Geospatiel Lessons from the Front Lines
Malka Pattison: Good afternoon. I'm Malka Pattison and I'd like to welcome you to the Office of Policy Analysis seminar. Our topic today is the role of geospatial data and information in preparedness and response to emergencies.
Our speaker, Steve Swazee, is the executive director of shared geo. Steve has what I consider a disastrous portfolio that's multifaceted from experiences that include service as the senior emergency preparedness officer deployed to the Pentagon's Katrina crisis response team.
Chairmanship of the nation's largest state based geospatial organization focused on emergency preparedness and response, and he was employed as the executive director of the Minnesota geospatial non‑profit Geospatial. Steve?
Steve Swazee: Thank you very much. I really appreciate this opportunity, and I want to thank the Department of the Interior for this opportunity. I hope that my comments will be something that sincerely will be worth your time.
The topic before us is an expansive one. The way that I hope to bring focus to that topic is by speaking about past and current experiences that I have had as leading up to my chairmanship of the Emergency Preparedness Committee in Minnesota.
Which is a self‑standing entity belonging to the geospatial structure, in Minnesota. As the spin off non‑profit shared geo, which uses work in the area of projects and grants to generate income that in return uses to support other efforts that support the common good.
The comments that I will be making this afternoon are mine and mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect either of those entities. You don't want to hear about any of that. You want to hear about my mother ‑‑ all 98 pounds of her.
In two weeks, she will be 99. She still lives by herself. She still pretty much takes care of all her own affairs, and she's tough as nails. She grew up on the northern end of the Wisconsin landscape that's described in Aldo Leopold's book, "A Sand County Almanac."
From that experience she has carried throughout her whole life a very strong connection to the environment and nature. Something that she honors to this day by.
As you see before you, producing press flower pictures from flora that she's collected throughout her works on the by‑ways and back‑ways of Wisconsin and trails.
The last thing I would like to tell you about my mother is this. In her youth, she was raised in her home with the grandmother, who came to the Wisconsin territory in a covered wagon.
From the mathematicians in the crowd ‑‑ that's a hundred and seventy three years of life experience ‑‑ 77 percent of the time United States has existed as a nation, and longer than the department of the interior has been around.
Why I'm I telling you all this, because, unlike, many of the presenters you heard before you in the past, I'm not a peer with the Rolodex of prudential and professional degrees. I would like you to think of me as what I am, the concern citizen.
Secondarily, some of the things and experiences that I have had in life are rather unique. I hope through my comments today, that you'll be able to draw from them a different way to see things. I propose to do this by talking on three main points.
First, some thoughts about the Geospatial revolution. Second, a tour of the front line. From that tour of the front lines, some takeaways.
Third, some ideas to carry forward that you can use no matter how you are involved in Geospatial technology or not involved in Geospatial technology about wining what I would call the next war. How we take this technology and use it going forward more effectively and efficiently.
Here we go some thoughts about the Geospatial revolution. Couple of years back, I worked in the best spy and the target to Minnesota corporations and snap these two photos of the GPS area in the store.
When you speak about things like electronic maps or GIS, most folks think of that technology strictly in realm of GPS. Right now, it's way more than that.
We are within five years of self driving cars being on the road. That's only possible, because Geospatial technologies. Right now there are numerous corporations fighting the dogfight for who's going to figure out first how to project indoor maps and how to track you on those maps.
The 911 community is ripping out its hair over the fact that as more and more people use their cell phone exclusively they are disconnecting their hard wired line and making it more difficult for you to be found in an emergency.
Then there are issues at the Supreme Court, like is it appropriate to open up a cell phone, read the location tracking information that's inside it, and do that without a search warrant?
There are protests shutting down entire countries in Europe over the fact that Uber has side circuited what has always been the call up and ask for a cab service in the past.
Then there's the issue of this department, the FAA, and professional organizations trying to get their arms around drone technology. Last but not least, later this year at Aberdeen Proving Grounds up the road in Maryland.
This balloon system will go airborne in the attempt to try to figure out whether it's possible to keep a rogue nation or a terrorist organization from launching a cruise missile this direction because geospatial technology has made that possible.
The future of where it goes from my perspective is shown in this slide. The OGC, or the Open Geospatial Consortium, which develops and puts in place standards for how geospatial data is exchanged sees the future of looking like this.
