Friday, January 31, 2014

Apple Claims to Have Invented the "Interactive Map"

As any seasoned reader of this blog knows, more often than not on Fridays I offer up a variety of some pretty crazy stuff. Today's post is no different, except it's going to be about just one topic, and unfortunately, it's also a topic with an ominous, dark spin to it. On December 19, 2013, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a patent application in which Apple effectively claims to have invented the "Interactive Map". Since that time, with exception of a handful of geospatial blogs like GIS Lounge, and the Open Source Geospatial Consortium Wiki, few have taken notice of a development which could have far reaching consequences for everyone who uses electronic mapping technology. To grasp the seriousness of that last thought, one need only consider a recent court ruling against Google in favor of patent troll Vringo. Or, that the issue of individuals and corporations demanding fees for long existent technologies that they did not invent, but instead just subsequently patented, has become so pervasive and debilitating for a variety of non GIS industries, it has come to the attention of Congress. Consequently, Apple apparently knew exactly what it was doing when it timed the start of its patent process so that the fog of the holidays would obscure it's 40 some claims on the world of GIS. The reality that doing anything with GIS technology could quickly become more expensive and restrictive for EVERYONE, has seemingly gone unnoticed by the main stream GIS community. Anyone doubting that point need only imagine a world where all of Apple's (remaining) patent claims are granted:

(USPTO Online Link, December 19, 2013)

(PDF Version)

Comment: Shortly after existence of the Apple patent application became public knowledge, this author called the Open Geospatial Consortium's Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Carl Reed, to see if he knew of any steps that could be taken to keep Apple from patenting technologies that have been in wide-spread use for many years, and in some cases, decades. His thinking: File a "protest" with the USPTO that documents prior art ("constitutes all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent's claims of originality"). There appears to be two ways to do this:

1. As of September 12, 2012, the USPTO has been allowing "protests" to be offered via crowd sourcing. Here's the link to the site for this application:

Since I'm not a patent lawyer, any comments about this issue from those who are, would be greatly appreciated. Please pass the word.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The 9-1-1 Accuracy Debate Enters a New Phase: Here Come the Legislators

In September of last year, we ran a piece on a study in California that found the ability of the state's 911 centers to determine the location of a call for help was declining. Principal in those findings was the growing use of cellphones and the corresponding lack of GPS accuracy when a call from one of those phones was being made from inside a building. The consideration of how to fix that technical issue has recently taken on a new flavor - advocacy groups and legislators are getting involved. More below:

(The Hill, January 16, 2014)

(AP, January 3, 2014)

(Government Technology, December 10, 2013)

Comment: This is going to be an interesting food-fight to watch. On the one hand, you can't legislate the physics of electrons, on the other, there is clearly a problem which needs to be fixed.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fighting Fires With Glass

For the better part of two years, we've been saying this one's coming in a big way. Now, here's proof positive. And since this is a visual story, probably best you see it first as a video (below - without ads), and then explore it more via the link below the clip:

(CNN, January 23, 2014)

Comment: It's the future, and it only has zing because of GPS and GIS. Here's more background information if you're interested:

(EPC Updates, August 22, 2013)

(EPC Updates, February 24, 2012)

Picture credit: Google Glass YouTube video screenshot

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

FEMA Seeks Input on Risk MAP Guidelines and Standards

For the better part of the past year, FEMA has been in the final phase of a multi-year effort to update guidelines and standards associated with its Risk MAP (Mapping, Planning and Assessment) program. As noted in a recent informational bulletin announcing start of a semi-annual update process, "These guidelines and standards define the specific implementation of the statutory and regulatory requirements for NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) flood risk analysis and mapping, and address the performance of flood risk projects, processing of letters of map change and related Risk MAP activities". In other words, this collection of documents provides the guidance for how the Risk MAP effort will be modeled and administered across the nation. As a companion project, FEMA has also made available an interactive map which shows the status and location of current and past projects in the program. If you have comments or suggestions concerning these regulations, FEMA would like to hear from you. Here are the details:

(FEMA Bulletin, January 13, 2014) 

(Interactive Map)

Comment: As noted late last year on this website, an investigative report in New York found fault with FEMA's flood insurance maps which showed many areas as being safe from worry, which were in fact, substantially harmed by Hurricane Sandy. Well, here's an opportunity to lend your technical expertise to the process that ultimate determines where and how it's best to spend the nation's money so its citizens remain dry. I believe that's called a government of the people, by the people, for the people. I think I've heard that somewhere before, but I'm not sure.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Drones to the Rescue

