Friday, March 29, 2013

Failed to Study For Friday's Test Friday

Didn't you just hate showing up for school on a Friday, dreaming of a fun filled weekend, only to discover your English teacher, Mrs. Snodgrass, was giving a major test during first period, and you had forgotten all about it. And, try as you may, last minute cramming wasn't working because the test was on some absurd number of chapters of Shakespeare - like 23. Mrs. Snodgrass rules - welcome to Failed to Study For Friday's Test Friday:

Question #1: What does the acronym NSGIC stand for?
Answer: National States Geographic Information Council.  See: Public Safety Interface of the GIS Inventory

Question #2: "If your title, or reality of your job, connects terms like GIS, geospatial, SCADA, or planning, with a word that has something to do with infrastructure - look around - you are on the front line of the next war." True or False?
Answer: True.  See: Front Line of the Next War

Question #3: Who said: "If you want to make enemies, try to change something."
Answer: Thomas Woodrow Wilson. See: Wisdom From the Top

Question #4: Does the currency of photos found in commercial online viewers like Google Maps change with scale?
Answer: Absolutely.  See: Training for the Bin Laden Raid

Question #5: The name of the FREE SAR planning software that incorporates a U.S. National Grid capability is?
Answer: Mission Manager.  See: Mission Manager - FREE Software for SAR

Question #6: It's quickly becoming one of the most technologically advanced locations in the world and administrators there recently decided to use coordinates of the Military Grid Reference System as building addresses.  Name the place.
Answer: Dubai.  See: Dubai to Use MGRS Coordinates as Addresses

Question #7: What's an aerostat?
Answer #7: A craft that remains aloft primarily through the use of buoyant lighter than air gases, which impart lift to a vehicle with nearly the same overall density as air. Aerostats include free balloons, airships, and moored balloons. See: Is There a Surveillance Aerostat in Your Future?

Question #8:  What holiday is associated with the nonprofit, technology focused, disaster response and relief organization Sahana?
Answer: Boxing Day.  See: Boxing Day Tsunami - Birth of Sahana

Question #9: Who sponsors the Silver Jackets effort?
Answer: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA.  See: Silver Jackets

Question #10: What is "Swatting"?
Answer: An attempt by a prank caller to fool 9-1-1 services into dispatching a SWAT team to a bogus incident. See: "Swatting" In LA

Question #11: LandScan is a geo-referenced database of world population that is mapped to world-wide grid squares approximately 1 KM in size.  True or False?
Answer: True.  See: LandScan: Disaster Planning on a Global Scale

Question #12: The system that allows individuals to voluntarily provide medical and other personal data that will then be associated with their phone number is called?
Answer: Smart911.  See: Smart911

Question #13: The national standard coordinate system for ALL land based SAR is?
Answer: U.S. National Grid (USNG).  See: NSARC Designates USNG as the Land SAR Coordinate System

Question #14: What does the IPAWS acronym stand for?
Answer: Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).  See IPAWS.

Question #15:What Federal agency recently released a report on geospatial information?
Answer: The GAO.  See: GAO Report Issued: Geospatial Information

Question #16: The system that can capture license plate data and then automatically check law enforcement data bases for criminal behavior associated with the plate is? 
Answer: ALPR.  See: ALPR Data in Minnesota: Round Three

Question #17: The City of Minneapolis is getting ready to install a Common Operating Picture system to support the City.  True or False?
Answer: True.  See: Awareness About Awareness

Question #18: NPSBN is a leading provider of geospatial software for the Emergency Services Sector.  True or False?  
Answer: False.  See: FirstNet-NPSBN

Question #19: If you were going to wear a GLANSER, it would most likely be found:
(a) In your shoe
(b) On your head
(c) On your back
(d) On your wrist
Answer: c.  See: GLANSER Emergency Responder Tracking System Unveiled

Question #20: The name of the 501 (c) 3 nonprofit that sponsors this blog is?
Answer: SharedGeo.

Bonus Question: Is SharedGeo in need of donations to help it fulfill its mission of helping government, nonprofit, education, and corporate entities use mapping technologies and share geographic data for the public good?

