Friday, August 31, 2012

Special Holiday Edition: Adapt or Die

It's Friday of a holiday weekend, so you are going to get something completely different to consider for the next three days.....

In 1966, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press published a series of essays entitled Men, Machines, and Modern Times.  The author was Elting E. Morison, a distinguished MIT professor who was, among many other endeavors, fascinated by the process of invention and the forces that influenced it.  On reflection about how to best tackle his subject matter, Morison settled on what would appear to be a very odd laboratory for many of his studies: the military. After years of working with historical documents of the U.S. Navy, he came to believe that of all places in society, the military was the one least influenced by outside factors, and therefore, offered the best opportunity for "scientific" consideration of the subject matter.  So you get a sense of where this all goes, here's an excerpt:
In the early days of the last war when armaments of all kinds were in short supply, the British, I am told, made use of a venerable field piece that had come down to them from previous generations.  The honorable past of this light artillery stretched back, in fact, to the Boer War.  In the days of uncertainty after the fall of France, these guns, hitched to trucks, served as useful mobile units in coast defense.  But it was felt that the rapidity of fire could be increased.  A time-motion expert was, therefore, called in to suggest ways to simplify the firing procedures.  He watched one of the gun crews of five men at practice in the field for some time.  Puzzled by certain aspects of the procedures, he took some slow-motion pictures of the soldiers performing the loading, aiming, and firing routines.
When he ran these pictures over once or twice, he noticed something that appeared odd to him.  A moment before the firing, two members of the gun crew ceased all activity and came to attention for a three-second interval extending throughout the discharge of the gun.  He summoned an old colonel of artillery, showed him the pictures and pointed out this strange behavior. What, he asked the colonel, did it mean.  The colonel, too, was puzzled.  He asked to see the pictures again.  "Ah," he said when the performance was over, "I have it. They are holding the horses."
Obviously, by this point in history, the horses that had once been used to pull the guns were long gone, but the procedure had remained. It's a simple insight about institutional inertia and the inability to keep up with advancements in technology.  So, for your holiday weekend consideration, I now offer a story by this author along those same lines. It's called: Adapt or Die

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hurricane Pop Quiz

It wouldn't be a "pop quiz" if you were expecting it.  So here goes, five questions drawn from topics on this blog in the last year:

Q: The federally approved coordinate system used for land based operations during Catastrophic Incident Search and Rescue (SAR) is what?
A: Go here - see page 119.

Q: What government agency offers a publicly available online viewer that graphical shows if critical infrastructure in a coastal community will flood at various flood heights (storm surge). 
A: Go here.

Q: The name of the free software that can be used to predict potential inland damage along the track of a hurricane is?
A: Go here.

Q: The federally approved coordinate system for routine land based Search and Rescue (SAR) communications is what?
A: Go here.

Q: The name of the software that is free to government officials and can be used to determine when it is necessary to evacuate a coastal area due to a hurricane is?
A: Go here.

Comment: Just like a pop quiz, you never know when a disaster is going to strike. Consequently, you always have to be ready!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This, or That?


or that?

Maybe, both.......

Comment: The National Weather Service has long been an innovator when it comes to communicating subject matter that is of high interest to the general public.  For that reason, they have settled on an approach that relies primarily on graphics to depict "what" is happening "where".  Expanded details of the situation are then made available using text. Although we now think of this approach as routine and obvious, we are less than a generation away from days where many individuals relied on less graphically intense approaches to anticipate the next day's weather.  Some examples would include: listening to the radio, monitoring "forecast lights" on tall urban buildings, using barometers, and "reading the sky". So, as Isaac churns north from the Gulf bringing much needed moisture to parts of America's Heartland, a big thanks goes out to the National Weather Service for their efforts across the years to bring "visual" to what can be at times, disaster information.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Firewise and Ready, Set, Go

