Monday, December 31, 2012

EPC Updates - 2012 in Review

As I did last year on New Year's Eve, today's post will offer some statistical insights about this web site from the past year.  These stats come from readers living in a total of 134 countries, who spent an average of 5:56 minutes on this site during 2012. To start off, after adding in this year's numbers, here are the top countries of readership - all time:

Top Countries of Readership - All Time:

1. United States
2. China
3. United Kingdom
4. Germany
5. Russia
6. France
7. Ukraine
8. Canada
9. India
10. Philippines

In doing my best to sort out the difference between readership that owes its origin to spam, and what's the real deal, this past year showed an interesting trend. Russia, who was second in total readership last year because of what I perceived to be spammer inflated numbers, slid down the list during the year as those sorts of entry links dried up. Conversely, China, who was nowhere to be seen on this site last year, has moved into undisputed second place in about 8 months. Given my belief that the Chinese numbers are probably marginally impacted by spam, and the reality of the significant language barrier, this trend has left me scratching my head........ Any of you wizards in Washington, DC have the answer?

Next, let's take a look at what folks were reading in 2012.

Top Posts for 2012:

1. Blurred Satellite Images - Living in the Post 9/11 World - Aug 22, 2011
2. Burning Down the House - Apr 25, 2012
3. Google's HUD Glasses - Feb 24, 2012
4. NSARC Designates USNG as the Land SAR Coordinate System - Mar 1, 2012
5. Four For Friday: Tornado Tracks, EPA Flyovers, Waldo Canyon Fire Imagery, EPC Meeting Videos - Jul 6, 2012
6. HSIP Gold and Freedom Released for 2012 - Apr 9, 2012
7. Monitoring the 2011 Japan Tsunami Debris Field - Feb 29, 2012
8. Utilities and Disasters: Oncor Shows the Way! - April 4, 2012
9. Water Versus Fire - Views of Minnesota and Colorado Disasters From Above - July 2, 2012
10. More on Automated License Plate Recognition - Another Brewing Storm - March 27, 2012

The post you are now reading is number 285 for the year. Curiously, even with that kind of volume, none of the posts for 2012 commanded the top spot. Instead, that position belongs to a post from the previous year that got "discovered". It's one that explores the importance of geospatial data in the post 9/11 world and what industry and government are doing to limit the utility of that data for terrorism purposes. Recently, that post crossed 5,000 views.  A thought which brings me to pass along two comments about themes that run through that post and the related story:
  1. It's geospatial data, far more than geospatial platform, that makes situational awareness possible.  In other words, while working toward a Common Operating Picture (COP) platform to share data for emergency preparedness and response purposes is good, working toward a common pool of shared data is critical.
  2. When it comes to situational awareness, efforts that "collect" and lock away geospatial data as the way to create a common pool of shared data for a select group are never going to achieve "what's possible". Unfortunately, "collect" is a military and intelligence community mindset that is the cornerstone of approaches used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and others who control the purse strings of the U.S. Emergency Services Sector. Instead, any response agency that truly wants geospatial data that is current, robust, and timely, needs to be funding "collaboration" that starts at the local level. Efforts which seek to stifle that availability as described in Blurred Satellite Images - Living in the Post 9/11 World, are actually working against all of us by casting a "chilling effect" on the sharing of data that would otherwise benefit the Emergency Services Sector.
As for the rest of the posts on the list, I personally find numbers 4, 8 and 9 as the ones with the most significance. Although I'd recommend a read of all posts that have made the top ten list (if you haven't done so already), I would specifically recommend these three.

Finally, my close out thought for the year is about the future.  Over the past year, I've blabbed plenty about "The Rise of the Drones".  Trend analysis tells me those posts aren't popular - either folks aren't interested in the topic, or I write poorly. That's too bad, because within the range of topics covered by this site, it's the one I believe will have the single greatest impact on all of us in foreseeable future. In an effort to prove that point and provide a bit of entertainment to close out the year, I offer below a video about a $299.00 product that went on sale at stores like Brookstone and Toys "R" Us in mid-year 2012. If the video is accurately showing circumstances now (and it is), what will the coming year bring?  Think about that one - while clinking glasses tonight....