Sensors in total will be fed into geospatial displays which will provide understanding of what's happening now near where you are.
For those of you that are interested in return on investment, this slide portrays some of the instances where if you were simply looking at geospatial in a hard sense what kind of return are you going to get for every dollar invested.
From my perspective, the one that's most interesting is the last one, as offered by Chief Oliver in Wilson, North Carolina.
His equation was, does it make more sense to pay $80,000 for a geospatial display an operator for that system to keep a fireman from going into a burning building that is nothing but vacant? Any of you that might be aware of this incident, this is the poster child in the public world.
Right now, Pacific Gas and Electric is facing the reality that a good part of that monstrous behemoth, or I should say private utility, may end up in receivership. All driven by the fact that they had an explosion on September 8th, 2010, which leveled a city block in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno.
The result from that it now runs...It's a moving target, but it's in the range of five to eight billion dollars. For anyone that would like to say, "Well, GIS is not really that important," give consideration to being able to pay that out.
Similarly, within the world of where we are headed, geospatial technology is now starting to bubble to the top in the way that folks think about what services government is providing.
Here's an example of a first couple of warning shots across the bow as to where the world is headed in thinking about whether government is appropriately providing services.
If all this stuff is so grand and important, why is it that we are where we are, where this stuff runs undercover and really is not at the core of a lot of stuff that's going on? I would tell you that there are two reasons.
The first one is this. Following 9/11, the ownership of Ware inside the US government became deluded. A new kid on the block showed up, who has a point of focus that deals with trying to protect the infrastructure of the country and defend it.
That approach is a military mindset of how you are going to do business. Here's the way that reality maps out. On the left‑hand side, you have a listing of the way geospatial awareness is dealt with going forward.
Outside the United States, you can't walk up to the door on somebody in Afghanistan and say, "Hey, will you tell me about your neighborhood?" It doesn't work that way. Therefore, the US Federal Government has been programmed into thinking about "collect."
It's all driven at a high level. The reality, to a large degree, what was going on through the promotion of the Department of Interior and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure is a completely different approach to business.
The reality is that it recognizes how the world works in the emergency preparedness and the response world. Specifically, if you have a disaster in this country, the individual running that disaster is at the local level. It's the FEMA mantra of all disasters are local.
The difference is the two points there at the end. When you're in the military mindset, you're in collect. When you're inside the United States, the key to success is collaboration.
The second issue that I would point to is one that comes from Dr. Elting E. Morison, a distinguished MIT professor that, in 1966, published a book called, "Men, Machines, and Modern Times."
From that book, Morison talks about different ways that institutional inertia keeps good ideas from bubbling to the top.
One of the points that he drives home revolves around numerous examples that are shown in the military because he considered that society that would most clearly show the development in society and how things do not progress.
His classic example is one that he relates about the British before the Second World War. In that particular time, what happened was the British had a number of artillery pieces that had been hanging around since the World War, carriages that had been previously drawn by horses.
The approach that the British took was they thought these artillery pieces would work well for coastal defense. What happened was, after they had them set up, several people looking at the circumstance that, " we can increase the rate of fire on these guns.
But we can't seem to figure out why." They brought in a time motion expert, and after he looked at the situation, he decided to take some pictures, took the pictures, flipped through them a couple of times, and he noticed something very odd.
Of the five men in the crew, three of them would come to attention for three seconds before the gun would be fired, fall to the point where‑after the gun was fired.
On thinking about this, he decided to get a colonel, an old colonel from the artillery group to come in and look at the situation. Colonel flipped through the photos a couple of times, he says, "Yeah, I see what you mean." Let me see them one more time.
As he did that, he says, "Ah, I've got it." They're holding the horses. The reality being by that point in time the horses were long gone, but the procedures and the effort to do something had remained in place.
Morison goes on to tell many more stories like this with the most egregious being found in the US Navy. There, it took intervention by Theodore Roosevelt to make the US Navy adopt firing procedures, techniques, and technologies which increased the accuracy of the US Navy weapons by over 3000 percent.
Against that backdrop, here's what I want you to think about as I talk about my examples. Are you holding the horses or are you making an effort to promote change in this field?
Off we go on a tour of the front lines, what do you say we start out with a couple of military examples since, as Morison pointed out, it often serves as the best point of consideration.
