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In this week's issue of GIS Monitor I report on the new GIS application that the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is implementing to upgrade its Emergency Operation Centre. I also include information on Arizona GIS websites and bring you my usual round-up of industry news from press releases.
Vancouver Implements EmerGeo WebEOC
In last week's issue of GIS Monitor I raised the question of whether and to what extent new, more user-friendly, and often on-line GIS applications are reducing the need for trained GIS technicians. (Because of a problem with our mass mailing server, some of you did not receive last week's issue. My apologies! You can read it here.) This week I report on a GIS application that was sold (by a small private company) and bought (by a large city) mainly on the premise that it can be used easily by first responders, incident commanders, emergency managers, and planners, without requiring any training in GIS let alone the assistance of a GIS technician.***
Before I proceed, however, I have a disclaimer and a request. The disclaimer is that I have not personally tested the application in question, only watched a WebEx demonstration. The request is one I've made before but bears repeating: if your actual, real-world experience with any of the products or companies that I describe differs substantially from what I report on the basis of the interviews I conduct, please tell me. At a minimum, your confidential feedback will help me ask more pointed questions in the future and challenge some of what vendors tell me and you will benefit from my improved reporting. For even greater benefit to all of our readers, whenever you feel comfortable doing so, I would prefer to have your permission to publish your letters.
The City of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is upgrading its emergency management software. Having already replaced ESRI ArcView 3.2 with EmerGeo mapping in its Emergency Operation Centre in October 2003, it is now also replacing EM/2000 produced by Specialized Disaster Systems, Inc. with EmerGeo's version of WebEOC, a Web-based system that enables emergency managers and first responders to share GIS mapping and emergency data in real time. EmerGeo Solutions, which is based in Vancouver, developed the mapping system and interfaces to WebEOC to enable emergency staff to use GIS mapping technology without requiring technical expertise. The level of map detail and functionality is tailored to the role and skill level of each user. EmerGeo's products do not replace any existing GIS, but build on top of the city's GIS, leveraging its investment in its existing systems and data.
I asked Ron Martin, Vancouver's emergency planning coordinator, what his organization's principal requirement is for a GIS. "We need rapid assimilation of data from multiple sources for emergency management purposes," he told me. Why did his agency switch from ArcView to EmerGeo? "ArcView was meeting our needs, but EmerGeo's product bundle has tools that are a better match to what we do." He cited a few examples: an emergency response guide for spills, hazardous materials dispersion models (such as the ALOHA plume model developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), and the ability to analyze ground movement due to earthquakes.
However, when I asked Martin what the single most important reason was for purchasing the new system, his answer was "ease of use." It takes him a lot less time, he told me, to get his staff trained in the use of this software than it did in the past with other systems. Michael Morrow, EmerGeo's director of business development, stresses the same point: "ArcView required a GIS technician to operate it. A lot of this software is not used on a day-to-day basis and a GIS technician may not always be available. During an emergency, when people are operating under stress, it is a bad time to train them in the use of new software."
I asked Morrow about his company's experience with emergency management. He told me that he has been in the field for about 16 years and that Timothy Webb, the company's president and chief technology officer, is a Search & Rescue manager and has worked extensively with Emergency Preparedness Canada (now called Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada). So EmerGeo built its systems from the perspective of the managers and staff of emergency operations centers (EOCs). Morrow began working with the City of Vancouver about five years ago.
The City of Vancouver's GIS office provides the base map and digital orthophotography used by the system. EmerGeo's mapping application imports these and other data and provides spatial representation of events and a common operational picture to emergency managers and responders. The city has used the software to coordinate its response to emergencies and to plan large public events, such as the annual Celebration of Light Fireworks Festival, which draws about half a million people, and the Stanley Cup playoffs. The software also allows city staff to generate status reports and manage resources. WebEOC is built on top of the mapping application and provides further functionality, including tracking activities and incident logging.
Both the mapping application and WebEOC are Microsoft-based. WebEOC can be hosted, installed locally, or a combination of both (hybrid). The architecture is a standard three tier: the database is Microsoft SQL Server 2000, the Web server is Microsoft IIS 6.0, and clients use Microsoft Internet Explorer Version 5.5 or above.
EmerGeo provides the emergency management data layers: incidents, resources, operational capabilities, etc. It has an emergency management workflow built into it that enables users, for example, to draw an evacuation area on a map. It also allows users to choose to which individuals or work groups to publish specific layers and automatically logs all activities and operations, which is important as an audit trail for legal purposes and for debriefings. The application is based on OpenGIS standards and gives users the option of creating live GIS connectors to any OpenGIS-capable mapping system, including MapGuide, which the city uses.
