Author Archives: Bert Granberg

NSGIC On The Brain - Spring Break

Zion National Park, Angel's Landing

Zion National Park, Angel’s Landing

NSGIC is a hard habit to break. For those interested in building meaningful state and national digital mapping resources, the camaraderie and synergy of NSGIC conferences, committees, and professional networking is hard to beat.

But, if you’re like me, very occasionally you find yourself in engaged in some weird (to others) NSGIC or geography-inspired activity even when trying to get away from it all.

This happened to me on a road trip to southern Utah and northern Arizona last week. On day 2 of our spring break trip, my family suddenly found ourselves playing a modified version on the license plate game while hiking Zion National Park’s Angels Landing trail with, oh, about 1000 or more of our fellow park goers.


This counts as one only state: your choice, but you’ll see TX again (trust me)

In our modified version, “the hiking plate game,’ we were looking for any specific mention of a state or strong association to a state (a place, university, pro sports team, etc) on the clothing of passers by. We were working together toward fifty (and DC) and we only allowed one state to be counted per person.

Over the course of the 3.5 hour hike, which included lots of time queued up waiting for our direction’s turn on the steep ridge and its hand-hold chains, we bagged 34 states and DC. And, true to NSGIC form, I found myself using a (mental) map to track our progress. Somewhat surprising to me, the showing from states with teams in the SEC athletic conference was especially strong (except GA and TN for some reason). And what’s Idaho’s excuse? Is it potato planting time already? (no neighborly disrespect intended)

Our Results

Our Results:  Blue = Success

There’s something about Zion, which had almost 4.3 million visitors last year, because our other hikes were not nearly as productive in the hiking plate game. A 3 hour hike on the Bryce Canyon NP Peekaboo Loop trail (photo) produced only 5 states. Smaller crowds and snow on the trails (Bryce is about a mile higher) no doubt contributed to the lower state count as did, we feel, a much lower propensity of Bryce’s visitors to wear logo’d attire.

Happy spring and, in this new season, feel free to embrace your inner NSGIC/GIS/mapping instincts…unless a tattoo parlor is involved, in which case, you might sleep on it for at least a night.

State Feedback: What I Need Most from NSGIC...

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At a State Caucus session during NSGIC’s Annual Conference in Indianapolis last October, we conducted a completely impromptu exercise that produced some interesting, important information.

The game was pretty simple. Take one of the ubiquitous hotel notepads and fill in the blank: “What I need most from NSGIC is _______.”

I can’t remember the specifics of what spawned this, but it was time well spent. Here (below) is what we heard. (Thanks to Molly Schar for summarizing the results!)

… help me tap into the collective wisdom of NSGIC members

  • Use working meetings to convene discussions on priority areas. Make them mentoring opportunities to learn, work together and create products/services. Develop and publish best practices, guidance, recommendations, briefs and white papers.
  • Take networking to the next level by connecting members with similar roles. Involve subject matter experts and other new people to expand membership.
  • Publish relevant news and information about what is happening in GIS.

… help me be more effective in my job

  • Provide opportunities to think about the bigger picture, analyze geospatial maturity progress and plan strategically for the future.
  • Facilitate mentoring for states that need assistance. Establish relationships between states with common needs and goals.
  • Develop best practices for GIS Councils and GIOs.

… be the network mesh to enable local, state and federal collaboration on geospatial initiatives

  • Educate state leadership, locals and private sector about the importance of GIS and statewide collaboration. Establish return on investment for collection of statewide data. Engage local governments and make room for them at the NSGIC table.
  • Proactively lead programs “for the nation” like what was done for broadband.
  • Establish minimum content standards for framework data.

… represent states with one voice at the federal level

  • Advocate for legislation beneficial to states and a national spatial data infrastructure with a central role for states
  • Connect states with federal agencies. Leverage resources like seed money from federal agencies. Leverage activities like the 2020 census and NG9-1-1.

The NSGIC board will be retreating in advance of next month’s Midyear Meeting to develop strategic priorities for 2017 and 2018. We will explore these four areas of coordination and communications as we look to meet the needs of our members, exceed member expectations, and continue to craft the organization that will make NSGIC continue to grow and excel.

Why NSGIC? My Top 3

Best Practices, Opportunity, Advocacy

At NSGIC’s 2016 Annual Conference (NSGIC’s 25th!), I shared a few slides describing why Utah has been involved with NSGIC since its inception, and has attended every NSGIC meeting. Just a couple months into my term as NSGIC’s board president, I thought I’d take a brief respite to revisit and reflect on why it’s all worthwhile.

1. Best Practices
My single favorite reason for actively participating with NSGIC is the opportunity “to see what great looks like.” It shouldn’t feel like Utah is spying on the rest of the nation, but in a way we are, and hopefully, you are too.