Anybody know what that building is? It's 1983, this is October 22nd, that's the Marine barracks at Beirut International Airport in Lebanon. The next day, that building looked like this. 241 Marines, sailors, and soldiers were killed in that building, and 100 were wounded.
Probably, the single biggest disaster the military has experienced since the end of the Second World War. I lost a good friend in that building, a fellow Marine Corps Capt. by the name of Vince Smith.
What played out after this incident happened, as with all disasters an investigation takes place to figure out how could we do things better.
One of the findings that came forward was that the individuals who were involved in protecting the junior officers, who were involved in protecting that building had limited access to aerial and ground information about the surrounding area, where they were responsible for protecting.
The Marine Corps is as swift and deadly with the pen as it is with the other weapons in its arsenal. Shortly after those findings were working their way up the chain of command, the comment of the Marine Corps decreed that anyone who is in near vicinity of Washington DC.
Who is company grade and above would receive a classified briefing on the intelligence capabilities of the United States to include imagery.
He did this because of the reality that the information because of security clearances was being stopped at the top of the food chain. The boots on the ground didn't know what was going on. Yours truly was part of the first group to go through that effort.
They hauled us up to a building up here in Washington DC, sat through a classified brief on the keyhole program, and a bunch of other things with two points of interest. One, knowing what's out there and, two, knowing how to get it.
I now want you to meet Minnesota Olly. Remember that graph that I showed you earlier? Who's in charge in the disaster. Olly is, and the reality is, Olly does not like things complicated. If it's past something like Google Maps, he's not going to use it.
If you don't put all your data in one place, Olly is not going to use it. More importantly is, how many times has Olly received any training on what's available in the American response network when it comes to imagery and data? Absolutely zero.
So, here are your takeaways. If you are involved in this stuff in any way, plan for the common man. The second one is, this nation needs to be prepared to train to the lowest level possible.
If we don't do that, we have defaulted to the idea that we have let a commercial entity become the point of focus for response in this nation. Something is amiss. What do you say we go do a little Katrina? This is August 29th, 2005. Yours truly is sitting around at home. Few days later, phone rings.
The voice on the other end says something to the effect of, "Swazee, you still got that security clearance with all the bells and whistles on it?" and, when somebody asks you a question like that in the military, if you answer truthfully.
You are about to violate the number one rule, never volunteer for anything because if you do, you're about to be involved in something that's going to require lots and lots of hard work, grueling hours, and only a lunatic would sign up for it.
So, what did I answer? Naturally, yes and this is where I ended up, across the river, at the bottom of the Pentagon, in a national military command center. Well, OK, so for Katrina, Ophelia, Rita, and Wilma, I lived there for sixty days, watching as the nation tried to put things back together.
Here's what it looks like when civilian authority collapses. Remember I was telling you about local response, being locally responsible?
The Department of Defense, on average, receives somewhere between ten and twenty requests for assistance, or RFA, on any given year, for stuff like, "Hey, we think you might have an airplane, can you come over and help us out with dropping retardant on a forest fire?"
Or "Hey, maybe we need some help for the Presidential inauguration," things like that. When you run into 475, the world is turned upside down. But what's most important for you to understand about that is, every time that somebody has come to the Department of Defense.
The whole system has failed in between, and they are asking for three things. They're saying, "Hey, here we are, here's what we need, and here's where we need it."
What do you suppose, in the bowels of the Pentagon, at the top of the US Intelligence Pentacle, we were using to track where that stuff went? True story, a wall chart from the US, or rather from the National Geographic Society, yellow stickies.
Now, the boys over at US Northcom, are probably going to take exception, and for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, after 9/11, US Northcom came into being as being the military's way to try to keep assets available for response internal to the United States for disasters and similar such things.
They will tell you, "Hey, during Katrina, they knew where all their stuff was, and why are you so upset?" Because the reality is, disasters are a team sport. If somebody is off on their own, doing their own thing, or they built a classified system, or they built it in a way that Olly doesn't get it, it is effectively useless.
OK, brilliant, so, if we can't all see the same thing, I've got a better plan. Why don't we exchange information about geospatial resources via email? Anyone here ever seen 2,000 pieces of email in one day?
If you are involved in a disaster, everybody will run to help you, and in the era that we now live in, that's the reality of what's going to happen. Your email will be flooded. It will not work. It will collapse.
