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2005 April 7


Editor's Introduction
State GIS Web Sites
Political Uses of GIS

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Editor's Introduction

In this week's issue of GIS Monitor I continue my coverage of state GIS Web sites, report on a very thought-provoking recent talk about political uses of GIS, and do my usual roundup of industry news.

— Matteo

State GIS Web Sites

I received much mail in response to my piece last week about state GIS Web sites. I give you here another batch of descriptions of these sites. Then, in a few weeks, after I've received a few more corrections and additions, I will compile and post the most complete list I can of URLs. It will not be carved in stone, of course, just entered in HTML — so, I will periodically update it.

You might also want to take a look at the
Web site of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) and their report on state GIS activities.

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental and Geographic Information Center (EGIC) maintains the Web site that I mentioned last week. Most of the GIS datasets available through the site are statewide, planning oriented, and static in nature, but some — such as DEP Property, Aquifer Protection Areas, and Natural Diversity Database (generalized) Areas — are updated regularly, usually on a two to six month cycle. Most of the datasets on the site, including those that are updated regularly, come from within DEP, although there are a fair number of static datasets that have a connection to outside entities, primarily federal agencies, such as NRCS and FEMA.
     DEP's GIS data Web site are part of its effort to fulfill EGIC's basic mission to collect and maintain useful geographic and environmental information about Connecticut, and to make it available to as wide an audience as possible.
     Other state agencies maintain GIS Web sites, including the Departments of Transportation and Economic & Community Development, both of which are listed on the MIT list that I referenced.
     The University of Connecticut's Map and Geographic Information Center (MAGIC) Web site was one of the first Web clearinghouses for GIS data in the country. It also contains a variety of other interesting geographic information.
     The Connecticut GIS User-to-User Network — a GIS Users Group that attempts to reach out to, and foster communication among, state GIS users of all types — also maintains a Web site.
     Connecticut's recently-formed Geospatial Council plans to have an official Web site up and running by the end of May, on which it will post information related to monthly council meetings, committee work and other council initiatives, state GIS initiatives, and relevant news.
     Plans are also underway to develop a Connecticut state geospatial Web portal that would function as a central ("enterprise") system for integrating, viewing, and retrieving data from multiple state agencies and from other state data producers. The prototype for the portal was tested just this week during Connecticut's participation in TOPOFF 3, the international Homeland Security exercise.
     If they are successful, these two Web sites should grow to represent the state's primary official GIS Web presence.

Delaware's DataMIL Web site contains all of the state's framework layers and is the main source for spatial data in the state. It is a joint project of the United States Geological Survey, the University of Delaware, the Delaware Geographic Data Committee, and the Delaware Geological Survey.

The Georgia Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) / GIS Clearinghouse Web site includes external links to educational sources, mission statements, pertinent contact information, and explanations for datasets served via the site.
     The state's GIS Coordinating Committee (GISCC) — a group of GIS volunteers from state and local government and from the private sector who decide on the GIS needs of the state — provides meeting minutes and handouts.
     Publications regarding statewide coordination activities, guidelines, and/or policy are added as they are generated. Many of the documents — including the Policy for Statewide GIS Activities and the standards and guidelines documents — date back to 1996, when the GSDI / Clearinghouse was just getting started.
     The Georgia GIS calendar is updated constantly. This portion of the GSDI site includes links and information to every Georgia GIS-related activity known to the GSDI / Clearinghouse staff.
     Data published to the Clearinghouse are submitted by their owners, which include state agencies, local governments, private industry, and the public. For example, over the past 12 months new postings have included approximately 300 digital orthophoto quarter quads from the 1999 USGS flyover (completing the state), 11 counties' worth of 2002 aerial imagery from USGS, an updated version of the statewide roads layer (reconciled with the GDOT roads-characteristics file), geo-coded metro Atlanta retailers, and over 400 Georgia species maps/models.

The state of Hawaii's GIS Web site, which I highlighted last week, posts new data and updates from federal, state, and local government agencies based on the islands — as long as metadata exists for that particular data set.
     The Hawaii Geographic Information Coordinating Council — an all-volunteer organization — also maintains a Web site; among its content are materials from GISMAP, a biennial conference on GIS mapping in the Pacific.

