Author Archives: Kim Cloud

Pulled pork, a broken thumb and hydration...

It’s that time again.  The 2014 annual meeting kicked off today in Charleston.  With some of the only free time in a traditionally packed agenda, many of us took the opportunity to check out some of the local cuisine, and stumbled on the Second Sunday festivities on King Street.  Lots of local shopping and live music to enjoy along the way.  I highly recommend checking out the Charleston City Market downtown on Market St.  It seems to be THE place to go for locally made items like jewelry, palmetto baskets and an assortment of souvenirs to purchase for loved ones back home.  The locals will certainly appreciate the business!  We were lucky that the weather held up and the buildings and abundance of huge old oak trees provided some shade.  Unfortunately that didn’t help with the humidity, but those of us from the east coast are lucky to be a bit more used to it then our partners from the west.

So what does one do when the majority of the group wants to go for BBQ and you have a broken thumb?  You ask the waiter for something to cover it so you can enjoy your sandwich of course!  Luckily for Ed Arabas they had rubber gloves that did the job.  He had the recent misfortune of breaking his thumb in a bike accident.  For anyone here, he’ll be happy to provide more details if you ask. ;-)

Now after a day of talking shop with our counterparts, it’s time to see how NSGIC hospitality combines with southern hospitality and for the real networking to begin.  Hopefully our members, both new and old, followed the advice of our next president and past president, and hydrated well.  A whole new day of meetings and information sharing starts early, so good to be prepared for anything.

Registration for 2014 Midyear Meeting Now Open!!

Registration for the 2014 Midyear Meeting is now open! You should be receiving the official registration materials by regular mail in the next week or so. We have updated the website with all of the most current meeting details. You can see all of the details about the meeting as well as hotel and travel information and how to register online.

The meeting will be held February 23-26, 2014 and we’ll be returning to the Loews Annapolis Hotel. Once again, the hotel is extending the prevailing federal government rate of $101 to the entire NSGIC group. To receive the discount rate, call the Loews Annapolis Hotel, 1-410-263-7777 or 1-800-526-2593 and reference NSGIC. Make your reservations early since cut-off for the group rate is January 31, 2014.

Also, we are now accepting applications for conference travel grants. Please submit your application by January 15th in order to be considered for travel assistance. As always, we’d like to thank our sponsors for their support of NSGIC which allows us to offer these opportunities to our members. Click here for more information about conference travel grants and to submit an application.

See you in February!

Rivalry & Collaboration – can they co-exist?

If you are a Mizzou fan, would you get on a bus driven by a Jayhawk fan? As we learned from Kansas City’s former mayor Joe Reardon, sometimes the rivalries run so deep that the answer is no. We are surrounded by rivalries and competitive mentalities every day. But we can still collaborate, can’t we? Unfortunately, sometimes the answer to that question is also no. A recurring theme of Monday’s presentations was collaboration. Everyone wants it, everyone wants to see it improve, but we struggle to find the right language to improve the awareness and knowledge of the other party. So the resistance continues. And we can’t work together until we can communicate and are willing to make some compromises along the way.

Mayor Reardon shared his observation that what we do is full of jargon that outsiders and executives either don’t understand or don’t want to understand. Our jargon isn’t approachable by legislators – just look at the descriptions of our presentations for examples. But the jargon is leading to results, and the technology is evolving to the point that we can make the data more and more relevant to the consumers. It’s making it easier to help people reach the conclusions that you want them to reach without having to explain everything you did along the way.

So how did we get to where we are? Throughout our history, technology has advanced, and infrastructure has been put into place that opens up possibilities that weren’t there before. Do you think that if the decision had been made to not complete the interstate loop around Kansas City that they would have built the Kansas City Speedway where they did? If the train yards hadn’t been built here (KC is the 2nd largest rail hub in the country) would so many opportunities been open for farmers to share their goods? Infrastructure enables economic development – if more things come to your community, quality of life will improve, the tax base will broaden and employers will want to come into the area and bring jobs.