Wishing you a fun filled New Year's Eve!

(and don't be too much of a party animal)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Flush It Friday: Part One

I couldn't resist - I'm participating in the end of the year cleaning thing. See, to produce the kind of insanity that's on this web site, it takes lots and lots of reading. And, well, not everything that gets read and then rat-holed for potential use in some future post - gets used.  So, I've ended up with a ton of stuff that it's time to flush. In fact, there is so much of it - it's probably going to take me three weeks to drain my pool of  "not ready for prime time" articles and links dating back to 2011.  Consequently, I would suggest that you read fast because you are only going to get a one liner to help you decide if you want to take a peek at an offering before it swirls down the drain.....

Hopefully, the story of your weekend, will be the one you want! 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

"Swatting" In LA

During the past month, the LA Times has been closely following a "swatting" story that has been unfolding in the basin. Although 'swatting" - or an attempt by a prank caller to fool 9-1-1 services into dispatching a SWAT team to a bogus incident - has been around for a number of years, there were two interesting twists to this story.  First, the known hoax victims included Hollywood notables Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher, Charlie Sheen, Miley Cyrus, and Simon Cowell.  Second, the perpetrator of the prank calls has been caught and is reported to be a 12-year-old boy.  More below:

(LA Times, November 27, 2012)
(LA Times, December 18, 2012)
(LA Times, December 19, 2012)

Comment: As noted in the above stories, swatters use spoofing technology to hide the real location of their prank calls. Given the potential for death or injury when a SWAT Team responds to one of these "swatting" calls, there can be little doubt about the value of location derived information to the 9-1-1 community, as well as the evil that can be done when someone intentionally distorts that information.

Lead photo: San Francisco Examiner

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day Tsunami - Birth of Sahana

In many countries belonging to the Commonwealth of Nations, December 26th is known as Boxing Day, the day when tradesmen and servants traditionally receive a "boxed" gift from their supervisors. It's also the day when an earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004 created a devastating tsunami that killed a total of more than 230,000 people living in fourteen countries. Out of this tragedy, one of the world's first volunteer organizations focused on bringing the power of technology to the disaster response equation was born. Now known as the Sahana Software Foundation, the organization began to develop in the days after the Boxing Day Tsunami as it became apparent there was not only a humanitarian crisis, but an information one as well. As described on a New Zealand Institute for IT Professionals web site, the story of Sahana has come forward from those first days as follows: 
Hundreds of programmers were assembled under the Lanka Software Foundation and over the course of a week created a web application to register missing persons, camps, and the swelling numbers of NGO's in Sri Lanka. This system was called Sahana - Sinhalese for 'relief'.
Since then, Sahana has been rewritten, and has been deployed at many of the large disasters over the past 5 years, and has won numerous open source awards and accolades.
The aspirations on the project are captured in the following goals:
  • Primary: Help alleviate human suffering and help save lives through the efficient use of IT during a disaster
  • Bring together a diverse set of actors from Government, Emergency Management, NGOs, INGOs, spontaneous volunteers and victims themselves in responding effectively to a disaster
  • Empower the victims and their next of kin and better enable them to help themselves
  • Protect victim data and reduce the opportunity for data abuse
  • Provide a Free and Open Source solution end-to-end available to everyone 
To learn more about the Sahana Software Foundation and its efforts, use the link below to visit its website:

Comment: It's truly inspiring to see that out of the tragedy that was the Boxing Day Tsunami, an effort continues to this day that is providing free and open disaster management software to groups and individuals who could otherwise not afford the technology.  Very cool - big kudos to all the Sahana volunteers and those who are financially supporting them!     

Lead graphic: Wikipedia

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas - 2012

Merry Christmas!

For your consideration on this Christmas Day, Handel's Messiah, as conducted by Andre Rieu, at New York City's Radio City Music Hall.

Mr. Rieu's comments about the piece at the opening are just as inspiring as the music.

“…I personally don’t know a composition with more joy in it, and at the same time more hope, then this music. Whatever last year brought to you, to all of you here in the audience, take this melody with you at home in your memory. And let this music give you new hope for the future….”