WebEOC was originally developed by Westinghouse about 15 years ago under a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy, then spun out to the private sector, where it was picked up by Emergency Services Integrators, a company based in Augusta, Georgia, that still considers it its flagship product. EmerGeo, in turn, considers itself "a value-added reseller" of the product.
WebEOC's principal interface model looks very much like a remote control for a television, enabling the user to view electronic status boards and maps. EmerGeo mapping controls the available layers and functionality depending on the user's role and authorization. Text-based information entered into WebEOC can, in turn, be displayed on EmerGeo maps. As information is updated in WebEOC it is automatically updated in EmerGeo, with a refresh rate set by the user and a control panel that ensures that maps don't become cluttered and that duplicate information is not being plotted. This allows the system to display a more accurate near-real time picture of the situation. Because EOCs often do not have a computer available for each team member, WebEOC status boards are designed to be readable on projection systems or individual computer displays, providing everyone access to real-time information.
Morrow showed me a demonstration of EmerGeo and WebEOC, using as scenario a hypothetical chlorine spill in Vancouver. On top of the base map used by the city, he turned on a layer of 10-centimeter resolution digital orthophotos; as he pointed out, these images, which appeared very quickly, were cached by EmerGeo's "Smart Client" (thick client) although a thin Web browser client can also be used to view them. In addition to the "Planning" tab that Morrow used in his demonstration, I could see three other tabs with map views: "Situation Map", "Internet", and "All Project Layers". When he checked the "Significant Events" box on the main WebEOC control window, an events log appeared. Data entered into this log generates symbols on the EmerGeo map.
EmerGeo manages the map's dynamic layers, displaying standard U.S. Department of Homeland Security symbols for various incidents, such as the chlorine spill, and resources, such as fire and police vehicles. By clicking on these symbols the user can drill down through various layers of data captured by WebEOC and EmerGeo. For example, clicking on a chlorine spill icon displays not only the latest incident information entered into WebEOC but also critical infrastructure, cadastre, and other map data managed through EmerGeo.
In actual use, field personnel with EmerGeo Smart Clients on their computers would be able to feed updates to the EmerGeo server running in the EOC. However, EmerGeo allows the operator to select which incoming data to auto-plot (geocode) on the map. Users can also draw polygons and associate them with hotlinks, for example to live camera feeds, or control their color based on "status" or "severity" fields. The boundaries and vertices of these polygons can be lat/long coordinates or geographic features, such as streets or rivers. The application dynamically calculates the perimeter and area of these polygons and enables the user to control the publishing of the layer among the different roles in the emergency management organization. Any annotation drawn on the map can be exported to ESRI shapefile format and used in other GIS applications.
WebEOC and EmerGeo work together to automatically log all activities in the system so that, after the emergency or exercise is over, a permanent legal record of events exists (an "audit trail"). This history log is a relational database table that can be queried and from which reports can be generated. Alternatively, the entire log can be exported to Microsoft Excel for additional analysis.
Arizona GIS Websites
Due to a miscommunication, Arizona's state GIS staff had not responded to my request for information on the state's GIS websites for the March 31 issue of GIS Monitor. This week Jason Howard, Assistant State Cartographer in the Arizona State Cartographer's Office, sent me the following answers to the questions that I originally posed to state GIS coordinators:
The State of Arizona has three main GIS organizations. The Arizona Geographic Information Council (AGIC) is the primary forum and oversight group for geographic information and geographic information technology issues and coordination efforts in Arizona. Data distribution is managed by the Arizona Land Resource Information System (ALRIS), a small division of the Arizona State Land Department. The data distribution requires management because of Arizona's statutes that make it impossible for us to throw data up on the Web for download like most other states. The State Cartographer's Office (SCO), also a small division of the Land Department, serves as the standards and data coordination organization. Each of these organizations has its own website. We've tried to eliminate overlap as much as possible. In the next year, we will debut a fourth website (gis.az.gov) that will serve as a GIS data and resources clearinghouse. This being said, Arizona does not currently have an official GIS page, but we will eventually.
AGIC website (http://agic.az.gov)
How often do you post new material to your web site?
Major updates happen about once a month and are listed on the home page. Minor updates happen all the time these include fixing broken links, adding new links, updating contact information for AGIC board members, or updating event information. The new site will be a data and resources repository and the AGIC homepage will continue to focus on general Arizona GIS information.
What kinds of items do you update most often?
The most common items we post are news items related to AGIC activities and publications.
Who supplies them to you?
