Friday, August 29, 2014

Fired Weekend: Labor Day 2014

I had the above note waiting for me when I sat down at my computer this morning to write today's post. Oh, well. Guess that means my Labor of Love has come to an end and I get a four-day weekend as a result. So....

Here's Hoping YOUR Labor Day Weekend Has Employment on Both Ends!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Too Dumb to Drive a Car? Help is On Its Way!

When a driverless car can venture onto Washington, DC streets, the technology has come a long way in a short amount of time.  Ready or not, driverless cars may be here sooner than you think.  Details of a recent spin around the nation's capital, and proposed Department of Transportation rule making that will support future development, can be found in the stories below.

(, August 27, 2014)

Comment: It would appear that with sensors and GPS, the fantasy of the past is going to be the reality of the future. And just in time for my kids to take away my car keys.... "Dad, YOU are not driving anymore unless YOU are on autopilot." Huh? Seriously though, I'm thinking that after reviewing the expanded version of the great graphic in the Post story, once these vehicles hit the streets in mass the World Health Organization is going to have another major theme to review in its ongoing study of: "Electromagnetic Fields and Public Health: Radars and Human Health".

Photo credit:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Earthquake Damage Report by Drone

We've all seen them. Earthquake damage reports that are visual. Newspapers, magazines, TV or the Internet - the press giving us maps, photos, graphs, and videos. Now comes damage report by drone.

(LA Times, August 26, 2014)

Comment: Very interesting clip. If you need a reason not to go in a building that looks safe but hasn't been inspected after an earthquake, don't miss examination of the church facade found at 2:50. And, for proof that even modern buildings can have issues in "just" a moderate earthquake, check out the building at 3:57. All of this makes me think there is a future in earthquake damage report by drone!

Graphic credit:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

FEMA Looking For Comments on Its New Flood Map Service Center

On the 19th of August, FEMA formally announced release of its new Flood Map Service Center (MSC). According to the announcement:
The FEMA Risk MAP program is pleased to announce the successful launch of the newly redesigned FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC). In addition to a streamlined and intuitive user interface, the upgraded MSC provides a number of new features and benefits to the public.
Importantly, the MSC is requesting feedback from the public on the site's layout and usability. Details below:

(FEMA News Bulletin, August 19, 2014)

Comments: Per feedback, here's a couple of quick first impressions.

  • Kudos to FEMA for working to improve delivery of the associated suite of products.
  • Product search engine does a nice job of pulling in all available items for an area location (city).

  • The geocoder for street addresses needs improvement - my Minnesota street address defaulted to Missouri instead of offering choices.
  • Placement of the MSC inside the standard FEMA web layout creates confusing and distracting top and lower borders/menus.
  • MAP Center?  How about placing the interactive map on the home page?

  • Find in the header of site's MSC map search interface the following: "To find your flood map, enter an address, a place, or a set of longitude/latitude coordinates (emphasis added)." REALLY FEMA? How about also offering a search based on the U.S. National Grid? Try this. And, several versions of the code are available for free so there is no excuse except institutional inertia gone bad.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ferguson Brings Calls For Police Body Cams

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri have brought focus to the discussion about body camera use by police officers. And oddly, it is one of those rare times when virtually everyone is saying the same thing: The technology is a win-win solution that could go a long way toward keeping similar events from happening in the future. More below:

(The Verge, August 18, 2014)

Comment: Mark me down as another one in favor of this idea. While reviewing some of the stories about this topic that were run here in the past (see below), do the math on the cost of a body camera for every police officer in Ferguson (82 x $399), versus the cost of local law enforcement overtime, State Patrol and Missouri National Guard deployments, community ill will, and civil unrest damages. That one is not even close.

(EPC Updates, January 15, 2014)

(EPC Updates, January 24, 2012)

Graphic Credit: Taser

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Crime Satellites Coming Soon

On June 11, 2014, the United States government relaxed restrictions on commercial satellite vendors so that they can now sell imagery with resolutions down to 25cm to non-military customers. If circumstances in the U.K repeat in the U.S, one of the beneficiaries of this development could be police departments across the nation. More below:

(CNN, August 12, 2014)

Comment: Perhaps. But there is nothing specifically special about collecting imagery with a satellite within the jurisdiction boundary of any one police department that can't be done at least as well with a properly configured aircraft. Where the advantage goes to satellites is when dealing with multi-jurisdictional or regional/national cases where a consistent and detailed view of a crime scene is not otherwise available.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Crowdsourcing Crime App Creates LOTS of Controversy

