knows Anything About Street View Data Collects:  Here's another one for anyone who wants to believe that in the age of U.S. drones crisscrossing the skies of Pakistan, with some of those drones being no bigger than a cigarette pack, that the United States really didn't know if the man walking around the inside that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was Usama Bin Laden.  Click the link below for - Nobody No's Nuttin:

Comment: The pool of hard to believe stories about the Geospatial Revolution is nearly endless.  But as promised, enough poking fun and back to work starting on Monday.  

Lead graphic credit:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Preserving Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012

On June 7, 2012, Representative Austin Scott, R-GA, introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would place limits of the use of drones by Public Safety officials in U.S. Domestic airspace.  Specifically targeting the law enforcement community, H.R. 5925, the Preserving Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012, requires police to obtain a warrant before a drone can be used for surveillance activities. However, it wasn't until Representative Scott's bill was joined on Tuesday by a Senate companion bill, S. 3287, sponsored by Senator Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, that the press started to take notice.  For more on that thought, find below some not so different viewpoints from some very different news sources:

Fox News Senator Paul interview (2:15):

CNN's report on the Senator Paul bill (6:20):

Russia Today's Version of the situation (7:28):

Comment: It's encouraging to see members of Congress are waking up to the reality that geospatial information technology has gotten ahead of the law and is pulling away. Unfortunately, one lobbyist reporting firm is currently giving the House version of the bill about a 2% chance of passage during the current session.  That's too bad because it means as a nation we are going to end up being reactive rather than proactive on an issue that has far reaching implications for personal freedom and law enforcement activities.

Lead graphic: LA Times

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Next Quarterly Meeting of the EPC - Tomorrow, June 14th!

It's that time again and this one is going to be one of the best ones we have had in years:

What: MnGeo Emergency Preparedness Committee Quarterly Meeting
Date: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Time: 2:00 pm - 4:30pm CDT
Cost: Free
  (Like I have said before....I mean, really, who would pay for this?)

Presentation highlights:

  • Snap Shot Presentation I: Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Developments in the Upper Midwest. Brian Huberty, USFWS, Minneapolis, MN
  • Snap Shot Presentation II: Minnesota Structures Collaborative Update. John Hoshal, MnGeo, St. Paul, MN
  • EPC Professional Development Hour: Overview of the Minnesota All Hazards Incident Management Team (MN AHIMT) and Minnesota Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue (MN-TF1). Fire Chief Ulie Seal, Bloomington, MN, and Mike Pott, Dakota County Special Operations Team

For full event details, including map to the meeting location (imagine that): go here.

Comment: This will be an all-star event with regional and national experts delivering insights about developments in their field of expertise.  Guests are always welcome - so please join us at any point in the meeting if your schedule will allow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


On February 22, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.  As part of that bill, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce was directed to create the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) as an independent entity within NTIA.  In turn, FirstNet was given the mission, "... to take all actions necessary to ensure the design, construction, and operation of a nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN), based on a single, national network architecture."  Using the 700-MHz band made available through the implementation of digital TV, NPSBN is now the national vision for creating "...a single, nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network that will, for the first time, allow police officers, fire fighters, emergency medical service professionals, and other public safety officials to communicate with each other across agencies and jurisdictions."

Significant in the plans for this system is an allocation of $7.0 billion in funding for FirstNet to put the NPSBN in place.  With that much money available, there's a sea of acronyms in the hunt for the bucks.  Find below links to some of those efforts and their respective viewpoints:

U.S. Department of Commerce, NTIA:
Public Safety

U.S. Department of Commerce, Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR):
Public Safety 700-MHz Demonstration Network

Federal Communications Commission (FCC):

Comment: Although a quick review of the websites above would seem to suggest a fragmented effort certain to bog down going forward, there are more than a few reports that suggest things are moving along at a brisk pace and in well designed fashion.  Along those lines are the comments of Jackie Mines, Director, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Communication Networks, to the FCC on May 31, 2012:  Click the link below to read more:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mobile Mapping Wars: Apple Versus Google

