Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Editorial: A Failure in Leadership

If you have ever perused the links in the right side-bar, you may have noticed one for the Centre for Spatial Law and Policy. Run by one of the true pioneers in the field of spatial law and policy, Kevin Pomfret, the Centre is described as a:
Non-profit "think-tank" with a mission to educate businesses, government agencies and policymakers on the legal and policy framework necessary to create a 'location-enabled' society.
Over the past month, an editorial written by Kevin has appeared in two online publications of the Nextgov family. I believe the points he makes about a failure of leadership in the U.S. geospatial community are significant enough that they deserve your consideration across a weekend. Thus, in place of the nonsense that normally appears here on a Friday, find below some important ideas about where we are as a nation - and how to fix it:

(Nextgov, November 11, 2013)

Have a Great Weekend!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Wishing you and yours a bounty of good today and every day. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

World Disasters Report

Last year on the day before Thanksgiving I ran a piece called Thinking About a Different Kind of Disaster Map which offers an alternate way to think about mapping a disaster. Similarly, this year I offer for your consideration a report issued by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies which highlights a "new way" to think about executing a disaster response. Little doubt that thoughtful reflection about the report's background stories  - which are heavily populated with words like "open source", "crowd-sourcing", and the ever popular "map" - will have you giving thanks for that full stomach and warm spot in front of the TV on America's Turkey Day. You can start that consideration using the links below:

(IFRCRCS, October 17, 2013)

Comment: Wishing you all the best on Thanksgiving Day!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Real Black Friday - Stores Tracking You

Rather odd, don't you think?  Last week we ran a piece on the hot water the Seattle Police Department (SPD) was in after the public learned a system they had installed to improve department communications could also be used to track an individual through that city's downtown. But, hardly anyone has complained when in the name of making the biggest profit possible, retailers are already doing the same thing and more. Video and link below provide the details:

(FOX 5TV, New York, November 15, 2013)

Comment: No real news here. Two years ago we reported on this development (see: Attention Shoppers - You're Being Tracked By Your Cell Phone) and since that time only one thing has changed, more stores are doing it. Yup - just in time for the holidays!

Monday, November 25, 2013

OpenStreetMap Drone Test

Well known for its use during the Haiti earthquake disaster response in 2010, OpenStreetMap has always relied heavily on crowdsourcing to refine its geospatial data. However, when U.S. airspace opens for Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operations in a little over 18 months, those efforts could receive a significant boost from a responsive eye in the sky approach. Bobby Sudekum of MapBox tells the story of a Sensefly's eBee flight over a Virginia winery earlier this month. Flight to detailed map in just a few hours:

(November 19, 2013, MapBox Blog)

Comment: Despite the FAA recently releasing a UAS integration plan for the U.S., as previously noted on this blog, this amazing technology will still be faced with two hurdles when it comes to use during a disaster response:
1.) Getting authorization to operate in the event's controlled airspace, and 
2.) The inability of most EOCs to ingest and meaningfully use the imagery or resulting map products.

Graphic: senseFly

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years On

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Rest In Peace

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tracking Seattle - No More

On Thursday, November 7, 2013, KIRO TV in Seattle reported on white boxes that had been installed on a large number of street poles in the Seattle downtown area. As described in the report, the boxes were paid for by a homeland security grant and were intended to give the Seattle Police Department (SPD) its own wi-fi mesh that could be used to facilitate operations. Unfortunately, as also mentioned in the report, installation of the system by SPD meant the location of any wi-fi enabled handheld or smartphone could be tracked throughout the area where the system was deployed. With no established protocol for how the system was to be used before it was turned on, the reaction by the public was swift and decisive. Video and link to related articles below:

(KIRO TV, November 7, 2013)

(The Daily Dot, November 13, 2013)

Comment: Fabulous city, Seattle. Too bad they they didn't heed the warning of the Director of Georgia Bureau of Investigation Vernon Keenan during a talk at the 120th Annual International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference and Law Enforcement Education and Technology Exposition less than two weeks before. Either establish procedures in advance of using one of the technologies emerging from the GIS and associated revolutions, or plan on losing that crime fighting tool.