AGIC board and committee members generally supply news items, although we do occasionally post news items from persons outside AGIC if we feel the item is of sufficient interest to the Arizona GIS community.
What's the mission / purpose / goal of your website?
The purpose of the website is to provide information about AGIC and general information about GIS in Arizona.
ALRIS website (http://www.land.state.az.us/alris)
How often do you post new material to your web site?
Not very often. Updates are made once or twice per year.
What kinds of items do you update most often?
The most common update is information about datasets offered by ALRIS.
Who supplies them to you?
The ALRIS program manager or other ALRIS staff supply update information.
What's the mission / purpose / goal of your web site?
The purpose of the ALRIS website is to provide information about GIS datasets maintained by the Arizona State Land Department that can be ordered through ALRIS. This data resources aspect will eventually be replaced by gis.az.gov.
State Cartographer's Office website (http://sco.az.gov)
How often do you post new material to your web site?
Whenever we have time.
What kinds of items do you update most often?
The most common updates are fixing broken links, adding new links, and updating project information.
Who supplies them to you?
I supply them to myself. :-)
What's the mission / purpose / goal of your web site?
The purpose of the SCO website is to provide information about SCO projects and GIS resources around Arizona, especially Internet mapping related resources. The resource listing function of this website will eventually be replaced by gis.az.gov.
June Issue of Earth Observation Magazine
The June issue of Earth Observation Magazine is now on the newstands... er, no, on-line! Contents include two articles by NASA scientists on the societal benefits of NASA's Earth observation programs, an article on mapping fires, and one on CAD and GIS interoperability.
Please note: I have culled the following news
items from press releases and have not independently verified
PRODUCTS & DATA
Cadcorp, a developer of digital mapping and GIS software, has released Cadcorp SIS OS MasterMap Database, a free solution for managing Ordnance Survey (OS) MasterMap data.
The product is a relational database encapsulated in a single ODB file that can handle anything from a single OS MasterMap chunk right up to national coverage. ODB files provide an extension to the Cadcorp SIS OS MasterMap Manager and are designed to appeal to users who want to use OS MasterMap data without having to invest in database server technology and management resources. The Cadcorp SIS OS MasterMap Manager performs initial loads of OS MasterMap data directly from the OS-supplied data without translation and also manages change-only updates.
Once loaded into an ODB file, the OS MasterMap data is accessible from the entire Cadcorp SIS software suite, including Cadcorp GeognoSIS.NET, which is certified compliant for both Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Map Service (WMS) and OGC Web Feature Service (WFS). Therefore OS MasterMap can be served to any GIS that implements OGC WMS and WFS as clients, maximizing interoperability and data sharing between and within organizations.
Mio Technology Ltd., a supplier of mobile devices, has introduced the Mio 269 GPS navigation system. The device combines a GPS receiver with maps of the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada in a palm-sized chassis. All software and maps are included on the unit's 2.5 MB hard disk drive.
Powered by an Intel 300 MHz CPU, the unit provides both visual and verbal directions to the user's destination. More than a million points of interest (POI), including airports, ATMs, restaurants, gas stations, lodging and tourist attractions are pre-installed. The Mio 269 also allows users to listen to music on its MP3 player. The hard drive provides 1/2 GB free storage for MP3 files for over 41/2 hours worth of music and a SD and MM3 card slot, with capacity up to 1 GB of additional MP3 storage.
Other Mio 269 features include a fully integrated GPS antenna, rechargeable lithium ion battery that allows up to 4.5 hours of untethered operation on a single charge, 3.5" color display, 32 MB flash ROM and 64 MB SDRAM, touch screen keyboard (stylus pen), built-in 1" loudspeaker, headphone jack, infrared remote control, and mounting hardware for automobiles and bikes. The Mio 269's size 51/2" long, 3" wide and 1" thick allows it to fit into the user's pocket. It weighs 8 ounces.
Maps are displayed in landscape view on a 3.5" TFT touch screen LCD and in 2D or 3D. If the user misses a turn or exit or cannot make a transition in time, the device automatically recalculates the route and delivers new directions in real-time.
ESRI has released ArcGIS Network Analyst, an extension that provides network-based spatial analysis including routing, travel directions, closest facility, and service area analysis. The product's functionality is available for the ArcGIS Desktop (ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo), ArcGIS Engine, and ArcGIS Server. It allows users to dynamically model realistic network conditions, including turn restrictions, speed limits, height restrictions, and traffic conditions, at different times of the day. Using a network data model, users can build networks from their GIS data.