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now developers of SketchFactor, an app which allows users to report their impressions about public safety in the urban environment, find themselves in hot water as charges of racism hit the internet and press. Details below:

(Washington Post, August 12, 2014)

Comment: History repeats itself.  As reported on January 9, 2012, MicroSoft was awarded a patent for a GPS feature which uses crime statistics to provide routing around known areas of trouble. That software soon became dubbed "Avoid Ghetto" technology. Thus, there should be little surprise that SketchFactor is now seeing the same reaction as what MicroSoft experienced. Here are a couple of examples from the past:

(NPR, January 19, 2012)

Graphic credit:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

San Jose Police Go "Smart" on Drone

The San Jose Police Department (SJPD) recently made known it had purchased a Century Neo 660 radio-controlled six-rotor helicopter style drone or UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) in January 2014 using money from a Department of Homeland Security grant program. According to reports, the SJPD plans to use the UAS to support its bomb squad and during circumstances which pose immediate risk to the public safety like hostage or active shooter events. However, the department has also indicated they will not deploy the UAS until they have conducted a community outreach effort and developed "the policy and procedures that will provide an appropriate and practical framework to guide the operation of the UAS." Details below: 

(, August 6, 2014)

Comment: Wow - here's a department that's got its thinking straight on putting this important tool in the hands of its officers. Step One: Make sure the community knows what's taking place (aka transparency - although the ACLU has argued the SJPD hasn't been transparent enough). Step Two: Develop procedures and policy (head off claims of illegal activity). Step Three: Deploy the asset to help save lives. All too often the problem with departments which have previously jumped into the drone game is they have started with Step Three and then tried to work backwards. An approach certain to breed mistrust and suspicion with the public.    

Photo credit: Century Helicopter Products

Monday, August 18, 2014

FEMA Issues Updated National Preparedness Report and National Response Framework

The past two weeks have been busy for FEMA with regard to operational documents. On August 6th, FEMA formally released its 2014 National Preparedness Report. Dated March 30, 2014, the 79-page report serves as an "annual status report on the Nation’s progress toward reaching the National Preparedness Goal of a secure and more resilient nation." Then on August 13th, FEMA announced release of the 2014 version of the National Response Framework (NRF). To facilitate understanding of the NRF and companion National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP), FEMA also announced they will be hosting a series of webinars in the coming weeks. Find below links to these documents and associated websites - all just in time for National Preparedness Month:

(March 30, 2014, FEMA)

(FEMA, August 13, 2014)

Comment: Failing to plan, is planning to fail.  So kudos go out to FEMA for their continued efforts to plan for, and develop, operational structures and procedures that bring organization to the nation's Emergency Services Sector. Importantly for members of the geospatial community, key to effective use of geospatial technologies within this world is understanding mapping efforts need to fit in and respond to these structures and procedures - it's not the other way around.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Freeway Friday: Devil Mobile, Yank Invasion, Johnny Cab, Turn Right, and Smash Map

It's been a while since I last drove this blog over the edge. So if you dare, jump in, and strap in, for a mindless full-throttle tour of the latest absurd stuff to arrive. Parachute optional.

Devil Mobile: In the "Devil Made Me Buy This Car" category, looks like Hyundai has come up with a way to use GPS to defeat speed cameras. Fortunately for law enforcement, the manufacturer's suggested retail price for the offending vehicle and its technology will keep it out of the hands of us commoners (at least for the time being). 

(June 25, 2014,

Yank Invasion: Last time there were a bunch of Yanks in the U.K., it had something to do with keeping a bunch of Germans out. Funny how history repeats itself as American "down on the farm know-how" techies will soon be pitted against the ever clever, mad-men precision mechanics from Deutschland in the latest Battle for Britain

(The Telegraph, July 29, 2014)

Johnny Cab: Speaking of driverless cars being "da bomb", turns out the FBI is more than a little bit concerned about that possibility. 

(The Guardian, July 16, 2014)

Turn Right: Apparently the driver of a Google Street View car  wasn't using Google Maps, GPS, or any other sort of navigation device (perish the thought - not even a map) when the vehicle caused a mell of hess after going the wrong-way down a one-way street in Little Rock, Arkansas. If it were me headed to the pokey for this offense, my defense would be "insanity" caused by driving around mindlessly for hours while knowing every bad driving move I made would be recorded in 360-degree panoramic photos. 