While most of the United States is watching the slow advance of Isaac across the Gulf of Mexico, there is another national disaster that is still playing itself out - this year's wildfire season isn't over yet.  Indeed, there are more than a few fires still burning months after they first started, almost exclusively in the western sections of the country.  
Faced with the reality that what we are experiencing this year is not unique, cross community collaborative efforts through the years have worked to develop two programs designed to help the public deal with wildland fires.  First is "Firewise", a program that can trace its roots back to 1985 and focuses on how residents along the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) can prepare in advance to maximize the likelihood their home will be able to survive a wildfire in near vicinity. Clearing brush from around a home and cutting back overhanging tree limbs would be two examples of "Firewise" precautions. The second program has only recently come into existence and is called "Ready, Set, Go". While Firewise focuses on actions to be taken before a wildfire arrives, Ready, Set, Go tries to help homeowners understand how to prepare in the event they have to leave.  And, even more importantly, understand when to leave.  To learn more about these programs, use the links below:

Comments: Both these programs represent a "best practices" approach to public safety - working with the community to help mitigate impacts before disaster strikes.

Lead photo: U.S. Forest Service

Monday, August 27, 2012

CAT 5 Hurricane - We Hope Not

CAT 1: He's back at it.  First, John Nelson of IDV Solutions gave us 60+ years of tornado tracks, and then the location of every earthquake since 1898.  Now, as shown in the South Pole view above, he has depicted the path of every hurricane on the planet since 1851.  To learn more, use the links below:

Free Wall Poster (Other sizes available also)
Hurricanes Since 1851 (IDV Solutions Blog Post, August 20, 2012)

CAT2: Not to be out done by Mr. Nelson, NOAA's Coastal Service Center has launched an online "Data Visualization Tool" that allows users to see the historical tracks of hurricanes that have hit the United States. To give it a try, go here:


CAT3: If you are looking for something with a more current "spin" to it, then you are probably looking for a smartphone app that can tell you what is happening now.  To be certain, there are plenty of them out there.  The link below will get you started on your hunt:

Track Hurricanes With One of These Smartphone Apps (The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 24, 2012)

CAT4: By now, most folks know the Republican National Convention is in Tampa, Florida this week and Day 1 has been cancelled because of Isaac. However, most folks don't know GPS tracking technology has been installed on local transportation systems to help monitor and manage things like major weather events.  Use the link below for more:   

Weather Closely Monitored At Republican National Convention (The Sacramento Bee, August 24, 2012)

Read more here:

CAT5: A CAT 5 hurricane is no place for any living thing.  But we need to know more about what makes these storms tick. NASA has an answer - send in a drone. Find out more below:

Comment: It's hard to review the list above without realizing the numerous ways geospatial data and information systems help us better understand our world and prepare for the worst. Wishing only the best for our friends to the South who will be facing the brunt of Isaac.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Weekend Edition: Arctic Street View, Tracking the Mayor, GPS Thieves, QR Coding Your Kid, and Rescue Robots!

It's a weird and wacked out world and it's getting more so every day.  Want proof?  Read below.

Arctic Street View: Ever been on the ground looking up at one of those jet contrails wondering who is up there and where are they going?  Now try it in reverse over some of the most desolate, cold, but interesting looking landscape on the planet. Been there, done that, scads of times; over places in the Arctic I hope to someday visit on the ground.  In the meantime, I'll be counting on Google Street View to get me a little closer. Use the link below for more:

Tracking the Mayor: Turns out Star Tribune reporter Eric Roper raised some eyebrows when he reported on the expanding use of Automatic License Plate Recognition in the Twin Cities Region. In addition to the "attention getting map" in his first article which showed his movements over a period of time based on a public records request, the coup de grĂ¢ce came a few days later when he did the same thing to Minneapolis Mayor Rybak. Click below to find out how:

City Cameras Track Anyone, Even Minneapolis Mayor Rybak (Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 17, 2012)

GPS Thieves: Who would want that beat-up $139.00 GPS receiver sitting on your dashboard?  Turns out thieves aren't thinking pawn store anymore - it's a source of your personal data. Below for more:

Unattended Cars: A Growing Target for Identity Thieves (, August 8, 2012)

QR Coding Your Kid: My panel of esteemed experts tell me they don't get this story. The pushback was - where is the value over other "lost kid" approaches?  Guess that means it's time for you to plow through the story to find the nuance they missed.  So, off you go to the Indiana State Fair where they are QR coding kids. Use the link below to eat a corn dog:

Rescue Robots: I've sat through enough Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) presentations to know my brain housing unit didn't get any upgrades coming off the production line. Consequently, it doesn't surprise me the "way-out-there-thinkers" at DARPA believe droid type robots are the ticket for disaster rescue missions of the future. Unfortunately, if you read between the lines, what I think they are really saying is: This is our best possible option for a WMD event - so we better get working on it.  DARPA has tapped Boston Dynamics to do the initial developmental work.  Given how wild this story is, you get two links:

Boston Dynamics Wins Contract to Produce Humanoid Robots (Washington Technology, August 15, 2012)

Have a great weekend!  Tune in next week if you don't want to get left behind by a wild and wacky world moving along at breakneck speed.....

