Preview: Interview with Lawrie Jordan, ESRI’s New Director of Imagery

Renee Brandt, ESRI’s product marketing specialist for imagery, recently interviewed Lawrie Jordan, ESRI’s new director of imagery enterprise solutions. The interview will be published in the Spring 2009 issue of ArcNews, which will be mailed and posted online in a month or two. In the meantime, I wanted to share some excerpts from the interview.gi_ljordan1_jpg

Lawrie Jordan has more than three decades of experience working in imagery and has served on several defense science advisory panels to the U.S. Secretary of Defense, provided numerous testimonies to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and served as an adviser to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

What strengths do you bring to ESRI’s imagery team?

First of all, I bring a passion for imagery with me. I never met an image I didn’t like and I’ll admit it, I’m just thrilled that I have the opportunity to be here at ESRI. Jack Dangermond has personally asked me to be an imagery evangelist in the company, which I am really excited about. I’ll be working on a comprehensive strategic plan for ESRI and imagery, the path going forward, and focusing on how imagery can help shape the future and most importantly create success stories for our customers. Some of the strengths I bring to the ESRI imagery team are the knowledge and experience gained from more than 30 years working as a leader in the field of image processing and remote sensing, including a long-standing strategic partnership with ESRI.

Is this focus on imagery taking ESRI in a new direction?

I would not call it a new direction. Imagery is essential to what we do, and it has been, actually, for a long time. We believe that imagery is core to GIS, and customers tell us that they want more integration of their imagery with the GIS, and we agree wholeheartedly. The whole focus of our offerings has imagery as a central component of what we do. We’ve had many great imagery capabilities in our products over the past years, which people have appreciated. Historically, it’s been through partners but now, it’s moving to the core of what we do.

The thing to remember is that imagery is a core source of information to create a GIS. Many times, particularly in natural disasters and things of this nature, things happen suddenly. Traditional GIS databases are instantly out of date, but the most appropriate, the most accurate, and most timely information to update that is near real-time or live imagery, which we can now collect and support. The exciting thing is commercial imagery providers, all of them are our strategic partners, are providing tremendously high-quality imagery now that we didn’t have even a few years ago. So we’re having much higher volumes of imagery, much higher quality of imagery, and much better tools now, so I think you’ll see less of a separation between “imagery” customers and “GIS” customers. In fact, what we see is that a GIS is incomplete without imagery. It is core to what we do. It’s no longer a separate industry; it’s actually an integral part of a GIS. Imagery gains its full benefit by being in a GIS. Imagery and GIS inform each other, and having imagery integrated into the geodatabase and populated throughout the architecture of the enterprise is the direction that we’re going.

Mapping the Zone: Improving Flood Map Accuracy

The Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) of the Division on Earth and Life Studies (DELS) at the National Academy of Sciences is releasing a new report called Mapping the Zone: Improving Flood Map Accuracy.

“Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Maps portray the height and extent to which flooding is expected to occur, and they form the basis for setting flood insurance premiums and regulating development in the floodplain. As such, they are an important tool for individuals, businesses, communities, and government agencies to understand and deal with flood hazard and flood risk. Improving map accuracy is therefore not an academic question–better maps help everyone.

“Making and maintaining an accurate flood map is neither simple nor inexpensive. Even after an investment of more than $1 billion to take flood maps into the digital world, only 21 percent of the population has maps that meet or exceed national flood hazard data quality thresholds. Even when floodplains are mapped with high accuracy, land development and natural changes to the landscape or hydrologic systems create the need for continuous map maintenance and updates.

Mapping the Zone examines the factors that affect flood map accuracy, assesses the benefits and costs of more accurate flood maps, and recommends ways to improve flood mapping, communication, and management of flood-related data.”

More information is available on the National Academies Press web site.  You can read the report online, purchase a PDF version, or order a hard copy.

Putting Real Science in Hollywood Screenplays

Dear Hollywood: When we see a movie where the science very quickly doesn’t add up, no amount of suspension of disbelief or jaw-dropping special effects can make up for the bad science.

In an effort to make science-based movies more watchable, The National Academy of Sciences recently launched a new program to help inject Hollywood screenplays with a healthy dose of real science.

The Science & Entertainment Exchange is a program of the National Academy of Sciences that provides entertainment industry professionals with access to top scientists and engineers to help bring the reality of cutting-edge science to creative and engaging storylines.”

The advisory board for The Exchange includes eminent scientists as well as Hollywood insiders like Dustin Hoffman and Rob Reiner.

For more details on the The Science & Entertainment Exchange, visit their web site.

2009 Thacher Scholar Awards: Entries Due by 06 April 2009

“The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) announces the 2009 Thacher Scholars Award. This national competition for secondary school students was founded in honor of former IGES board member Peter Thacher, who died in 1999. Peter Thacher was former deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, NASA advisor, and, at the time of his death, president of the Earth Council Foundation/U.S. He was a leader in promoting the use of satellite remote sensing.

“The 2009 Thacher Scholars Awards will be given to secondary school students (grades 9-12) demonstrating the best use of geospatial technologies or data to study Earth. Eligible geospatial tools and data include satellite remote sensing, aerial photography, geographic information systems (GIS), and Global Positioning System (GPS). The main focus of the project must be on the application of the geospatial tool(s) or data to study a problem related to Earth’s environment.”

For more information or to apply, visit the 2009 Thacher Scholar Awards web site.

“Data for Decision”, 42 Years Later

The “classic” (at least if you’re a GIS geek) 1967 short feature “Data for Decision” produced by the National Film Board of Canada describes the development of the Canada Geographic Information System (CGIS). Dr. Roger Tomlinson, then director of CGIS, commissioned the film as a way to communicate information about the project to the government, who was funding CGIS development.

The film has been posted to YouTube, in three parts.

And what ever happened to all of the data that was developed as part of this landmark project? Read Back from the Brink: The Story of the Remarkable Resurrection of the Canada Land Inventory Data.