Although potential uses range from airborne communications platforms to crime scene remote sensing, only a relatively small number of individuals have been investigating how drones can be used for emergency response. However, when some of those involved now reside at the nation's top universities, the major news media has decided to take note. Most recent in that regard, NBC News:

(NBC News, January 25, 2014)

Comment: Although this article is a thin on technical details, it is significant because of the extensive publicity a news organization like NBC can bring to a topic. As such, that increased awareness by the public will hopefully help create a better focused and informed national dialogue on appropriate use of these platforms, and more funding for investigative teams. All good things when the ultimate goal of the Emergency Services Sector is to use these systems "responsibly" for the public's benefit.

Graphic credit: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Flat Sandwich Friday: Van Google; Fashion Police; Busted Glass; HUD Eyeballs; and News Map

If you know what a brown paper bag is, you know the deal. You've done everything a rational person could do to protect the mid-day nourishment, and then, some lunkhead co-worker manages to inadvertently sit on your lunch - one hidden away in a "no one could ever sit there" spot. Squish! Flat Sandwich. Which is pretty much what today's insanity is going to be - the meat of three "eye" stories (not on today's menu: ribeye steak, eye of round, frog eye salad, Birds Eye vegetables, or Eye of Newt), sandwiched between the sustenance of two stories about flat Earth views. Here we go:

Van Google: Personally, when it comes to Dutch painters, I'm a Night Watch kind of guy. But different strokes for different folks. A point which means you'll have to figure out what's eye candy on a stroll through some flat panels:

(Wired, December 27, 2013)

Fashion Police: Man, what's this country coming to? A guy can't even go to the movies without causing a big hullabaloo over his eye-wear. OK, so his eye-wear was Google Glass. So what? Best keep an eye out for the fashion police if you are so inclined to repeat his mistake:

(BetaBeat, January 21, 2014)

Busted Glass: While we are on the topic of getting in trouble over Google Glass, what do you say we check in on that gal who was headed to court for driving while wearing them? Well, she won her case, but eye got a feeling a line in the story says it best: "The fun is just starting":

(AP, January 17, 2014)

HUD Eyeballs: Yup, sure enough, the fun is just starting. Video and story below is proof positive that a Heads-Up Display (HUD) for the eyeballs is headed our way:

(Innovega, Inc. New Release, January 6, 2014)

News Map: Hey, it worked for the weather, why not the news? A flat panel view of the world populated by stories from the world's major English-language newspapers. And once you start sampling during a long weekend without football playoffs, you're certain to get an eyeful. So look out for the eye strain: 

Interactive Map of Major English Newspapers from Around the World 

As the Earl Would Say: 
"Aye - Hope Your Weekend is Nothing But a Sandwich of Great Treats"

Lead Photo: Kayleigh, on Flickr 
Google Pic: Emilio Vavarella

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Using Cell Phones to Track Protesters

Stories about tracking technologies just keep on coming. This one, however, is ominous. A technology that was once proposed as a way to help manage a pandemic and reduce suffering, is being turned on its head. Protesters in the Ukraine are receiving text messages telling them the government knows who they are, and where they are, because of the cellphone in their pocket.  More:

Ukraine’s Opposition Says Government Stirs Violence
(New York Times, January 21, 2014)

Comment: Although events described in this article are taking place far removed from the United States, circumstances are akin to a canary in a coal mine. The canary isn't singing, and we should all be very concerned.

Picture credit: Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cell Phone Searches by Police to be Reviewed by U.S. Supreme Court

This is one where lots of folks could see trouble coming - outdated laws versus the privacy of personal data found on a smartphone. Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States decided it's time to start sorting out what the police can, and cannot, search after finding an individual's phone during an arrest. More below:

(New York Times, January 17, 2014)

Comment: Although the cases cited for review are focused on smartphone contact and picture content, it's logical that the court's expected April ruling will also have applicability to any record of movement found on a phone.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First HIFLD Meeting of 2014: 5-6 February, at DEA, Arlington, Virginia

The Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data Work Group (HIFLD) will be holding its first meeting of 2014 at the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Arlington, Virginia. Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday/Thursday, 5-6 February, 2014


  • In person - Registration deadline is January 31, 2014through the HIFLD website. 
  • Webinar - Those planning on joining via webinar must RSVP on the HIFLD website, the event will be broadcast through HSIN Connect. Connection details in the announcement link below.

Event Theme/Classification: Law Enforcement. It will consist of UNCLASSIFIED-FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY (FOUO) level information. 

