Tuesday, December 31, 2013

EPC Updates - 2013 in Review

Ah, New Year's Eve - a point in time worthy of reflection. Another year gone - what have you done?  And so it is here at EPC Updates. We pause to reflect on another year of doing our best to get the Emergency Services Sector and geospatial community to understand each other better, hoping the end result will be a synergy which leverages respective strengths. Statistically, here's what that effort looked like this year:

Top Countries of Readership - All Time (versus last year's rank):

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

Irony of ironies; the country which experienced the world's most deadly and expensive natural disaster during 2013, was the only one which dropped from the list above during the past year. That country would be The Philippines, which was visited by the tragedy known as Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

When it comes to what folks have been reading, here are the details:

All Time Most Read Posts - Date of Post:

1.   Blurred Satellite Images - Living in the Post 9/11 World - 8/22/2011
2.   Geomedicine - Asthmapolis - 3/18/2013
3.   Burning Down the House - 4/25/2012 
5.   "Swatting" In LA - 12/27/2012
7.   Google's HUD Glasses - 2/14/2012
9.   First Successful Cyber Attack Against U.S. Infrastructure - 11/21/2011

Taken together, the top 10 for 2013 tell a story of an industry experiencing an explosion in technology that is being used in ever increasingly diverse industries. A development which is causing unintended issues to emerge as the technology is being applied, or is failing to be applied. Of specific interest to this blogger, two posts about free software - Mission Manager and GeoMOOSE - made the top ten. Given the Esri death-grip on the GIS industry, that's a trend worth watching as time goes forward.

Finally, a thought about the future. Last year at this time, I noted "The Rise of the Drones". A discussion which focused on unmanned aircraft systems and the ever increasing ways these machines would be part of the national dialogue in 2013. Since that time, many have offered similar thoughts - notable of late is Mike Tully's three part series authored for Sensors and Systems (1, 2, 3). In those articles, Mr. Tully coined a phrase which reflects what I believe will be the reality of 2014 - The Rise of the Geospatial Machines. A thought which extends beyond his intent. It's not just things in the sky which will be the widely deployed in the future, it will be a whole host of machines which have only become possible because of their ability to process and understand one of most fundamental elements of the human experience - the calculation of "where". These machines will not be just in the air, but will be found on land, on sea, and underwater. The videos below will take you there while waiting for the hooting, hollering, and clinking glasses that will mark the arrival of 2014:

Wishing you a New Year's Eve filled with Fun!

Monday, December 30, 2013

U.S. Disaster Review for 2013: A Quiet Year

It might not seem like it from listening to the often hype-filled media, but 2013 was one of the quietest years in history for U.S. natural disasters. As noted by the graph above, tornadoes were down significantly from past years.  In addition, statisticians were reporting wildfires at their lowest level since 1984, and the United States experienced the longest period since the Civil War without landfall of a major hurricane (3, 4, 5). Details and stats below:  

(RealtorMag, December 12, 2013)

(LA Times, December 9, 2013

Comment: As the saying goes, "It's all relative".  For those who personally experienced a U.S.natural disaster during the past year, it was the worst year on record. One need only reflect on the war-like results of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado, the damage from the record floods in Colorado, or tragic loss of life and property during the Yarnell Hill Fire to grasp the truth in that point. Thoughts and prayers are with those affected by these events and all others from this past year. 

Graphic: NOAA

Friday, December 27, 2013

Flush It Friday - 2013 (Part 1 of 2)

Yup, it's that time again. I've got a plunger and some Drano and I'm ready to get rid of the backlog that didn't make the cut this year. As found below, it's actually an amazing range of stories which speaks volumes about the disaster prepping, surveillance trending, social media connecting, geospatially evolving world we now live in. To see what I mean, you'll have to read fast because I'm reaching for the handle that will bring the flush. (updated January links on January 1, 2014)

1-  It's Complicated - Lawmakers Propose Dozens of UAS, Location Privacy Bills
11- exactEarth Provides Unique Insight Into Global Ocean Traffic 
12- Woman Accused of Exposing Breasts at Cameras
21- US Plan Calls for More Scanning of Private Web Traffic, Email
24- Bills Would Require Warrants for Police to Use GPS Tracking
25- Is Sony Working on a Rival to Google Glass? New Patent Suggests Work is Well Underway
28- Cyberattacks Seem Meant to Destroy, Not Just Disrupt

1-  FirstNet Moves Forward, But Hurdles Remain
2-  Google Faces More Inquiries in Europe Over Privacy Policy
3-  Disaster Communications: Covering the 'Last Mile'
4-  Turkcell and UNDP Showcase Lifesaving Technology
5-  UN Event Highlights Importance of Mobile Technology During Disasters
5-  House Intelligence Committee to Work on Cybersecurity Bill in Camera
8-  GIS Applications Incident Command System of Fire Bureau
12- NSA Data Center Front and Center in Debate Over Liberty, Security and Privacy
22- Product Review: Find Spot
24- NYPD Releases Gases in Subway
29- A Water Marker Monitored by Satellites to Predict Seasonal Endemic Cholera
26- Game of Drones: Does NYC Have an ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ Problem?

