The Location Aware Enterprise: Foundation For Efficient Operations and Emergency Response

By Alan Leidner

Ed.Note: This is the second in a series of articles on the topic of the "Location Aware Enterprise" provided by Susan Kalweit and several of her colleagues at Booz Allen Hamilton.Click here to read the first one, titled "The Location Aware Enterprise: An Integrating Business Principle."

As discussed in our first article, the implementation of a Location Aware Enterprise leads to improved workforce mobility, effective business integration, improved decision support, and the realization of economic return on investments that extend far beyond the capabilities provided by conventional IT operations.There is hardly a more striking example of the benefits of the Location Aware Enterprise than what happened in New York City (NYC) during the response and recovery operations for the 9/11 tragedy.During that disaster and emergency response, many organizations - city, regional, state, federal, private and non-profit - pooled their resources and worked together.A fundamental underpinning to many of their activities was the ability to quickly acquire and combine spatially enabled data from diverse sources.This capability supported the rapid analysis of information, the swift development of new spatially oriented applications, and the sharing over the web of highly informative maps with the general public.This underpinning, which can be described as "geospatially enabled enterprise data integration" is a critical operational component of the Location Aware Enterprise.

The power of map and data combinations: The response to the 9/11 World Trade Center attack
By 2000, NYC had acquired an accurate physical basemap (NYCMAP) to compliment its geocoding engine, property layer, water main layer, and street centerline and address layer.Efforts were ongoing to ensure that all legacy map layers aligned with NYCMAP and that the spatial attributes in standard databases were properly normalized, validated and geocoded. Following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, New York City's Office of Emergency Management established an Emergency Mapping and Data Center (EMDC) to provide for the information needs of thousands of responders and dozens of organizations.Without prior preparation, the EMDC set up a large information support operation and also helped to coordinate and integrate the valuable mapping and data analysis efforts of the Fire Department's Phoenix Unit, New York State's Center For Geographic Information, Hunter College's Department of Geography and CARSI Lab, the New York City Transit Authority, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) among others.Integrating critical data across these organizations was possible because all participants agreed to utilize NYCMAP and to adopt a common enterprise data integration approach using spatial fields and features as the key indexing agents.For example:
  • The imagery and features of NYCMAP were combined with water, sewer, subway, electric, gas and telecommunications infrastructure layers to deal with massive utility outages.Mapping efforts supported collaborative field operations between utility companies and government agencies.
  • Architectural and engineering drawings of the World Trade Center, particularly of basement and foundation layers were registered to NYCMAP, combined with utility data, and used at first to support the efforts of firefighters and federal Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) personnel to hunt for survivors, and then to assist in safe clearance of debris from the disaster site.
  • Basemap layers were combined with real-time location information to create highly useful maps that depicted security checkpoints, turning radii of cranes, and the placement of dozens of support facilities around the Trade Center site.
  • Building data was put on portable computers and used to standardize the capture of multiple inspection operations that allowed a comprehensive view of each of the hundreds of buildings affected by the disaster.
  • Combinations of more than a dozen graphic layers were used to provided a series of web products, updated at least daily, that informed millions of people about the status of utility outages, access restrictions and the progress of recovery efforts.
  • Site maps, base maps, state oil storage information, and daily remote sensing flights identified the location of hotspots and underground fires at the disaster scene to help direct firefighting efforts and to help safeguard workers.

How do we establish the geospatially enabled underpinning?
The 9/11 disaster triggered an improvised yet effective use of spatial information to support data integration by a rapidly assembled group of organizations - an extreme form of the Location Aware Enterprise.It showed that a spatial data infrastructure created to support a large portfolio of routine government operations was capable of being transformed overnight into an effective tool for emergency response and recovery.For other organizations to put themselves in position to realize the many benefits of a comprehensive spatial data infrastructure, requires that they commit to the systematic creation of their Location Aware Enterprise with the assistance of the five service areas introduced in the first article of this series:

  • Organization Design and Change Management - to facilitate the emergence of the Location Aware Enterprise, organizational architecture must be examined and optimized, including corporate/government culture, work processes, product/service portfolio and staffing.Also to be studied are current IT and GIS applications, data assets, and technology infrastructure.Emerging from these reviews will be an enhanced organizational design as well as the identification of opportunities to be realized once the enterprise is more fully spatially oriented and enabled.
  • Economic business analysis - based upon the assessments above, a business analysis will focus on the benefits that can be achieved by building the Location Aware Enterprise and implementing strategic projects.Benefits will flow from seizing the "low hanging fruit" and from longer term projects requiring larger amounts of resources and organization change, but ultimately promising greater results.
  • Information architecture - defines data essential to supporting business processes including the foundation layers of spatial information required by the Location Aware Enterprise.By revealing data inventories through a metadata dictionary, information available for integration can be more easily identified.Also to be defined are the standards and formats for data exchange across the enterprise.
  • Applications Architecture - insures that applications are modified and built in ways that effectively use the Enterprise's spatial assets.The benefits predicted in earlier planning and design phases, now need to be achieved through the implementation of business solutions that exploit improved data availability and combinability, and enhanced work processes.
  • Enterprise Architecture - is the blueprint for building the hardware/software infrastructure and integrating it with the business processes ensuring that data and applications are accessible and usable across all offices and organizations.
The Location Aware Enterprise as the foundation for efficient operations and emergency response
The development of a Location Aware Enterprise marks a departure from business as usual because it places the application of geospatially enabled data and technologies within the core - and not at the margins - of an organization's decision making and business processes. The Location Aware Enterprise uses the standardizing and relating of ubiquitous spatial data to facilitate the break down of data silos and organizational stovepipes.The Location Aware Enterprise also employs spatial information as a catalyst to support new and more powerful data combinations and applications that improve business operations and realize new value.The success of such a transformation requires the employment of a variety of change management and organization design practices.The example of NYC's response to 9/11 shows that among the many benefits of establishing a Location Aware Enterprise is the ability to more effectively respond to large scale emergencies and disasters.

Published Tuesday, January 25th, 2005

Written by Alan Leidner



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