Indiana's state agency GIS coordination Web site is updated quarterly to annually; planning documents are updated most often. The site is just now beginning to address stewardship issues and data distribution. Meanwhile, the best source of state agency data is from a site sponsored by the Indiana Department of Transportation at the Indiana Geological Survey.
     The Indiana GIS Initiative (INGISI) deals with statewide GIS coordination and runs its own Web site.

The Maryland State Geographic Information Committee (MSGIC) maintains its own Web site and the Maryland Mapping Resource Guide maintaines a clearinghouse node. This is Maryland's geospatial one stop (GOS) and is harvested on a periodic basis by the federal GOES portal. Metadata records are entered on a daily basis by individuals and organizations within Maryland. While open for anyone to use, it is targeted at the Maryland geospatial community and has a data browsing capability with links to state agency web sites for data download. Both of these sites are supported by MSGIC in partnership with Towson University's Center for Geographic Information Sciences.
     Other Maryland GIS Web sites showcase the GIS activities of individual state agencies. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources maintains the Maryland Environmental Resources and Land Information Network (MERLIN) Online, an online mapping system that is updated on a monthly basis to add new data layers or update existing data, and the Geospatial Data Center, where geospatial databases can be freely downloaded. These represent internal data holdings that are made freely available to the public and updated on a weekly or monthly basis.
     The Maryland State Highway Administration maintains a data download Web site. These represent internal data holdings that are made publicly and freely available.
     The Maryland Department of Planning maintains a data download Web site. These represent internal data holdings that are made available to the public.
     Additional state GIS sites include the Tax Map Ordering System, the Census/Redistricting Address Lookup, Maryland PFA Online, Maryland Land Use Online, and MDP GIS Data Download.

The Center for Geographic Information's (CGI) Web site serves as a portal to state government GIS resources. It contains a wide range of data and information produced by CGI and many state agencies. Information is updated on a regular basis as new products are developed for public release. For example, the Michigan Geograpic Framework (the state's basemap) is updated annually with intermittent "special" releases and the overall Geographic Data Library contains publicly available data representing an estimated $30 million state investment.
     The site also contains information ranging from "published" maps to an inventory of online mapping applications, and from overviews of statewide projects to standards documentation. Over the past six months ths site has received on average of 2,000 visits daily and over 277 GBs of data have been downloaded.

The Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium, a non-profit organization that serves GIS professionals in the state, maintaines a Web site, produces an annual conference with an attendance of about 600 people, publishes a quarterly newsletter, and e-mails announcements of key information.
     The University of Minnesota maintains a geographic information science Web site, listing relevant programs and faculty.

The Mississippi Automated Resource Information System (MARIS) Technical Center maintains a Web site that offers access to a wide range of resources — including search and retrieval of metadata, retrieval of Mississippi data sets, posting of news related to GIS developments, announcements of upcoming meetings and events, mapping of data sets, and access to and retrieval of aerial photography covering the state. (As one reader pointed out to me, the link to this site on the MIT list was "dead" simply because it was pointing to a sub-page somewhere on the site.)

Montana maintains a landownership (cadastral) information Web site designed to provide citizen access to property records in an effecient manner and eliminates the need to drive to the local courthouse to obtain the information. It contains map data, such as parcel splits and new subdivisions. Updates are submitted by eight counties that maintain their own data and by 48 counties whose data is maintained by the state's Department of Revenue. The staff of the Montana Information Technology Services Division's GIS Bureau then integrates this data into a framework cadastral database. The Web site also contains tabular property appraisal data collected by property appraisers at the Department of Revenue in their Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) database.

Pennsylvania's GIS Web site is updated weekly or biweekly, normally by adding new documents, briefing sheets, presentations, calendar items, etc. Because it is maintained by a two-person bureau, it is a communications resource and the staff drive as many people as possible to it to learn about what they are doing and their priorities for the state's GT enterprise initiatives taking place.

