GIS Monitor Oct 4, 2001


- USDA Commits to ESRI
- GPS is Hot in Wake of Attacks

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In a huge deal for ESRI, the US Department of Agriculture signed a site license agreement making ESRI software the standard for all USDA GIS work. Set in motion was a five-year plan that will expand the use of GIS technology throughout the USDA by providing a complete enterprise suite of ESRI's GIS software to all USDA agencies. The $32 million agreement includes the roll-in of legacy software currently within the U.S. Forest Service and other USDA agencies. ESRI had won the forest service contract after some heated competition in the 1990s.

This “ownership” of USDA by ESRI sends two messages. First, that the agency is happy with the initial implementations, and second that it’s going to be tough for any other vendors to get into this arena. To ESRI’s credit, they’ve been working on the account for years, even before the original contract was put out for RFP.

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The US government’s October 1 deadline for mobile carriers to track locations of callers for emergency services came soon after the recent terrorist attacks. As I’ve reported, most carriers asked for and received an extension for their implementations.

Now GPS is back in the spotlight after the challenges of tracking individuals within stricken areas of New York and the Pentagon. The FBI is investigating if hijackers purchased an end-user GPS. Of course its usefulness within an airplane has been questioned. The airplane cockpit is well coated and according to an article in FORBES, a GPS unit would not be operational there. However, I have used a GPS in the passenger section, and despite only being able to access satellites from half of the horizon, it worked quite well, telling speed and location.

Some have gone so far as to suggest that the possible terrorist link will cause financial hardship to GPS companies, and to others by having the government reintroduce Selective Availability (SA, the fuzzy factor once added to satellite data to decrease the accuracy of the reading). Although GPS companies may struggle due to the sluggish economy, they shouldn’t be impacted by any link to the terrorists. As for SA, the Interagency GPS executive board has stated that it will never be reinstated.

As for GPS in wartime, the government has spoken about trying to block information over certain geographies. But Afghanistan is tough terrain and foreign forces may well need it more than those who know the country well.

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Dear Adena,

I do hope the maps produced by the EMEA for Sept 11th will be preserved as historical items - if not, I, for one, would be very disappointed. Best regards, and honor to those on the Pittsburgh plane who fought knowing they weren't going to make it.

Marcus Gibson

POINTS OF INTEREST   - Jack Eichenbaum reports that GISMO, New York City's GIS User Group, is up and running. GISMO has called a special meeting for Monday, October 15, 2001. It will take place at the regular time (12-2:30 p.m.) and regular place (Fund for the City of NY, 121 6th Avenue, 6th floor). A map is available at the website.

The program, to follow the regular business meeting, will be devoted to accounts and discussion of mapping the effects of the WTC collapse and the subsequent recovery effort.

There is no charge to attend a GISMO meeting. A complimentary buffet lunch is served. But if you are thinking of attending and are NOT already a GISMO member, please drop a quick email to [email protected] with the subject: NEW AT MEETING so the group has an idea of increased attendance.

[Ed. note: I’d love it if someone who attends could share some of what goes on. The GIS “response” to the attacks is very important for the GIS community, and everyone else, to understand. We could all learn a lot.]

- Last week I was a bit critical of vendors taking advantage of the situation following the terrorist attacks. This week I received an email from LocatioNet. It included this: “The LocatioNet 'Where Are They Now' application affords carriers the ability to offer a value-added service that addresses the nation's need for safety while quenching anxiety and uncertainty about the whereabouts of loved ones.” If this incident reminds us that location-based technology’s main raison d’ętre is safety, I’m all for it. If it means more releases like this that play on fear, I’m a bit squeamish.

- The PalmSource Conference has been rescheduled for Feb. 5-8, 2002.


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Adena Schutzberg
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