Kansas City’s work to implement the 1 Gb Google Fiber demonstrates this principle, as it already seems that the value of homes that have the 1 Gb internet are higher than homes without, businesses are willing to move into the areas with the faster connections and bring jobs. We want things to be faster, even though what we have is probably enough.

All this can happen if we are willing to share our story and use the right jargon.

Collaboration was a running theme through the day. The Enterprise Architecture & Governance Committee of NASCIO now has a working group that is surveying states for successful stories of collaboration. Check out their site at http://www.nascio.org/atdvocacy/collaboration for more information. Eric Sweden noted that one of the most downloaded reports they have is the NASCIO top 10 priorities. It shows that we are trying to find the right things to talk about.

Nathalie Smith reminded us that having data and maps isn’t enough. We don’t gain knowledge and understanding until we share it. Michael Terner & Jeff Hamerlink showed CHAT, the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool that uses hexagons to show their state model results. Not a typical map representation, but it’s what the end users are accustomed to. This is a great example of finding the right lingo to fit the audience.

The Roll Call of States just emphasized our differences and shared challenges. Even with our differences we can collaborate with each other to share knowledge and experiences. With open minds we have a lot to learn from each other.

The afternoon panels again reiterated finding a common language. According to Stu Davis, most CIO’s don’t understand what GIS is and what we do. Zsolt Nagy and Rick Miller both stated that we can do a better job with the State’s constituents and our local governments and empower them with knowledge. Maybe with more outreach and education we can help open minds and work through our underlying ‘rivalries’ to work towards mutually beneficial goals. We need to open minds and break down the barriers – help them see what is in it for them so we can collaborate.

So why do we have such difficulty working with local governments in some cases. Do we want their data so another agency can beat them up with it? Of course not. Is it this perception that leads to the seeming competition to show you have the best data and reluctance to share? If we communicate better, can we get past this to improve collaboration? What can we do and how can we get there?

Keith Hangland from Kansas said that their clearinghouse has been very successful. Local governments can choose for themselves if they want to share their data. Turns out most have. Stu cautions us against setting expectations that we can’t meet, as there are always people who are going to try to stop you. Is that rivalry or competition or something else? It certainly doesn’t help with collaboration if you can’t even ‘get them on the bus’ with you.

Stu’s observation of what NSGIC could have done sooner was to engage the IT side of organizations. I think that emphasizes the need to communicate early and often to help the process progress. Dan Ross highlighted their experience with making sure you let the owners of the data know what they will get in return if they share. Erin Tesh from Maryland also experienced that it is very important for everyone to have an equal voice at the table.

So essentially, and in short, if we drop our ‘rivalries’ and just get on the bus, together we can really go a long way and truly collaborate. We can all find compromises that we can make to be successful. Otherwise we may be travelling alone…

Go for a dip in NSGIC!

– a blog inspired by a night time swim in Kansas City followed by chips & dip…

Today was the first day of the 2013 Annual NSGIC meeting, one of the most important days of the conference according to some of our members. The day started with a workshop from Platinum Sponsor Sanborn. They began by sharing information about the advances in remote sensing technology that support the collection of aerial imagery at a higher flying elevation. This provides numerous benefits, including, but not limited to reducing building lean. And, believe it or not, haze can be filtered out using more dynamic depth and better algorithms. If only we could filter the actual causes of the haze as easily! The use of remote sensing data was demonstrated in a case study of a SEMCOG (South East Michigan Council of Governments) project to analyze multiple layers of data to create a green infrastructure dataset. Between the internal QC by Sanborn and QC done in partnership with Michigan State University they were able to achieve 96.4% accuracy in their results, well above their goal of 85%. A note for Detroit residents – don’t dip into your neighbor’s heat… Thermal imaging can reveal that your house is heated! Finally, another emerging technology was presented: UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), which have more appropriately also been referred to as UAS’s (Unmanned Aerial Systems) due to the nature of the amount of supporting equipment on the ground. State policies range from allowing residents to shoot these vehicles down, to encouraging their use for environmental and emergency projects. The complications of their usage are compounded by the evolving regulations of the FAA. Sounds like a good opportunity for NSGIC to develop a position paper to help support states in educating stakeholders on what’s good and what’s bad about the technology.

