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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Staunton Embraces ArcGIS Online

The City of Staunton [VA] announced today the launch of a new “Maps & Apps” website.  Maps & Apps replaces the traditional city “GIS” site previously available for use by the public.  Information can now be accessed from a collection of Maps & Apps.  New apps include: “Crime Information,” “Traffic Information” and “Election History,” in addition to “Real Estate Information.”

It's an ArcGIS Online gallery with a mishmash of things from the city, state and private providers; I can't tell which are maps and which are apps and am not sure if it matters. The inconsistency between them was jarring and some didn't even have maps! Several links went to generic ArcGIS Online maps like the "current weather" one at right. 

NZ's Open Data Working Wonders

Land Information Minister Michael Woodhouse today [7/8] released the 2014 Report on Agency Adoption of the Declaration on Open and Transparent Government.
There's lot of good news about datasets being available and 3rd parties using them. but the bottom line for government from the executive summary:
The efficiency gains that most (72%) departments are experiencing from re-using other agencies’ data are the highlight of this report, though more metrics are necessary to quantify the gains. 
Australia's National Map 

The beta of what's being called Australia's National Map is hosted by NICTA but will be hosted by Geoscience Australia. Among the partners: Department of Communications, NICTA and Geoscience Australia, while the datasets are sourced from Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the government's open data repository.

The map project was unveiled last week ahead of the annual GovHackevent, July 11-13. Open source tech includes: Cesium, Leaflet, Geoserver, jquery, URI.js, proj4js, html2canvas, knockout, esri-leaflet.js, togeojson, and Tilelayer.Bing.js. It's a bit too "Google Earth-y" for me, but it's pretty slick.

Could Data Licensing be an Issue for Washington State's Legal Pot Business?

Yes, reports the Stranger:

Likewise, the state has purchased much of its mapping data from Esri, a private mapping company, and their contract restricted distribution of that data (the Attorney General’s Office also declared Esri-licensed data exempt from public disclosure). What this means is that cannabis business applicants can’t get access to the same data the liquor board is using to qualify their business locations. So, in effect, the only certain way to know if a location will be disqualified is apply and then be disqualified. This Catch-22 means qualified entrepreneurs will see their pot shop plans unexpectedly flushed down the toilet with no chance to re-apply.

by Adena Schutzberg on 07/16 at 03:33 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

These are some of the interesting stories and products I ran into during a single day at the Esri User Conference.

Mapping Elections on TV

Esri Australia worked with a TV station ABC7 for the 2013 election. With just a few weeks between making an “in kind” agreement, the tech staff whipped up a runtime based app and worked within the challenging TV station parameters (constantly changing plans, no Internet on the set among others, limited knowledge of producers and hosts). Check out a video of the app running on the air.


Here are the lessons learned. Solutions for TV:

  • need to be fit for purpose (in this case including a second screen for users and the whiz bang flash)
  • will complement, not replace, what in Australia they call “the tally room model”
  • may create stories that are used just once as they loose relevance at the broadcast continues
  • can tap geolocated tweets, but in this case only 10% were geolocated; ideally you’d want more

Launching an LBS Startup


PathGeo is a start up spun out of a National Science Foundation funded project to San Diego State University. The basic technology collects information from social media within a geography and then presents it as a solution to a problem. CityBuddy helps visitors find the “hot” events and even ranks them by popularity on social media. Geo-Win collects content about elections. The business model? CityBuddy does not yet have one. Geo-Win ideally would be sold as a service to campaigns to monitor content. I'm not sure PathGeo will fly with a stronger business model, but best of luck!


Exploiting WAMI (and yes the acronym was new to me, too!)


Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI) is video imagery that spans about the area of a city at 3-10 images per second. That’s a far larger area of coverage than most video but at a resolution (1 M) and time scale that’s valuable for public safety type issues. Pixia wrote the WAMI specification and provides the tools to manage that large flow of data that’s typically coming from sensors in planes, balloons, drones and the like. Had such data been available during last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, I’m told by a Pixia rep, once the bombs exploded, officials could have followed the video back in time, determined which “dots” put down the backpacks and tracked them back from whence they’d come. Perhaps the bombers would have been identified and found far faster than the week it took. Pixia is excited to be integrating its tools into ArcGIS.

by Adena Schutzberg on 07/15 at 03:44 PM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Esri announced its new community connection environment, GeoNet, during the plenary on Monday. Here's what you need to know:

  • It's for everyone interested in discussing geospatial challenges and solutions, not just Esri users.
  • It's more than forums, although the Esri forums now live under its umbrella. 
  • It's aim is to keep the spirit of sharing found at the Esri User Conference going on all year long.
  • It was piloted with participants in the Esri Climate Resilience App Challenge 2014 and others interested in sustainability.
  • It's already in use by George Dailey of the education team in his work exploring sustainability on campus.
  • Members can join groups and follow individuals. And, content including maps, documents etc. can be shared. Posts can be shared out to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
  • Participation is already 20% higher than in the forums. Why? Community Manager Timothy Hales suggests its because the forums were typically focused just on technical questions and answers. GeoNet is for a far broader audience.