Wishing You an Enjoyable and Restful Post-Christmas Day Weekend!

Photo credit: Wikipedia 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Night Vision for Smartphones

During the last couple of years, a variety of smartphone related inventions have come forward which could have great value to the Emergency Services Sector. Those developments range from simple apps to the potential to see through walls. Now adding to the world of what's possible - a night vision capability by April of 2014. Video and links below tell the story of a Wi-Fi enabled device that will let you see in the dark and more, for a projected cost of only $99:

(Tech Trends, November 21, 2013)

Comment: All I can say is WOW!

Photo credit: PSY Corporation LTD

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas - 2013

Merry Christmas!

For your consideration on this Christmas Day, John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Happy Xmas (War Is Over), as preformed by the Welsh Only Boys Aloud Choir on BBC's The Really Welsh Christmas Show, December 17, 2012.

So this is Christmas and what have you done,
Another year over, a new one just begun.
And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun,
The near and the dear ones, the old and the young.
A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one without any fears.
And so this is Christmas for weak and for strong,
The rich and the poor ones, the road is so long.
And so happy Christmas for black and for white
For the yellow and red ones let's stop all the fights.
A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one without any fear!

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Three for Christmas Eve Tuesday: Tracking Baby Jesus, Santa NORAD FAQ's, and Scary Snowman

Well, for all you hard core, got-to-go-to-work-today types out there who need something to read while drinking cold, left-over, office eggnog, I devote today to some last minute Christmas Eve updates.

Item #1: Sad commentary on today's society, but apparently, Baby Jesus goes missing from Nativity displays with enough regularity that churches have begun using GPS tracking to rescue him from the kidnappers.

(myFOXdc.com, December 20, 2013)

Item #2: Last week I ran the annual info piece on NORAD's effort to track Santa's whereabouts on Christmas Eve. Turns out, some inquiring adult minds want to know details. Find below: 

(FEDTECH, December 19, 2013)

Item #3: The Scary Snowman is back at it for 2013 - leveraging the humor we all naturally find in watching someone else get scared by a prank. Find below same - yucks courtesy of a very naughty snowman. 

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

(now get back to work)

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Year's Best Present: MetroGIS Wants Free and Open Access to Government Data

Little doubt that with the kids home from school and Christmas just a few days away, there will be some package "guessing" taking place under the Christmas tree when Mom and Dad aren't in immediate vicinity. That's why prudent parents and Santa all know it's a good idea to keep the best stuff tucked away until the last minute. Today's post is sort of like that. Back on October 23, 2013, the MetroGIS Data Producers Work Group formally released MetroGIS: Free & Open Access to Data Research and Reference Documents. Based on consideration of that 75-page paper, on November 20, 2013, the MetroGIS Policy Board, which works to coordinate use of geospatial data across the Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN MSA, sent letters to all county Administrators and Board Chairs encouraging them to eliminate geospatial data fees and licenses. Links below tell more about this important development:

(NSGIC Blog, December 12, 2013)

Comment: If you are from the Emergency Services Sector, you might be thinking: "What's the BIG Deal"? The answer to that question can be found on page 27 of the Twin Cities GECCo After Action/Improvement Plan issued in May, 2012:
Observation 2.1: Area for Improvement. There is currently no agreed legal or technical protocols for the region that facilitate the exchange and use of geospatial data in support of the Emergency Services Sector...
...Without agreement on the technical and legal parameters by which geospatial data will be shared between entities in the Twin Cities Region, situational awareness interoperability is not possible. Hurdles include proprietary issues, data protection concerns, disparate technical capacity, and administrative and financial restrictions on data accessibility. These are not issues practitioners can solve. Therefore, engagement from the decision/policy making community is required before there can be any real chance of developing the interchange of geospatial data needed to provide near real-time situational awareness for the region’s ESS...
Getting all counties in the Twin Cities Metro to make their geospatial data free and open, will go miles toward providing accurate, current and comprehensive situational awareness products for the region's ESS, whether it is in Mobile Data Terminals (MDT), Common Operating Picture (COP) applications, or basic maps. Consequently, to my way of thinking, that makes this effort by regional policy makers - the best present of the year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Freak Out Friday: Tombstone Alert, Wig Out, Facebook Dunces, Mouse Assassins, and Walking Fool