Full Meeting Information: Expanded details are available by logging into the HIFLD website (, or by using links in the event announcement available below.

Questions: Casey Theisen, 405-234-8058, and/or the HIFLD Support team at

Comment: If you haven't logged into the HIFLD website for awhile, I'd highly recommend it. There are lots of improvements which have added utility and function to the site.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Stone of Hope

"Out of a Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope."

You can help change someone's mountain of despair, into a stone of hope. To learn how, please see Friday's post about the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service.

Photo credit: National Geographic

Friday, January 17, 2014

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service

In remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK), the Corporation for National & Community Service is promoting Monday, January 20, 2014 as a "Day of Service". The event's website opens with a thoughtful point:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"

If you would like to join those who will be following through on that idea in a meaningful way during MLK Day, the MLK Day of Service website is a great place to look for an opportunity that will work for you. In addition to a location driven search feature which will allow you to find Day of Service activities located near you (as an example, there are over 20 opportunities in the Twin Cities alone), the website has toolkits for projects like "Training your neighbors to prepare for disasters".  More at the link below:

Have a Great Weekend and Please Consider Contributing Your Time to a Worthy Cause Next Monday! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ford's LiDAR Vehicle

To little surprise to anyone monitoring development of self-driving cars, in mid-December 2013, Ford announced it had been working on an autonomous vehicle in conjunction with the University of Michigan and State Farm insurance. Prominent in news released about Ford's efforts, LIght Detection And Ranging (LiDAR), a system capable of collecting up to 2.5 million data points per second which are used to "map" and guide the car through its operating environment. More below:

(Xconomy, December 17, 2013)

(Ford Press Release, December 12, 2013)

Comment: For previous blog discussions about this topic, see the following posts:

(EPC Updates, March 12, 2012)

(EPC Updates, May 11, 2012)

Graphic: Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wearable Camera Use By Police is Increasing

Where were you, what did you see, and what happened? The puzzle of what men and women in blue experience while on the beat is heading toward a place without much mystery. Details below:

(MINNPOST, January 2, 2014)

Comment: Big kudos to the Minneapolis Police Department and others for being early adopters of this technology! 

Picture credit:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spy In Your Car: The Next Privacy Battle

Within a handful of days, two reports have highlighted where the next privacy war is going to be fought - in your car. Two issues are in play. First, there is the matter of location data being produced by on board navigation systems, which manufacturers can then retain as they see fit. Second, there is the issue of "black box" data collection and how that data can be used, such as in a court of law. More below:

(Detroit News, January 7, 2013)

(U.S. Government Accountability Office, Public Release - January 7, 2014)

(New York Times, January 10, 2014)

Comment: Interestingly, both Senators from Minnesota are in the mix on these issues. As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, Minnesota Senator Al Franken requested that the GAO produce the report on collection of data from navigation systems. And late last year, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and North Dakota Senator John Hoeven teamed up to sponsor the Driver Privacy Act which was written to address the legal issues associated with on board data collection. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Chief of Police Magazine Joins USNG Discussion

The fall edition of The Chief of Police magazine offered a topic seldom seen in publications of the Law Enforcement (LE) community - U.S. National Grid (USNG). Written by long-time USNG advocate Al Studt, a Lieutenant with the Cape Canaveral Fire Department and Communications and Structures Specialist with Florida's Task Force 4 Urban Search and Rescue Team, this "short and sweet" article hits the high points of how to make the nation better prepared through the use of a common response language of location - Law Enforcement included. Link below:

(The Chief of Police Magazine, Fall 2013)

Comment: Congratulations to The Chief of Police Magazine for bringing this subject matter to the attention of the Law Enforcement community. Ironically, Law Enforcement often finds itself on the hot seat when it comes to searching for missing persons, yet experience suggests few in the community know that since November 2011, USNG has been the national coordinate reference system for Search and Rescue operations in the United States. Hopefully, articles like this will help raise awareness about this issue.

