Geography, GIS, and Mental Health

doug-richardsonDoug Richardson, Executive Director, Association of American Geographers, writes:

“For those of you who were hoping this column might offer a groundbreaking treatise on the state of mind of geographers and GIScientists, you can stop reading here. I’m saving that project for when I retire.

“What I would like to discuss here are the opportunities and needs for geography and GIScience to participate in the rapidly expanding field of mental health research, a relatively unexplored area for geographers but one in which geography and GIS can, I’m convinced, be a significant and potentially paradigm-changing contributor. It is also a research area in which geographers and GIS specialists can engage with and help address enormous human and societal needs.”

New Book Details Spatial Data Indexing Processes

51D445R9T6L._SL500_AA240_In his latest book, Foundations of Multidimensional and Metric Data Structures, Hanan Samet, renowned authority on this topic, presents a comprehensive view of spatial data structures and indexing that includes some of his own major algorithms, as well as those of other computer scientists. He is considered an expert in the use of hierarchical data structures, such as the quadtree, which is often used to partition a two-dimensional space by recursively subdividing it into four quadrants, thereby providing a means to index the data that they span.

The book is the result of Samet’s longtime research at the University of Maryland’s Computer Vision Laboratory investigating the applicability of his work to geographic information systems, computer graphics, image processing, image databases, and visualization. It was an award winner in the 2006 Best Book in Computer and Information Science competition from the Professional and Scholarly Publishers Group of the American Publishers Association.

At the Computer Vision Laboratory, Samet leads a number of research projects on the use of hierarchical data structures in GIS. His research on the integration of spatial and nonspatial data into a DBMS has resulted in the development of two systems by his research group: QUILT, a GIS based on spatial data structures such as quadtrees and octrees, and Spatial and Nonspatial Data (SAND), which integrates spatial and nonspatial data and enables browsing through a spatial database using a graphical user interface.

He has also been developing the Spatio-Textual Extraction on the Web Aiding the Retrieval of Documents system, a spatiotextual document search engine that enables the retrieval of documents on the basis of spatial proximity as well as matching keywords, which has been used for documents of the research division of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Foundations of Multidimensional and Metric Data Structures, part of the Morgan Kaufmann Series in Computer Graphics, is published by Morgan Kaufmann (ISBN-13: 978-0123694461; 2006; 1,024 pages) and is available from Elsevier for $64.95.

Process Models and Next-Generation Geographic Information Technology

p1p1Interesting article from Dr. Paul M. Torrens, associate professor in the School of Geographical Sciences at Arizona State University and director of its Geosimulation Research Laboratory.

“Much of the inner workings of geographic information systems is organized around data models: computational structures (rasters and vectors are common variants) that determine how GIS stores, organizes, and displays various types of information for different purposes. Put simply, data models treat the world in terms of objects that represent entities and their related attributes. In GIS, there is usually no dedicated model of the processes that govern dynamics, adaptation, and evolution of a system. For many years, GIS has advanced the potential for unifying representations of entities and processes, and recently, the long-standing promise of consociating the two is beginning to be realized, enabling a burgeoning paradigm shift to a new style of GIS.”

Jack Dangermond’s “GIS: Designing Our Future”

ansum09coverThe summer 2009 issue of ArcNews won’t  show up in your mailbox until sometime next week, but it’s already available online.  Among the many stories about GIS technology and applications is Jack Dangermond’s “GIS: Designing Our Future,” where he explains the theme of the 2009 ESRI UC and the discipline of GeoDesign.

GIScience 2010 to be held in Zurich, Switzerland, 14-17 Sept 2010

Zurich, Switzerland will be the host city of the sixth GIScience, continuing a highly successful series of conferences that commenced in 2000, and which regularly attracts over 200 international researchers. GIScience 2010 aims to bring together scientists from academia, industry, and government to discuss the state-of-the-art in geographic information science, and explore emerging research directions.

The conference focuses on basic research findings across all sectors of the field, and pure application papers are discouraged. The conference has two refereed submission tracks: full papers and extended abstracts.

Pre-conference workshops and tutorials (Sep. 14) and the main conference (Sep. 15-17) will take place at the University of Zurich-Irchel campus, featuring state-of- the-art conference facilities within a park-like setting. The conference site is located only 20 minutes from both downtown and Zurich Airport, and is easily accessible through public transport. A Second Circular, including the call for papers and more detail on the conference structure, accommodation, and registration will be sent out by the end of August, 2009.