I'm freaked out, man.  Every time I open up a newspaper, surf the Internet, or talk shop with a partner in crime, I'm hearing another story about pervasive tech weirdness that is becoming "normal" life. What do you say we check it out some of the latest arrivals:

Tombstone Alert: It's bad enough being dead, but then some knuckleheads think they are more deserving of your tombstone then you? Well, good thing there's (now) a chip for that: 

(AP, November 15, 2013)

Wig Out: Hey, it's about time that one of the world's great tech giants caught up with Leslie Stahl. Smartphone, SmartShoes, SmartClothes, SmartHelmets, SmartGlasses....why not SmartHair (by Sony)?:

(The Verge, November 21, 2013)

Facebook Dunces: Notch another one in the dumb criminal category. I mean, REALLY?

(CBS Baltimore, November 28, 2013)

Mouse Assassins: Since this was a military operation, probably a better way to think about this one would be: Death From Above (which is then followed by microchip tracking). Classification: Top Sneak-ert. 

Walking Fool: If there was any doubt about the narcotic-like effect of certain social media endeavors, here's (more) proof. I'm thinking the verse, "I was strolling in the park one day, in the merry, merry month of May..." is going to need an update that reflects the insanity of the tech "savvy" world:

(The Guardian, December 17, 2013)

Truly Hope You Have a Weekend Without Freak Outs

Graphic credit: Walking Fool - wikipedia

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Trending: Using Satellites to Stop Human Disasters

As the capabilities of commercial satellites have continued to improve over the last decade, organizations such as UNITAR/UNOSAT (United Nations Institute for Training and Research/ Operational Satellite Applications Progamme) have been making progress toward a goal of using imagery to stop humanitarian disasters before they start. Although current efforts aren't without problems, the potential for future is promising:

(Sensors and Systems, November 26, 2013)

Comment: In my opinion, this article has at least three key takeaways:
  1. Speed is life when it comes to using imagery for this purpose.
  2. Go for a "quick-look" first, then follow up with high-resolution as needed, and as time allows.
  3. The Achilles heel is no longer the lack of data to show, it's managing the flood data that's available.

Graphic credit: DigitalGlobe

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The War of "Where"

When the New York Times Magazine devotes eight (8) pages to an article, and gives it headline billing to boot, the topic has legs. Here are two excerpts:
....the Internet land grab, which can be reduced to three key battles over three key conceptual territories. What came first, conquered by Google’s superior search algorithms. Who was next, and Facebook was the victor. But where, arguably the biggest prize of all, has yet to be completely won...
...At this point Google Maps is essentially what Tim O’Reilly predicted the map would become: part of the information infrastructure, a resource more complete and in many respects more accurate than what governments have. It’s better than MapQuest’s map, better than Microsoft’s, better than Apple’s...
To explore where these thoughts go, click below:

(New York Times Magazine, December 11, 2013)

Comment: Little doubt this article's title says it all about the power of "where". Unfortunately, it's a thought too few have come to grasp.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

NORAD Tracks Santa 2013

Twas the week before Xmas, and all through the skies, NORAD was ready for Santa, to no one's surprise... OK, so no one is ever going to call me a great poet. But the folks at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) certainly are a great group of men and women because of their annual effort to track Santa for the tykes of the world on Christmas Eve. Now in its 58th year, the "NORAD Tracks Santa" effort also offers a website with a variety of holiday activities that can be enjoyed by the entire family in the days leading up to the Jolly One's visit. Links to it and more below the video:

Web Links:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Upcoming HAZUS-MH Training Opportunities

FEMA recently sent out a bulletin announcing there is room remaining in several of its upcoming HAZUS-MH training classes. There are a variety of dates and courses, with all training conducted at the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) National Emergency Training Center (NETC), Emmitsburg, Maryland. Travel and lodging are paid for by FEMA, students are expected to pay for meals if staying on campus. Details for each opportunity below:

Course Description:
This course is designed to provide the essential ArcGIS skills and knowledge to effectively use the HAZUS-MH software.  The course combines lectures with hands-on exercises that present practical examples of how to use the Geographic Information System (GIS) for disaster mitigation and response.  Read More...