Lead photo:; Rescue Robots graphic: DARPA

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Little doubt sensor recognition capabilities like those found in Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) have come a long way in the last decade.  Indeed, it's a point probably best made by recent developments in Nashville, Tennessee, where "Facedeals" is undergoing field testing.  Using a picture posted to an individual's Facebook site and digital cameras installed at shop entrances, Facedeals has the ability to recognize a shopper as he/she walks into a shop.  That identification is then used to tailor the customer experience based on information previously collected about the individual - such as offering discounts on preferred items.  To learn more, use the article or video links below:

Comment: The privacy blogs have been going wild with this one. On the one hand, Facedeals is being offered as a voluntary service.  On the other hand, we are on the verge of adding Facedeals to other technologies like GPS and cell phone signals as a way to continuously track an individual in the urban environment.  Yup, we are on a slippery slope.

Lead photo credit

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Crowd Sourcing the National Map

As previously offered on the MnGeo Emergency Preparedness Committee's LinkedIn site, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is attempting to respond to the quick pace of developments in the mapping world by experimenting with an approach first pioneered by OpenStreetMap.  In a Colorado based pilot program announced last week, individuals can enroll in a system that allows them to create entries for several different types of critical infrastructure like schools, hospitals, and police stations. Provided this test supporting The National Map is successful, plans call for the program to be expanded to other parts of the country.  To learn more, use the links, or view the video, below:

Comment: Here's another positive story adding to the recent string of news items which indicate parts of the public sector are now embracing new technologies that will increase the fidelity and granularity of geospatial data.  Hats off to the USGS for their initiative on this one.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Next HIFLD Meeting Heads Up: 3-4 October, Ft. Meade, Maryland

Here's a "Save the Date" heads up for the next Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data Work Group (HIFLD) meeting:

Date: 3-4 October, 2012


  • Cyber Security, Energy Resilience and to facilitate further discussion on the identification, acquisition and use of common homeland geospatial infrastructure data and applications. 
  • Other topics of general interest related to how geospatial technology and data supports efforts to enhance the protection and resiliency of our Nation's infrastructure and international infrastructure significant to the U.S.

Full meeting information: Additional details will be provided on the HIFLD website ( when they become available. Registration:

Questions: Casey Theisen, 703.377.9684, and/or the HIFLD Support team at

Comment: Notice this is the second time the HIFLD support team has offered the quarterly meeting by webinar.  Very cool for us folks out in the hinterlands. Unfortunately, the dates for the HIFLD meeting have already been taken by the world famous Minnesota GIS/LIS Conference

Monday, August 20, 2012

IACP Adopts Drone Code of Conduct

In a story that broke late on Thursday of last week, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) announced they had adopted a code of conduct for drone use. Coming on the heels of a similar move by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) in July, both efforts acknowledged they were trying to get ahead of the situation and limit the amount of legislative intervention such as the law being considered in Virginia.  Expanded information, including the code of conduct can be found using the links below:

Comment: On its website, the IACP offers the following about the organization:
The International Association of Chiefs of Police is the world's oldest and largest nonprofit membership organization of police executives, with over 20,000 members in over 100 different countries. IACP's leadership consists of the operating chief executives of international, federal, state and local agencies of all sizes.
Consequently, it's encouraging to see an organization with this size and scope taking the initiative on this hot potato issue.  That's a job: "Well done".

Friday, August 17, 2012

EPC Updates Weekend Edition: Meograph, Navy Drones, JFK Jet Skier, Jobs' Ghost, and West Nile in Texas

It's that time again.  EPC Updates goes unplugged for the weekend....first up: "Meograph".