The Tennessee Geographic Information Council (TNGIC) maintains a Web site that serves the state's GIS community. It also sponsors the Tennessee Spatial Metadata Clearinghouse, which allows users to input, edit, and search spatial metadata. The Tennessee Federal GIS Users Group sponsors the Tennessee Spatial Data Server. Developed by a consortium of federal GIS personnel throughout the state, it distributes spatial data layers that are shared among federal, state, and local GIS facilities. Finally, the GIS Services Division of the Office for Information Resources of the Department of Finance & Administration maintains the GiSource Web site.

The West Virginia GIS Technical Center at West Virginia University hosts the state's GIS Clearinghouse, which is continually updated with new data sets and GIS news supplied by in-house staff and others doing GIS in the state. The clearinghouse provides a focal point for coordination, access, and maintenance of the most current available data and information developed for geospatial analysis and related mapping activities in West Virginia.

In addition to the Wisconsin GIS Web sites I reported last week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources maintains a Data Clearinghouse and the Wisconsin Land Information Association also maintains a Web site.

Political Uses of GIS

At the 2005 GeoTec Event conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a few weeks ago (see my write up in
the February 24 issue of GIS Monitor) Professor Mark Monmonier gave a keynote address titled "Exploring the Societal Impacts of Geospatial Technology: Customization, Control, and Unintended Consequences." Monmonier, a professor at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and in the Department of Geography at Syracuse University, is the author of, among other works, How to Lie with Maps and Spying with Maps: Surveillance Technologies and the Future of Privacy.

I found Monmonier's analysis of geospatial technology very thought-provoking and useful in understanding the larger political context in which it is being developed and used. He explored three questions: whether it is "value-neutral" or "value-laden" (a debate that, he said, "was a hot issue ten years ago"); how it can be customized and controlled; and its unintended consequences.

GIS, according to him, can be used against technologically unsophisticated, "marginalized" groups and individuals. This raises question of power relationships, because data and knowledge are a source of power and information can easily be manipulated when put onto maps. Because they are what social scientists call representations, rather than the much larger real-world phenomena they represent, data are more readily vulnerable to manipulation — which reflects someone's values. This debate fostered a lot of interest in public-participation GIS (P-P-GIS), which gains promise and credibility because of the Internet.

If GIS is inherently value-laden, what about some other technologies, Monmonier asked? Trucks, for example, can deliver goods to markets and the injured to hospitals — as well as help soldiers on a battlefield defend or attack, for good or evil. Plumbing let's us shower easily every day and separates our drinking water from fecal matter but also helped the Nazis execute millions of people in gas chambers.

While GIS is a tool that in a democratic society can backfire if not used judiciously, planning as practiced by urban planners, regional planners, emergency planners, site planners, and geopolitical strategists is very much a process, rather than a tool, and thus much more likely to be value-laden.

One overriding theme of cartography in the twentieth century is the enormous increase in customized, thematic maps of all kinds. More recently, we've seen the emergence of Web maps and dynamic maps: they can offer a dramatic, convincing description of a complex process but are also vulnerable to manipulation.

Control is equally important, according to Monmonier, "and more than a little threatening, insofar as geospatial technology can be a vehicle for modifying human behavior as well as for defending the environment and for defending us from weather, seismic activity, and other hazards."

He termed this "the control imperative" and gave four examples of its diverse applications: cruise missiles, environmental protection, nuclear nonproliferation, and precision agriculture.

Cruise missiles, Monmonier explained, can customize an attack by killing fewer people than carpet bombing, a full-scale land invasion, or a nuclear attack. However, because the consequences are more measured, leaders are also more tempted to use them more frequently. Map historians must recognize the cruise missile as a significant impetus to the development of DEM (digital elevation model) technology. When taken in context, he concluded, geospatially-guided weapons are inherently ambiguous.

As an application domain, Monmonier continued, environmental protection is comparatively benign. Simulation reduces risks by assessing the consequences of our decisions about where to live, how to produce energy, and what to spray on crops or release to the atmosphere.