Logistics Technology Finds New Life in “Green” Times

al-stCompanies increasingly understand the business benefits of going green—not only from the obvious perspective of operational efficiency, but also from a marketing perspective.  Green is the hot ticket right now, and if you’re green, you’re getting PR and attracting new customers.  “But many organizations don’t know how to begin accurately measuring and managing their environmental impact,” says Ted Cuzzillo, in his article “The Benefits of Going Green,” magazine, Q4 2008.  “Now there is much more focus on trying to quantify benefits, both in terms of measuring the impact of current practices on the bottom line and in quantifying the future under different scenarios,” said Alyssa Farrell, Marketing Manager for Sustainability Solutions at SAS, interviewed in the same article.

But there’s a lot more to “going green” than installing solar panels on your roof or planting trees to offset your carbon footprint.  As Braden Allenby so succinctly states in his book Reconstructing Earth, “…it could be said that the advances in mathematics that have enabled more efficient routing of vehicles among numerous points are possibly one of the most potent environmental technologies of the last decade. This is not a technology normally recognized by environmentalists and environmental regulators.”

One such technology is geographic information systems (GIS)-based logistics software.  GIS is not a new technology, nor is it a stranger to environmental issues.  GIS traces its roots back to the environmental planning theories developed by seminal landscape architect Ian McHarg back in the 1960s.  It’s now a multi-billion dollar industry, equally at home in environmental domains as it is in such seemingly contradictory applications as defense and business.

In these trying economic times, GIS-based logistics applications are experiencing record growth.  GIS-based logistics software provides the quantified information and analytical capabilities necessary companies are looking for to help them increase the efficiency of fleet vehicles by optimizing standard routes, leading to reduced fuel consumption.  But the benefits to companies go beyond simply “green” benefits; companies using logistic optimization applications also benefit from reduced labor expenditures and fleet size, as well as faster deliveries and more accurate time windows.

Delivery Optimization

The Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, is using ArcLogistics GIS software from Environmental Systems Research institute, Inc. (ESRI) to route its delivery drops, and the software is projected to save the newspaper more than a half million dollars in the next five years. By employing ArcLogistics in its efforts to serve the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan region, greater Minnesota, and surrounding states, the Star Tribune has found that using GIS technology for intelligent routing has delivered an economic advantage to the company.

Given current economic trends, the company began looking for new areas where the newspaper could save money. Traditionally, the newspaper used wall maps with pushpins to determine delivery routes for single-copy papers. Rerouting was a time- and labor-intensive activity that required three employees from multiple departments to sit in the map room for four hours a day over the course of a month. Determining new routes is a necessity each time one of the seven advertisement zone boundaries is shifted or when a threshold amount of new or removed newspaper drop locations is reached. After reviewing several options to increase the efficiency of delivery routes, the Star Tribune partnered with Truck Dispatching Innovations, an ESRI Business Partner from Chicago, Illinois, to implement ArcLogistics. After a two-week startup period geocoding more than 3,700 delivery drop points and the routes of 39 trucks, employees used GIS to create new routes. These outcomes had many benefits. Using this new methodology, one staff member inputs a list of delivery route changes into ArcLogistics and, in half the time of the traditional method, creates and shares maps displaying new routes. Tribune staff perform what-if scenarios, such as including different ad-zoned papers on the same truck. These reveal route options that could further increase the efficiency of delivery routes.

The Star Tribune expects a payback on its investment in 2.5 months and a five-year net savings of $672,740. This positive return on investment provides evidence showing the success of the venture to the company’s financial director. The Star Tribune analyzed the benefits of its investment in ArcLogistics by measuring fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs include the lease price and maintenance expenses for delivery trucks, as well as the initial cost and yearly maintenance of the software. One variable cost is the number of miles driven, which determines gas costs per route. Another variable cost is the number of hours driven, which determines the wage cost per driver per route. Fixed costs are added to variable costs to determine route costs. Combining cost savings in these four areas shows a more accurate cost savings, rather than just looking at the savings as stand-alone figures. The Star Tribune found significant savings of route costs, including the number of trucks needed, miles driven, and time spent delivering newspapers.

Quantifying Benefits

Large-scale users of ArcLogistics software have shown an average savings of $15 million over traditional manual methods, while other operators have found a 15 to 30 percent inventory reduction by taking corrective action earlier and mobilizing their inventory more effectively. To avoid being overwhelmed by the scale and cost of planning deliveries and operating fleets efficiently, businesses are turning to GIS-based logistics solutions, replacing guesswork with strategy to generate the most efficient routes.

Along with cost reductions of 10 percent in labor and more effective inbound and outbound transportation, companies are also realizing a 5–10 percent revenue enhancement through quickly responding to customers, managing their inventory more efficiently, and being able to reduce price markdowns. A 5 to 15 percent reduction in delivery times gained through route analysis, improved tracking, and the use of real-time data solutions saves these businesses even more.