Story #1: Meograph Beta was recently released and although it has some minor bugs that are certain to get ironed out as the pool of users increases, it's still a pretty slick idea and a wave of the future. "Four-dimensional Story Telling" - time, place, voice and photos (or videos).  Plus, it just might have potential as a PR tool for Emergency Managers during disasters. To get an idea of how it works, find above a Meograph version of this weekend's headlines.  Alternately, you can view the Travon Martin case as a Meograph by using the link below:

Story #2: If the Air Force can have drones in the sky, the Navy should be able to have drones in the water.  Indeed - testing is underway off Newport, Rhode Island on a concept that one day may be able to support a number of Emergency Services Sector underwater search functions. For more on this one, use the link below: 

Story #3: $100 million down the drain, or so it would seem.  On August 13, 2012, a stranded jet skier in New York's Jamaica Bay swam for shore, and then found his way undetected across one of the world's busiest airports despite an elaborate security system that was installed after 9/11. The link below will give you details:

Story #4: If you are going to rob someone, probably a bad idea to rob the King of Tech, Steve Jobs, even if he is dead.  It didn't take the cops very long to find this knucklehead. Link below is for more:

Story #5: West Nile Virus has descended on Dallas, Texas with a vengeance and the Mayor has had to declare a city-wide emergency.  It's not hard to sympathize with the troubles down in Texas when living in a place with our own BIG mosquitoes. Thankfully, up here we have the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District that uses a region-wide approach based on GIS to keep things under control.  Let's hope the best for Dallas while reading the story below:

All for this week.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New National Elevation Inventory

During the first week of August 2012, the U.S. Interagency Elevation Inventory (USIEI) was released to the public for the first time.  A collborative effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the USIEI is an online inventory tool that combines in one place information about, "high-accuracy topographic and bathymetric data for the United States and its territories".  Previous to USIEI, each agency maintained a portion of this information in separate databases.  Additional details as offered on the USIEI website:
This resource is a comprehensive, nationwide listing of known high-accuracy topographic data, including lidar and IfSAR, and bathymetric data, including NOAA hydrographic surveys, multibeam data, and bathymetric lidar. This inventory was completed May 2012 and will be updated annually.
The information provided for each elevation dataset includes many attributes such as vertical accuracy, point spacing, and date of collection. A direct link to access the data or information about the contact organization is also available through the inventory.

To give the system a test run, or watch a 30 minute webinar on this effort, click the links below:

Comment: Major kudos to these agencies for working together to put in one place the known universe of U.S. high accuracy elevation data sets - something critical to disaster mitigation, planning, response and recovery efforts if water is involved.  Let's hope there will be more interagency collaborative efforts like this one in the future!

Big thanks to Jim Lacy, Wisconsin Associate State Cartographer, for the steer to this story.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Smartphone App Attack

With each passing day, it seems like a new smartphone app appears that either has utility for personal safety, emergency preparedness and response, or communicates the amazing extent of data and capabilities now populating mobile devices.  In that regard, find below five examples:

Example #1The Brooklyn Quality Of Life App
Overview: "A community watch group right on your cell phone."
StoryNew Smartphone Application Allows People to Report Crimes to Authorities (, August 13, 2012)

Example #2 Apple's Find My iPhone Service
Overview: Famous blogger's iPhone is recovered in 5 hours by social media, GPS tracking, and police officers who truly believed in both technologies.
Story: Where Is David Pogue’s iPhone? (New York Times, August 2, 2012)

Example #3: iBGStar (and a multitude of others on the way provided the FDA gives the go ahead).
Overview: With basic medical functions moving onto smartphones, basic EMS can't be far behind.
StorySmartphone Apps Now Playing Doctor (USA Today, August 5, 2012)

Example #4Access Data with Census APIs
Overview: The U.S. Census Bureau has just released its first API.  Consequently, it is now possible to have an amazing range of demographic data available on your smartphone for things like post disaster damage assessments.
StoryUS Census Bureau Posts Its First API, Allows Smartphone Apps For the Stat-Obsessed (, July 30, 2012)