(The Smoking Gun, August 7, 2014)

Smash Map: Things have gone dirty in the race for "where" supremacy after it was discovered Esri has been developing a way to map all crashes of the aforementioned Google Street View cars. Concept currently under validation in New York City. 

Here's Hoping Your Weekend is a Gas!

Photo/Graphic Credits
- Lead graphic:
- The Devil:
- Johnny Cab:

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Earlier this summer, a Coffee Break Training bulletin produced by the National Fire Academy highlighted TsunamiEvac-NW, an ongoing effort which uses online mapping and smartphone technologies to help U.S. and Canadian residents of the Pacific Northwest to become better prepared to deal with tsunamis. In addition to providing individuals with a way to plan evacuation routes and map important landmarks, these interactive products by the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) show active warnings and watches and provide information about tsunami safety precautions. Details below:

(U.S. Fire Administration, June 25, 2014)

Comment: Kudos to NANOOS.  As developer of this anticipatory product, they clearly believe the old saying: "An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

FREE Webinar: Overview of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for GITA - Tuesday, August 19, 1:00 PM Central

In recognition that efforts underway to introduce Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in U.S. airspace over the next 18 months will have far ranging impact on the nation, two educational powerhouses in the geospatial community have combined forces to deliver their first ever joint webinar. Hosted by the Geospatial Information & Technology Association, the nation's leading infrastructure focused geospatial association, and delivered by the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), the world's foremost association for professionals working with overhead geospatial sensors and related data, the webinar's stated objectives include:

  • An introductory discussion on UAS, as part of a larger robotics landscape, and the exciting evolution it brings to a well established existing mapping and remote sensing science and technology portfolio.
  • With the timeframe for such implementation being dependent on the finalization of applicable regulation by the FAA, Congress and the State Legislatures, this webinar will provide an update of the state of UAS at the FAA.
  • Outline of ASPRS’s cooperation with other stakeholder communities, societies and organizations – such as GITA in the development of an enabling environment supportive of the use of UAS in Geographic Information Science.

Event details:

  • Date: Tuesday, August 19, 2014
  • Time: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM Central 
  • Cost: Free
  • More details: Click here
  • Add to Calendar (use button on page that opens): Click here
  • How to Attend Webinar Instructions: Click here

No need to register in advance, but space will be available on a first come, first serve basis. So don't be late if you want to attend!

(No need to pre-register)

Comment: Here's a great opportunity to begin building a foundation of understanding on a topic that will reshape availability and usability of geospatial imagery in the years ahead.  It's also a perfect starting point for members of the Emergency Services Sector who would like to gain insights into basic concepts and capabilities!  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

U.S. Earthquake Hazard Maps Updated by USGS

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently updated its National Seismic Hazard Maps for the lower 48. Last published in 2008, the 2014 maps were developed using new ground motion models and show 42 out of 48 states at risk for damage from ground shaking in the next 50 years. Areas at risk for significant damage remain primarily the West Coast and New Madrid Seismic Zone. However, when the new models and recent activity in those two areas were considered together, there is potential for greater damage than previously anticipated.  More below:

(Click on: "Lower 48 Maps and Data")

(Report download page)  

Comment: I knew there was a reason I'm living in Minnesota besides the great appreciable chance of an earthquake! All kidding aside, even those states without significant direct threat from an earthquake should be planning for one. That's because in this day and age of interconnected infrastructure a significant event in one part of the country is going to have serious indirect impact on other parts. And, there will be a need for significant response and recovery assets from outside the quake zone. Of great concern in that regard is the New Madrid Seismic Zone through which a substantial amount of the nation's liquid energy (in pipelines) and a majority of nation's inland waterway commerce passes. Unfortunately, to date, much of the response planning for that area has only involved states which would be directly impacted.   