The new Network Data Set in ArcGIS 9.1 incorporates a connectivity model that can represent complex scenarios like multimodal transportation networks. This will enable users to model multiple forms of transportation across a single data set by using points of coincidence, such as rail stations or bus stops, that form the linkages between several different forms of transportation.
Developers can also leverage the product by building custom network applications on three deployment platforms (ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Engine, and ArcGIS Server) and deploying applications on a variety of Windows, Linux, and UNIX operating systems. Since the underlying libraries of network components among the three platforms are common, development effort can be transferred easily. Developers building desktop applications will use the ArcGIS Engine Network Analyst extension, while developers building serverside GIS capabilities will use the ArcGIS Server Network Analyst extension.
Users of the previous version of Network Analyst will find all the familiar tools. In addition, ArcGIS Network Analyst has improved core functionality and the added ability to work within the new ArcGIS geoprocessing environment including ModelBuilder and scripting.
The improved functionality of Network Analyst includes multipart turns; dynamic barrier support; time windows and stop duration on stops within routes; use of hierarchies for better performance and more realistic routes; U-turn restriction support; polygons for service areas; large network support; shapefile, geodatabase, or SDC format Network Data Set support; global turn impedances; origin-destination matrix functionality; custom solver support; and integration with geoprocessing tools, models, and scripting.
ESRI has released its 2005/2010 data in demographic reports and maps on Business Analyst Online at http://www.esri.com/bao. These data updates reveal changes and trends in regional growth, household wealth, and employment and include 2005/2010 demographic data updates and forecasts from ESRI, 2005 consumer expenditure data from ESRI, 2005 data from ESRI's segmentation system, Community Tapestry, 2005 Market Potential data from Mediamark Research Inc. and ESRI, January 2005 business data from infoUSA, and 2005 TrafficMetrix data, version 4.1, from MPSI Systems Inc.
Geographic changes include updated boundaries for Designated Market Areas (DMAs), boundaries for the 109th Congressional District, November 2004 ZIP code boundaries, and updated Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA) boundaries.
Features added in this release include maps for projects as defined by standard geographies such as ZIP codes, states, counties, census tracts, DMAs, places, and CBSAs; presentation-quality thematic maps; and reports and maps for multiple areas delivered in a single PDF document.
CONTRACTS & COLLABORATIONS
BAE Systems will provide geopositioning software for Department of Defense applications under the U.S. Navy's Common Geopositioning Services Project (CGSP). The contract, awarded by the Naval Air Warfare Center, is valued at $4.6 million and includes options through 2008. Under the contract, BAE Systems will develop a Common Geopositioning Services (CGS) Toolset, a modular set of software geopositioning services capable of calculating three-dimensional geographic coordinates. The Toolset will provide validated coordinates with error estimates in support of DoD applications such as the targeting of coordinate-seeking weapons. BAE Systems' latest imagery exploitation product, SOCET GXP, will serve as the Integrated Viewer software for the CGS Toolset.
The combination of SOCET GXP and the CGS Toolset will permit standalone installation of the software suite on UNIX or Windows-based workstation architectures. BAE Systems will also provide an application program interface to support additional integration of the CGS Toolset in other DoD applications. After initial development of the CGS Toolset and Integrated Viewer, BAE Systems will also integrate the Toolset and Viewer into the Distributed Common Ground System Integration Backbone, provide user training, support testing and validation activities, support special studies, and incorporate technology enhancements.
SOCET GXP is BAE Systems' full spectrum software application designed to support the geospatial analysis workflow from image analysis through photogrammetry. The company is a primary developer of sensor models and sensor-model technology for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. These products, along with other technologies and applications, have previously been integrated into the Precision Targeting Workstation, the Navy's premier targeting system for precision-guided munitions such as the Tomahawk cruise missile.
Dallas County, Iowa, one of the top 10 fastest growing counties in the United States, is using Intergraph Web mapping solutions to speed delivery of customer requests for geospatial data. The county set up a website enabling users to create maps and visualize other location-specific information.
Using GeoMedia WebMap technology, the site integrates disparate datasets from six different county offices including property lines, centerline data, rivers, lakes, political borders, section lines, and property owner description data. Web site visitors can use online tools to plot to scale and plot aerial photos, gather general property data, find a voting location, query buffer zones in relation to houses, look up real estate taxes and view assessment data. Since the Web site went online earlier this year Web traffic is averaging 400 unique users a day, and foot traffic and telephone inquiries related to acquiring geographic information have dropped by 50 percent in various county offices.