My Take:

GeoNet could become the place to bring together many of the disparate conversations about GIS that are scattered across the Web. The bottom line: it depend on how members choose to use it. I'll be keeping an eye on its growth, especially for partners and the education community.

by Adena Schutzberg on 07/15 at 10:59 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 14, 2014

No less than three speakers  in the morning session of the Senior Executive Seminar at the Esri User Conference spoke on the need for an open data policy for emergency response.

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, the undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere of the Department of Commerce and a NOAA administrator said that data, freely shared, is a public good and is a cornerstone of U.S. policy as well as a fundamental way of doing business.

Dr. Robert Griffin, the acting deputy undersecretary for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security said that there is a need to "operationalize data" and that shared data will help first responders do their job better. "What we need to do is synthesize the map into effective operational information," he said.

The Honarable Maurice Williamson, a member of New Zealand's Parliament mentioned that on the Open Data Barometer that his country attained the highest rating in terms of political impact. He made these remarks during a presentation that explained the process of redeveloping the City of Christchurch after the devastating earthquake of 2011 that destroyed a good portion of the city.

These remarks signal a recognition that investments by government agencies in geospatial information will not serve the average citizen if policies don't mandate open data. Hand in hand with an open data policy is the establishment a governance model so that responsible management of information is secured. Proper governance will assure information security, data reliability and management accountability.

by Joe Francica on 07/14 at 10:00 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Opportunities and Challenges in K-12 Education

Chris Swanson, the Vice President of Education Week, Cindy Marten the Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, and Dr. Helen Soulé Executive Director of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills addressed “Opportunities and Challenges in K-12 Education” in the first Esri Education GIS Conference plenary.  One educator described this session as a “repeat” of “professional development talks” he’d seen. I wondered about how relevant the discussion was for the educators in the room.

Moderator Governor Jim Geringer asked the speakers to articulate their takeaways at the end of the session which I paraphrase below:

Swanson - Place matters in education because of difference between state and local preferences and oversight. But school is about more than what happens at school: the environment and home and in the community contributes positively or negatively to teaching and learning.

Soulé - Communities need to use technology to build a re-imagined vision of what learning looks like for all students. [If you are not familiar with the P21 vision of skills, do give its website a look. Lots of attendees were taking pictures of those slides.]

Marten - We need to bring the power from the individual to gather the community and take action. But we need to use data (geographic and otherwise) to measure change. We need to use data as a flashlight to guide us in moving forward, rather than as a hammer to punish.

The Future of Higher Education

Scott Thomas of professor and dean of Claremont Graduate University School of Education opened the “Future of Higher Education” plenary. He argued that online education will never be elite because it’s incomplete. Students, he argues, must come together physically to have all the experiences that make up an education. One challenge we have now, he noted, is that we don’t measure learning. The good news? Technology can help us with that.

Anthony Robinson of Penn State took more of an “online” perspective. (at right, image via @trbaker) He argued that indeed distance is not a problem with online learning. In fact, a recent study shows no quality difference between residence and well constructed online education. While open educational content is nice, effective high level learning, further up Bloom’s taxonomy, requires “more.” That “more” can be added via MOOCs, in addition to “on campus” as Thomas suggested. Robinson was quick to emphasize that MOOCs are not all online classes; they are one special type. Those in and outside education should not conflate the two! 

Esri’s Chief Scientist, Dawn Wright addressed the growing number of PhDs who do not go into academia, but into industry. Esri has many such PhDs. Mostly, she argued the attitude on campus needs to change in a few ways. Faculty need to be rewarded for things beyond bringing in grants and teaching. They should be rewarded for outreach to the next generation Another change that’s needed: a change in the perception of GIS as somehow a “lesser” data science.

The most telling insights, I think, were in the responses to moderator David DiBiase’s final questions: What will be the biggest change in education in 10 years? What will not change?

Biggest change:

Thomas - significant integration of residential and online learning
Robinson - 1/3 of all higher education enrollments will be in fully flexible/competency based programs [See for example SNHU, WGU, UW-Flexible Option]
Wright - students will truly understand the Internet before they enter college (the current “digital native” idea is a myth)

Biggest element that will not change:

Thomas - I’ll still be using slides of students at desk (residence education) in my talks
Robinson - the size of the education workforce will be the same, or larger
Wright - financing college will still be a problem

by Adena Schutzberg on 07/14 at 07:39 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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