Bonus Answer: Absolutely!!! In fact, you can use the donation button in the right hand column to help out, or just click here.

Grade yourself - number correct: 
18 or more: You need to write EPC Updates
15-17: Genius 
12-14Plugged in and with it
10-11: Above Average
8-9: If the minimum wasn't good enough, it wouldn't be the minimum
5-7: Hmmmmmm
3-4: Stay after school
1-2: You are kidding me, right?

Mrs. Snodgrass says: Have An Absolutely Fabulous Weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Planet Earth Disaster Loss Winner for 2012: USA, USA, USA!

According to statistics released yesterday by European reinsurer Swiss Re, the USA led the world in disaster related losses during 2012. Of the $186 billion in worldwide damages last year, the USA accounted for $119 billion. In fact, the USA held 9 out of 10 spots on a list of the year's most expensive incidents. Leading the way, Hurricane Sandy:
According to Swiss Re, Sandy’s losses stemmed from the largest ever wind span recorded for a North Atlantic hurricane, and from the ensuing massive storm surge that caused damaging flooding in a densely populated area on the East Coast of the U.S. It also led to the worst power outage caused by a natural catastrophe in the history of the U.S.
In second place, a disaster few think about: drought. Lack of rain in the US Corn Belt is believed to have caused $3 billion in damages.   

(Insurance Journal, March 27, 2012)

Comment: Per drought: Hats off to the dedicated professionals of the USDA, Farm Service Agency, State and County agents, and all others who effectively handled what was clearly a significant disaster for the Nation during 2012.   Thank you!

Lead photo: NASA

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

FOSS4G-NA Early Bird Registration Ends Monday, April 1st

The Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial-North America (FOSS4G-NA) 2013 Conference recently announced its program for the upcoming event in May. In it, you'll find an amazing range of topics covered by experts from:
Plus, the Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium will be providing a diverse range of workshops encompassing both open source and proprietary solutions the day before the FOSS4G-NA Conference gets underway. That's an incredible educational combo made even better by the absolutely FREE sponsor day, Friday, May 24th, AND at least one hackaton already scheduled to follow on Saturday, May 25th. Use the links below to learn more, and then register for FOSS4G-NA before the Early Bird rate expires on April 1st!

What: Minnesota GIS/LIS Workshops
When: May 21, 2013 (Tuesday)
WhereHubert H. Humphrey Center, University of Minnesota - West Bank
ProgramMinnesota GIS/LIS Workshops
Event website: 2013 Spring Workshops

What: Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial North America (FOSS4G-NA) 2013 Conference
When: May 22-24, 2013 (Wednesday-Friday)
WhereMarriott City Center in Minneapolis, MN
ProgramFOSS4G-NA 2013 Preliminary Program
Event websiteFOSS4G North America 2013 Conference

 (Early Bird rate closes next Monday - April 1st!)

Comment: Rumor has it that due to sequestration, travel funds will be very limited for Federal employees who would like to attend an educational event like FOSS4G-NA 2013. Oh, geez, who thought up that one? Save maybe a total of $1,000/person, while losing $$ MILLIONS $$ because dedicated public employees won't have the opportunity to learn how to deploy and use FREE and OPEN Source Software in support of government's geospatial business needs. Absolutely......Brilliant! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Concerns Over Google Glass Grow

It seems like if products coming out of the geospatial and/or technology revolutions are anything, they are polarizing. Two years ago, it was LightSquared versus the established GPS community. Last year (and continuing), it's the reality that drones are inbound to domestic skies. This year, one product seems to have already created a lead that may soon be insurmountable - Google Glass. Articles from the it's Good and it's Evil Camps are provided below:

Good Camp

(Washington Post, March 25, 2013)

Evil Camp

(The Telegraph, March 19, 2013)

(, March 19, 2013)

(CNET, March 15, 2013)

Comment: The difference in number of stories above is not accidental - it's reflective of proportions found in the press. Clearly, if Google Glass is going to be successful, it's got some PR work to do.

