Rocket City: Tuesday Sessions

Details of sessions on:

- Web Services for Geospatial Information
- NGA Initiatives
- The latest technology II - Sensor Technology

Web Services for Geospatial Information

Roger Harwell of Intergraph opened with a look at “Geo-Web” 2.0. He started with the idea of Web 2.0 as a convergence of technologies. For geo this means more collaboration, participation, need for trust, search vs. catalog, etc. What enables this move? Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), OGC standards, interest in mashups. What does this mean for GIS providers? Harwell spoke to how the vendors must adjust to this new type of user.

Amy Zeller spoke about Leica TITAN, a collaborative and sharing environment for spatial data. The challenges TITAN is meant to address: find, view, retrieve. There were lots of questions suggesting to me few had played with this app. (Homework for readers: Download and bang on the beta!)

A representative from Safe Software offered a vision for using the Web to provide tools to build spatial data infrastructures.

Geoff Zeiss follow up on the Safe presentation and noted that so many shops are mixed environments, which means more formats. Apparently, that led Safe’s Dale Lutz to call for a “format non-proliferation treaty.” (I think Dale’s one of the funniest guys in our industry.) Zeiss offered that one aspect of Web 2.0 is open source. (Not sure of that exactly, but surely Web 1.0 was open source - think Apache.) He went on to review where OSGeo is. He then reviewed the points Nora mentioned earlier in the conference. We then saw a demo of MapGuide Studio (not open source, but there is an OS version) and DM Solutions’ Fusion.

NGA Initiatives

The first paper was on NGA training, also known as the NGA “college.” The trainers train at headquarters and also in the field to NGA employees, contractors and foreign nationals among others. There are three key areas of training: leadership, image/geospatial analysis and sensors. The courses do “some” button pushing, but focus on theory and practice. One of the challenges is keeping up with new technologies. I asked about where USGIF’s new accreditation and Penn State’s announced GEOINT certificate fit into this training. The response was that these programs can help attract and train students who many end up with NGA or other agencies, but for now don’t change the training a new hire might get.

NGA now plays a key role in Homeland Security. That happened because of some man-made (9/11) and natural disasters (Katrina), and an act of Congress (work the DHS!). NGA must be tasked by a “lead federal agency” to do anything related to homeland security or work with states or local governments. NGA bought a lot of data after 9/11 but could not share it for exercises, but only in the case of an emergency. “That was not a good idea, but we did what we had to do.” Now NGA is working with civilian agencies to get more data that’s more shareable. He noted that data was “bought from public agencies” but I have to believe he mis-spoke or I mis-heard… He also noted that since Canada had never had “9/11 type event” it had many agencies that do what NGA does, which makes the country difficult to work with. Further, Canada is 20 years behind us in “interoperability.” One member of the audience noted how Canada invented GIS. I’d offer that Canada was pretty close to inventing (and using via standards!) geospatial interoperability.

The latest technology II - Sensor Technology

Grant Gibson, GIS Dynamics, explained there’s a new demand for integration of video surveillance and GIS. The company offers a Web service called Argus. That means is available and controllable from anywhere in the world. The rest of the presentation was a list of case studies (PowerPoint) including use of the technology by (1) a commercial developer in Cincinnati, Ohio to limit crime and enhance economic development, (2) a police dept near Lake Erie, and (3) a property management company in Ohio. The next step? Analyzing the video to pull out specific vehicles and time stamps. For now, it appears to be a “mashup” of maps and live video.

Greg Gaston, Univ. Northern Alabama address the use of Electrical Resistance Imaging, a type of tomography. It uses electrical impulses from electrodes to find things underground. (Apparently the Schlumberger brothers invented some of the technology). Initially used to find “big things” far underground (like oil), it’s been updated to be used to look for small things close to the surface. It’s used to find “war crimes evidence” (like mass graves) or for subsurface water, pipelines and such. They showed images of cross sections made using this technology to look for underground ice (which does not conduct well) and body locations in graveyards. This stuff is cool. Why do we in GIS seem to pay so little attention to underground sensing? Or perhaps I travel in the wrong circles.

Dr. Mike Botts of UAH, spoke to Sensor Web Enablement is an OGC framework to allow open access to sensors of various kinds. Sensors are still very “stove piped” - they don’t talk to each other or in a standard way to software/services.

Published Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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