Nuclear nonproliferation is another manifestation of the control imperative coupled with customized geospatial technology, in this case to monitor explosions in the atmosphere or underground. It is easier to trust our adversaries if we can see what they are up to. The "trickle down" has been useful too, Monmonier added, in promoting the understanding of seismic activity and wildland fire.

Precision farming — using satellite imagery, GIS, and GPS to more efficiently allocate irrigation water, fertilizer, and pesticides at the sub-field level — is "an intriguing mix of customization and control", he continued. It produces a larger, more certain food supply, but entails a loss of independence for the small farmer, more likely to be under the thumb of lending institutions and corporations that sell or lease the technology and tell him how to use it.

Monmonier then reviewed customization and control in greater detail through five case studies: location tracking / locational privacy, which involves a variety of surveillance devices, on the ground as well as from space; modeling and mitigating indoor radon, which, he claimed, illustrates the power of modeling and cartographic propaganda; low-level radioactive waste siting and political redistricting, both as illustrations of "flagrant misuse"; and the comparatively new challenge of homeland security and the "war on terror."

According to Monmonier, geospatial technology affects privacy in several ways. Public-space surveillance — by means of video cameras and acoustic monitoring - casts a wide net, whereas tracking of individuals — by means of GPS, RFID, card transactions, and wireless triangulation systems — can follow them as they move through space. The possibility of reconstructing a subject's movements for whatever period the data are retained in the system raises the possibility of selling our locational histories to retailers or stalkers, which raises in turn the question of who owns the information, and what they can do with it. What he termed "passive public-space surveillance" is growing and the possibility of efficient, reliable biometric algorithms makes it potentially more invasive as well as more effective in protecting the public from criminals and terrorists. For example, Shot Spotter uses a network of microphones mounted on telephone poles to estimate the origin of gunshots.

Personal tracking has a broad range of applications, mostly benign. Monmonier gave the example of Digital Angel, which uses GPS to keep track of the location of people, such as children and the elderly, and uses the wireless network to report it. The Federal Communications Commission's E-911 mandate, enabled by the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999, requires all cell phone service providers over the next few years to implement location reporting — which wireline telephone have had for years. Another kind of tracking system is E-Z pass, which uses a small RFID tag to identify vehicles at toll stations. It expedites traffic flow, but also compiles a sort of locational history.

Geospatial surveillance, according to Monmonier, raises a variety of questions about the societal implications of customization and control. However, in a democratic society we have some control over the extent to which we may be watched and by whom. Some day, he speculated, customized cell phones might have a 'do not track' button, that gives the user customized control of his or her locational privacy. I have two comments on this point. First, early discussions and marketing efforts regarding E-911 (enhanced 911), roadside assistance, and other similar location-based services take the reverse approach: it is up to the user/subscriber to chose to reveal his or her location, either as a permanent condition of use of the service or at the moment of requesting assistance. In other words, users "opt in" rather than "opt out." Second, the guarantee that a user is not being actively tracked by the network is a matter of policy and trust because, to the best of my understanding of the technology, it is virtually impossible to know for sure. More Orwellian scenarios, Monmonier pointed out, include subdermal chips, such as one patented by the developer of Digital Angel.

His next example was indoor radon — a colorless, odorless gas that seeps into homes through cracks or other breaches in the foundation. It is a recognized cause of lung cancer but well behind smoking in importance. Risk varies geographically, and maps play a role in getting people to have their homes tested. Radon maps, Monmonier explained, reflect the mortality experience and radiation exposure of uranium miners, who had a significantly greater exposure than their employment records indicate and were often heavy smokers. Because their dose was underestimated, the risk associated with a low dose of radon was overestimated.

The EPA's color-coded radon map, he continued, is based on the idea that if a home has a measured concentration of 4 pico-Curies per liter or more, something should be done about it. In Canada, though, the so-called "action level" is 20 pico-Curies per liter. The map's vague key keeps the emphasis on colors and away from the numbers and the science. "It's a good strategy for a propaganda map," Monmonier said, "designed to frighten people to have their homes tested. No point in encouraging the public to ask 'What the heck is a pico-Curie?'" Homeowners, he pointed out, pay most of the costs when government decides to mitigate radon, and because radon is a natural phenomenon, there's no resistance from industry lobbyists. There is, however, a testing industry to sound the alarm and support EPA efforts.