Lead graphic: RedBubble

Monday, March 25, 2013

Philadelphia Maps Indoor to Help Public Safety and Emergency Management

Public Safety and Emergency Management are at the top of the list of envisioned users for an ongoing effort in Philadelphia that is trying to know as much about the interiors of buildings as is currently known about the exteriors. Robots, 3-D, LIDAR, and lots of data are making it happen.  More below:

(Government Computer News, March 15, 2013)

Comment: Very cool. The day is coming when if you want your building insurance rates to be low, you will have to be able to play in this world.

Lead graphic:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Freezing Friday: Google's Everest, Smart Watch, Smart Wristband, Cool Satellites, and Legoland OZ

It's the second day of Spring and the temperature in Minnesota's Twin Cities is something like 15 F. And, the weatherman is saying: "Snow this weekend".  What's up with that?  I could probably do better on Mount Everest. Why don't we check it out?

Google Street View Comes to Mount Everest and Other "Cool" Places: Hats off to them - the crew at Google Street View continue to stay out in front of dragging cameras to weird places. Latest causality - top of the world. Check it out below, where you too can find weird sights like the one above, hidden somewhere in the scenery. Hint: Zenith made a really great TV:

(Mail Online, March 19, 2013)

How Cold Is It Up Here Anyway?: They didn't come right out and say it, but you would think that if Samsung was going to build a Smart Watch, it would be able to answer that question. Apparently, it's Top Secret for now, but it will soon be found on a wrist near you (GPS, temperature sensor, and much more). Dossier below:

(Laptopmag, March 19, 2013)

Am I Out of Shape, Or Did I Really Just Climb 29,029 Feet?: Now there is no more wondering about that question for Everest climbers or anyone else concerned about their personal fitness. That's because a new invention from the "record every stinking body motion and function" crowd is giving us the "Smart Wristband". I mean really, Smart Grid, Smart Phone, Smart Watch, Smart Car, is  Check it out:

(The New York Times, March 13, 2013)

The Deep Dark Cold of Space: Ok, so you are frozen in by a blinding blizzard and ten-foot high snow drifts, how about a cool way to spend the weekend inside on the Internet?  I have just the thing for you - tracking satellites as they orbit the Earth through the frigid parts of space shaded from the sun (it's like -290 F). Hours of fun for the entire family:

The Thaw of Summer: As one part of the planet warms up with the onset of Spring (hopefully including Minnesota some time in the next two months), another part cools off. When that happens, adults and kids in the Southern Hemisphere will be looking for an indoor activity like interactive Legos! Ok, so that's a stretch. But, if you want to check out what the fabulous folks in the land down under might be doing when the full brunt of winter descends on them in July, you can find it below. (WARNING - Addictive!) Works best with Chrome:

Hope your weekend finds you doing something cool! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

FEMA Receives Esri's "Making a Difference Award"

Back in December, this blog reported FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate had bestowed the agency's top honor for innovation on the FEMA GeoPortal Online system development team. Now called the FEMA GeoPlatfom, the effort recently received additional recognition when the agency's delivery of geospatial information to Hurricane Sandy responders and the public was honored by Esri. During the Federal GIS Conference held in Washington, DC, February 25-27, Esri President Jack Dangermond recognized FEMA and the GeoPlatform with the company's prestigious Making a Difference Award, an award "which recognizes organizations doing exemplary work using geospatial technology." Receiving the award were Administrator Fugate and FEMA Geospatial Information Officer Christopher Vaughan. To read the news release, or give the FEMA GeoPlatform a whirl, use the links below:

(ESRI, March 13, 2013)

Comment: Congratulations and well deserved! Things are headed in the right direction - keep 'm coming.

Lead photo: Esri 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Syrian War From Above

There is no disaster greater than war. Documenting that point with imagery from above, Time magazine recently released a series of comparative photos using the slide bar technique. The dates of the "before" and "after" photo sets were selected to show developments at specific locations in Syria over time spans ranging from a few weeks to nearly 10 years. Little doubt, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Use the link below to see for yourself: 

(Time, March 15, 2013)

Comment: Here again is proof that the commercial view from above now widely available to the media and general public (DigitalGlobe in this case), delivers transparency and a sense of dimension to events taking place on the ground in a way that was previously unimaginable. Consequently, in the years going forward, it is going to be far easier to hold accountable those individuals involved in creating man-made disasters, or managing responses to natural disasters. 