Monday, August 11, 2014

Corporate Crime Solving via Smart Phone Location Services

It's not just the police who are using smart phone location services to solve crimes. Legal departments for some major employers have now joined the mix. More below: 

(Inside Counsel, July 28, 2014)

Comment: Yup - a smart phone is a whole bunch more than just a phone. So if a corporation has sensitive material it truly needs to protect from wannabee James Bond types, smart phones of all types need to be checked at the building entrance. However, good luck enforcing that one.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Thinking About Imagery

From humble beginnings in the late 1990s, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, or "International Charter"(IC) for short, has continued to evolve as the recognized way for countries to share their respective national satellite capabilities with other countries in need of imagery after a disaster. As documented on the Charter's website, this sharing has now become routine and ongoing, regardless if a country has overhead assets or not. Find below an article that describes U.S. participation and a link to the IC website:

(USGS News Release, July 24, 2014)

Comment: As eluded to in Monday's post, on July 23rd, yours truly moderated an Imagery Roundtable discussion in Minneapolis, MN. The panel included Dr. Shirish Ravan, Director Beijing UN-SPIDER; Talbot Brooks, GITA President; Dan Ross, Minnesota CGIO; Dr. Paul Morin and Charles Nguyen, U of M Polar Geospatial Center; Brian Huberty, USFWS Remote Sensing; Bob Basques, City of St. Paul Open Source Developer; Joella Givens, FBI Infragard P2CAT Program; and Dave DiSera, Chair of GITA's Research Committee.  It was a frank, far ranging, and insightful discussion about the significant problems that remain when it comes to effective and timely use of imagery in all parts of the Emergency Management Cycle, both inside and outside the U.S. At a later date I'll offer here some of those takeaways. Until then, you have the opportunity to Think About Imagery over the weekend by reflecting on the question set below that was used to guide the discussion:


Have A Great Weekend!

Photo credit: The Cleveland Museum of Art

Thursday, August 7, 2014

White House Showcases Disaster Response Technologies

On July 29th, The White House sponsored Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative Demo Day. Touted as a showcase of, "innovations in both government and the private sector that aim to aid the survivors of large-scale emergencies," the event offered an amazing range of products. Reports below: 

(Emergency Management, July 29, 2014)

(The White House, July 29, 2014)

Comment: Ah, OK. However, there is one thing missing in all that fancy stuff. Something that can outstrip the combined "life saving and reduction in suffering" value of everything offered at the event - and it's free. The U.S. National Grid as the Response Language of Location.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tracking Gone Wild

The list below won't be as long as the Girls Gone Wild series, but it should give pause nonetheless. With each new and inventive way to track an individual's location, comes the message that information about location is very, very important. So find below some of the latest and greatest ways to keep tabs on us, whether we like it or not:

(egadget, August 1, 2014)

(LBx Journal, July 30, 2014)

(The Telegraph, July 29, 2014)

(Bloomberg, July 2, 2014)

(Athens Banner-Herald, June 5, 2014)

Comment: The above list would suggest there are two main interwoven themes at the root of endeavors which are slowly chipping away at the individual's ability to keep personal location information private: security, and commercial pursuit of the almighty dollar.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Best "Hands On" USNG Article Ever Written

Over the years I've read plenty, and written lots, about the U.S. National Grid. From that perspective, I'm here to tell you the article below gets my vote as the best "hands on" piece ever written about the U.S. National Grid:

(Fire Engineering, August 4, 2014)

Comment: Got Grid?

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Business Point of View on Disaster GIS

$65 billion, $43 billion, $82 billion - when loss numbers like this get linked to a disaster, all too often it's easy to think government alone got stuck with the bill. However, recently, a UK business professional offered some thoughts on the issue from the insurance perspective. Central to that discussion is how important GIS has become to sector efforts to hold down cost. Below:

(Business Reporter, July 29, 2014)

Comment: Point of this article is well placed. GIS has been documented to have game changing economic value throughout the Emergency Management Cycle. For example, studies have shown GIS use during development of mitigation efforts can yield returns of $7-24 for every dollar spent.* The more tightly integrated the location's infrastructure, the higher the return on investment.

* Comments by Dr. Shirish Ravan, UN-SPIDER and Dave DiSera, GITA Research Committee Chair, Minneapolis Imagery Roundtable Discussion, July 23, 2014. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

First Friday: June 2014

As most readers of this blog know, I tend to clown around with my Friday posts. However, given this is the first Friday of the month, and that means it's time to review the top five posts for the month that's two back, I'm having a real hard time getting in the mood. In fact, I think it would be downright disrespectful when the month under review is June 2014 - the month that includes the one year anniversary of when 19 wildland firefighters lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire. Furthermore, it would appear blog readers think the same thing - the two posts from that month which focus on how to improve safety in the wildland fire community - made the top five:

1. DHS Geospatial Concept of Operations is Now Online, June 5