Example #5Obama for America
Overview: No political campaign has ever used geospatial technology as effectively as President Obama did in 2008.  That's not about to change in 2012 as his campaign has just deployed an application that will demonstrate to other professions the sobering level of granularity that is now possible.  
StoryIs Your Neighbor a Democrat? Obama Has an App for That (ProPublica, August 3, 2012)

Comment: FEMA released its first smartphone app about a year ago.  In many ways it is more like a checklist than a dynamic piece of software.  It does, however, provide a map interface that shows the location of disaster shelters that are open. Given the emerging capabilities listed above, and the discussion topics on the FEMA Think Tank that have received support for expansion of apps for the Emergency Services Sector, it would seem reasonable to believe more expansive smartphone apps can't be far behind. Until then, go here for the FEMA Smartphone App.

Lead graphic:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New York City Domain Awareness

In a story that dovetails with yesterday's posting about Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology in Minnesota, on Wednesday of last week, the New York Police Department unveiled its $30 million plus "Domain Awareness" effort.  Built in partnership with the MicroSoft Corporation, the system ties together  data streams from disparate sources such as surveillance cameras, radiation detectors, crime statistics and ALPR's in one place, and then visually overlays that information on a map interface. During the news conference given for the system's unveiling, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted the system as not only a big leap forward for the NYPD, but also a new standard for the rest of the nation.  The coverage of the event in the New York press was expansive and triggered numerous editorial discussions about invasion of  privacy.  To learn more, use the links below:

NYPD Unveils New $40 Million Super Computer System That Uses Data From Network of Cameras, License Plate Readers and Crime Reports (Daily News, August 8, 2012)

Mayor Bloomberg Office Press Release, August 8, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg Office News Conference Video, August 8, 2012

  • Mayor Bloomberg Comments: 0:00-4:40
  • NYPD Commissioner Kelly Comments: 4:40-10:05
  • LTG Mike McDuffie, USA (Ret.), VP, US Public Sector Services, Microsoft Corporation: 10:30-12:20  
  • Jessica Tisch, Director of Policy and Planning, NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau: 12:50-27:41  (She shows real time examples of three scenarios: Real Time Alerting; Investigative Support; Crime Analysis)

Comment: For anyone who still wants to pretend that "where" is really not that important, here are some pretty smart folks saying something entirely different.  If you watch the video, count the number of times the Mayor and others mention words related to location.  Actually, its pretty hard to not use those words when what you are talking about is a system that uses GIS as its backbone.

Lead picture: Keith Bedford, Reuters

Monday, August 13, 2012

ALPR Issues Come to Minnesota

On Friday, August 10, 2012, one of the major newspapers in the Twin Cities gave local focus to an issue this blog has been examining for nearly a year: the use of Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology by police departments across the nation. In the story run by the Star Tribune, some interesting details emerged with regard to Minnesota and the Twin Cities:

  • There is no state law that sets a time limit on how long the recorded movement of a vehicle can be retained before the record must be destroyed,
  • To the extent the data has not been erased and your car's license plate number is known to others, anyone can request a record of movement of your personal vehicle, and 
  • Seven jurisdictions in the Twin Cities currently use ALPR technology with the number growing rapidly.

To learn more, including the ACLU of Minnesota's spin on the situation, use the links below: 

Comment: As I have said before, this is how things look when policy and law fall behind technology.  Note also, simply recording a license plate number along with the time of that event has absolutely no value unless that data tag includes WHERE.  For more reflection on this situation, your attention is directed to two previous posts on this blog:

Lead graphic: Vigilant Video

Friday, August 10, 2012

Find Out How Smart You Are Friday

Question #1: What does the above picture depict, and where was it taken?
Answer: Go here

Question #2: The National Incident Management System Resource Center has a new look and URL.  Where can it be found?
Answer: Go here

Question #3: Same question for the National Response Framework Resource Center?
Answer: Go here

Question #4: True or False?  The ACLU recently began promoting a smartphone application that allows users to secretly record police stops?
Answer: Go here

Question #5: During the first few days of the Olympics, something caused big delays in event data transmission. What was it?
Answer: Go here

 Question #6: When is the next HAZUS users call, and what is the connect information?  (NO PEEKING!)
Answer: August 14, 2012; 3:00-4:00 PM Eastern Time; call-in number: 213-226-0400; event code: 381301

Question #7: OK, Smartie Pants, who can participate in the HAZUS users call discussed above?
AnswerIt is open to all HAZUS users.