Next, Monmonier, discussed the process for deciding where to locate repositories for low-level radioactive waste. Fifteen years ago, in trying to protect the environment, New York State decided to use an overly customized GIS to locate a single repository. Because many people are deadly afraid of anything with the words "radiation" or "radioactive," state officials underestimated public resistance to an authoritative, "father knows best" approach to finding a site. The siting effort failed "due to blind faith by state officials that the process could be wholly objective, which led them to act a bit heavy-handedly." Additionally, they cut corners, gave the contract to a low bidder, and added numerous politically motivated exclusions, such as Indian reservations and the Adirondack park.

The state's "objective" two-phase process allowed for "public meetings," which created the appearance of openness, and the possibility of "volunteered sites" undermined the effort's alleged objectivity. Phase One, Monmonier explained, consisted of several stages. Statewide exclusionary screening based on a raster GIS with grid cells one mile on a side eliminated much unsuitable territory and potential opposition — and numerous plausibly suitable sites.

The so-called objective process involved computing a score for each cell using a set of weights worked out one weekend in an extended focus group attended by a sampling of experts. An acceptable site was to consist of a group of contiguous cells scoring above a set threshold. Concerns included protecting groundwater, avoiding cities, precipitation, and "proximity to generators." The last factor was intended to minimize shipping hazards by minimizing transport distance. However, the legislature mandated the use of GIS but let the contractor determine the appropriate data and method. The contractor, for example, used straight-line distance for proximity to generators, ignoring noteworthy topographic barriers. "With decent data, GIS can do a whole lot better," commented Monmonier.

Rainfall is important because the water table could rise, invade the repository, and leach out the contaminants. However, the contractor, who was from out of state, did not take into account the fact that in New York all areas are significantly humid and vulnerable to this "tea-bag effect".

By December 1988 the search for a LLRW site had been narrowed to 10 candidate areas, comprising only two percent of the state's area. During the well-attended local hearings that ensued, state officials were repeatedly met with hostile questions. The next phase used topographic maps and a GIS with 40-acres cells. By the following September, Monmonier narrated, they had narrowed the search down to a mere five potential sites, concentrated in only two counties. However, local activists gathered support in opposition to the siting and ridiculed state officials involved in the siting exercise.

Attempts to block an on-site inspection led to local arrests, Monmonier continued. In April there was a near riot, after which the Governor called a moratorium on the siting process. The State's junior senator requested an investigation by the US General Accounting Office, which concluded that the commission's consideration of one of the sites "was inconsistent with some of its procedures — and may not have followed others." In particular, the Taylor North site in Cortland County, which was a volunteered site, was included in the group of five potential sites despite the fact that it did not measure up to the State's so-called objective criteria.

Eventually the state, which was only going through the exercise because the U.S. Congress said they had to, took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and got the Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1985 declared unconstitutional. Congress had compelled the states to find sites for their "radwaste" because the handful of states with licensed dumps didn't want any more. GIS was used because it seemed appropriate but, in New York's case, it backfired.

Finally, Monmonier discussed the periodic redrawing of election district boundaries. In the 1990s, geospatial technology proved a most efficient way to assess impact and explore compliance with the law. Maps are especially important because legislators need to know which areas they represent, and voters need to know who represents them. Since the early 1960s the Census Bureau has addressed these concerns by publishing an atlas of congressional district boundaries — which grew over the next thirty years from 99 pages to 1,272 pages. Many new editions were needed as a result of court challenges, especially in states that treated urban and minority voters unfairly.

GIS, Monmonier explained, helped the New York legislature — under pressure from the courts and the Justice Department — carve out a highly customized district with Hispanic voters in the majority. Because of GIS, some of these districts often were far more complex than the original, gerrymandered districts. The twists and turns of the district's boundary line were then cleverly manipulated to help Democratic incumbents.