Most of what we’ve been able to accomplish with mapping technology for Utah has had its origins in an idea or program that was shared by another state through NSGIC’s mid year and annual meetings or through its committees or professional networking with members and sponsoring organizations.  A partial list of ideas we’ve been able to put into practice in Utah includes: imagery and lidar partnerships, address points, NG911 preparation, broadband mapping, RTK GPS network, parcel data sharing, PLSS stewardship, and a strengthened partnership with our state GIS association, UGIC.

Thanks to everyone who brought forward their great ideas! I’ll just try to remember to give appropriate credit and hope that we can, at some point, play a reciprocal role for others!

2. Opportunity
The second reason your state needs to be represented within NSGIC is to stay on top of emerging opportunities that bring in funding and other resources and/or to ensure that your state is accurately depicted in national (and world) mapping efforts. There’s no doubt great benefit to exploring and realizing funding and partnering opportunities that further the geographic knowledge of our world. That’s also true for making it easier for everyone to discover and use critical geospatial information, whether that be in responding to a potential large-scale disaster, getting an accurate census count in 2020, or ensuring the best chances for a package to be delivered successfully and on-time to a rural business. Over the years, leads gleaned from Utah’s NSGIC participation have brought millions in external funding to our state’s geospatial efforts (3DEP, NTIA Broadband, NGA 133 Cities, NHD, EPA Exchange Network, FirstNet, FGDC CAP grants, etc.) and the geographic data depicting our natural and civil resources are greatly enhanced and more accessible as a result of pursuing partnerships with federal, private sector entities, and others.

3. Advocacy
Nurturing great ideas into fruition is the realm of policy and advocacy, which taken together, are the third big attraction of NSGIC. In my mind, NSGIC is the premier organization for the development and voicing of smart geospatial guidance and policy. NSGIC advocacy efforts are focused on the maturity and beneficial uses of map technology and mapping resources to improve efficiency and outcomes. The important role that states play, positioned between local and federal levels and connected (through NSGIC) with leading geospatial companies in the private sector, form a wholistic perspective on our industry. Many state and national-level geospatial initiatives got their start from a NSGIC committee, conference session, or after-hours discussion in our hospitality suite. Others remain on the drawing board, waiting for the right timing and situation to move forward.

It could go without saying, but I think its fitting to add a late, fourth mention to the people of NSGIC, including our general membership, sponsoring members, and staff, led by our executive director, Molly Schar. Smarts, teamwork, and a desire to make a difference are the substance and the glue that make NSGIC work for all of us and for the constituents of state-led geospatial efforts across the country!

With all of this said, I hope to see and learn from you all again next month at NSGIC’s 2017 Midyear Meeting in Annapolis, the week of February 27th! Midyear registration is open and the door for conference content submission is quickly closing. Consider connecting a rising geospatial star in your state, to NSGIC, by encouraging or supporting their attendance at the midyear meeting.

The time is now to start the New Year on the NSGIC track — no resolution-breaking procrastination need be applied.

Federal-Level Leadership for Nationwide Parcel GIS Data

This June, the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data (HIFLD) teams co-sponsored a National Parcel Data Summit at USGS Headquarters in Reston, VA. One of the outcomes of that meeting was a recognition by the participants that:

  • – nationwide parcel GIS data is needed to support a diverse set of important application areas, and
  • – federal leadership is needed in order to best facilitate an efficient aggregation and publication of nationwide parcel GIS data.

The federal agencies at the Summit made it clear that they needed to know what the broader user community believed to be the requirements for federal leadership on parcels. In other words, what would be the role and responsibilities for a lead federal agency related to ensuring development and maintenance of a national parcel data set?

Over the summer, Cy Smith, the State of Oregon’s GIO, led a small work group of Summit attendees in the development of a document articulating requirements for federal leadership on a national parcel data set. The work group published its recommendations in a paper entitled, Leadership for a National Parcel Data Set. This document was delivered to Ivan DeLoatch at FGDC and David Alexander at DHS HIFLD as supporting information for a late September federal agency meeting to determine parcel data requirements and to discuss which agency or agencies will provide national leadership. Work group members, listed at the end of the document, included county government, state government, private industry, and geospatial professional associations.

Earlier this year, NSGIC took a similar approach in making recommendations relating to the National Address Database. This effort prefaced the FGDC decision to add Addresses as an official National Geospatial Data Asset theme, and the selection of Census and USDOT as the co-leads. NSGIC encourages federal decision-makers to likewise use the valuable parcel recommendations and observations made by the post-Summit workgroup.