As needed, please use the click through to view this video on You Tube.

Wishing you the very best on this Christmas Day and in the coming New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Muddling Around Monday: Ho, Ho, Ho!

For anyone unfortunate enough to have to go to work today - let's face it. The likelihood any meaningful work is going to get done today is just about zero. First off, given the pairing of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the weekend, the staff count is going to be down significantly at the day's start. Then there will be those folks ducking out for "lunch time" last minute Christmas shopping (4 hours), individuals leaving early for travel, the group buffoonery in the lunch room, and maybe even an ad hoc office Christmas Party. To top it all off, late on Friday, President Obama gave all Federal workers the day off. I mean, really, the day is shot, and I'm not going to fight "City Hall" by putting up a meat and potatoes post. Instead, I am going to wander off the deep end that's usually reserved for Fridays and create the potential for some additional Holiday skulduggery. Hence, you are cordially invited to join the mayhem by viewing three of my favorite Christmas videos.  

Here's Hoping You Get Everything You Want for Christmas,

Ho, Ho, Ho.....Merry Christmas!

(now get back to work)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Flying Friday: Tracking Santa

As they have done for many years in the past, the men and women of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) will be providing a way for all of us to know the whereabouts of Santa during his travels around the globe on the night of December 24th. What used to be done with nothing more than a phone call, has now become the embodiment of the technology that this web site is all about. This year's efforts include a web site, Facebook page, Twitter feed, smartphone apps, You Tube videos, geospatial viewers and much more, all in the name of determining "where" is that Jolly old guy (and my gifts)?  So, now, without further adieu - links to the man we all love - SANTA!

Web Links:

NORAD Tracks Santa Smartphone Apps:

Real Time Tracking on December 24th:

Have a VERY jolly weekend!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Baby Steps - FEMA GeoPortal Online

On November 28, 2012, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate announced his selections for the 2012 Administrator Awards. Among those included for recognition for "Innovation" was the FEMA GeoPortal Development Team. With little fanfare, the team has built out a publicly available disaster geospatial data portal on an ESRI hosted site. When Hurricane Sandy hit in late fall, the team was able to leverage past work and deploy a truly substantial capability. In the video of the award presentation below, the following time points are worthy of note: Team Award - 27:13; Administrator Fugate's overall comments - 31:16-37:35; Administrator Fugate's comments on the value of geospatial - 35:20. Link to the FEMA GeoPortal Online can be found below the video.

Comment: Congratulations to the Team!  Nice progress.  Now, here are a few thoughts about efforts going forward (more commonly known as sniping from the peanut gallery):

Anyway, enough foolishness from me. We are pulling for you in the hinterlands and wishing you all the best on further development of this much needed capability for FEMA and the public.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Inside Google Spanner - A GPS Clock

Last month Wired published an intriguing article about the world's largest single database - Google Spanner.  Made possible by multiple computers around the world talking to each other in near real time, critical to the effort is the Global Positioning System (GPS).  More exactly, the time feature of GPS enables data synchronization and system redundancy so that disparate hosting sites can act as one. More below:

(Wired, November 26, 2012)

Comment: When thinking about the value of GPS to society, the timing feature of GPS is often overlooked.  However, from a modern society standpoint, the precise timing feature of GPS (accurate to within about 40 nanoseconds) is probably more valuable than its location determination capability.  That's because the timing function is now used in a whole host of infrastructure and financial related applications. Consequently, a complete loss of the timing feature of GPS would mean we would probably have a substantial disaster on our hands.

Lead graphic:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

iPad in the Holster

Writing in the New York Times this past Sunday, Steve Cohen, a student in his final semester at New York Law School, offered his thoughts on how to improve law enforcement and legal system in that city. Citing statistics like: "Only 25% of police officers have been given an official department email account", Mr. Cohen's plan relies on increased use of technology. Specifically, he sees the way forward for the New York City police force as one where every officer is issued an iPad. Among several uses, the tablet would be used for electronic input of data in the field - such as during creation of an initial incident record. Turns out, Apple also thinks it's a great idea. On its website, it features efforts along these lines that have already been implemented in Redlands, California. More below:

(New York Times, December 16, 2012)

(Apple, Inc.)