The State Caucus was jam packed as usual. Although our states vary greatly in geography and legislation, there are still a lot of issues that we have in common. Including Federal funding availability and even the “Silver Tsunami” which refers to the business continuity during times of human resource attrition.

** If you are a NSGIC member, be on the alert for a survey in the next few weeks to gather feedback on conferences, the benefits of NSGIC and some important topics that we NEED your input.

Many feel that we need to branch out to our State, Local and Agency leaders. We need to ‘dip’ into the broad range of resources and a community that shares some of the same challenges and look for more opportunities for collaboration. Some words to ponder: “NSGIC is good at strategic thinking, we just don’t think that we are and we need to think about that.” Let’s take this organization to the next level!

Have you heard of ESF’s? These are “Emergency Support Functions”. There are currently 15 defined and accepted ESF’s. Several groups in the community continue to advocate for the creation of a dedicated GIS ESF. Everyone uses GIS to support the other ESF’s in an emergency and a good GIS needs data. Our partner organization, NISC (National Information Sharing Consortium), that now has over 60 members, is working with agencies to develop EEI’s (Essential Elements of Identification) that the professionals in each ESF utilize. Once those are identified, they can be incorporated into state’s SDI’s (Spatial Data Infrastructures). Anything that has that many acronyms must involve a lot of collaboration. Imagine what we can accomplish if we work together!

And there is no shortage of opportunities for collaboration. Some of the most recent additions are the collection of online sales taxes and changes to flood plain boundaries as our climate continues to change.

These topics and more are discussed in more detail at NSGIC’s mid-year and annual meetings. Attendees have the opportunity to ask questions and directly interact with their peers. Everyone has a voice and can benefit from discussions of our shared experiences. Are you willing or able to take a ‘dip’ into NSGIC? You won’t regret it. I know I never regret taking the time and making the effort into coming. I guess it could be the chips and dip talking though. Hmmm… something to think about.

Check back tomorrow for more!
— Kim

2013 Annual Conference Registration is Open!

Registration is now open for the 2013 Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri! Please visit the website at www.nsgic.org/2013-annual-conference for more information about the conference and to review the current draft agenda. The official registration brochure will be in the mail shortly. In the meantime, you can either download a printable registration form or visit NSGIC Online to register. You will need to log in prior to registering online. Remember to register prior to September 27th to receive the early registration rate!

We are also accepting applications for conference grants. Applications may be submitted online thru July 19th.

The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center is offering a special rate of $149, per room, per night, for the NSGIC 2013 Annual Conference for Saturday, October 26 thru Thursday, October 31st. In addition, the hotel will be offering the prevailing Government per diem rate to all attendees providing valid Government Identification. To make your reservation, call the hotel at 1-816-474-4400 or 1-888-627-8538, please reference NSGIC (National States Geographic Information Council) when making your reservation (for both the group rate AND government per diem). Be sure to make your reservation before October 12, 2013 in order to receive the NSGIC discounted rate. Complimentary Internet service will be available to attendees in guestrooms and within the NSGIC meeting space.

Hope to see you in Kansas City!