Course Description:
This course is designed to increase the level of awareness and knowledge of Federal and state emergency management officials of the capabilities of Hazards United States-Multi-Hazards (HAZUS-MH), the information and analyses requirements of key sections of the Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC) and the Joint Field Office (JFO), and the potential applications of HAZUS-MH to support decisions at the RRCC, Emergency Support Team (EST), and the JFO.  Areas of focus include hurricane disaster operations, mitigation, Individual Assistance (IA), and Public Assistance (PA).  This course also provides a description of the full range of potential uses of HAZUS-MH analyses into strategies for mitigation, IA, and PA.  Read More...

Course Description:
This course provides participants with an understanding of how they can use the Hazards United States (HAZUS) risk assessment software methodology and tools to assist them in their efforts to conduct the community risk assessments that are necessary to be compliant with ongoing requirements of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.  Read More...

Course Description:
This course provides participants with an understanding of how they can use the Hazards United States (HAZUS) risk assessment software methodology and tools to assist them in their efforts to conduct the community risk assessments that are necessary to be compliant with ongoing requirements of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.  Read More...

Comment: Plenty of opportunity to learn about FEMA's core mitigation and planning software which is becoming more powerful with each passing year. Hope you'll find an opportunity that works for you!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Figure It Out II Friday

Last time we did this, it had been "one of those weeks". So, since this week has again been "one of those weeks", what do you say we do it again? A sort of "Son of Figure It Out Friday", aka Jr., or II. I give you really bad crossword puzzle clues and then you use the answer link to figure out if I have a clue (that's a joke son, you're supposed to laugh). Anyway, with that I'm out here for the weekend. Happy figuring!

Truly Hope You Figure Out How 2 Have a Great Weekend!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

FEMA Flood Maps Failed to Anticipate Hurricane Sandy Damage

"Maps" tend to be an item that get what's left in the financial bucket until something bad happens. Then, in this day and age where the masses are becoming geospatially enabled with GPS, Google maps and the rest, lots of folks start asking questions. A couple of days after release of a second formal investigation into the deaths of 19 wildland firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshot Interagency Crew was raising this issue in Arizona, the same story was playing itself out on the East Coast for FEMA.  Seems there are more than a few folks wondering why their homes were extensively damaged by Hurricane Sandy in areas where FEMA maps showed no risk. Three reporters from ProPublica teamed up with New York public radio station WYNC to answer that question:

(Huffington Post/ProPublica/WYNC Radio, December 6, 2013)

Comment: The choice is real simple. Learn from three incidents where organizational structures had not been aggressively seeking the situational awareness available by spending relatively low amounts of money on mapping technologies to create current and accurate understanding of "where", or end up with a San Bruno (Pacific Gas and Electric), Yarnell Hill Fire (State of Arizona), or Hurricane Sandy type situation (FEMA). That is, spending 10's of millions, or even billions, repairing damage, reputations and settling law suits. The return on investment dynamic is pretty obvious for anyone who is not trapped in their ways.

Picture credit: Elizabethtown College

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wall Street Ponders Cellphone 911 Issues

A recent Wall Street Journal's story subtitle says it all: Mobile Tracking Technology Provides Just a Rough Estimate of a 911 Caller's Location. And with that, one of the world's most prestigious financial newspapers is off on an exploration of a seemingly out of place topic. To find out what the titans of Wall Street have been pondering, click the video or link below:

(The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2013)

Comment: For more information along these lines, a visit to the link below may be worth your while:

(EPC Updates, September 4, 2013)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Upcoming School Response Tech Seminar

The latest Infogram from the U.S. Fire Administration's Emergency Management and Response – Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) features an upcoming webinar called: “Tools and Technology for School Emergency Response.” Co-sponsored by the National Information Sharing Consortium (NISC) and the Department of Homeland Security First Responders Group, the event is part of the Capacity Building Webinar Series and will cover the following topics:

  • Common communications challenges, tactics, and lessons learned for responding to school emergencies – local, state, and federal views;
  • How the Computer-Based Assessment Tool (CBAT) uses 360-degree geospherical video to help emergency response personnel prepare for and respond to incidents at schools;
  • How the state of New Hampshire is preparing emergency responders with school maps that include floor plans and color-coded exit and entry points; and
  • A sample of situational awareness tools and technologies that can help schools and emergency responders prepare for emergencies.

If you would like to tune in, here's how:

  • Date: Thursday, December 12
  • Time: 1:00-2:30 EDT (12:00-1:30 Central)
  • Cost: Free - pre-registration is NOT required
  • More detailsClick here

Comment: Good stuff - hope you'll be able to attend!