Graphic credit:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Favorite Friday: Royal Flush; Twitter Slip; Axe-Murders Beware; Zombie Map; and Info Nexus

Seriously, you didn't think just because it's a new year for the planet that the insanity would stop, did you? Nah, it's just going to accelerate as we travel further into the future. Let's check out my favorites from what stopped by this week:

Royal Flush: Oh, nice!!! A Royal Flush on the River card!!! Too bad it happened on a Mobile Data Terminal in a police car while the event was being filmed on a passenger's cellphone in the car driving along side. I got a feeling somebody's career also just hit a flush if the report sticks: 

(Chicago Tribune, January 9, 2014)

Twitter Slip: Speaking of looking for a new line of work, everybody has heard of the Pink Slip - the notice that you have just been fired. Looks like Dallas Chief of Police David Brown has come up with an electronic version of that outdated paper thing. Check out the Twitter Slip:

(, January 6, 2014)

Axe-Murderers Beware: In the "Why I told you not to load up the Internet with your picture" category, looks like it won't be too long before you will have a hard time getting a date if you are a known axe-murderer. One quick pic on smartphone camera and your potential date will most likely have other ideas. Man, technology just took the fun out of dating...

(c|net, January 7, 2014) 

Zombie Map: I did not know I needed this.  But, apparently in keeping with the article above, there are few folks drifting around out there who might not make the best company. Turns out, when it comes to Zombies, there's a m-app for that.  I'll bet the CDC and FEMA are going to be all over this one:

(Anything Geospatial GISuser Blog, January 9, 2014)

Info Nexus: Looks like the light-bulb is getting brighter for a few more folks. After some bigwigs of industry recently did some pondering, the conventional wisdom is now: the best way to show any data - is a map! Imagine that... And you thought maps were just for figuring out "where".  

(New York Times, January 6, 2014)

Hope Your Weekend is Filled With Some of Your Favorite Things!

Info Nexus Graphic Credit: New York Times

Thursday, January 9, 2014

North Dakota Picked as FAA Drone Test Site

In the closing days of 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) named six sites where the testing of drone integration into the national airspace would commence in 2014. It was an announcement which earned mixed reviews, with concerns about invasion of privacy stated by some, and comments about the slow pace of progress stated by others. One of the winners in the effort - Minnesota's neighboring state of North Dakota. Links below for more:

(New York Times, December 30, 2013)

(Star Tribune, January 1, 2014)

(Popular Science, January 2, 2014)

Comment: If there is one place in the Union where I would trust this project to be handled correctly, it would be North Dakota. Congratulations!

Graphic: Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Flock of Doves to Be Deployed Into Space

When the Orbital -1 mission lifts off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on January 8, 2014, it will be carrying with it the largest constellation of satellites ever deployed. After the Cygnus spacecraft docks at the International Space Station (ISS), the flock of 28 Dove cube satellites designed and built by Planet Labs will be released using the NanoRacks Smallsat Deployment Program. Mission: Detailed observation of the Earth for humanitarian, disaster and environmental purposes. More below:

(The Telegraph, January 3, 2014)

(NASA News Release, January 6, 2014)

Comment: As noted in the NASA News Release: "The data collected by Planet Labs' CubeSats will be freely available for anyone to use." Wow! Emergency Services Sector and geospatial community - are you ready for this?

Photo credit: Planet Labs

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

DHS to Brief Updated National Infrastructure Protection Plan

In response to Presidential Policy Directive-21: Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience and an associated Executive Order that were signed during February 2013, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been busy redrafting the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) of 2009. Central to these efforts have been concerns about cyber security and the need for better coordination between the government and private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure facilities. According to the Emergency Management and Response - Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC), Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) InfoGram of January 2, 2014, other important changes made during the revision include:

  • Reducing the number of Critical Infrastructure Sectors from 18 to 16;
  • Recognition of today’s integrated all-hazards environment;
  • Integration of cyber and physical security efforts;
  • Refining information sharing processes during all phases of the risk management framework;
  • Reinforcing existing security and resilience partnerships and creating new ones between state, local, territorial, tribal, and regional stakeholders.

The DHS Acting Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection will be conducting a conference call to explain the implementation of these changes. Here are the details:
When: Monday, January 13, 2014, 11 a.m. - 12 Noon EST
Call in number: 888-889-4460
Pass code: 9830996
Links to the updated NIPP and additional information can be found below:

Comment: If you are a member of the geospatial community and are wondering what this has to do with you, try these links:

(EPC Updates, November 7, 2013)

(EPC Updates, February 20, 2013)

(EPC Updates, October 11, 2012)

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Course at UWSP: GIS Applications in Emergency Management

Currently, there are only a handful of U.S. institutions of higher learning like Penn State that have developed courses which bring together the topics of Emergency Management and GIS. Consequently, any time a college expands its curriculum to include a course on the subject, it's an important development for both disciplines. In that regard, the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point (UWSP) recently announced such a course offering. Here's the overview:

Course:  GIS Applications in Emergency Management
Start Date: January 21, 2014
Who Should Enroll

  • First responders, police/sheriff departments, ambulance operations, wildfire responders, and other emergency responders that require geographic situational awareness.
  • GIS Analysts and Managers who need to better understand how GIS is applied in emergency management applications.