Within the past week, rumors have swirled and corporate news conferences have been held in anticipation of Apple apparently preparing to announce today that it will be terminating use of Google Maps on its iOS platforms.  One time allies are now becoming enemies in the fight for mobile mapping dominance.  The forum for the announcement will be Apple's World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC 2012) being held in San Francisco through the end of this week.  Supposedly, the new Apple navigation service will attempt to "one up" Google by delivering highly accurate navigation combined with 3D services. For its part, Google attempted to head off the hoopla but holding its own news conference this past Wednesday where it revealed a new 3D mobile map capability along with other enhancements to its mapping services.  Naturally, the technology focused press is filled with stories about these developments, so choose your level of interest from the links below:

General Overview:
Apple's War With Google Heats Up (Reuters)

Google Focused:
Google Unveils New Mapping Technologies (BBC)


The Investor Beat:
Apple and Google Expand Their Battle to Mobile Maps (Wall Street Journal)

Comment: The number of times I have heard individuals from the Emergency Services Sector tell me they count on "Google Maps" for various job related activities is substantial.  And while that approach may not be the best from a technical standpoint, it serves as a reminder that basic utility of product is the key to delivering geospatial products and services to the Emergency Services Sector that have value.  Thus, anything that brings competition to the world of internet based mapping services is something I like to see.  So slug away - Google and Apple - I'm cheering for both of you.

Lead graphic:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fusion Friday: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

First off, here's a follow-up to the post: What Not to Do With Social Media. This time it's: "Why Don't We Use Facebook to Brag to Our Friends About Where We Are Going to Break In Next?"  Too bad one of the Facebook "Friends" of these New York City gang members was a police officer.  Use the link below for more:

The capability has been around for awhile but hasn't gone anywhere - thankfully. That being: Let's just barcode everybody at birth so individual whereabouts can be tracked at all times. It's an approach certain to solve numerous security and business related problems for government.  American science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon thinks it's a great idea and recently told BBC exactly that. Click the link below for more scary stuff on this one:

Munch, munch, munch...eating crow is so much fun.  No more do I offer a comment in a prior post on this blog that stated armed drones over the U.S. is something that is never going to happen, but what do I read - a story about a town in Texas with plans along those lines.  Sorry, I should have known better from my days in Beeville, Texas. Hard to know if this is the real deal, or a cub reporter gone wild.  You can decide for yourself by clicking the link below:

In the "I told you so department", CNN and the other big news outlets have started waking up to the story about all that stuff out there floating across the North Pacific from the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami of last year. I guess the recent arrival of a 66-foot long floating dock from Misawa, Japan set off the alarm clock for them.  Read more using the link below:

Comment: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World out there. So keep your head on a swivel and have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

DATA.GOV / Safety

According to its website, DATA.GOV is a Federal government web portal with a mission to "...increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government."  The site then goes on to offer:
As a priority Open Government Initiative for President Obama's administration, increases the ability of the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government. provides descriptions of the Federal datasets (metadata), information about how to access the datasets, and tools that leverage government datasets. The data catalogs will continue to grow as datasets are added. Federal, Executive Branch data are included in the first version of
In the three years since its birth in late May 2009, DATA.GOV has created a collection that includes:    

In April of 2012, the site added "Safety" as a dedicated community. From this new node, users can find Apps like the Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER), GIS tools like the Safety Analysis Tools of the Highway Safety Information System (HSIS), and crime maps like the one for Chicago.  To give the Safety section of DATA.GOV a whirl, click the link below:

Comment: DATA.GOV got off to a bumpy start and has had to fight for funding to stay alive. However, no matter what the future holds for it in competition against geospatial approaches like the U.S. Geological Survey's National Map, or the FGDC's Geospatial Platform, its overall approach to business represents the best of how government data should be made available to the public - unfettered, easily accessible, and free.   