NSGIC Mid-Year Day 2, Monday 2/25/13

As usual, the first full day of the NSGIC mid-year meeting was jam packed with useful information.  The day began with opening remarks from the President of NSGIC, Ivan Weichert.  He provided a reminder to us that change is inevitable and summarized it succinctly – The way it was is not the way it is and the way it is now is not the way it will be.  Wise words to remember.  We then had the pleasure of hearing from keynote speaker Major General William Reddel, the Adjutant General of the New Hampshire National Guard.  He emphasized the importance of collaboration and its ultimate role in saving lives.  In our reality where speed is life, it is ever so important to have tools that can turn our data into information that can be used to create knowledge and understanding in place before disasters occur.  He cited a Winston Churchill quote “Gentlemen, we are out of money, we need to think”.  A quote that has been repeated several times since.  This is not the time to make excuses; this is the time to get creative.  Geospatial thinking is a science and an art and the only thing stopping us from using GIS now is our imaginations.  Now is a time for us to work together to share best practices, find standards and architecture that can support all of us.  When the lowest level source of data is the towns in our states then we need to start with the towns that have ‘good’ geospatial programs to be champions to those who don’t.  Rather than federal entities pulling information together in silos, it is more efficient and will reduce redundancy to carry the data up from the lowest levels.  He is looking to NSGIC and the states to keep pushing our message.  He will keep pushing with the organizations he works with including NASCIO, the White House, Department of Homeland Security and the National Geospatial intelligence Agency.  We need to have many voices with one message.  The importance of this was emphasized with a reminder of what the American people will judge us by: 1) Did we save their lives, 2) Did we reduce human suffering and 3) Did we protect their property.

Other presentations throughout the day carried the same theme of collaboration and finding creative solutions in the economic challenges we are facing.  Jim Scott from Texas spoke of Transcendental Geography.  He highlighted the importance of calibrating models with actual data to get a more realistic picture.  Their field research of flood high water marks has proven that you can have accurate maps that are not realistic.

Bert Granberg from Utah and Jacob Mundt from Wyoming, chairs of the Geospatial Web Service Working group have collected survey responses regarding state’s use of Geospatial web services.  The results will be available in a Google document for shared viewing.  They are going to work with NSGIC on next steps and will incorporate results into the GMA and develop a best practices document.  Stay tuned for more!

Ray Faught from New York presented results from an eye-opening imagery ROI study, including data gathered from 15 counties, combined with data extrapolated for approximately 35 additional counties and the private sector.  They determined there was a 711% ROI on their imagery investment.  And that doesn’t even include the non-financial benefits such as lives saved by having good data… WOW!

David Boyd’s update on Virtual USA was also a reminder of being creative in tough financial times.  Governance is typically the hardest part as it implies who is in charge and who pays.  Noting that you can’t rely on government to continue funding for any prolonged period of time, they are going to continue funding Virtual USA until it can be self-sustaining.

Sean McSpaden from Oregon, the chair of NISC, provided us with an update of their progress.  Since July 2012 they have grown from 5 to 24 members.  The most recent additions are NSGIC and their first private sector member esri.  In a relatively short period of time they have collected a diverse array of resources, tools, API’s and even code that are available to members.  In the future they are also looking at technologies other than Flex to expand their toolkit.

Mike Byrne of the FCC shared information about one of their current projects to collect ILEC study area boundaries.  They are building a data collection website for providers to submit data and for collaboration on certification.

Charley Hickman from the USGS gave an update on the 3D elevation program which seems analogous to Lidar for the Nation (with the exception of Alaska that is collecting mostly IFSAR).  USGS has developed an interagency elevation inventory and if you are from an area impacted by Sandy, they are seeking partners for additional data to be collected.

Past President of NSGIC Tim DeTroye of South Carolina shared some of their lessons learned with data licensing issues.  In their state tables of data aren’t typically an issue, but when you add a spatial component, counties want to copyright their data.  The question is “To license or not to license”.  To be copyrightable, data has to be original and some sort of creative work.

This is a point that was further emphasized by Paul Uhlir’s discussion of legal interoperability of data.  One of his points was that public domain is the yin to proprietary’s yang.  He moved to an explanation of the difference between license and contract which is an important distinction.

Learon Dalby stayed true to form with his talk about the meaning of ‘free’.  The reusable analogy he used – ask yourselves is this “puppy dog” free, or “beverage” free?  Meaning, when you adopt a puppy for free you are on the hook for food and shelter, but if someone were to give you a beverage than that’s free to you.  His emphasis was to look at the total cost of ownership – something may be free initially, but what about the servers to host it and resources to maintain it?

