GIS the Big Winner in Push for Open Government

…from Government Technology

“For all the lofty statements made during the first day of the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, D.C., about opening up government and its vast reservoirs of data to improve democracy and citizen engagement, it was clear there would be one major winner: GIS.

“The math is simple. According to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Federal Enterprise Architecture framework, 74 percent of government data is location based. At the state and local level, the number is even higher: 80 percent, according to several organizations and publications.”

GeoDesign Demonstration: Site Suitability for Microsoft Surface

From Richie C. in ESRI’s Applications Prototype Lab

“During the 2009 ESRI International User Conference, Jack Dangermond introduced his vision of geographic design or “geodesign”.  Click here to view Jack’s presentation of his geodesign vision.  To assist Jack’s presentation, a few demonstrations were created to help illustrate this vision.  One such demonstration used a Microsoft Surface device to sketch planning areas on an interactive map.

“This application was developed using the ArcGIS API for WPF by the Applications Prototype Lab.  The base map is from ArcGIS Online and the overlaid suitability maps were sourced from a local ArcGIS Server.  In summary, this application demonstrates the interactivity of a multi-user/multi-touch device for planning and communal design.”

Virtual Maps for the Blind

19007“The blind and visually impaired often rely on others to provide cues and information on navigating through their environments. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t give them the tools to venture out on their own, says Dr. Orly Lahav of Tel Aviv University’s School of Education and Porter School for Environmental Studies.

“To give navigational “sight” to the blind, Dr. Lahav has invented a new software tool to help the blind navigate through unfamiliar places. It is connected to an existing joystick, a 3-D haptic device, that interfaces with the user through the sense of touch. People can feel tension beneath their fingertips as a physical sensation through the joystick as they navigate around a virtual environment which they cannot see, only feel: the joystick stiffens when the user meets a virtual wall or barrier. The software can also be programmed to emit sounds — a cappuccino machine firing up in a virtual café, or phones ringing when the explorer walks by a reception desk.”

Transitions and Tipping Points in Complex Environmental Systems

nsf_ac_ere1_fA new report from the National Science Foundation notes challenges and opportunities in responding to Earth’s rapidly changing environment.

“From Canada to Chile, from Kazakhstan to Kansas, we are witnessing a fast-changing planet. What will it look like in the years, decades and centuries to come?

“How far and in what ways can Earth’s systems be stressed before they reach tipping points, undergoing rapid transitions to new states–with unforeseen consequences?

“So asks a report released today by the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (AC-ERE).

“The report, Transitions and Tipping Points in Complex Environmental Systems, finds both challenges and opportunities in the path to finding answers.”

Global Warming Causes Outbreak of Rare Algae in Caribbean Corals

Scientists take advantage of ‘experiment of nature’ to discover new insights into coral bleaching

“A rare opportunity has allowed a team of scientists to evaluate corals–and the essential, photosynthetic algae that live inside their cells–before, during, and after a period in 2005 when global warming caused sea-surface temperatures in the Caribbean to rise.

“The team, led by Penn State biologist Todd LaJeunesse, found that a rare species of algae that’s tolerant of stressful environmental conditions proliferated in corals at a time when more sensitive algae that usually dwell within the corals were being expelled.

“The results will be published in the online version of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on September 9, 2009.”

Top Five Benefits of GIS

GIS benefits organizations of all sizes and in almost every industry. There is a growing interest in and awareness of the economic and strategic value of GIS, in part because of more standards-based technology and greater awareness of the benefits demonstrated by GIS users. The number of GIS enterprise solutions and IT strategies that include GIS are growing rapidly.  The benefits of GIS generally fall into five basic categories:

1. Cost savings resulting from greater efficiency. These are associated either with carrying out the mission (i.e., labor savings from automating or improving a workflow) or improvements in the mission itself.   A good case for both of these is Sears, which implemented GIS in its logistics operations and has seen dramatic improvements.  Sears considerably reduced the time it takes for dispatchers to create routes for their home delivery trucks (by about 75%).  It also benefited enormously in reducing the costs of carrying out the mission (i.e., 12%-15% less drive time by optimizing routes).  Sears also improved customer service, reduced the number of return visits to the same site, and scheduled appointments more efficiently.

2. Better decision making. This typically has to do with making better decisions about location.  Common examples include real estate site selection, route/corridor selection, zoning, planning, conservation, natural resource extraction, etc.  People are beginning to realize that making the correct decision about a location is strategic to the success of an organization.

3. Improved communication. GIS-based maps and visualizations greatly assist in understanding situations and story telling.  They are a new language that improves communication between different teams, departments, disciplines, professional fields, organizations, and the public.

4. Better geographic information recordkeeping. Many organizations have a primary responsibility of maintaining authoritative records about the status and change of geography (geographic accounting).  Cultural geography examples are zoning, population census, land ownership, and administrative boundaries.  Physical geography examples include forest inventories, biological inventories, environmental measurements, water flows, and a whole host of geographic accountings.  GIS provides a strong framework for managing these types of systems with full transaction support and reporting tools.  These systems are conceptually similar to other information systems in that they deal with data management and transactions, as well as standardized reporting (e.g., maps) of changing information.  However, they are fundamentally different because of the unique data models and hundreds of specialized tools used in supporting GIS applications and workflows.

5. Managing geographically. In government and many large corporations, GIS is becoming essential to understand what is going on.  Senior administrators and executives at the highest levels of government use GIS information products to communicate.  These products provide a visual framework for conceptualizing, understanding, and prescribing action.  Examples include briefings about various geographic patterns and relationships including land use, crime, the environment, and defense/security situations.  GIS is increasingly being implemented as enterprise information systems.  This goes far beyond simply spatially enabling business tables in a DBMS.  Geography is emerging as a new way to organize and manage organizations.  Just like enterprise-wide financial systems transformed the way organizations were managed in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, GIS is transforming the way that organizations manage their assets, serve their customers/citizens, make decisions, and communicate.  Examples in the private sector include most utilities, forestry and oil companies, and most commercial/retail businesses.  Their assets and resources are now being maintained as an enterprise information system to support day-to-day work management tasks and provide a broader context for assets and resource management.