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FCW : March 15, 2014
18 March 15, 2014 FCW.COM Geodata mean we ve lost our connection to the traditional GIS world." Irwin leads NPS renowned map- building team, which has created road-closure maps for the Blue Ridge Parkway and air-quality visualizations for each national park, among others. In the near future, Irwin wants NPS maps to track park infrastructures in real time at a level so detailed that a ranger could report a grizzly bear sight- ing in Yellowstone and have traffic routed around the animal in a matter of seconds. "Technology has changed dramati- cally, and things that were impossible to do ve years ago are almost easy to do now," Irwin said. "We can really focus on the details." That ability to drill into the details has a lot to do with improvements in computer hardware. Previously, serv- ers and enterprise systems groaned and chugged through storing and comput- ing resource-intensive geodata. Now in all but the most extreme cases, cloud computing has eliminated the hard- ware problem. Datasets hundreds of terabytes in size or larger --- such as climate change models organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration --- can be processed in short order because of on-demand horsepower available via the cloud. open-data focus are winning that Wash- ington, D.C.-based company numerous federal customers, and OpenStreetMap offers a non-proprietary framework and data library that appeal to agencies pushing to open their own geodata. "Up until recently in geo for gov- ernment, there really hadn t been a choice," said MapBox CEO Eric Gundersen. This growing competition in map- making software is good for the gov- ernment --- for reasons that go beyond cost and learning curves. Esri, for instance, recently made headlines by enabling federal agencies that use the company s proprietary tools to open geospatial data to developers and the public. Individual agencies can decide whether to release their geospatial data in this way, but the Environmen- tal Protection Agency wasted little time in doing so and other agencies are sure to follow. Of cials at the National Park Serv- ice are already moving in that direc- tion. "We support lots of proprietary systems, but we started building core parts of our stack around open source, so we ve become more nimble and agile in regard to our development," said Nate Irwin, EGIS and web map- ping coordinator at NPS. "That doesn t Storage and computing capacity are not the issues anymore, said Jeff Peters, director of national government sales at Esri. "Complex cloud systems have sprung up, and the elasticity and scalability of the cloud [are] really what s driving this," he added. "You have the complex tools that leverage the horsepower and the analytical tools that sit back in data centers. The chal- lenge becomes how best do we enable these tools and ask the sophisticated questions." Disaster prevention and response Some agencies are using maps to address increasingly complex prob- lems. For instance, disaster response and emergency planning teams descended on New Jersey in prepa- ration for the Super Bowl in Febru- ary. Local re department personnel inspected critical facilities near the stadium, and of cials digitally scanned documents related to water hookups, the locations of hazardous materials and building blueprints to create a complex, multi-layered mapping system that authorized users could access on mobile devices. In addition, maps often include real- time weather feeds and camera imag- ing, said Russ Johnson, Esri s public The Navy maps energy consumption at Naval Station Norfolk and other installations, monitoring trends and visualizing opportunities to economize. (Esri image)
March 30, 2014