Christian Carlson from esri shared their goals to take the technology from highly customized systems that can’t be modified and sustained to configurable systems that require little coding.  The tools they have developed for local governments will be extended to state governments.

Anthony Fassero from Nokia discussed the progression of street view data collection.   The first project of its kind was actually a 1977-79 MIT Aspen movie map developed using a camera strapped to the roof of a wood panel wagon!

The final session of the day was on broadband data.  Bill Johnson from New York cited some creative uses of the broadband data to filter applications for funding Connect NY projects and their collaboration with their economic development office.  Joy Paulus from Washington noted how their maps are a lot more precise than they used to be.  They are also using the broadband data to support investments and later mentioned that 80% of their communities have seen a change for the better.  And last, but not least was Bert Granberg from Utah.  He first emphasized that the broadband data is freely available in the public domain.  You don’t have to be a broadband steward to do cool things with it.  He highlighted creative ways they are funding gaps in coverage – their roadkill application, er, I mean, their Wildlife Vehicle Collection Response application serves as a double agent.  They are able to tell where field users aren’t able to connect to the network and can use that data to improve their broadband data.

A full day to say the least!! These are only highlights; you can view full presentations in the 2013 conference archives.

ROI Song of NSGIC meetings

Too rarely in our lives do we get opportunities where our professional and personal lives intersect.  As bizarre as it sounds to some, I am privileged to say I have had that opportunity with my experiences with NSGIC.  I have never known another group of people so closely bound by a shared common goal who can enjoy the silly pleasures of an evening of folk songs and sing-alongs after a hard day of collaborating on ideas to bring people together and to get outsiders to understand the importance of what we do.  On paper, is that an ROI on attendance?  Probably not.  But in a world where a difference can be made by the right person having the right contact at the right time, does that or should that really matter?  To me, it doesn’t.  I, for one, know I can count on any of the members of NSGIC to come through on a trivial question or even response to a major disaster.  I don’t know of a similar organization that avails itself to furthering education, pushing legislation, increasing communication and fostering collaboration like NSGIC does.  And it is not to the benefit of its members, as is proven by the fact that many members come to the meetings at their own expense.  It is to the benefit of the citizens that we all serve.  Whom we, as civil servants, have pledged our careers and ourselves to help.  I, for one, know who I can call upon for help with geospatial challenges, do you?  I learned by attending NSGIC meetings.  Not by reading contact lists or directories, but by meeting the people in person.  That’s an ROI song that I think I can sing.

Instrumental NSGIC Role in TFTN Win

Tom Roff (FHWA) and Steve Lewis (USDOT GIO) celebrated the culmination of joint work with NSGIC by announcing President Obama’s signing of Public Law 112-441, which authorizes the use of federal funds for the production of statewide centerline data and attribution for all paved and unpaved public roads. NSGIC’s Transportation for the Nation initiative (TFTN) has been working for a national road centerline dataset for many years, and this law provides the resources and driver for states to now collect all roads data within their boundaries and does not require the usual 20% state funding match for the effort. Planning for the data collection will begin in October, 2012, and the first data reporting will begin in 2014. Once again, NSGIC has provided significant national value encouraging the efficient and effective use of geospatial technology.

- Ed Arabas

2012 Annual Conference Keynote Speaker

Our keynote speaker, Bob Austin, PhD, of the City of Tampa, gave a presentation on four views of GIS:
– Personal View, where the main take away is that it’s all about the data. His advice is to document requirements (the ‘How’ will come later), and to never sacrifice “Good” in favor of “Fast” and “Cheap”.
– Local View, using the City of Tampa’s view of the challenges of information access. Specific challenges being Data access, Naming, Policy and Usability. A major takeaway from this view is that the policy and data sharing consume just as much time in a project as the technical components. His advice is to plan ahead for the sociological and policy aspects in project planning.
– Industry View, using his experiences with GITA (Geospatial Information & Technology Association) as the example. 85% of US Infrastructure is owned by industry, and understanding infrastructure interdependencies is key.
– National View, using his service with NGAC (National Geospatial Advisory Committee). He emphasized building once, and using many times by taking a portfolio approach. Sharing data makes sense. Check out the work they have done at www.geoplatform.gov
– A bonus 5th view is the International View, citing several examples that emphasize interoperability and the need for international standards.