So, here were are nine years later, darn good thing, nobody thinks that's the way we ought to be passing around information about imagery, or what's available for response, and before you snicker, the reality, from the pulpit, would be these folks, God bless them.
They know we've got a problem and they're trying to fix it. The US has left them adrift without any real way to exchange information about what's out there, and when you can use it, how you can use it, and whatnot.
Here are your takeaways. It's not only important that you share the view on whatever system you build, you have to empower your data, to allow your data to be shared also. Email will collapse, never forget that.
It does not go away, that's the reality, and the Lord help you if you're thinking, as you evacuate whatever facility you are in, that you will save yourself with all that email stuff that's buried back on the machine in the building you had to leave behind.
OK, anybody want to do some of the Republican National Convention? Here we go. The year is 2008, and the background behind what's going on at the Republican National Convention, there's a facility known as the MACC, or depending on how you want to frame this.
The Multi‑agency Communications or Coordination Center, run by the US Secret Service and in that facility, pretty much anybody that's got a dog in the fight, or could help in response if something goes ugly, lives in this facility and for the first time ever in 2008.
In all the time the US Secret Service has been running this deal, local geospatial professionals, members of that emergency‑preparedness committee I was talking about earlier, are inside the walls of this place.
And because we did not have access to the NGA's panel terror system, which is their classified information, geospatial viewing system, we came around with a different solution.
Built on this, geo moves open source software, and as you see up there about the different things that this system was capable of doing, and I will also as a side note, point out that it entered worldwide distribution.
After it was originally put in place by the city of St. Paul, through a grant provided by the FGDC. But the last point here that I really wanted to make, is that it was Internet based. What do you suppose the amount of data that the US Secret Service thought was OK to move in or out of that facility in 2008?
Male Participant: Zero.
Steve: Wrong. 15 kilobytes was acceptable. That will not work with geospatial unless you are living on the Internet in some form or fashion. Now, since that time, any number of organizations have come forth, major institutions, like obviously this one.
And have said, "Hey, open source is good stuff. We can use it, it's worthwhile," but what do I consistently see when I look at RFPs? Somebody in the middle management thinks, that the best way to ask for something, is by asking for a specific commercial piece of software.
Not by saying what your requirement is. What do you need done for what it is you are trying to do? Don't tell me you need a specific piece of software, tell me what it is you want done. OK, the last point I would make here about the Republican National Convention is this.
We have all this great capability out there that is available to overfly and collect imagery and do all those sorts of things. That works great for planning, and it works great for mitigation and recovery. What it does not work great for is that middle ground.
What's happening now, and the only way to get there, and to make it more functional, is for local tasking, the ability to pick up the phone and say, "Hey, you down the street, can you go fly a mission for me and provide me with what I need, and then get it to me right away?"
And that's what this effort, that this slide is portraying, another national first. We work with the Minnesota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol to be able to develop our own local software that would allow their archer system, a camera system pointed down, to be able to go out and take imagery.
And then we worked with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. OK, once we got the imagery, how do we quickly put it into the hands of those that would need it, to be downloaded and to put onto the Minnesota backbone of MNDot, and away you go.
Immediate access to resolutions down to one meter to six inches. Why is that important? Because, for instance, an example like this, you never know what's going to happen.
You don't know when oil is going to come out of a rig in the Gulf Coast. Have you thought through how it is you can support your team, or whoever, on a local level, by being able to give them this information right away? That's the whole point of what this did.
Here are your takeaways. Open source is here to stay. Geospatial is different, and if you lump it in with the rest of the IT, well unless you really segregated it, and given its own world, you're probably going to get much less out of it than you could.
And remember always there are two types of imagery, there's the stuff that is before and after, which is fine from satellites, or whatever platform you want to work, but when it comes to getting something done right now, you need it more quickly and think about a way to get there.
Alright, in between the Republican National Convention and 2010, a couple of incidents happened where the emergency preparedness committee deployed in support of Red River flooding.
And shared geo was able to support the Haiti earthquake response by enabling a technology solution which provided ongoing, updated access to imagery by its location, what was available.
Collaborative mapping via the Internet was one of the results that we proved through these events. Volunteer disaster mapping works, is another one, and last, even in 2010, we would tell you imagery distribution problems continue.
For the environment group that may be here today, there was this thing out there called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
If you think about it, that thing is nothing more than responding to a slow moving disaster, combating invasive species, cleaning up tox substances, restoring wetlands and shore habitats. That's a slow moving disaster response.
