Monday, June 30, 2014

Yarnell Hill Fire - One Year Later, Changes Still Needed

It's been one year since 19 wildland firefighters lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013. Have we done everything we can as a nation to keep an incident like this from happening again? Pause for a moment and consider:

(Al Studt, June 27, 2014)

Photo Credit: USA Today

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Challenges of Drones in U.S. Airspace

Ah, the weekend. It's summer and that means it's time to be outside enjoying the weather. But if you should find yourself trapped inside this weekend, offered below for your consideration are three articles from a series by the Washington Post which examine some of the issues that must be addressed as drones (UAVs/UASs) are brought into the most heavily used airspace in the world:  
(The Washington Post, June 20, 2014)

(The Washington Post, June 22, 2014)

(The Washington Post, June 23, 2014)

Wishing You a Fabulous Weekend Full of Sun and Fun!

Graphic credit: Washington Post

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Warrantless Cellphone Data Searches Ruled Illegal by Supreme Court

A unanimous decision from the U.S. Supreme Court leaves little doubt someone has been doing something wrong. And that's exactly what happened on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 when the justices ruled 9-0 on the issue of police searching a suspect's cellphone data without a warrant. More below:

(The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2014)

(Supreme Court of the United States, June 25, 2014)

Comment: Although this case settles the issue of cellphone data searches without a warrant (to include location data), and a previous case found a warrant must be issued before GPS tracking can be used (United States v. Jones), apparently left unanswered is the issue of police using alternate means to track a cellphone's location (tower records, StingRay). Given findings in the two benchmark data cases settled to date, the handwriting is on the wall concerning this third issue and the law enforcement community would be wise to take notice before facing another ruling which overturns convictions.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Report Chides Wildland Firefighter Leadership on Deaths

Out of concern not enough was being done to ensure the safety of wildland firefighters, on Monday, June 23, 2014, a group of retired experts from that community ("Safety Matters") made known their viewpoint by issuing a 17-page report detailing needed changes.  Passages below from the Executive Summary tell the story of what you'll find in the report: 
“A year has passed since the deaths of 19 firefighters on the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. Another fire season is now underway. The agencies managing wildland fire have not made any significant changes to existing procedures, nor have they announced any plans for procedural or policy updates for the future. This reflects the apparent perception that the existing system is working as well as can be expected. Safety Matters disagrees.”
“Safety Matters has identified the following areas in need of immediate change, in order to provide for maximum firefighter safety. They include:
  • A benefit analysis of values at risk (homes, private property, public lands) vs. the risk to firefighter’s lives. 
  • Development of an independent investigative body for serious accidents and fatalities. 
  • Direct involvement of agency administrators and program managers, especially when fires escape initial attack and incident management teams are mobilizing or in transition. 
  • Establishing standardized emergency communications protocol. 
  • Establishing uniformity in mapping systems.“
Read the full report at the link below:

(Safety Matters, June 23, 2014)

Comment: Wow! This is a well documented, thought provoking report written by individuals who obviously care about the safety of wildland firefighters. Community leadership must now make a choice when responding to this report: Defend the institutional status quo by doing nothing, or fix issues brought to light and thereby enhance wildland firefighter safety. Of particular note from the perspective of EPC Updates is the discussion on pages 16-17 about the need for a standard "language of location" in the wildland firefighting community - U.S. National Grid

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Open GIS Data and Information Sharing Being Considered in Nebraska

Another voice is being heard on the issue of GIS open data and information sharing. This time it's a Nebraska State Senator, and he's leading the charge in the Cornhusker State Legislature. More below:

(Government Technology, June 5, 2014)

Comment: We love it! More men and women like Senator Dan Watermeir are needed in legislatures across the nation!

Monday, June 23, 2014

App Teaches Children About Severe Weather

As a way to help children in the Tornado Alley section of the United States better understand severe weather, undergraduate students at The University of Oklahoma recently completed an iPad app called Storm Tracker. Based on the premise that one of the easiest ways to teach a topic is through game play, the app challenges players to route airplanes around storms to avoid trouble:

(Emergency Management, June 11, 2014)

Comment: Rain rain go away, come again another day - this app couldn't have shown up at a better time!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Flying Friday: New Radar, Turbulent Airwaves, Cheap Flight, Pizza Air, and Flying High

Time has been flying by since the last time I departed on one of my dysfunctional postings brought on by the lack of oxygen. Hard to believe because there are so many recent developments that are hard to believe. Let's check out the latest departures:

New Radar. In days gone by, law enforcement needed a collection of bulky equipment to clock low flying, high speed travelers. Not anymore:  

(Business Insider India, May 21, 2014)

Turbulent Airwaves. Equipment to jam radar systems has been around for years. Little surprise the New Radar will soon experience same:  

(Wired, June 3, 2014)

Cheap Flight. Can't find a cheap ticket to a fun place? Not to fear. Click the link below and 2 minutes later you'll know how to bring the fun back to flying, at a VERY affordable price:

(The Wall Street Journal Videos, June 8, 2014)

Pizza Air. By now I'm sure you've heard of the beer company that was planning to deliver its beverages by drone only to be shutdown by the FAA. Heartbreaking development given the ever resourceful folks in India have been working on airborne delivery of the other half of the tasty duo adored around the world:

The Times of India, May 22, 2014)

Flying High. Which country has the highest flyers? Graphic above and link below tell the story: 

(Gizmodo, May 14, 2014)

Here's Hoping Your Weekend is a Smooth Ride Without Any Bumps!