Photo credit: Seattle Police Department 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Russian Spying Concern: GPS Towers in U.S.

Seems innocent enough. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, would like to build a handful of Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) monitoring stations in United States to support management of the Russian national GPS system, currently in build out. However, the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency think that's not such a hot idea. More below:

(New York Times, November, 16, 2013)

Comment: Little doubt about the power of "where" after reading this article. It's central to any country's existence.

Graphic: Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan Geospatial Resources

Yesterday, this blog noted that events like Typhoon Haiyan have been fueling an ongoing revolution in disaster response technologies, many of which are based on the concept of crowd-sourcing. Today for your consideration, find below a partial listing of mapping and related efforts by "traditional" organizations:

An even more indepth compendium of mapping resources and data can be found by using a link on the homepage of the World-Wide Human Geography Data (WWHGD) Working Group:

(November 16, 2013)

Comment: Two thoughts - 
1.) Ten years ago, good luck finding more than a couple of the folks on the list above with any real ability to respond to a disaster. Now, groups are layering efforts on top of one another with no real plan for deconflicting. Time to give some thought to that one.
2.) Taking the above idea one step further - If there is this much capability out there - and U.S. domestic circumstances are similar - and your response plans don't address how to request and use this amazing range of geospatial technology, then odds are you're well on your way to being proof that failing to plan, is planning to fail.

Photo credit: Washington Post  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Philippine Disaster Digital Mappers

In the aftermath of the horrific disaster left behind by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, several crowd-sourcing technology groups and developments have been featured in the press. Notable mentions have included the tried and true Humanitarian OSM Team, and new kid on the block MicroMappers. Links below to learn more:

(The Atlantic, November 12, 2013)
(Time, November 13, 2013)

Comment: For anyone out there thinking use of crowd-sourced mapping and related technologies for disaster response is a passing fad, a review of the number and types of publications recently including articles on the subject suggests otherwise. Consequently, if you're not planning how to leverage these technologies in your next disaster response, you're not planning for reality.

Photo credit: The Atlantic

Friday, November 15, 2013

Film At 11 Friday: Cyber View, Street View, Drone View, Border View, and World View

Little doubt I'm a lazy slug. Nothing better than sitting around and using the remote to watch the world go by. To see what I mean, check it out below:

Cyber View

(KOMO News, November 14, 2013)

Street View (My apologies to Google):
(NBC News 3 Las Vegas, November 11, 2013)

Drone View:

(Reuters, November 4, 2013)

Border View:

(CGP Grey, June 5, 2013)

World View:

(World View, October 2013)
World View Website

Hope Your Weekend is Filled With Lots of Great Views!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It's a Doubleheader: Two Great Ways to Play Ball!

It's one of those days when two events worth highlighting are occurring on the same day. Figuratively, it's a doubleheader, and here's the lineup:

1.)  GeoCONOPS Webinar: Wouldn't you know it?  The day after I post information about EMI's new Independent Study Courses on the Homeland Security Geospatial CONOPS, it turns out the National Information Sharing Consortium is sponsoring a webinar on the same subject. Spooky, don't you think?  Here are the details:
  • What: GeoCONOPS: What it Means for State and Local Officials
  • When: Thursday, November 14 
  • Time: 2:00-3:30 PM CST 
  • Who: David Alexander, Director, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Geospatial Management Office 
  • Pitch: GeoCONOPS defines Federal geospatial capabilities in support of State, Local, and Tribal authorities across the entire emergency management cycle. What are its benefits to state, local, and private organizations? What activities, best practices, and technical resources does it offer? What are future training and technological plans?
  • RegistrationClick here