ESRI is expanding its relationship to sell the MediaPrints cable system boundaries and data products developed by Enterprise Marketing Solutions, Inc. (EMSi), in partnership with Warren Communications News, Inc. MediaPrints is a source for U.S. cable system boundaries and data from the industry-standard Warren Communications News' Television & Cable Factbook, which consists of digital service areas and high-speed Internet access areas. This agreement allows ESRI to offer MediaPrints cable boundaries and data as stand-alone databases and add-ons for its software packages.
Data from ESRI's segmentation system, Community Tapestry, and ESRI's demographic data will be aggregated into MediaPrints Cable Boundaries. Tapestry classifies U.S. neighborhoods into 65 segments based on their socioeconomic and demographic composition. ESRI's demographic data includes variables such as age, income, employment, housing, race, and education.
OnBoard, LLC, a national provider of community, school, neighborhood, home sales, and other data to real estate brokerages, has built its Neighborhood Navigator product suite on MapInfo's Envinsa Location Intelligence platform. The platform allows OnBoard to offer its clients mapping capabilities along with its standard information and data search offerings. Neighborhood Navigator enables real estate brokerages to provide to potential customers geographically-relevant comparative home sales data.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded a $5.8M contract to Surdex Corporation to produce digital orthophotos covering seven U.S. states this year. The National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) is administered by the USDA's Aerial Photography Field Office on behalf of the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA). The FSA utilizes data produced by NAIP each year to administer the U.S. Farm Compliance programs. In addition, numerous federal, state, and local governments also participate in the program and are cost-sharing partners.
The Surdex team award represents over 25 percent of the total 2005 NAIP, with nine other contractors serving the program. The 2005 award entails the production of nearly 40,000 Digital Orthophoto Quarter Quadrangles (DOQQs) covering the seven states of Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Oregon. NAIP awards are based on past performance and the quality of deliverables and Surdex's top ranking for 2005 culminates three previous years of supporting the program's missions at the highest level of performance.
Natural color photography acquired at a scale of 1:40,000 with Airborne GPS will be digitally scanned, aerotriangulated, orthorectified, and mosaicked to resolutions of 1 or 2 meters per pixel (depending upon state-specific resolution requirements). The Surdex team will collect over 80,000 exposures involving 170,000 linear miles of photography and covering 530,000 square miles. A premium is placed on the timely acquisition of photography and the delivery of products. In 2004, the Surdex team was able to deliver products, on average, within 30 days of the collection of the photography covering each county.
HP is integrating its large-format HP Designjet 4000 Printer series with GE Energy's Smallworld 4 Product Suite, enabling GIS professionals to produce full-color and black and white prints with minimal user intervention. Using the HP Designjet 4000 Embedded Web Server together with the Smallworld application further enhances the printing workflow processes and improves manageability of installed printers.
Featuring the new HP Double Swath technology, the HP Designjet 4000 provides faster performance and delivers high-speed color and monochrome printing up to 42 inches wide. The printer provides a resolution up to 2400 dpi and up to +/- 0.1 percent line accuracy.
TeliaSonera, a Nordic and Baltic telecommunications provider, will be offering to its customers Appello's WISEPILOT mobile navigation service. The service incorporates the functionality of Drill Down Server (DDS), the geospatial software platform developed by Telcontar , a supplier of software and related services for the Location-Based Services (LBS) industry.
WISEPILOT allows TeliaSonera customers to turn their mobile phones into navigation devices with up-to-date map and travel information. The system uses an "off-board" DDS server from Telcontar to deliver maps, driving directions, and information on local points of interest and businesses directly to Java-enabled phones on the TeliaSonera network.
The Telcontar DDS geospatial software platform also allows Appello to integrate digital maps and traditional database content drawn from multiple sources for access by the user. The DDS provides spatial searching, geocoding, and routing for LBS applications.
ESRI has authorized David Haines, GIS project manager of R.A. Smith & Associates, Inc. a civil engineering, surveying and technical services consulting company based in Brookfield, Wisconsin to teach Introduction to ArcGIS I. R.A. Smith offers training seminars for GIS users at their in-house training facility and conducts on-site training.
Haines will teach at the company's learning center on June 21-22 with another course scheduled for October 17-18. He is a GIS project manager with nine years of experience, is certified as a GISP (geographic information systems professional), and is registered as an AICP (American Institute of Certified Planners).
DeLorme, a mapping and GPS company, has appointed Dave Eshelman to the position of President. David DeLorme, the company founder, has been the company president for the past three years and will continue in his other roles as CEO and Chairman of the Board. Mr. Eshelman has served for thirteen years in all facets of the DeLorme business and most recently has been leading the company into new growth areas within GPS markets.
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