Graphic credits:
Turbulent Airwaves - Huffington Post 
Flying High - WHO

Thursday, June 19, 2014

DHS Concerned About GPS Threat to Infrastructure

Recent research has left the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concerned America's infrastructure may be vulnerable to a previously unappreciated threat: spoofing/jamming  of the GPS timing signal used to control system-wide functions of smart grids and communications networks. More:

(Inside GNSS, June 10, 2014)

Comment: Want to know more on this one? Here are some previous EPC Updates on the topic:

(August 1, 2013)

(June 12, 2012)

Graphic credit: DHS

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Still Slugging It Out - And Apple is Still Loosing

The first two weeks of June were upbeat for Google's mapping efforts. First came word that Google Nearby was close to launch, then news that Google was purchasing satellite company Skybox. Meanwhile, reports seem to indicate Apple will need to do a whole bunch more than buy Spotsetter to keep up.

(Techcrunch, June 8, 2014)

Comment: Bottom line remains the same. This slug-fest will ultimately be won by the one with the best data!

Graphic credit:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Regulating GPS App Use - The Next Legal Mess

Little doubt distracted driving is a problem. Now bubbling to the top in the discussion of what to do about it comes the issue of smartphone map apps. Does using one of these hand-held navigation tools violate the prohibition against cell phone use while driving that exist in many states? And, are these apps inherently more dangerous than built-in navigation systems? Welcome to the next legal mess born in the fast moving world of geospatial technology. More below:

(New York Times, June 15, 2014)

Comment: Good luck with this one. As much as I am sympathetic with the end goal, the proposed solutions currently being offered amount to "regulating the sun". Try as you may, it's not going to work and you'll just end up creating a bunch of useless paperwork that will cause legal food fights till the cows come home. Seems to me efforts instead need to focus on installation hardware and placement, and using the smartphone's accellorometer to turn off the phone feature. Just a thought.

Photo credit: LA Times 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Improving Disaster Resiliency Through GIS: The Philippines

For the past several months, online publication Future Gov Asia Pacific has featured a series of articles about ongoing efforts in the Philippines to improve disaster resiliency. Coming in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan, central to these efforts has been the substantial leveraging of geospatial technologies. More below:

(Future Gov Asia Pacific, June 9, 2014)

(Future Gov Asia Pacific, May 8, 2014)

(Future Gov Asia Pacific, March 20, 2014)

Comment: Great to see these efforts in the fabulous country that is the Rep├║blika ng Pilipinas. Best of luck for quick and thorough adoption!

Photo credit: Future Gov Asia Pacific

Friday, June 13, 2014

Google and Twitter Join Forces to Respond to Disasters

Last week Google and Twitter quietly joined forces. Point of cooperation? Bringing relevant Tweets into Google's Public Alerts service found on Google Now, Search and Maps. Article below:

(Wired, June 4, 2014)

Comment: Disaster response is a team sport. Thus, it's absolutely great to see these two tech behemoths working together for the benefit of all.  Very cool!

Have a Great Weekend!

Graphic credit: NDTV Gadgets

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Uber Creates Protests Against the Geospatial Revolution

In a little over five years, a concept and a geospatial app has turned Uber into a $18.2 billion company. Yesterday, taxi drivers across Europe staged mass protests against this development in the Geospatial Revolution. Links below tell the story if you missed it in the major media:  

(CNN, June 11, 2014)

(The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2014)

Comment: Neither today's nor yesterday's post are about technologies that are currently widely adopted in the Emergency Services Sector (ESS). However, in the same way Uber has disrupted long established approaches to business in the public realm, it is only a matter of time before these types of emerging geospatial technologies will have the same impact on the ESS.

Photo credit: NPR/Getty

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Revolution has Started: First Commercial Drone Flight in U.S.

On the northernmost edge of U.S. territory, the revolution has started. On Sunday, a Puma AE drone operated under contract to BP became the first FAA authorized commercial drone to operate over land. Links below tell the story of the opening phase of developments that will forever change how geospatial information technologies are used in this country.
(AeroVironment, Inc. News Release, June 10, 2014)

(LA Times, June 10, 2014)
(The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2014)

Comment: Call it the "Flight Heard Round the World".