Lead graphic:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Homeland Security Operational Planning System (HOPS)

In the 11 years since its inception, the Homeland-Defense Operational Planning System (HOPS) sponsored by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has been evolving toward a geospatially intensive online planning and awareness platform. The system experienced heavy use during the Hurricane Sandy response and is now available to Emergency Managers and responders across the nation. Key capabilities while using the Homeland Security Infrastructure Program (HSIP) data sets and Critical Infrastructure/Key Resources (CI/KR) assessments inside the system include:

  • Publishing of GIS data services and mapping applications,
  • CBRN primers and resources for emergency response,
  • Consequence assessments, and
  • Secure server and data hosting.

To learn more, and/or request access to HOPS, use the links below:
(LLNL News Release, October 12, 2012)

(Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, 2012)

Comment: Kudos to LLNL for this effort, but it once again begs the question: When will the nation ever have ONE common view for response?

Lead graphic: LLNL 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Geomedicine - Asthmapolis

Early last month, the Washington Post ran an article about a developing field of medicine called Geomedicine - an effort to relate location to patterns of illness. Specific to the endeavor reported on by the Post, researchers at Madison, Wisconsin based Asthmapolis have created an asthma inhaler with a GPS device that reports the location of use.  Through this approach, it's hoped that if environmental conditions are responsible for the asthma attack, that relationship can be determined from a database of reports from various users. More below:

(Washington Post, February 4, 2013)

Asthmapolis Web Site

Comment: This is a very significant development because it is on the cutting edge of bringing location granularity to the field of medicine. For much too long, it's been a sector of society that has been superb at reporting "what", and not so hot at reporting "where". One need only review the flu map by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find proof of that point.

Lead graphic: Asthmapolis

Friday, March 15, 2013

Future Friday: Eye Tracking Smartphone, Google Glass Upgrades, Tsunami Weapon, Drone Industry Explodes, and Moon for Sale

It's all going to be too much for me. The day is coming when we will answer our smartphones with an eyeball, that's diverted from reading the newspaper on our glasses, as we run from a man-made natural disaster, that's being filmed by drones circling overhead. Think I'll buy some land on the moon and just leave it all behind...

Future Event Number 1: As goes the saying, the future is now. And indeed it is. Yesterday, Samsung revealed it will soon be releasing Galaxy S4, which can be controlled with nothing more than a glance. Sneak a peak below:

(CNBC, March 14, 2014)

Future Event Number 2: We've been following Google's Glass project for sometime. At a recent tech show, upgrades and a release schedule were announced. A quick scan of the article below will fill you in:

(Latinos Post, March 12, 2013)

Future Event Number 3: As mentioned in the article below, this story reads like the plot from a James Bond novel. But it's true. A plan to create a tsunami bomb for use in WWII. Run for high ground as you surf the info below:

(The Telegraph, January 1, 2013)

Future Event Number 4: By 2025 - they'll be absolutely everywhere and create an entirely new industry in the process. "Now Johnny, remember, you don't want to be an airline pilot, you want to be a drone pilot....." $82 billion can be found below:

(Washington Times, March 13, 2013

Future Event Number 5: As bad as everything is starting to sound, I think I'm going to need a way out. Land on the moon - ya, that's the ticket. And, at very reasonable rates, from a reputable real estate agent. Use the links below to find out how you too can join this land grab: 

(The New York Times, March 10, 2013)

Have an Out of this World Weekend!!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Just Another Day in the Privacy War

This past Tuesday brought some interesting developments in the Privacy War.  

First, as most of the world knows by now, Google agreed to pay $7.0 million to settle a dispute with 38 states over privacy breeches associated with its Street View mapping effort. The settlement got mixed reviews. Some claiming it was too lenient given the behemoth size of the offender and scope of the offenses, while others described the settlement as an appropriate line in the sand. 