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Two New Search Features for EPC Updates

In an effort to increase the utility of the 380+ archived posts on this blog, yesterday afternoon two new search features were added to this site. Available through links on the top menu bar, they are:
  • Archive of Posts by Subject: Find here a master index of all EPC Updates posts, grouped by the most significant informational item found in each post. For example, under the subject header "Social Media",  find the 10 posts written since blog inception that have social media as the primary idea of the post.
  • Archive of Posts by Title: Find here a master index of all EPC Updates post titles, listed alphabetically within the respective month that they were written. Months are listed in a chronological descending order.
These two new search features join the blog's four existing search capabilities which start at the top of the right side bar:
  • "Search This Blog": Generates standard search engine type results for information inside the blog.
  • "Most Popular Posts In Last Seven Days":  From top to bottom, find here in descending order the top 10 posts of the past seven days.
  • "Blog Archive": Serves as a way to open every post for a selected month with one click.
  • "Labels": Opens every post that received the respective label or "tag" at the time of writing.
Taken together, these six search features should provide readers of this blog with a variety of approaches to look for information that might otherwise be hard to find. 

Comment: Hopefully, these additions will be helpful for anyone looking for leads from past posts.  If so, happy hunting! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Integration Underway: DHS Information Technology

Since late February, Richard Spires, Chief Information Officer of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has been reporting that DHS is taking steps to integrate the information technologies of several different tenant organizations. Of specific note, in a Federal Computer Week article published last month, Mr. Spires offered that one of the more vexing problems currently being worked is DHS agencies own more than 20 different versions of "Common Operating Pictures".  He even went so far as to quip: "So much for being 'common'".  

Attention being paid to DHS's geospatial information technology efforts comes as part of a much larger review of DHS's information technology infrastructure underway in the halls of Congress.  From a March 1, 2012, hearing by the House's Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management, Committee of Homeland Security, comes the following:
After nearly a decade, DHS’s failure to integrate its management practices remains on the GAO’s High Risk list.
Stove-piped management information systems continue to plague DHS with mismanagement, redundancies and duplication, and inefficient use of resources that has increased costs within the Department and bungled the implementation of security operations.
To learn more on the above situation, use the following links:

Comment: I've said it for years, and now it looks like parts of the Washington brain trust finally agree: "What's the most common thing about Common Operating Pictures (COPs)?  They're not common!"  But COPs don't need to have identical technology for "stove-pipe" users to visualize circumstances the same way.  Instead of sharing a common platform of technology, users need to share a common platform of DATA!  So any effort that focuses on the technology end of the COP equation without solving the shared geospatial data issue....... is only kidding itself.  To that end, no one is going to solve the data issue without incorporating "locals" into their efforts.  So if DHS truly wants to solve the issue of having different COPs under its organizational umbrella...... all it needs to do is look for the big red symbol in the right side border to understand what needs to happen in every state in the Union.  

Lead photo credit: FEMA  

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Only Minnesota Entity To Request a License to Operate a Drone is....

Otter Tail County.  Huh?  Yup.  The government of a rural western Minnesota county with a population of 53,700 is the only Minnesota entity that has formally asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a license to operate a drone (more correctly, a UAS - Unmanned Aircraft System) in U.S. air space.  Meanwhile, big counties like Ramsey and Hennepin, and research institutions like the University of Minnesota, are sitting on the sidelines.  That fact left a lot of folks scratching their heads when the FAA recently released the list of the 61 operators across the nation who had asked for permission to fly a drone in the air space of the United States

Want to know more?  If so, click the link below:

Comment: As part of the FAA re-authorization bill signed in February (See: Commercial Drones to be Added to U.S. Airspace) the FAA is required to take a series of steps to facilitate the full introduction of commercial UAS's into U.S. airspace by September 2015.  To date, those steps have included announcing on May 14, 2012 that the FAA and Department of Justice had reached agreement on a training protocol that will allow police departments to begin using UAS's without a FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA), and an indication from the FAA that by December 2012 it will select six test sites that will be used to evaluate "best practices" for the introduction of commercial drones into the federal airspace.  For more information on these developments, see the FAA news release titled: FAA Makes Progress with UAS Integration.  The parent site for the FAA's UAS effort is located here: Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).  

As the gates open on this capability across the next three years - look for BIG changes when it comes to availability, timeliness and affordability of aerial imagery.