Based on everything I had told you prior, some folks thought, "Hey maybe these guys can figure out a way to make the imagery that they're talking about readily available all the way down to the science level."
Here is the region that we're talking about. No small feat. Complicating the situation, even more, is this reality. You've got all this different type of imagery out there, different formats and different locations. How can you bring all of that together in a way that works?
Our solution, once again, create a scalable system using open source tools, open geospatial consortium standards and open data sources. As needed, build tools when not available. Make current historical imagery and remote sense available for download and use in map services.
It's a 40 terabyte, Swift server. Relate these data to available spatial data across the region, and create a viewer in which to browse and evaluate data. A thing called ComAp.
Graphically, this is what it looks like. Over here, our storage capability, other things like the national map from the Department of the Interior into the Internet and two ways to look at the data, either through a cataloging system or on a map itself.
Here's an example of a search using the map. In this case, USGS protected areas. You enter it into the catalog search feature, up comes the indication of what data is available out there.
Click on the button and you've got that available for display, a way for you to look at what's available out there to respond to your environmental disaster. Here's an example using what's called Web Mapping Services. In this case, a display of PDF maps that are available for the state of Minnesota.
Here nothing more than the grid gets laid out. You click on the particular site and bingo, up pops your map. Similar things that you've probably since seen come online. The real thought that needs to be here is that all of it is in one place together.
What's the thought that I would have you carry away from this? It would be this, standards is the key to making all of this stuff work. If you're publishing your data in a way that is unique to you, you've cut off projects like this or approaches like this at the knees.
Here's the takeaway. Data users, discovery tools are available. Data producers, share your data. Last, but not least, standards, standards, standards.
The last thing that I have to talk about is this, this original recovery grid in Minnesota for the I‑35W bridge collapse. If you're looking at that you probably can figure out there are some mistakes.
Here's what they are. Number one, if you put a recovery grid over the top of a disaster, and if you have a disaster you're going to need a grid, that's made of rectangles, you can't achieve granularity.
The next thing is, notice that this is a bingo grid, what happens if your disaster goes off the side of that grid? Do you redraw it, what do you do? The third thing is this. How is this related to anything that works in your hand like a GPS? It isn't. There's a much better way to do business.
There already exists a grid, that goes all the way around the world. The US part of the military grid reference system is called the US National Grid. It works great for your environmental studies also. The background behind that piece is to think about this.
Washington, DC is one of the most gridded cities in the world. It starts at the Capitol and radiates out from there. Grids have been around as long as man has tried to figure out how to manage a civilization.
In this case, we have 200 streets going this way, 700 streets going this way. We've got avenues up here, and we've got northwest, northeast of northeast. That's what happens when grids collide that have been around for a long time.
Does that make any sense? It would be rather funny if it weren't for the reality that in that very area right below that is probably the most important area in Minnesota that can be concerned with response, and that is the Monticello new power plant.
Then you've got instances like this. Trying to back fit into an existing grid ain't going to work. And this reality, 475 acres, 50 buildings, the 3M facility in Minnesota has one address. And this reality, 35 percent of calls in the United States go to a location other than a place with a street address.
The geospatial community will tell you that the answer to all this is latitude and longitude. Well, which latitude and longitude?
There was a helicopter crash here in Maryland, in 2008, and because of confusion over latitude and longitude the response got sent to a location 30 miles away from where it needed to be.
I fly one of these in my other life. Do you know how many times we have to check latitude and longitude before it is acceptable for navigation on a flight deck of a commercial airplane, even though it has been electronically uploaded? The answer would be six.
That is how fraught with air latitude and longitude is considered to be, even in the realm of people who have been trained to do nothing more than use it all the time.
Then there's the Department of Defense. After the Second World War, the Department of the Defense made the decision that, "We got to many people killed during the Second World War, because of latitude and longitude. There's got to be a better way to do business."
That's the origin of the US National Grid. Remember this guy? How likely, in the heat of battle, do you think it is that Olly is going to be able to pull it off and use latitude and longitude flawlessly as need be? It ain't happening.
Here it is USNG in one minute. US portion of the military grid reference system, worldwide coordinate system based on 10. We're not talking about trapezoidal math based on 60 as we go up the planet. It's designed to be taught to an eighth grader in 15 minutes.