This kind of manipulation, Monmonier argued, reflects the convergence of three developments: block-level census data, which were at least partly a result of the Supreme Court's concern with population equality; the U.S. Census Bureau's TIGER, which it developed as an efficient way to tabulate its questionnaires and provide urban-area maps; and GIS, which is "a fantastic tool for experimenting with boundaries and block-level data." For the year 2000 remap, political cartographers had at their disposal very efficient algorithms for protecting incumbents while giving the party in power a distinct advantage.

Monmonier's solution to contorted districts is superdistricts that do not need to be redrawn every ten years and can be based on meaningful boundaries that recognize a common economic interest as well as coherent media markets. Proportional representation — used widely in Europe and tried successfully in a few U.S. cities — is, he argued, "necessary in multi-member districts to balance the unfairness of 'winner take all' elections." Finally, weighted voting lets district boundaries remain unchanged when population increases or decreases. "I see nothing awkward," Monmonier said, "about a situation in which one House member votes a 1.15 share while a colleague has only a 0.85 vote. This is no less workable than the current system, which privileges seniority and the majority party."

If a new remap is allowed to occur every time a new party takes over state government, Monmonier argued, GIS can be seen as potentially harmful. However, if states decentralize power by establishing independent redistricting commissions, geospatial technology holds the hope of less politically driven remaps.

Homeland Security, he admitted, was the least developed part of his talk, "largely because this phase of map history is unfolding as we speak" and its outcome is far from certain.

In evaluating strategies, Monmonier compared "top-down" approaches, implemented nationally with a chain-of-command structure, with "bottom-up" approaches, arising from a more local level. He characterized top-down modes of hazard management as "inherently reactive," and conducive to a reliance on a "technological fix." They are necessary, he argued, but not sufficient. Bottom-up strategies are equally essential. They tend to be anticipatory rather than reactive, and they can make good use of GIS in a PPGIS context.

Finally, Monmonier discussed the issue of information access, which he considers central, especially when information that could be of use to terrorists is also of considerable importance to local officials and the public. "The vague threat of terrorism is too flimsy an excuse for denying access to 'right-to-know' databases," he argued. Fortunately, he pointed out, a RAND Corporation study funded by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and released in May 2004 indicates that so much publicly beneficial geospatial data are "out there," that in all but a few cases trying to restrict access would be unproductive and stupid.

News Briefs

Please note: I have culled the following news items from press releases and have not independently verified them.


GeoAnalytics, Inc., a provider of geographic and land information systems (GIS/LIS) technology and management consulting, and business partner C&C; Solutions have completed a five-year strategic plan for the implementation of an Enterprise GIS (EGIS) for the Florida Department of Health - Division of Environmental Health (DEH). The plan's goal is to implement an enterprise class GIS/GPS system and program that is coordinated and collaborative within the Division and across the Department. The future EGIS will make available geographic data and application services that support the vision, business, and decision-making needs of all agency business units and external constituents.
     GeoAnalytics and C&C; Solutions provided an upfront assessment of current agency conditions to clarify business needs, new objectives, and expectations for GIS/GPS implementation, integrated systems, and end-user applications. Based on those findings, the GeoAnalytics team facilitated a workshop of key stakeholders to build consensus around a conceptual design for a future Division EGIS. The final project phase involved developing a roadmap for implementing the conceptual design by outlining a set of tactical initiatives including associated costs and timeframes for completion.

Tele Atlas/GDT Canada, a provider of digital map data and other geographic content, has acquired a large amount of digital geographic data for the province of Quebec, Canada. The company will use this digital geographic content in its data build and maintenances processes for its Dynamap / Canada and other products.

IDELIX Software Inc. — which specializes in the design and integration of 2D and 3D visualization technologies — and Offshore Systems International Ltd. (OSI) — a fleet supplier of electronic chart systems and software for navigation and situational awareness — have signed a teaming agreement to support the integration of Pliable Display Technology (PDT) by IDELIX into OSI command and control solutions. PDT will be used to enhance geographic situational awareness within OSI products deployed at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.
     According to the company, the need for advanced visualization technologies to combat information overload was necessitated by the increasing availability of live track and sensor information from sources such as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). This integration will allow customers, mostly military, to access various sources of geospatial data from the OSI servers and use the PDT lens to perform continuous local resolution changes that will result in the magnification of detailed information without loss of the contextual data surroundings.