Question #8: Earlier this year a farmer in North Dakota asked that his arrest for theft be thrown out of court because the county sheriff used a Department of Homeland Security drone during his arrest.  Last week the presiding judge ruled on that motion.  What was the result?
Answer: Go here

Question #9: In late June, the Evansville, Indiana SWAT Team raided a house looking for the person making online terrorist threats after they traced the Internet connection to the house.  Only problem is they got the wrong house.  How did this happen?
Answer: Go here

Question #10: True or False? On Wednesday, August 8, 2012, the Army test flew a blimp 100' longer than the Goodyear Blimp?
Answer: Go here

Score yourself - number correct: 
9 or more: You need to write EPC Updates
7-8: Genius 
5-6: Plugged in and with it
3-4: Above Average
1-2: Go back to surfing the net....

Lead photo: Pool/Reuters

Thursday, August 9, 2012

GLANSER Emergency Responder Tracking System Unveiled

Although its development has been a known story in many parts of the firefighting community for more than three years, on August 7, 2012, a collaborative partnership working under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate publicly unveiled for the first time the Geospatial Location Accountability and Navigation System for Emergency Responders (GLANSER).  By using a combination of technology that includes a GPS, Inertial Measuring Unit (IMU), aneroid barometer, and microwave transmitter, a firefighter's location is continuously calculated and sent back to the Incident Commander Unit (ICU). As a result, the whereabouts of a firefighter wearing a GLANSER is known at all times whether he/she is in two dimensional space outside a building, or in three dimensional space inside a building.  One deployment of the GLANSER command platform is said to be able to track up to 500 firefighters, in buildings up to 50 stories high, with an accuracy to within three (3) feet.  To learn more, use the links below:

Comment: Prior to this unveiling for the public at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts on Tuesday, field testing of GLANSER had been underway in Plymouth and Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as North Las Vegas, Nevada.  Kudos to all involved - very cool!

Lead photo:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

U.S. National Grid Maps for Minnesota

For the past three years or so, the Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo) has had in place a system that allows users to locate and download 10,000 meter square area PDF maps (10KM - roughly 6.2 miles square) for anywhere in Minnesota - for free. Developed using Federal and State cartographic standards for the U.S. National Grid (USNG), the maps were specifically designed to support the Emergency Services Sector (ESS) by making interlocking, cross-jurisdictional, state-wide map coverage available on a 24/7 basis.  As such, in addition to these maps using the latest state-wide aerial imagery from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Imaging Program (NAIP) as the base layer, the maps show the "state-endorsed" locations of fire stations, police stations, schools, and hospitals.  And, under a recent U.S. Geological Survey grant to MnGeo, a second generation of these maps will soon provide updated structure location information for the original four structure layers, plus add locations of "group homes" and State of Minnesota public buildings.  Initial funding to create the "state-endorsed" data layers, USNG maps, and distribution system was provided by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) under a 2008 Cooperative Agreements Program grant managed by MnGeo and its Emergency Preparedness Committee (EPC). To give the system a spin, click the link below (the site also has a nice brochure about USNG available for download): 

Comment: The staff at MnGeo has done a superb job putting this system in place and then improving it over time. With nothing more than Internet access a user can visually search for an area where he/she needs a map, and then by putting the mouse cursor over that spot and left clicking a second window will open that displays the map's name and allows download.  Done!  Max kudos to the MnGeo staff for developing this approach that makes these overview response maps easily available for the entire state, whenever they are needed! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Smartphone Avoidance

Last week, a General Motors news release indicated the company has been working on a pedestrian avoidance system for its cars that uses a location reporting feature of smartphones.  As envisioned, cars of the future will be able to detect a smartphone's Wi-Fi Direct signal, and then issue warnings if that smartphone (and user) is anticipated to be on a collision course with the car.  Since the Wi-Fi Direct signal is not dependent on the Internet, and is instead akin to a peer-to-peer network, the system will be active whenever two Wi-Fi Direct enabled systems are in near vicinity.  Efforts are currently underway to determine how to filter out nuisance signals such as those that would be generated by a bicycle messenger weaving in and out of traffic.  To learn more, click on the links below (both include an informative 1:22 video):