The grid is always there. If you have a disaster, you're going to need a grid. The number of digits increases accuracy. Eight digits, one digit more than a telephone number, is 10 meter accuracy or 33 feet. If you can't send a response to a location within 33 feet, you've got another problem.
Best of all, it is not proprietary. It's free. It works with GPS. All you've got to do is select it. There are plenty of handheld apps out there. The National Search and Rescue Committee has said, "This is what we're supposed to be using for land‑based search and rescue." So we do it?
About two percent of the United States is on it. God bless the USGS for the fact that they are one of the few organizations that have made their mapping products interoperable.
Both longitude, and longitude, and US National Grid are displayed on USGS products. It also works great for marking trail systems, so responders can quickly find where people are located.
Here's your last thought on this one, this is the Yarnell Hill fire. 19 brave men were killed in that fire and as probably you're all aware that was a major deal in Arizona. Here's what happened to those guys. They were sent into the field without any maps and without any GIS support.
They were sent to a place where they tried to evacuate and moved to a place that they thought that they would be in a better position to deal with changing weather conditions.
They were over taken by flames that moved with such rapid force down the canyon that they were in, that they had no other option but to crawl into something known as the fire shelters.
In that community, they are more appropriately named Shake and Bake bags, because if you're deploying that thing, you're down to the end. It's the last of the last of the last opportunity to stay alive.
All 19 of them died, with the fact that that there was a tanker full of retardant in the air circling over the near vicinity of where they were.
I'm not here to say it's the absolute reason their dead, but at least they would have had a chance if we as a nation have the ability to communicate where, and do it effectively during emergency preparedness and response.
Here's the question. Are you holding the horses, or are you going to help fix what's wrong? Takeaways, both latitude and longitudes in US National Grid are needed. The nation needs a response language of location, and US nation grid is it.
I see I'm running long. I'll make these last five points very quick. Here's winning the next war. Disasters are here to stay. Beyond climate change, here's the real thing you ought to be thinking about.
That's what the United States looked like 150 years ago, and here's what it looks like today. The dynamics have changed by tenfold.
Right now, we've got 10 times more people in the United States and look what happened. We went from being very rural to being very urban. Anybody want to think about Florida? In the last 75 years, where disasters happen, the population has increased by tenfold.
Here's what California looks like. From the Rush River on the north, out to Fort, down to the Monterey Bay Whaling Station, in 1848, the total number of non‑native population living there, that includes San Francisco Bay, Oakland, all that stuff, was 453.
If you had a disaster back then, probably not be real impactful. Today, it's 8.8 million people. Here's the other element that's going on there. As we move forward in time we become more and more integrated where technology has a greater impact on what we're doing.
Two, know what's important. In my world, we've got our layers figured out as to which ones are more important. Everything's important, but some things are more important than others. Here are the examples that we revolve around. Google has since picked it up. That's the reality called sweat.
The Gulf oil spill, there's a huge difference between asking for an aircraft to go out and take pictures that will help you understand what's going on, and asking for an aircraft that is capable of determining where oil is on the water that can be recovered by boats carrying booms.
And you're able to get that information to them timely. It drives a completely different requirement. Three, know which level you want and when you want it. "What is it?" "It's a power plant." "Where is it?" "90th and Vine."
That's a classic realm of any map. What are the details, attributes? That's the classic part of GIS. Last but not least, what's happening now? "Out of service until next year." This is sensor data. This is where we're headed, as I mentioned earlier.
Within levels, there are sublevels. I was at an event in Dallas where there were folks from Encore Energy that were really interested in, "How can we effectively share our data?" They pulled out schematics of information, and we said "That's too granular.
You want to be able to do a weather system for your information, down to what counties are out, down to local neighborhoods. But we don't need to see the schematic."
Four, are you really collaborating? This is a busy slide. The idea is this. The full range of data is at the city, horizontally, and all the way up to the other end where you're really in trouble.
You're going to need the DOD to help out. What happens? As data moves up, the chances for bad data or the importance for accurate data decreases?
The reality is this. Data flow is coming down. If DHS or whoever tries to overreach and get data, it's less likely to be accurate. The span of GIS going this way tells me this, where you want to concentrate. It's counterintuitive.
Where the money needs to be spent for the federal government to have the best data possible is at the state level, state liaison, state CAP programs, state funding for collaboration. That's what key and that's what's needed. Here's the last idea that I have for you. It's this.