Second, researchers announced they had determined that at least 25 countries were actively using surveillance software to monitor behavior of citizens who were using internet based communications. The FinSpy program can, "grab images off computer screens, record Skype chats, turn on cameras and microphones and log keystrokes". The United States was included in the list of countries where servers are currently running the program.

For both these stories, see below:

(The New York Times, March 13, 2013)

(The New York Times, March 13, 2013)

Comment: The further we move ahead on technology, the further we are behind on policy.  These two stories are cases in point.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Public Service Announcement: UN-SPIDER Team Survey Request

Please find below a survey participation request from the UN-SPIDER Team. The survey takes less than 15 minutes to complete:
Dear Colleagues,

How beneficial are geo-information products for disaster and risk management? Assessing the operational as well as strategic impact of geoinformation (e.g. risk maps, early warning, damage maps) is a central question in this context. It can only be solved by integrating the knowledge and experience of end-users involved in emergency response, disaster preparedness or  risk reduction activities, on an operational or strategic level.
In the context of the VALID (Value of Geo-Information for Disaster and Risk Management) project, the project team has issued a survey which is online on We invite you to share with us your opinion on up to ten geo-information products that have been shortlisted in a previous user survey. If you wish to give your opinion in this user appraisal, kindly do so until 11 April 2013. 
VALID is an ongoing project jointly carried out by UNOOSA/UN-SPIDER and the Joint Board of Geospatial InformationSocieties (JB GIS). The objective of VALID is to produce a publication to give evidence of the benefits which can be realized by applying geoinformation to disaster and risk management.
If you have any questions about the VALID project and the user appraisal, feel free to get in touch with Dr. Robert Backhaus (
Please feel free to share this call for participation with your colleagues as well.
Kind regards, 
The UN-SPIDER team

Comment: OK, they ask the same question more than a few times - but you can handle it.  And, your submission will help bring better geospatial products to the realm of Emergency Preparedness and Response around the world. Please help them out. Thanks!

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Note to Readers

Since EPC Updates first began its life online nearly two years ago, through thick and thin, I've done my best to ensure a posting on each week day. Unfortunately, I've run into one of those personal disasters in life that has required my full attention since last Friday. Consequently, I regret to inform you that as circumstances currently appear - fresh material on EPC Updates will not be forthcoming until Wednesday, March 13th. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you, and sincerely hope you will tune back in at that time.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

More Blurred Photos

Over the past 18 months, this blog has offered at least four posts on the topic of "blurred" imagery being displayed in mapping applications provided by Bing, Google, Nokia, and others. For a variety of reasons, the blurring is occurring to remove sensitive sites from the prying eyes of John Q. Public (and others).  A listing of those topic related articles is provided below: 

(EPC Updates, February 8, 2013)

Now, John Herrman at Buzzfeed, has offered an extensive and reflective discussion on the situation after Bing offered up views of a Top Secret drone base that Google had blurred. More below: 

(March 1, 2013,

Comment: Let's face it folks, the genie is out of the bottle. You guys and gals in D.C., Langley, NORTHCOM and wherever can try your best to keep the locks on imagery, but ultimately you're going to lose. And probably a whole bunch sooner than you think. That's because every commercial satellite that goes up (maybe even North Korean) and every drone that comes off the production line is going to place humanity one step closer to a democratized view of the world - one that is no longer controlled by governments. My suggestion: Better start building anything you don't want folks to see underground, and the sooner, the better.....

