Thursday, August 29, 2013

Recalculating - Our Brains

Today's post is number 700 on this blog. That's a lot of writing on my part; far more than I thought I would end up penning when this adventure began a little over 2 years ago. It's also been a lot of late nights, and countless hours mulling style and grammar - areas of expertise where I admittedly deserve something in vicinity of a "C-".

So given I've been working like a dog, and tomorrow is the start of the last holiday weekend of summer, I've decided to take a little vacation. I'm checking off the net for a brief time, only to return when it's three days into National Preparedness Month. That would be on September 3rd.

Knowing that development will be a shock to the system for at least one reader of this blog, I feel obligated to offer an article that can be contemplated for an extended period of time. Luckily, the Boston Globe recently published just such an article.  In it, you'll find the idea that the Geospatial Revolution is not only changing the way we navigate the world, it's also changing the way our brains work.
(Boston Globe, August 18, 2013)

Have a Fabulous and Safe Labor Day Weekend!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

U.S. National Grid Equals Preparedness

Faced with the uncertainty of our times, a growing number of Americans have been putting into practice the core philosophy of the Boy Scouts: "Be Prepared". With efforts ranging from participating in one of FEMA's sponsored CERT teams, to spending millions to build a family "bunker", individuals are taking steps to be ready for whatever the future may hold. Now, Living Ready, one of the leading publications that helps this community be like our self-reliant pioneer ancestors, has taken notice of a very important geospatial concept - the U.S. National Grid. More below: 

(Living Ready, Fall 2013)

Comment: No fan of the U.S. National Grid should get too excited about this story's subtitle error which mistakenly links USNG to latitude/longitude. I've been told by the article author that there is a red-faced editor who has apologized profusely for this last minute editing mistake. Consequently, I think this is an excellent article and Living Ready should be thanked for taking the bold step of promoting U.S. National Grid in a magazine with national circulation. Thank you very much!

Graphic credit: Brett Ortler

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How to Post Emergency Information Online

This past June, leaders of America's technology community provided Congress with input on ways to improve delivery of information during disasters. Chief among those ideas was ensuring information is provided in open, machine-readable formats. In a later discussion with Emergency Management magazine, Nigel Snoad, leader of the Google Crisis Response Team provided details to go with those comments to Congress. More below: 

(Government Technology, August 20, 2013)

Comment: Although this item was previously posted on our companion Linkedin page, it warrants re-posting here because of the power of the message. I have re-read this article a half-a-dozen times, and every time I find a nuance that's insightful.  Hopefully, you will too!  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Free ASPRS Webinar: Charting the Course of FEMA's Digital Flood Hazard Data

In response to FEMA's ongoing efforts to update its flood hazard data, the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (APRS) will be hosting a free webinar this coming Friday. Here's the sell: 
This seminar will look at the past, present, and future of FEMA’s digital flood hazard information. FEMA’s Flood Information Rate Maps (FIRMs) are primarily designed for rating flood insurance and reducing risk through community planning, but they also serve to inform the public about the location of flood hazards. FEMA has distributed GIS versions of the FIRMs as early as the mid 1990’s, but with recent enhancements FEMA’s current focus is on distributing the NFHL as geospatial web services.
The event details:
  • Date: Friday, August 30, 2013
  • Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EDT (11:00 PM-12:00 PM Central)
  • Cost: Free

CommentRegistration is limited to the first 95 individuals who sign up!  So if you would like to attend, please sign up early.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Failing Eyesight Friday: Got Lenses?, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Seeing Stars, Sleep Texting, and End of the World

I used to think it was just me and the aging process, but now it looks like there is a growing body of evidence which indicates we are losing our ability to “see”. (A thought which should not be confused with losing our vision – a key societal attribute which we lost a long time ago.) To see what I mean Vern, let's take a spin around the tech planet for the past week or so:

Got Lenses?: Hey kiddies, by the time you get to be up in the stratospheric age numbers that I’m watching tick by, you’ll need lenses in your glasses so thick they’ll make the bottom of a beer mug look thin. That’s because with every view of your "smart" phone, your eyeballs are getting dumber:

(MailOnline, August 15, 2013)