Photo credit: AeroVironment

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

World Bank Releases an Open Data Guide for Disasters

It's been on the street for several months, but that doesn't diminish the value of the most recent effort by the World Bank to promote "open data". Back in July 2011 they opened up their data vaults to the rest of the world. Now, they're helping facilitate the process for others by offering a guide that spells out the process - all in the name of making geospatial data available to save lives. More below:

(World Bank News Release, March 19, 2014)

Comment: Very nice! However, I'm wondering why a guide like this would be necessary. Apparently, there must be some folks out there who still have their geospatial data locked up because they think it's more valuable than what's owned by the World Bank. Hello......HellooOooo, is there anybody in those craniums?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Roger Easton, Father of GPS is Dead at 93

With nothing more than a bachelor's degree to his name, Roger Easton, Sr. showed the world that technological brilliance isn't confined to only those with a high level of academic achievement. He did so by inventing the technology we all now call GPS. Awarded 11 patents, his service to the nation included 37 years with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), and two terms in the New Hampshire Legislature. In honor of his memory, the NRL recently published an obituary penned by his son Richard. Find it below:

(NRL News Release, May 29, 2014)

Comment: Rest In Peace, Roger Easton. You made the world an immeasurably better place by helping 100's of millions of people each day accurately answer the question  - "Where Am I"?

Photo credit: Techcrunch

Friday, June 6, 2014

High Five Friday: April 2014

First Friday of the month. Time to look back and see which posts turned out to be the top five from the month, two back. Quick and dirty - in descending order - here they are:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

DHS Geospatial Concept of Operations is Now Online

Earlier this week the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Geospatial Management Office (GMO) announced a new online version of the Homeland Security (HLS) Geospatial Concept of Operations (GeoCONOPS) is now available as part of the Department of Interior's (DOI) Federal Geospatial Platform. According to the bulletin released by the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation Level Data Working Group (HIFLD), the HLS GeoCONOPS is intended to be:
...a strategic roadmap to understand, and improve, the coordination of geospatial activities across the entire spectrum of the Nation: from federal, to state, and local governments, to private sector and community organizations, academia, the research and development industry and citizens in support of Homeland Security and Homeland Defense (HD).
To review the online version, go here:


Good: Hats off to the GMO and HIFLD crew for their efforts to improve visibility and understanding of the Federal HLS and HD approach to business. Efforts such as this go a long way toward creating awareness that can be used to expand efforts and ultimately achieve program goals.

Other: Please consider the intended audience (emphasis added):

The entire geospatial community within the Homeland Security Enterprise that supports the missions of the federal government under The Stafford Act, the National Response Framework (NRF) and Presidential Policy Directives (PPD-8), and (PPD-21).
Sorry, but if you truly want this concept to work, you're going to have to deal with the elephant in the room. What's the plan, and more importantly, where's the funding, to bring the granularity of local data into the equation? A handful of contractor collects and a few HIFLD To The Regions folks aren't going to get you there. Without that piece of the puzzle, you can't claim the GEOCONOPS is going to achieve authoritative, or current data. My comments that accompanied release of the 2012 GEOCONOPS remain. Go here:

(Monday August 6, 2012)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Police Drone Race? New York City Versus Los Angeles

According to news reports dating back to 2010, New York City has been "considering" employing drones to support police work for some time. However, given the big city East Coast-West Coast rivalry that exists between places like New York City and Los Angeles, looks like that day is here if the Big Apple wants to keep up with the City of Angels. 

(New York Daily News, May 27, 2014)

(LA Times, May 30, 2014)

Comment: As noted in the LA article, the two drones acquired by the LAPD are the same two that were grounded in Seattle after there was a public outcry against the technology.  That fact would seem to suggest there are three basic principles for any police department that wants to successfully employ this technology:

1.) Transparency,
2.) Ensuring clearly defined policies and procedures are in place BEFORE the platform is used, and
3.) Consistent broadcast of a PR message that says: A "police drone” does not equal a "military drone” – it’s nothing more than a better pair of binoculars.

Photo credit: 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

GPS Battle Heats Up: Russia Retaliates

This past winter the U.S. Congress enacted legislation that will keep Russian GPS base stations (GLONASS - Global Navigation Satellite System) off U.S. soil. Now, as so often happened during the Cold War, the Russians have announced plans to take reciprocal action against the United States. U.S. and Russian versions of events can be found below:

(New York Times, June 1, 2014)

(RT, June 2, 2014)

Comment: Unfortunately, it would appear there is going to be no easy way out of this one. The same enhanced signal that can be used for the "common good" (e.g. Search and Rescue), is the same one that can used to improve missile accuracy. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

The 2014 Hurricane Season is Here

It began yesterday, June 1st - the 2014 hurricane season that is. And the question that is on hurricane watcher minds is: Can the U.S. extend a record streak dating back to 2005 when Hurricane Wilma was the last major hurricane (category 3 or higher) to hit the nation's shores? More below:

(Washington Post, May 30, 2014)

Comment: Everybody remembers Hurricane Katrina from 2005, however few remember Rita or Wilma, the other major hurricanes of that year. Yet Wilma alone was the third most expensive hurricane in U.S. history with $20.6 billion in damages in Florida. A big reason for the lack of memory beyond Katrina - preparedness. With the sequentially arrival of each storm, individual states and the nation became better prepared to anticipate and respond. As bad as Wilma was, the potential loss of life and extent of property damage was greatly reduced through effective event management. A lesson learned for anyone who thinks preparedness exercises are wasted time.

Graphic credit - Wilma track: Wikipedia