Lead photo credit: Skybox satellite via

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Public Safety Interface of the GIS Inventory

For anyone looking for a one-stop shopping point of GIS related information that has utility for the Emergency Services Sector (ESS), the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) offers the Public Safety Interface (PSI) of the GIS Inventory. Currently in release version 5.0, upgrades to the PSI during 2012 were funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Although data sets directly available from the PSI are limited, links are provided to the authoritative data clearinghouse for each state. Additionally, links to major resource centers for theme related topics such as U.S. National Grid, Homeland Infrastructure Foundation Level Data (HIFLD), and the Geospatial Platform are prominently displayed on the PSI home page. To check out the PSI, use the link below:

Comment: As long as users realize the PSI is more akin to an information clearinghouse than a data clearinghouse, it will be a solid addition to most ESS related GIS efforts. Kudos go out to the NSGIC Geospatial Preparedness Committee for developing the PSI.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Capability and Readiness Assessment Tool - CARAT

It's still a prototype in development, but the Capability and Readiness Assessment Tool (CARAT) sponsored by the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) offers a starting point for Emergency Services Sector entities interested in enhancing their use of GIS. Designed to be user friendly for those who are not GIS types, CARAT uses examples and a simple needs assessment checklist format to help Decision Makers gain command of GIS basics and conceptualize potential operational improvements. Case studies are offered within the system that correspond to the four elements of the Emergency Management Cycle: Planning, Preparedness, Response and Recovery. View the video below to understand NAPSG's overall approach to this issue, then use the CARAT link to give the assessment tool a try: 

Comment: Another nice effort by NAPSG.  Keep up the good work!

Lead photo credit: National States Geographic Information Council 

Monday, March 4, 2013

The GPS Cane

Last week at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Japanese high-tech company Fujitsu unveiled a product that has been developed with the Public Safety issue of aging population in mind.  Specifically, The New Generation Cane leverages geospatial technologies to help the elderly navigate from point to point while also allowing caregivers to track and assist them. In addition, the cane has the ability to monitor several vital signs of the user. Video and link to story can be found below:

(Red Orbit, March 3, 2013)

Comment: Although it's hard to believe the same segment of the population that is often befuddled by the TV remote control is somehow going to be able to make this cane work, reality is this product is still a cane even if all the fancy high-tech stuff is inoperative.

Lead photo: Daily Mail

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fractured Friday: Earthquake Truck, Flood Photos, Iranian Censorship, Tsunami Debris, and Alpine Drone

It's a Fractured Friday of stories held together by only the thinnest of threads - each has something (remotely) to do with disasters. Speaking of disasters, you should have seen me on the ski hill last Friday. And with that, off we go.....

Disaster Number 1 - Earthquakes: It's the darnedest thing about earthquakes, they seem to just show up whenever and wherever they want. But, what if there was a way to create a "man-made" earthquake so the ground could be tested for stability proposes before putting up buildings that would tumble down when the real thing showed up? Turns out the Kiwis are doing exactly that. Use the link below to bounce in on the story:

(Weather Underground, January 30, 2013)

Disaster Number 2 - Flooding: On the evening of January 31-February 1, 1953, The Netherlands experienced a disaster of epic portions when a spring storm surge topped dikes and flooded some 527 square miles of The Netherlands.  In addition to nearly 2,000 people loosing their lives, death of livestock and destruction of property were significant.  60 years after the event, high resolution imagery was recently made available to the public. Use the link below to view:

Unprecedented Aerial Photographs Show Consequences of Flood 1953
(Dotka Data, January 28, 2013)

Disaster Number 3 - Iran: "The Ticking Time Bomb" now equals government control of social media sites. It's the classic indicator things are amiss - when one group of individuals uses their position of power to control the expression of ideas by others. You can learn more by clicking below (provided the article is not being blocked):

Iran Building Software to Control Networking Sites
(, January 19, 2013)

Disaster Number 4 - Tsunami Debris: Last year I ran several posts about the impending arrival on U.S. shores of debris that got washed out to sea during the March 11, 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. And sure enough, shortly after those posts were offered, "things" started showing up. A reality that continues to this day. For the latest arrival, click below:

(, February 24, 2013)

Disaster Number 5 - Drone on Skis:  It's bad enough that products like GoPro mean every knucklehead with $400 can film in HD the terror of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, scaling whatever, exploring really dangerous subterranean crevices, or skiing down a precipice at break neck speeds. Now, Switzerland based senseFly has developed a mapping drone capable of operating in the realm of avalanches. Video and story below:

(GIM International, February 22, 2013)

Here's hoping you have a disaster free weekend!

Lead photo: USGS