2.) Give to the Max Day. I'm not making this up. For Minnesota based nonprofits, November 14th is the day of the year when "every donation you make gives your favorite nonprofits and schools the chance to win even more money. Hundreds of organizations will offer the opportunity to double your dollars with matching grants throughout the 24 hours." I'm thinking that's another spooky coincidence. SharedGeo, the nonprofit that sponsors this blog and a bunch of other cool geospatial projects that benefit the common good, would REALLY appreciate any donation you can "pitch" its way. Here's the why and how:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NEW EMI Independent Study Courses: DHS GeoCONOPS and GII

On October 28, 2013, FEMA's Emergency Management Institute launched four new Independent Study Program (ISP) courses that have a geospatial focus. Three of the courses deliver understanding of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Geospatial Concept of Operations (GeoCONOPS), while the fourth is intended to serve as an overview of the DHS Geospatial Information Infrastructure (GII). All four courses have the following target audience in mind:
Geospatial technical personnel supporting operations centers at State and Local Government; this will also include technical staff located in DHS regional offices.
Find links to these new courses below:

(CEUs: 0; .3 hours)

(CEUs 0; .5 hours)

(CEUs: 0; .5 hours)

(CEUs: .1; 1.0 hours)

Comment: I'm liking it, keep'm coming.  In the meantime, find below a link to the latest version of the GeoCONOPS, as well as one to a Power Point presentation from 2012 that covers both topics from above.

(DHS, June 2013)

(EPC Updates, March 17, 2012)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Bugs" to the Rescue

You will never find a picture of another Navy Admiral with his or her arms crossed. But when you are "Amazing Grace", you can do pretty much anything you want to do. As the story goes, while investigating why one of the computers she was working on in the 1940s was malfunctioning, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, USN, discovered a moth had flown into the machine and was shorting out a connection. And thus, the term a "bug" in the software became born. Now, reality has come full circle. Researchers at North Carolina State University have been refining their efforts to use cockroaches to map the interior of collapsed structures. More below: 

(North Carolina Public Radio, June 13, 2013)

Comment: As noted by the date of the article used to report this story, this development has been around for a while. However, recently publications in the tech world have picked on the effort and are doing heavy promotion. For something like this that could have great benefit to disaster response, that's a wonderful development.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

It is the moment in time in 1918 when guns fell silent along the Western Front in the "War to End War". In the years since, the day set aside in many countries around the world to remember those who died in World War I (Armistice Day or Remembrance Day) was changed in the United States to be Veterans Day. A day to honor all veterans for their service to the nation. To find information on how you can participate in an event honoring vets - some even online - visit the link below:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"Predicative Policing" Comes to Infrastructure

It has always been a dilemma - how to protect the nation's critical infrastructure when more than 80% of it is privately owned. Further complicating that scenario - the vast majority of that infrastructure is physically scattered across the U.S. countryside in ways which make it impossible to provide around the clock security. But, drawing on recent efforts in the law enforcement community to use geospatial analysis to anticipate trouble spots and then appropriately allocate resources, it looks like the infrastructure community is beginning to develop a plan with real promise. More below:

(Government Security News, October 28, 2013)

Comment: Great to see this concept getting attention. I truly hope adoption spreads quickly!   

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

FirstNet Communication Plan Published

Last week the plan to create a dedicated broadband network for the nation's Emergency Services Sector (ESS) moved one step closer when the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) formally published rules for technically implementing the plan. Known as FirstNet, the system will allow the high speed transmission of voice, video, imagery and other data using the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard. Equipment on the system will use portions of the 700 MHz band. More below:

(GCN, October 31, 2013)

Comment: Since the mid-1990's, Minnesota has spent over $200 million to build out the Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response (ARMER), a dedicated statewide first responder radio network which uses the 800 MHz band. In May 2013, the state released its Application for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration State and Local Implementation Grant Program which outlines how it intends to leverage parts of that previous ARMER investment to implement FirstNet in Minnesota. The document is an interesting read, particularly the maps in the last half of the application. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Recent HSIN Developments

