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.
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.
State GIOs are preparing for significant changes required to support the next generation of emergency response technology; data and business planning and preparation are underway, with the state GIS office a central stakeholder in ensuring successful coordination.
Responding to states’ need for information and guidance, NSGIC’s Addressing Work Group recently presented “Statewide Addressing Solutions,” a web conference featuring three states’ (MA, NY, and UT) approaches to coordinating statewide, cross-departmental preparations for the next generation of public safety services. Issues surrounding addressing standards, coordination across federal-state-county stakeholders, eliminating duplication of effort, and leveraging updated data layers for other statewide needs were addressed in this session. [access recorded session here]
NSGIC’s 2013 Midyear Meeting (Feb. 24-27, Annapolis, MD, info here) will continue to provide strategic insights for state GIOs, as well as the opportunity to discuss and debate approaches to NG911 support preparations and available funding resources:
Homeland Security Workshop: “Strategic Initiatives to Support Geospatial Preparedness”
Emergency Management professionals are acutely aware that their success during an event depends heavily upon having the right networks, resources and capabilities in place before an event occurs. This is essential because when that “big event” happens, whatever it is, those resources need to be rapidly mobilized and deployed appropriately. While emergency managers are preparing for the next big event, their partners are busy addressing everyday (non-disaster focused) challenges facing their respective organizations. This workshop is designed to provide state coordinators with a strategic view of the opportunities to address both – cross walking between the everyday business requirements of an organization and the disaster requirements of emergency managers. At the end of this workshop, we hope state coordinators will have additional tools to strategically address the needs of the emergency management community, while at the same time strengthening the daily usage of geospatial information and technology to support the business requirements of their states.
SBI/Broadband and Addressing Session: “State Approaches to Addresses”
States are working to create statewide address registers – often with very different approaches. Virginia and Rhode Island already have systems that provide up-to-date address data that benefits their states. Maryland and Oregon are moving forward. This session will present those four models, then discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each.
FirstNet Panel Discussion
FirstNet, the federal plan to deploy a nationwide wireless public safety broadband network, will be discussed. There are many unknowns about this plan, including funding and federal-state roles and responsibilities. This panel will provide the most up-to-date information useful to state GIS coordinators.
NENA Guidance for States: Preparing for NG911 Data Needs
As state GIS coordinators, a significant amount of effort is aimed at creating standardized, statewide databases of key local government databases. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) provides standards and guidance useful in assisting states in creating databases such as structure point addresses, 911 service boundaries, parcels, road centerlines, etc. The role of these databases in Next Generation 9-1-1 systems will be discussed as well as
where in the call taking process the data is used, current databases that may be replaced (e.g. Master Street Address Guide – MSAG) and how state GIS coordinators can best prepare our respective states for meeting these needs.
Facilitated Discussion on SBI/Broadband, Address, Transportation and FirstNet
This session will tie together the relationships between the many efforts that have one very important thing in common: an address.
NSGIC’s 2013 Midyear Meeting is open to all stakeholders in the geospatial community. On average, nearly 40 US states and territories are represented at the Midyear Meeting, popular for its depth of content, open discussion and networking, and take-home value for attendees. Visit www.nsgic.org for more information.
A special workshop will be presented by NSGIC Platinum Sponsor, North West Group, on Sunday, February 24th, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm.*
Topic: A Real World Analysis of a Geospatial Public Private Partnership
Presented By: Tim Crago, Vice President, North West Group; and Tom Grabowski, President & CEO, The Silvacom Group
Overview: Since 1997, the Government of Alberta Canada has participated in a PPP for the storage, management, update and distribution of a number of government data sets. The history, corporate set up and funding models are examined.
Please join us for this highly interactive session that we hope will ignite great discussion and provide insightful input relating to both sides of the equation.
* This workshop will be open to Government, Academic, & Non-Profit Attendees Only. Please consider this workshop while arranging your travel plans; it is recommended that you plan to arrive on Saturday if you wish to attend.
NSGIC’s Washington Liaison, is planning to retire in November 2013. If you are interested in filling this position, please review the cover letter from Ivan Weichert, NSGIC President, that details the requirements for submitting an application. In addition, you can review the position description that describes both the expectations for the position, as well as the desired skill sets.
If you are aware of anyone that you believe is a good ‘fit’ for this position, please direct them to the announcement on the web page at http://www.nsgic.org/position-announcement.
NSGIC recently distributed a new flyer titled “If you’re involved with GIS Coordination…NSGIC has the right meeting for you.” You will find some interesting quotes from NSGIC State Representatives about the ROI they have obtained from attending NSGIC Meetings. Use this and other information in the flyer to help justify why it’s important to attend the Midyear Meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, from February 24th through the 27th. The detailed conference agenda will be posted later today. The Conference Committee has built a very strong agenda for this year’s meeting and we are encouraging our State Members to reach out to their Emergency Management agencies to encourage their attendance at this meeting.