Comment: Naturally, location is an essential part of any police report. Consequently, Mr. Cohen is also suggesting the means by which a map-based Common Operating Picture would gain a "what's happening now" law enforcement data feed that goes beyond what Automatic Vehicle Location  (AVL) and Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) systems could ever offer.  Great idea - hope to see it implemented nationwide.

Lead photo: Apple, Inc.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tragedy Within a Tragedy

The tragedy of last Friday, is an event beyond words. Buried within it is another tragedy. One that is a reminder about the power of modern media - especially social media - and the harm it can bring to innocent individuals when a story of this type is told wrong. Below, if you aren't already aware:

(The Telegraph, December 16, 2012)
(Poynter., December 14, 2012)

Comment: Prayers and thoughts are with all those who have been harmed by this senseless and incomprehensible event.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Frightening Friday: Murder on Facebook, Drone Strike App, Text Contacts, Spy Bird, and Ghost Island

The world has become a crazy place. All the information technology that is supposed to be connecting people to one another, instead appears to be letting people do things they would never do if they were truly connected to the real world and the people in it. The first story below zeros in on that theme and picks up where we left things off last week - jaw dropping absurd.

Murder on Facebook. OK, so maybe I am a little thick, but generally, committing murder is a pretty bad thing. If you get caught, you are probably going to spend the rest of your life in prison, or get a one way ticket to death row. So why someone would want to brag about it on Facebook totally eludes me. I know, it's been done before, but the latest twist just might involve a "someone" who is 14-years-old. The saga of a society gone social media insane continues below:

(CBS Pittsburgh, December 10, 2012)

Drone Strike App. Want to see where all the drone strikes in Central Asia have taken place?  Well, there's a (mapping) app for that - if Apple will allow it.  More below:

(CNET, November 14, 2012)

(The Guardian)

Text Contacts. The Danes recently announced they have created technology that will allow the human eye to control software on smart phones and tablets. Well, the Belgians aren't going to let the Danes out do them...oh, no. So researchers at Ghent University have just announced they've figured out how to display text messages on a contact lens; a thought that scares the heck out of me. If you think the texting and driving situation is bad now....just wait until this one hits the streets.....or should I say the drivers wearing these lenses hit the streets and the cars and pedestrians in them.

(The Telegraph, December 7, 2012)

Spy Bird. It's hard not to blame the Sudanese for being paranoid about the Israelis. After all, a little while ago, one minute the Sudanese had a perfectly good ammo depot, and the next minute, they didn't. But to assume a vulture carrying a GPS tracking device is really an Israeli drone - well - that's a pretty bird brain idea. Take a flight of fantasy below:

(The Independent, December 8, 2012)

Ghost Island. "Urrrr, you slimy sea-dogs. Tighten down the mizzenmast, swab down the poop deck, urrrr, there lies ahead Ghost Island. She's nowhere to been seen, but she's on the map. Urrrr." Now you too can search for treasure on a phantom island by reading below:

(The Sydney Morning Herald, November 22, 2012)


Wishing you the best in your search for a great weekend! 

Lead graphic credit: Wikipedia

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Linkedin and Events

It's been a long time since I've offered a housekeeping post on this blog. Today, I need to offer two such items.

First, I want to point out that there is a Linkedin community associated with this blog. For those interested in participating in discussions about items offered here, that's the place to do it.  Additionally, members of the Linkedin community occasionally post links to articles that are in addition to the stories you will find here. For anyone looking for something to read today, I'd suggest stopping by and checking out an article recommended by Ron Wencl, the U.S. Geological Survey Liaison to Minnesota.  It's called: Dueling Degrees: Emergency Management vs. Homeland Security.  You can find it at the link below. And while you are there, please consider joining this Linkedin group of dedicated individuals who believe geospatial and related technologies have much to offer the Emergency Services Sector. 

Second, effective today, I will no longer be posting information concerning events, meetings, webinars and the like on the main page of this blog. Instead, there is now a dedicated page for that type of information. You can access it by using the "Events" tab at the top of this page. Hopefully, this approach will provide the level of detail needed without needlessly using up front page posting space.