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Apparently, that’s not the case in Brazil if you are dude participating in the dating scene - where "out of sight" means you are being tracked by your soon-to-be ex-girl friend on one of those sight reducing smartphones mentioned above. Even better still, she can turn on the microphone of the smartphone in your pocket and listen in on the discussion you are having with your next soon-to-be ex-girl friend:

(myway, August 22, 2013)

Seeing Stars: What else but bad eyes could explain the recent errant piloting skills of a drone pilot who managed to knock a groom to the ground with a quadrocopter direct hit to the head? You've got to wonder if after the groom saw stars, the pilot did also:

(BETABEAT, August 19, 2013)

Sleep Texting: Coming soon to a neighborhood near you….We don’t need no stinking eyes to text, in fact we can text with our eyes shut while we are asleep! It’s sort of like sleep walking for thumbs. A growing trend I’m sure the 9-1-1 community is going to really enjoy when text-to-9-1-1 kicks in next year…

(CBS New York, August 21, 2013)

End of the World: What do you get when you cross NASA with a map? Trouble – with a capital T. There I was minding my own business, blissfully ignorant of the fact I could die at any moment from a big rock from space landing on my head – and then NASA had to go and spoil it all for me with a very scary map. A map which could mean end of the world for everyone on Earth:

(NBC News, August 14, 2013)

Here’s Hoping You Can See Your Way to Having a Great Weekend!

Seeing Stars: WeddingMan123
End of the World: NASA

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Google Glass for First Response

As noted when the year started, Google Glass is one of those controversies that won't go away any time soon. While on the one hand the head mounted personal computer, camera, and Heads Up Display (HUD) has been vilified by privacy advocates and banned from a broad range of locations, on the other hand experimental uses, such as in the operating room, suggest the technology has much to offer. Earlier this week, Mutualink reinforced that last point when it introduced Google Glass for police, firefighters and the rest of the first response community at the annual Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Conference in Anaheim, CA. More below:

(Tech Crunch, August 19, 2013)

Comment: Pretty neat, but I must say this whole concept looks vaguely familiar. Anyway, kudos to Mutualink for making it happen!

Lead graphic:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Community Infrastructure Mapping System

Under development by the Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency for the past four years, the Community Infrastructure Mapping System (CIMS) delivers a dynamic blend of "Google's mapping library and infrastructure with a comprehensive database of different kinds of community infrastructure." Based on that approach to enabling geospatial data for the general public, CIMS has also been evolving into a base line product for an expanding number of Provincial applications which offer such features as time travel search and topic based search. Links below provide access to the CIMS and web pages with more information about the system:

Comment: CIMS is an exceptional product on many levels: simplicity of interface, extent of data provided, and long term maintainability, to name a few. Particularly noteworthy is the significant availability of location information of value to the Emergency Services Sector. Superb work by the Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

National Map Corps Now Implemented Nationwide

For the past year, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been hard at work implementing a program which allows volunteers to contribute information about structures to The National Map. Known as the National Map Corps, individuals have been able to participate in the program after their state of residency joins the program. On August 15, 2013, the final group of states came into the program. In addition to Minnesota, those states include Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. More below:

(USGS Press Release, August 15, 2013)

(EPC Updates, June 5, 2013)
(EPC Updates, August 22, 2012)

Comment: Great to see all parts of the nation are now on board!

Lead graphic: USGS 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Insurance Industry Increases Use of Geospatial Technologies for Disaster Response

It's not just FEMA and state Emergency Management agencies that need to quickly assess disaster losses and mitigate future risk wherever possible. In near lock step with those efforts has been the nation's insurance industry. Now, U.S. insurance companies are following an emerging trend in Europe (see: Flood Footprints For European Insurers- they are embracing the power of geospatial technologies to help them do their job more effectively.  More below:

(Data Informed, August 12, 2013)

Comment: The Esri Public Safety team did a nice job bringing this topic forward for discussion. Undoubtedly, it's an issue which will grow in importance in the years ahead for both the insurance industry and Emergency Management community. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fast Times at Ridgemount High Friday

It's hard getting back into the groove after last week. I ran into a not so nice version of the flu and pretty much didn't crawl out of bed for the entire week.  Sort of reminded me of being back in high school - a time when feigning some form of "illness" was always the best option for not turning in homework. Although there was no feigning this time, the results were the same. A whole bunch of shenanigans took place while I was gone, and now it's hard to catch up. But what the heck, what do you say we give it a try anyway?  