Comment: Location, location, location.  In the future, those three words won't just be about what makes real estate valuable - they will permeate everything we do.  In this case, the public safety community on the ground will be seeing the benefit of a lesson learned long ago by the aviation safety community in the skies.  Ask any airline pilot who has been around for more than twenty years what the single greatest enhancement in aviation safety has been during his/her career, and almost to a person the answer will be TCAS, or Traffic Collision Avoidance System technology - an on board aircraft system that uses the beacon signals from nearby aircraft to ensure separation is maintained at all times. So effectively, GM is taking a concept that has proven highly effective in three dimensional space, and is working to create that same level of safety in two dimensional space.  Kudos for them!

Lead graphic: General Motors

Monday, August 6, 2012

DHS Geospatial CONOPS Version 4.0

Brain child of Dan Cotter, past Geospatial Management Officer, and now Chief Technology Officer of the  Department of Homeland Security, on the last day of June 2012 the Department of Homeland Security released draft version 4.0 of the Homeland Security Geospatial Concept of Operations (GeoCONOPS).  As described on the inside cover, the intent of the document is as follows:
This draft Geospatial Concept of Operations (GeoCONOPS) has been developed as a starting point for understanding how the coordination of disaster response geospatial activities can be improved at the Federal level. The intended audience for this draft document are the geospatial communities that support emergency management activities of the Federal government under the National Response Framework (NRF). This includes individual Emergency Support Functions (ESFs), the Joint Field Offices (JFO) and operations centers, including the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC). Stakeholders and actors representing ESFs, operations centers, and involved in other NRF activities have been extensively engaged in providing input for this document.
To download, click the link below (Note: Latest version is also always available via a link in right side bar):

Comment: Three thoughts:

1.) Please note this document represents an effort to coordinate geospatial efforts among Federal partners.   States and metro regions will need to develop their own Geospatial CONOPS to sort out relationships on those levels.  

2.) CONOPS are designed to facilitate cross-talk among agencies. Everyday nuts and bolts "operator type" instructions are normally passed along in "Standard Operating Procedures" or similar.  Two of the better ones in that regard are: 

3.) Don't get too comfortable with Version 4.0......word on the street is some good folks are working real hard to get Version 5.0 to press before the snow sticks.  In it, there is going to be some illuminating information.... 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Flipped Out Friday: EPC Updates Weekend Edition

In honor of the Olympics, here's Five Flipped Out stories for Friday....... 

3D Printers: If you want a 3D map, the clip below shows how you will soon be able to PRINT your own.  Starts out slow, but stick with it - if it doesn't bend your mind, nothing will.

If you can't wait for the day when you will have one of these machines in your office, use the link below to order a 3D custom map: 

Create Custom 3D Printed Geographic Models

Distracted Walking: We've all seen it - people so involved in what they are doing on their smartphones, that they have tuned out to the dangers around them - like walking into traffic.  Turns out Public Safety officials have become concerned to the point where discussions are taking place about consequences for offenders:

Distracted Pedestrians Stumble Into Danger (Associated Press, July 30, 2012)

UFO UpdateA while back EPC Updates ran a Friday snippet called: "UFO Flies Down Washington D.C. Interstate (On Flatbed Truck)".  If you're dying for an update (with pictures), just click the link below:

D.C. Beltway ‘UFO’ Up Close At Air Base (, July 31, 2012)

Google in De L'eau Chaude: Sorry, my French is really bad. Anyway, Google is in hot water again over its Street View effort.  This time, at a location not too far from the Eiffel Tower.  The link below will tell you more:

* Here's a tip for aspiring research types - AFP runs one of the most thorough and unbiased open source news gathering systems in the world.  Plus, their archive is extensive and well organized.  Happy digging. 

Smart Phone Hacking: Just when you thought it was safe to turn on your cell phone, researchers have discovered the same technology that provides GPS on your phone, potentially allows you to be tracked remotely.  You can learn more below:

GPS Weakness Could Enable Mass Smartphone Hacking (Technology Review, July 26, 2012)

Comment: Until next week - have a great weekend!