He also shared the City of Tampa’s experience with the Republican National Convention and the 3 major concerns that they planned for:
– 1st concern was Hurricanes; in reality Tropical Storm Isaac prompted the cancellation of the first day of the convention.
– 2nd concern was Terrorism; in reality they did not have any terrorist attacks.
– 3rd concern was Violent Protests; in reality there were some non-violent protests, but nothing violent. There were only 2 arrests during the course of the convention.

To support the convention they stood up a situational awareness dashboard called TIGER (Tampa Information and Geographical Resources) that now has upwards of 185 data sets.

It was a great presentation to get insight into some of the different perspectives of GIS. As Bob stated, “GIS is not just a good idea, it’s inevitable”.

2012 Annual Conference Opening Speaker

The opening day of the annual conference began with an enlightening welcome from Florida’s state GIS coordinator, Richard Butgereit. He shared a couple of interesting facts about Florida. Between May and August, Florida has gone from a state of extreme drought to very wet due in part to 3 tropical storms and increased frequency of severe storms. Richard’s advice – if it thunders, run for cover!

We then had the pleasure of receiving a presentation from the State Archaeologist of Florida, James Miller, PHD, LLC, who shared examples of how GIS has made a profound difference in how they conduct their research and preservation efforts. He explained that GIS is the most powerful tool he has come across to help with his work and explain the results of his work. Examples included research into the Gainesville Depot, which they discovered had been moved 3 times since the 1800’s. Efforts are nearing completion to move the depot to its original location and restore it to become a useful building again. The second example was Heritage Park in the Bahamas. Their advice to the creators of the park – you don’t need to dig, you need a plan. Their research helped identify points of interest and the ideal location for the park using a combination of physical documents and GIS analysis. Finally, a highlight was the story of their research of Freetown in the Bahamas. Their research combined historic imagery, physical documents and interviews with former residents, including the Cooper family, to document what the town looked like in the past. They were able to identify wells, community centers, grave sites, and get a better understanding of the physical and cultural characteristics of the town. What an honor it was to hear about this research, and great examples of how GIS analysis can help preserve our past!

NSGIC 2012 Annual Conference Day 1

The NSGIC 2012 Annual conference kicked off today with a very informative and dynamic workshop facilitated by Sanborn. The workshop began with a presentation on sensor technologies, where they are today and where they are heading in the future. The presentation quickly took on the feel of an extended state caucus with an exchange of questions, answers and discussion on topics ranging from defining data classifications, quality control methodology, RFP’s and uses for 3D point clouds.

Here are some highlights:
– Suggestions for NSGIC to develop a common RFP “set” for procurement, that all states can use
– Several things drive up the cost of acquisition procurement, including: forced use of specific technologies; not allowing the experts to guide the process with creative options and lack of clarity regarding what is being requested.
– As cloud solutions become available, procurement will change for the variety of end-users and service levels, so a lot of new things to think about.
– A suggestion was made for Sanborn and NSGIC to develop a 1-pager with sample pictures for state reps to use as a handout to answer the question “why buy imagery when I can use free online resources?”

NSGIC thanks Brad Arshat, Sanchit Agarwal and Learon Dalby, they know their stuff!! Please contact them via Twitter @SanbornMap or ldalby@sanborn.com with any questions.

In true NSGIC style a discussion group met to talk about GIS as IT until about 10:45. Look for some useful tools born from this discussion to help market GIS in the midst of state leadership. Hats off to Danielle Ayan of Georgia for leading this discussion!

Looking forward to a very full day tomorrow including keynote speaker Bob Austin from the City of Tampa, LandSat and You, and the Corporate Sponsor Reception and Buffet!