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) has recently implemented two efforts which should be of interest to readers of this blog:

1.) For the past several months, the HSIN Outreach Team has been distributing a newsletter about the HSIN community. To review the current version of that effort, use the link below:

(DHS, October 2013)

2.) According to the HIFLD Working Group, 2013 Homeland Security Infrastructure Program (HSIP) Gold data sets are now available in the DHS Geospatial Information Infrastructure (GII)’s OneView application (  These layers can be found by: 
  • Clicking on the Layer menu on the OneView menu bar, and 
  • Then looking for the HSIP 2013 layers at the bottom of the table of contents. (To consume the 2013 HSIP Gold as a geospatial web service for use in web applications, please contact the DHS Geospatial Management office at

Additional information about this development is as follows:
  • Links to the GII and HSIP Freedom can also be found on the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) Geospatial Resource Community (GRC) via
  • Access to OneView is available to anyone with a valid HSIN account. To request a HSIN account and membership to the GRC please contact the HSIN helpdesk at 1-866-430-0162 or
  • If you have any questions on the GII, GRC, or HSIP Freedom please contact the DHS GMO at

Comment: Past posts on this blog about the HSIN/HIFLD/HSIP programs that you may find helpful to put these developments in perspective include:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Google Glass Earns Its First Ticket

Last week, Cecilia Abadie was pulled over for speeding in San Diego.  A ticket for driving faster than the posted limit would have been the end of the story for most folks, but not Ms. Abadie. As the California Highway Patrol officer was handing her the ticket, he noticed she was wearing Google GlassShe then received an additional citation for distracted driving. More below: 

(AP, Octover 31, 2013)

Comment: Like I was saying, technology is ahead of the law - in a big way. This one is just the start of the saga that will be known as: Google Glass Versus the Law

Friday, November 1, 2013

Frightening Friday: A Disaster Countdown

As some may be aware, in a large part of the Christian world, Halloween is actually the start of a three day period which honors the dead. So, for this Friday's musing, I thought I'd give you a chance to demonstrate how much you know about the subject. Specifically, about the unfortunate souls who lost their lives in disasters.

With the exceptions of pandemic and war, find below a 1-13 ranking of the most deadly types of disasters the world has ever known. The objective is to match the number of deaths associated with the single most deadly occurrence of each event type as listed in the left column, with the correct event type listed in the right column. For example, in considering #1, what event type had a single occurrence which caused somewhere between 1.0 million and 4.0 million people to lose their lives? Was it a blizzard, tsunami, or something else? To help you with the sort, a map clue has been provided for each natural or man-made disaster event. A tie in the event death count at number #10 means two types of disasters will need to be assigned to that ranking. 

And off you go on a sobering consideration of the word "disaster". 

Event Deaths                                      Type of Disaster
1.) 1,000,000-4,000,000                            Terrorism
Map Clue

2.) 500,000-1,000,000                               Volcanic Eruption
Map Clue

3.) 830,000                                                      Blizzard
Map Clue

4.) 230,000                                                      Heat Wave
Map Clue

5.) 92,000                                                         Avalanche
Map Clue

6.) 70,000                                                         Hurricane/Typhoon/Tropical Cyclone                      Map Clue

7.) 20,000                                                         Wildfire
Map Clue

8.) 3,787-16,000                                             Tsunami
Map Clue

9.) 15,100                                                           Earthquake
Map Clue

10.) Tie 4,000                                                    Flooding/
Map Clue 1Map Clue 2                                Industrial
Answer 1; Answer 2

11.) 2,996                                                             Lighting
Map Clue

12.) 1,200-2,500                                               Non-tropical Storm
Map Clue

13.) 1,300                                                            Tornado
Map Clue

Here's Hoping the Above Serves as a Reminder to Give Thanks for the Simple Things in Life

Have a Great Weekend!

Picture: Wikipedia