The November/December issue of Earth Imaging Journal ran an article titled “Justifying the Cost of Authoritative Imagery in a World of Free Data“. This article was based, in part, on a recent NSGIC publication titled “Justifying the Cost of Authoritative Imagery….a brief review of the issues“. The NSGIC publication was developed as a result of discussions at the State Caucus Meeting during the NSGIC Annual Meeting in Orlando Florida.
Better cities can be created by giving citizens creative access to information. A new project is being launched in Europe to create Smart City applications and transfer them from city to city. The project will be using an open source service developer toolkit to help make it easier for developers to create new and innovative applications that work across the continent. The project is called CitySDK, City System Development Kit. The €6.84 million project is funded in part by a grant from the European Commission.
The basic idea is to open city data resources to developers allowing them to create useful applications, much like Washington DC did when it conducted its Apps for Democracy competition. Unlike Washington DC, CitySDK wants the same app to run in many cities across Europe. Pilot projects will be launched in three cities starting in early 2013: Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Lisbon. Five other cities are also participating: Barcelona, Istanbul, Lamia (Greece), Manchester, and Rome. This effort will require cities releasing their data in standard formats.
Europeans see this approach benefitting citizens who use the applications, cities who get apps written for them, and developers who benefit from expanded markets. The expectation is that the more nimble smaller firms will take advantage of this opportunity, what Europeans call SMEs – small and medium enterprises. In their documentation, they say CitySDK will provide developers with a “European advantage against the US and Asian competitors.”
Note: CitySDK was identified in a special report on Technology and Geography in the October 27 issue of The Economist. The over-riding theme of the report is that geography is enhanced by smart phones and connectivity, not diminished. Smart cities take advantage of technology by helping people navigate, find interesting places, and even report problems that can be fixed quickly.
-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.
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:
- A descriptive street address, in a standardized format;
- addressing zone information (zipcode, city, and/or addressing authority) that denotes a specific area within which the address is located; and
- 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:
- 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
- the APR is not provisioned with additional descriptive information formally classified as protected, private, or sensitive.
Screenshot of one of the National Broadband Maps
A panel discussion about the National Broadband Map was held at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. on October 15th, 2012 (Case Study report here). The discussion was also webcasted. Panel members included:
- Michael Byrne, GIO for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC);
- Zach Bastian, a recent JD graduate who wrote the Case Study report;
- Haley Van Dyck, lead of the Digital Government Strategy, and e-government policy analyst for the Office of Management and Budget;
- Greg Elin, Chief Data Officer at the FCC;
- Ben Balter, Presidential Innovation Fellow who recently wrote Towards a More Agile Government; and
- Dr. Sean Gorman, Chief Strategist for ESRI’s DC Development Center.
The gist of the presentation was to highlight how well the broadband initiative worked. It is, as Zach Bastian put it, “the poster child for government and IT collaboration.” He also highlighted four main wins that developed from this project.
- Incredible savings (specifics seen in the report).
- Agile development, which is an iterative process. Features were added as needed instead of the usual governmental “waterfall” methodology where all specs are listed in advance.
- Open data, participation (i.e. speed testing by citizens, using mobile applications provided by FCC), transparency, and collaboration by NTIA, states, and internet providers, as well as NSGIC. Open data provided an “Aha!” moment because even though the government had to give up a bit of control, it meant that their systems, points, and work spread much faster than they could have imagined.
- Tangible effect on policy. This was projected helped to address the digital divide.
After this introduction, the panel was asked a series of questions. The first question, “What can government do to help modernize?” lead to some great insights:
- *Build tools to accomplish culture change. You can’t just tell people about change, you need to provide the tools to do so.
- *Lead by example. Seeing others having impact, success leads to more people joining in.
- *Hire people with new mindsets.
- *Encourage risk to learn from failure, even in government.
- *Innovation change is hard and trying to think its easy makes it harder.
- *Find opportunities to move 1 or 2 people to do things differently. Even small numbers is good.
- *“Everyone has to learn to swim for themselves” –Greg Elin. Meaning that you may have to explain and help each person climb on board with these new ideas. Be patient! Along these lines, famous physicist Max Planck’s famous quote, “Truth never triumphs—its opponents just die out. Science advances one funeral at a time,” was recalled.
In addition to these points, the National Broadband Map serves as a great example of how data can come alive for people when attention is paid to design as well as factually correct information. With such a combination, the realization of peoples’ ideas can be very powerful.