All for today, back at it tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dubai to Use MGRS Coordinates as Addresses

In an exceptionally interesting development, the Emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has recently announced plans to use the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) as its address system going forward.  Home to the world's tallest man-made structure, the Burj Khalifa, and an expansive collection of other unique and futuristic buildings, Dubai will mark every structure in the Emirate with a MGRS address that will work with GPS units, smartphones and computers. Partly out of concerns for emergency response efforts, Dubai plans to have the system fully functional by the middle of 2013. For more on this development, see below:

(The National, December 6, 2012)

Comment: Is anyone in Washington, DC, or Mountain View, California, paying attention?  It's really very simple - MGRS inside the borders of the United States effectively equals the U.S. National Grid (USNG).  Marking buildings with USNG to identify them - who would think of such a concept?  Go here:

Pssst: More on the USNG Emergency Location Markers in the coming months - but don't tell anyone.....

Lead photo credit:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Another Black-Eye for Apple Maps

Yesterday, Apple Maps PR woes continued in a big way. In a news item that was widely reported in the popular press, police in Mildura, Australia are warning motorists they should not use Apple's iO6 Maps app to find their town. The crux of the matter is Apple's mapping feature is showing the town of 30,000, some 40 miles southwest of its real location. As a result, motorists have been wandering into the desolate Murray-Sunset National Park instead of arriving at their intended destination. Given the park is located in the Australian Outback where temperatures can reach 46 degrees Celsius (114 degrees F), Mildura Police are concerned motorists could become stranded and die of exposure. More below: 

(CNN, December 10, 2012)

(Victoria Police News Online, December 10, 2012)

Comment: Two thoughts.  

1. ) I don't own an Apple anything, but I refuse to pile on. Anyone who thinks that other mobile mapping apps, including GPS, hit the street in flawless form - or stay that way - is just kidding themselves. Google and others were far enough ahead on initial release that the mere capability was breathtaking. Indeed, in the early days of GPS/Maps, data providers got away with release mistakes that are now unacceptable because of evolved expectations. I believe a review of the clip below reinforces that point.

2.) Earlier this year, I offered review of the Apple Maps situation and underlying meaning for the Emergency Services Sector. This latest development only reinforces the point of that post. Go here:

(EPC Updates, September 24, 2012)

Lead photo creditVictoria Police News Online

Monday, December 10, 2012

Good Drone, Bad Drone

Anyone who has watched more than a couple of movies where a suspect is being interrogated by police officers is undoubtedly aware of the concept "Good Cop, Bad Cop". One detective is nice, and the other is mean - radically different approaches in hopes of breaking a suspect. By extension, it appears the public is starting to see drone use by law enforcement in the same light. Provided below for your consideration - two VERY different viewpoints - one from North Dakota, and the other from California:
(Grand Forks Herald, December 6, 2012)

(, December 4, 2012)

Comment: There are going to be no easy answers on this one.  How a community views drone use by the police would seem to be driven by how the community already feels about its law enforcement community. If trust is generally there, then drones appear to be a non-issue.  If, however, law enforcement is viewed with suspicion or distrust, then drone use appears to be confirming the community's worst fears and the reaction is going to be highly negative. 

Lead photo credit: Draganflyer Innovations Inc.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Full Range Friday: Hard Edge Reality to Jaw Dropping Absurd

The full range of what's out there in this big old world is truly amazing. From the cut-and-dried, hard-edged reality, to the mushy, fuzzy, jaw-dropping absurd.  Indeed, it's just like you will find here every Friday on EPC Updates....

Turn Off the Internet?  Yup, its possible. In fact, in a few countries around the world, it amounts to nothing more than flipping a switch. Map above and link below tell the story.