Proposed Best Practices for Managing Address Inventories

-updated 10/25/12 2:17pm-

Whether it be emergency medical response, the delivery of goods and services, tourists trying to find a hotel or restaurant, preparations for the census, or local crime analysis, the ability to find addresses is critical to public safety, economic efficiency, and government operations. The need to locate addresses accurately is growing at all levels, including of course, at the global level from within Google, Bing, Apple, Mapquest, and other mapping engines.

The process of assigning new, or modifying existing addresses is owned and managed by local government Address Authorities. This should not change as trusted local expertise is closest, the most connected, and likely the most vested to getting the information correct. And, many redundant and sometimes competing efforts are made to compile an inventory of official and unofficial physical addresses. The public and private sectors would both benefit greatly if local Address Authorities would extend their current responsibilities to provide a publicly-available inventory of physical addresses and their locations in geographic coordinates.

What follows is a suggestion for best practices that would make the most of local addressing knowledge, for the benefit of local communities, state, federal government, and private sector enterprise.

This is just a strawman and suggestions for any improvements to this proposal — in the form of additions, modifications, or simplifying/enhancing the concepts and related messaging — are encouraged.

Important Terms:

BSA — Basic Street Address. Consists of a house number, fully qualified street name including prefix and suffix directionals, street type, and the address reference system (a name associated with the addressing area, not a zipcode) that the address is found within. Building names on campus-like facilities should be incorporated into the BSA inventory.

BSA + Geo — The Basic Street Address plus geographic location coordinates, expressed in latitude, longitude or as an x,y coordinate pair in a recognized coordinate system. BSA+Geo can include several separate address point records for the same address, where appropriate, to represent access points, entrance points, and multiple structures.

Proposed Best Practices

  • The local government Address Authority is responsible for maintaining an inventory of official and unofficial BSA information.
  • The BSA information is kept together with a coordinate pair reflecting, at minimum, a 2D position of the address in geographic space.  (Unit numbers, aka sub addresses, are also worth inventorying, but introduce sufficient complexity that they are not covered in this proposal).
  • The geographic location(s) for each BSA should be accurate enough to guide emergency responders to the desired location without ambiguity with respect to ‘which structure’ and ‘from which road’.
  • The inventory of BSA+Geo is maintained through a separate business process and does not include any resident names or other personal information.
  • For new addresses, the BSA+Geo, should be updated as soon as a building permits are issued for new construction to accommodate for deliveries, inspections, accidents, etc.
  • The BSA+Geo inventory is maintained locally by a stewarding agency that is clearly identified and one that coordinates well with public safety operations.
  • The BSA+Geo inventory is collected and maintained with minimal redundant resources.
  • The BSA+Geo inventory should consist of all physical addresses but could be linked to corresponding mailable addresses where this is desired.
  • The inventory of BSA+Geo is public information*, and is actively shared via web endpoints (data file and service URLs).
  • Incentivizing states, where they are willing, to be aggregators of address data, from the local address authorities into regional, statewide, and/or nationwide data resources, is a logical approach that seems promising.
  • Web-based feedback channels exist to get issues with the BSA+Geo content to the local data steward to be adjudicated and acted upon where appropriate.
  • ‘Time to market’ for changes to BSA+Geo is measured in hours or days (ie an address inventory is a continual, not a periodic, activity).
  • Standardized metrics are compiled and published openly that track the completeness, accuracy, and currency of the BSA+Geo data content.

The Census Bureau and US Postal Service both currently attempt to keep national address inventories. The Census Bureau does not focus on business addresses and its primary need is in preparing for the decennial census every 10 years. The USPS has an inventory of mail delivery points which includes only businesses and residences served by street delivery mail.

Unfortunately, neither agency shares their address inventories citing Federal laws that pertain to either a) information collected in conducting (not preparing for) the census survey (Title 13, Sections 9 & 214) or b) a prohibition of identifying addresses of a specific “postal patron” (Title 39, Section 412a). Take out any direct association of addresses with names of residents/patrons and the current interpretations of the laws by Census and USPS seems somewhat misguided.

With this in mind, perhaps an additional best practice would be the adoption a policy statement similar to the one shown below.

An address point record (APR) consists exclusively of the following digital information components:

  1. A descriptive street address, in a standardized format;
  2. addressing zone information (zipcode, city, and/or addressing authority) that denotes a specific area within which the address is located; and
  3. a numeric coordinate pair (latitude-longitude or equivalent) that represents the geographic location associated with the address.

An APR should be considered public information when:

  1. Local, tribal, regional, or state government has recognized the address through a formal process or for purposes of services delivery (utilities, emergency response, etc); and
  2. the APR is not provisioned with additional descriptive information formally classified as protected, private, or sensitive.