The Canadian Government's National Research Council — Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) has awarded Intermap Technologies $454,000 for further research and development of the Company's X- and P-Band radar technology, which is utilized for digitally mapping 3-dimentional images of Earth's surface. The company will use the money to conduct R&D; activities related to Intermap's airborne data acquisition, processing, and analysis methods and algorithms. According to Intermap, this technology will allow it to strip away riparian vegetation that obscures river banks and small drainage channels through a direct measurement method of resolving heavy vegetation at the data collection point for NEXTMap applications.
     Intermap has already been working with P-Band on several pilot projects to map the earth's surface beneath forest canopy. By using additional measurement techniques, called multi-polarization, Intermap believes it can further refine the accuracy. By itself, P-Band data sometimes leave unanswered the question of exactly where the measurement is coming from — the vegetation or the earth's surface. According to the research of several groups working internationally, the addition of multi-polarization capability allows the 'ground return' to be specified. Since the Intermap's TOPOSAR system has full multi-polarization P-Band capability, it enables Intermap to further explore the benefits of this enhancement. The contribution from NRC-IRAP will support this exploration. Intermap, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, is digitally remapping countries, building national databases, called NEXTMap, of digital topographic maps (including elevation).

The Madison County, Ohio, Auditor's Office has selected Hitachi Software Global Technology (HSGT), headquartered in Westminster, Colorado, and the HouseDiff service to improve the accuracy of its tax data by conducting building change detection on the county's aerial imagery. The project will be completed on the county's newly acquired ortho-photography in late spring 2005.
     Using its ability to generate building data from aerial vantage points, HouseDiff is able to detect additions to the back of buildings and outlying buildings that may not be visible from publicly accessible areas. This advantage will allow the Auditor's Office to better enforce building permit regulations and collect tax revenue from previously unreported building improvements.
     Madison County's field inspection teams will also know which buildings are new or have changed since the last data collection period. Inspectors will be able to focus more time investigating identified changes and less time verifying buildings that have not changed.
     Previous HouseDiff projects have resulted in improved accuracy of building data sets and increased county tax revenue through recognition of previously untaxed or undertaxed properties.

WPS Resources Corporation, an energy holding company headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has selected Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions' Outage Management System (OMS), based on InService technology, to replace its existing, in-house-developed Service Restoration System. As part of the system enhancement, interfaces will be developed with WPS Resources' customer information system (CIS) and GIS, as well as vehicle asset record, automated meter reading, corporate labor records and response time systems. Future interfaces will be developed to the supervisory control and data acquisition, distribution work management, and interactive voice response systems.
     Intergraph will provide project management, application development, system integration and training for the new system. Velocitie Integration, Inc., an Intergraph Registered Solutions Center, will provide integration services between the OMS and the GIS from GE Network Systems. The InService OMS will provide the platform for managing all trouble dispatch for the gas and electric distribution networks. For the electric network, InService will analyze operating data to help predict and correct potential distribution network failures, helping WPS Resources more efficiently manage day-to-day network operations. During outage situations, the system will accept customer outage calls from the CIS and indicate the probable source of failure, reducing restoration time.


GeoVantage, Inc., a provider of georegistered, orthorectified aerial imagery in full color and near infrared, has appointed John Prisco as President and CEO. Prisco has more than 25 years of experience in senior management positions in entrepreneurial environments, focusing on developing strong market franchises. He most recently served as President and CEO of Ridgeway Systems & Software, Inc., a UK-based software company specializing in secure firewall traversal. Ridgeway was acquired by Tandberg Incorporated in 2004. Prior to Ridgeway Systems, Prisco was President and CEO of Elink Communications, a building-centric data and voice provider. From 1999 to 2001, he served as President and CEO of 2nd Century Communications, a packet-based communications network. Prisco holds a B.S in electrical engineering from Columbia University and a Master of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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