Prerequisites: Geography 476/676 or other approved introductory-level GIS course.
Registration: Open until class begins. Email  or call 1-855-GIS-UWSP for registration information.
Course Format: 16-weeks (Starting 1/21/14 - Ending 5/16/14).
Hybrid: Predominantly offered online - however, there will be between 2 to 4 face-to-face labs or field trips. These face-to-face labs/field trips will be scheduled on Fridays from 9:00 am to 11:50 am, for sometime later in the course (should be no winter driving). UWSP is centrally located in Wisconsin, and is only about 3 hours driving distance from Minneapolis, MN and Milwaukee, WI.

Instructor information, course fees, and other details can be learned using the links below:

Comment: Great to see this development nearby! And, the Wisconsin-Minnesota reciprocity agreement means Wisconsin and Minnesota students pay the same rate.   

Friday, January 3, 2014

Flush It Friday - 2013 (Part 2 of 2)

Joining last week's flush of the 2013 I've-got-too-many-stories backlog, find below the last five months of the year, and a dozen or so references. In addition to the nonsense you'll find here, there are some real gems. And, if you're dying for more and missed the beginning of the swirl (January-July, Part 1 of 2), click here.
26- How to Live with Wildfires in Southern California
26- 6 Arrested in Vandalism of Former NFL Player’s Upstate New York Home, With More Busts to Come, Cops Say
30- Navatar Glass App May Help Blind Individuals Navigate Indoor Environments
30- How AI, Twitter and Digital Volunteers Are Transforming Humanitarian Disaster Response


4-    A Common View: Facility Managers Share Building Data with Emergency Responders
8-   Social Media, Crisis Mapping and the New Frontier in Disaster Response
14- FBI's Facial Recognition Software Could Fail 20 Percent of the Time
16- GPS Accuracy Still Not Good Enough for Emergencies
16- LAPD Tests Situational Awareness Tool
18- Brazen Scammers Target LIRR Riders With Ticket Machine Cameras
18- Mobile Geospatial Tool To Aid Military, First Responders
21- Google’s Maps Engine Pro Aims To Help Small Businesses Visualize Location Data As Easily As They Make A Pie Chart
22- Microsoft Gets Its Own Answer to Google Glass Ready and has a Prototype in the Testing Stages
22- Stores Can't Track You Unless You Permit Them [Updated], Working With Privacy Experts, In-store Trackers Adopt Privacy Code
26- Pentagon Agency Creating Digital Map of the World


2-   ShotSpotter Detection System Documents 39,000 Shooting Incidents in the District
2-   NYC Marathon is Back With Increased Security
8-   FAA Releases ‘Roadmap’ for Integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems
12- Wisconsin Man Called 911 Because Sex Partner Was "Snoring Like A Train" In His Bed
14- 16 American Cities Foreign Governments Warn Their Citizens About
20- Buyers Guide: Personal Locator Beacons
22- Google to Create a Fashionable, Prescription Lenses for Glass: Report
26- Interactive: U.S. Storm Reports, Warnings, Precipitation
29- Retailers Tracking Shoppers Inside Stores
30- Digital Era Confounds the Courts

3-   Mommy, the Drone’s Here!
3-   UN Starts Drone Surveillance in DR Congo
4-   Hacker Develops Super-Drone to Hack, Hijack Other Drones
4-   Google Puts Money on Robots, Using the Man Behind Android
5-   The Navy Just Launched a Drone from a Submarine—While Underwater
5-   Flashlight App Kept Users in the Dark About Sharing Location Data: FTC
5-   Kenya Enhances Elephant Security With Satellite Collars
7-   IRS Using Google Maps to Spy on Taxpayers
7-   Ex-Official Says FBI Can Secretly Activate an Individual's Webcam Without the Indicator Light Turning On
8-   Cellphone Data Spying: It's Not Just the NSA
23- Still Unconvinced, Home Buyer? Check Out the View From the Drone
23- The Rise of the [Geospatial] Machines Part 3: New Opportunities in the Coming Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Age
26- Rolls-Royce Looks to Plot a Course to the Future With Drone Ships
29- New Law All but Bars Russian GPS Sites in U.S.


Here's Hoping Your First Weekend of 2014 is One You Want to Keep!

Graphic: Walmart