(renesys | blog, November 30, 2012)

Red Light Cash Cow Gets Sued. There you are minding your own business trying to make it through a yellow light before it turns red and - dang - you could have made it through if you just had another .5 of a second. And sure enough, the enforcement camera at the intersection has taken a picture of your car's license plate and now you are out at least $50.00. Turns out motorists in New York City think they got cheated out of that .5 second in many places where cameras and lights are mated, so they are suing the city's $45+ million/year cash cow.  More below:

(CBS New York, December 4, 2012)

In RFID We Trust. When you can't trust a man of the cloth, who can you trust? Apparently, the Vatican believes it's location tracking RFID chips as it moves to tighten down things after a recent scandal. Details in the story below:

(The Telegraph, December 2, 2012)

McAfee Location. For weeks he eluded an international manhunt because no one knew for sure where to start looking. Then, in the time it took a couple of journalists to snap a pic, and post it online with a self-promoting title like, "We Are With John McAfee Right Now, Suckers", a record of John McAfee's location was made available for one of the "suckers" to decode the geolocation data and then tell the world.  Altogether proving that you should never let yourself become so impressed with yourself that you start believing your own hype. Suckers who weren't privy to the fun the first time around can learn more below:

Hacker Locates John McAfee Through Smartphone Tracks 
(Washington Post, December 4, 2012)

Stupid Criminal Suspect Trick Number 5.12 Billion. OK, so maybe that's an exaggeration - but not by much. Just when you think the highly adept, social media maniac generation that is coming into its prime right now has full command of all the technical wizardry that is out there, one of them prominently offers up it ain't so - usually, it has something to do with crime. I didn't think you could top Tweeting about post Sandy Hurricane looting, but I was wrong. Numbskull  making Police work easy, in action below.

Robbery Suspect Brags on YouTube 
(KETV Omaha, December 4, 2012)

Truly hope you have an absolutely brilliant weekend!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

GAO Report Issued: Geospatial Information

Coming six months after the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a background study on important geospatial data issues facing the nation, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) has joined the discussion with some comments of its own.  In a report to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the GAO is reporting that poor coordination of geospatial information programs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and three other Federal agencies (Commerce, Interior, and Transportation) is wasting tax payer money by allowing duplication of efforts. To put this finding in context, the first paragraph of the report relies heavily on Emergency Services Sector examples as a way to remind readers about the importance of geospatial data. Below for more: 
(GAO, November 26, 2012)

Comment: I've personally crossed paths with an investigative team from the GAO a total of once. If that experience is any indication, I'm here to tell you the individuals who populate the GAO are hard working, dedicated public servants who do their best to bring understanding to things that are beyond understanding for most of us. That being said, it's my opinion that this report falls short because it fails to examine a very important aspect of the current situation - there are two major competing approaches when it comes to geospatial data and the Federal government. First there are the traditional structures and systems that this report examines, ones which primarily owe their existence to a foundation laid down many years ago by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Then there is the "new kid on the block" approach - one that has its own taxonomy and ability to collect, classify and use data in a closed environment. Ignored by the report, this second approach (HIFLD/HSIP) owes its existence primarily to efforts by the Department of Homeland Security and its surrogates. On the state level and below, these two competing approaches "chafe" and contribute to many of the issues on the Federal level that the GAO has identified. Consequently, the GAO would have served the interests of all by including an examination of this issue in its discussion. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mapping the EMS Response Times in LA

In March of 2012, a Los Angeles Times investigative report found that medical emergency response times in LA were slower than what the LA Fire Department (LAFD) had been reporting. Since that initial report, the newspaper has published a series of articles discussing specific issues contributing to these slower than reported response times. In the middle of last month, the paper ran its most ambitious article to date, one which examines the interplay of where response assets are based, and the length of time it takes for help to arrive. In many cases, the results were counter-intuitive. Some of the more affluent parts of the LA basin had the worst response times. To prove that point graphically, the LA Times published an interactive map that allows users to look at response data on a detailed level.  Below for more:
(LA Times, November 15, 2012)

(LA Times Interactive Map)

(LA Times Investigation Home Page - All Articles)

Comment: The LA Times work on this one is exceptional on at least three levels. First, they used a GIS to prove a point critical to this story; second, the quality of what they produced is truly noteworthy; and third, the staff working on this effort released part of the project as an open-source base map (Quiet LA) that others can use. Nice work, LA Times!