Hacked Toilet: It's bad enough that some prankster could hack your computer, but now it looks like you will have to start worrying about your toilet.  That is provided you have enough bucks in your pocket to shell out nearly $6,000 for a toilet controlled by and Android app.

(BBC News, August 5, 2013)

Google Street View Duplicity: Let it be known there are BIG differences in the various employment opportunities at Google Street View. In Thailand, a group of angry villagers thought a Google Street View worker would make a good hostage, while in Florida, two surfer dudes are out strolling the beaches checking out chicks.  Both below:

(Mail Online, August 15, 2013)

(Miami Herald, August 14, 2013)

Read more here:

When Off Button Equals Hammer: In round 5,023 of the location privacy war, some researchers have recently discovered that turning the Wi-Fi off doesn't necessarily mean your Android phone isn't tracking where things are - and for that matter, where you are.  It's enough to make you want to throw your phone in the trash bin...but wait, there's a problem with that too....

(BBC News, August 12, 2013)

Beer From the Skies: It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Now, you too can enjoy beer delivered by drone.  Best of all, it's FREE!

(AFP, August 8, 2013)

The Result of Too Many "Sick Days": Looks like I'm not the only one who has been out sick in grade school, middle school, high school, college, and life. What else could explain the world's declining awareness of "where"?  I think a few folks should be staying after school for some extra instruction...

(CBC News, August 10, 2013)

Hope You Find Your Way to a Great Weekend!

Lead graphic: Wikipedia

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Perils of Not Being Tracked

The press in the New York City Metro area have been reporting on the perils of "not being tracked". Specifically, what can happen when an employer decides to install a GPS tracking device in a company vehicle and an employee chooses to thwart that plan.  In this case, use of a GPS jamming device has cost a New Jersey man his job, while at the same time landing him a $32,000 fine from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Links below for more:

Feds Arrest Rogue Trucker After GPS Jamming Borks New Jersey Airport Test
(The Register, August 12, 2013)

Comment: Although GPS jammers are illegal in the United States, they are readily available on line. If the above story is any indication, there are individuals out there who think their location privacy is important enough that they are going to ignore the rules despite the potential for harm to others. Unfortunately, that's a circumstance which we are likely to see more of in the future as location tracking sensitivity builds in the general population, and businesses and government entities expand their use of the technology. 

Lead photo: FOX News

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

U.S. National Grid is Now In the DHS Geospatial CONOPS

On June 28, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security released version 5.0 of the Homeland Security Geospatial Concept of Operations (GeoCONOPS). As described at the start of the document, intent is as follows:
This Homeland Security (HLS) Geospatial Concept of Operations (GeoCONOPS) has been developed as a strategic starting point for understanding how the coordination of Homeland Security and Homeland Defense (HD) geospatial activities can be improved at the federal level. The intended audience for this document is the full geospatial community supporting the missions of the federal government under the National Response Framework (NRF) and Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8). This includes the stakeholders and actors representing the Emergency Support Functions (ESFs), the Joint Field Offices (JFO), Federal Operations Centers, the disaster preparedness exercise and evaluation community, and those involved in other NRF missions. Individuals representing these groups and activities have been extensively engaged in providing input for this document.
To download, click the link below (Note: Latest version is always available via a link on right side bar):

Homeland Security Geospatial Concept of Operations (GeoCONOPS), Version 5.0

Comment: Notable among the 29 pages added to this version of the GeoCONOPS - a new appendix devoted entirely to the U.S. National Grid (see page 203). In addition, U.S. National Grid is now prominently highlighted as a best practice for Search and Rescue Management and SAR GeoReferencing (pages 62 and 114 respectively). Very nice!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

NSDI Strategic Plan Open For Comments

As related in several publications, the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) has recently requested comments from the public on its updated National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Strategic Plan. Covering years 2013-2016, the plan as released anticipates rapid and dynamic changes in factors such as sensor technology and big data which will have significant impact on the NSDI.  Based on consideration of these factors, the plan sets benchmarks for managing the envisioned substantial changes in collection and use of geospatial data. The deadline for comments is Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Details in the links below:

Submit comments to:

Comment: While this publication may appear to have little to do with the Emergency Services Sector, the reality is this is a golden opportunity for individuals in the ESS to make their voices heard about which items of location derived information are essential to the community. The August 8th EMR-ISAC Critical Infrastructure Protection Infogram said it best: 
This is a valuable opportunity for agencies and departments representing the Emergency Services Sector (ESS) to voice their needs for the types of GIS data they can use during the course of their duties and responsibilities. The use of GIS is expanding and has been a powerful tool during natural disasters, enhancing response capabilities at the state and local level especially. Fire and EMS departments can use GIS tools to map response areas, water sources, sites with hazardous materials, special needs communities, or utilities. It can also be used in training scenarios, codes enforcement, deciding ideal shelter locations, and in dispatching.

Monday, August 5, 2013

RtePM Evacuation Planning Software

The EMR-ISAC InfoGram for July 25, 2013 featured an awareness piece on the latest release of evacuation planning software developed by the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) at Old Dominon University. Called Real Time Evacuation Planning Model (RtePM), a simple online interface and quick start guide mean users can quickly try out various evacuation scenarios specific to their locale, whether it be wildfire, hurricane or something else. In addition, according to the InfoGram, RtePM: a free application enabling emergency managers and planners to determine evacuation times and routes based on multiple scenarios. Using the GIS mapping data to highlight geographical areas, users can view:
  • Population both day and night;
  • Major and minor arteries, highways, and smaller roads;
  • The speed limits of those roads versus the actual average speed;
  • The likely evacuation times based on changes to the above criteria.
To check out RtePM or just learn more, use the link below:

Comment: As previously noted on this site, following Katrina, researchers at the University of Minnesota developed evacuation planning software that has been available for past several years. It would be interesting to see a "run-off" between these two systems which evaluates appropriateness for various user communities. Superficial review suggests RtePM's would work best for individuals who want to run basic scenarios (i.e. Emergency Management types), while the University of Minnesota's Efficient Evacuation Route Planning and Emergency Management software would work best for individuals doing detailed planning (i.e. transportation department planners).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Franklin Friday: Emptying Your Purse Into Your Head

The often quoted Benjamin Franklin has been credited with a statement along the lines of: "If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the highest interest."  Interesting concept. I've got to believe that in our age of multi-media, real-time communications, that thought by Ben Franklin now means you have to be on top of what's going on around you at all times. Let's see how well you did for the past month or so:

Question One: It was recently learned that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has put a couple of nation's best hackers to work trying to find vulnerabilities in something most people use on a regular basis, but could kill them if hacked.  What is it?  Answer

Question Two: A West Coast airport has started arresting individuals who are actively using which map based mobile app? Answer

Question Three: Jumping over to the East Coast, what major U.S. city has been on the hot seat for its slow response times for 911 calls? Answer

Question Four: Name the major U.S. city that recently announced it is seeking permission to use drones to patrol its streets?  Answer

Question Five: What Mideast country recently announced that a kestrel it had captured, had been cleared of spying for Israel? Answer

Question Six: Five European countries recently began trials on autonomous drones which will be used to map what? Answer

Question Seven: Which state is considering using digital license plates? Answer

Question Eight: China recently grounded a fleet of drones out of fear they might drop what on someone's head? Answer

Question Nine: For decades, children have loved a toy named after a U.S. president. Recently it was announced that toy has received a radical make-over which will allow parents to use remote sensing to monitor their child's welfare. What's the toy, and what's make-over? Answer

Question Ten: Last year an amateur photo interpreter claimed she had found some long lost Egyptian pyramids using Google Earth. What recent news out of Egypt has been added to this story? Answer

Less than 10 right?  You need to get out more often!

Hope You Have an Informed Weekend!

See you Next Week.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

More GPS Hijacking - This Time at Sea

The GPS spoofing crew from the University of Texas at Austin is back at it. What they proved they could do with Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS - aka drones/UAVs) they recently set out to prove they could do with ships - with potentially disastrous results. A trip to the French Riviera and a ride on a very fancy yacht proved them correct. More below:

(Science Magazine, July 30, 2013)

Comment: Hmmmm - French Riviera, luxury yacht.  Where do I sign up for this gig?

Lead graphic: University of Texas at Austin