This is what went on in Katrina. Please, never forget this. This is the reality of what went on in the federal government. You've got your organizations over here, and you've got the President of the United States over here, standing in front of CNN and describing what's going on in the world.
Here's the problem. As that data flows upstream, everybody thinks that as it comes up their tier, that they have an opportunity to edit and change things, and that drives the system that means that to be at nine o'clock eastern time in front of CNN.
You would need to start nearly 12 hours before to get that information to come up. Isn't there a better way to do business?
I'd suggest to you it's this, a common operating picture, where you're data is focused into that map thing. That at any given moment that feed is available to respond and produce the information you need.
We've come a long way since this thing, $5.95 for a 10 megabyte system, blah blah blah. We still have a long ways to go. I hope that you will join me on that journey, because here's the reality. Technology is useless without partnerships.
The way that partnerships work, people who are willing to collaborate and make things move forward. I'm sorry I've run so long. I believe we're now into the question period. Thank you very much.
Malka: Any questions in the room?
Male Participant: I'll ask one. Did you say an example, Sam Bruno, PG&E gas explosion. How would this structure have helped predict that that was going to happen?
Steve: I'm not suggesting that particular adjustments in structure, but that really amounted to an organization that had let their data drift aimlessly, if you will.
That's a piece that contributed to that. I was simply trying to use that as a demonstration of, as the financial community would call it, cost avoidance.
If you think about events or disasters, are there things you can do in advance by spending a little money in front that will keep something much bigger from happening? That's really the point I'm trying to make there.
Male Participant: Thank you.
Steve: Thank you.
Male Participant: Thanks a lot for your presentation. You were mentioning grids. How do you see parcels in terms of having that as information for disasters, because I know that there are parcels that exist on county levels?
They may exist on state levels, but the whole idea of having a national parcel data base. Would that be helpful?
Steve: You're wandering into something that my understanding of parcel data is limited. But my sense of what I have seen is that within the state government, in Minnesota, that has been a hot topic that has wandered from one department to the next in trying to create a state parcel data base.
A number of institutions have been involved, MnDOT, the geospatial office, but I would believe the answer would be, I'm going to lead you right back to the idea of collaboration.
Why should two organizations go out and pay for the same data twice? You've got it over here, you help me out, and we've got something going back and forth. Does that drive to your question? Thank you.
Male Participant: I'm a representative of the US GIS and the National Geospatial Program, so I'd like to think we get a lot of what you're saying.
There's a governor in Maryland, right now, who manages through mapping and mapping technology. That's his way. He calls it BayStat and CitiStat or whatever it is. I'd want to get your view of that at an executive level.
Steve: The first thing I would say is I'm exceptionally encouraged to hear that at the top of the food chain folks are thinking like this. Again, it leads back to the point about the common operating picture. I forget what the exact statistic is.
I believe it is in the nature of 85 percent of all data has a geospatial component to it. Your brain works best, and you can look in multiple education documents about this, your brain works best by viewing a picture, something graphically.
You have a better ability to absorb the elements of information. It would seem to me in keeping with this idea about the common operating picture that we're ultimately headed towards a world where your business purpose is driven that way. Does that answer the question?
Male Participant: I like to call this a primary organizing principle. This the way to think.
Steve: I'd agree with that wholeheartedly.
Malka: Any other questions?
Male Participant: How would you balance security with an open source?
Steve: More often you here the question of, "If we make all this stuff available, aren't we undercutting our own security?"
That balance to me is...Zoran Corporation did a study back when we first started down this road. If I believe I remember it correctly, they came to the conclusion that all we're doing is shooting ourselves in the foot by keeping everything under lock and key.
With regard to open source, the way I would ask you to think about that is that, "Why is it that you would think that a commercial vendor's product has any better security function to it?"
In the world of open source, you have multiple eyes across a worldwide community looking at the product that's being deployed. Therefore they tend to be the most hard‑core geek types of all.
They're going to be the ones, in my opinion, who would pick up on a security issue long before you will by a stovepipe commercial organization that is only operating within that chain of command.
Male Participant: You're saying it's self regulating, in some respects.
Steve: Yeah, and thank you for making my comments more to the point. I appreciate that.
Malka: Any other questions?
Male Participant: I'm sorry. Something to add to that. There is a joint governmental organization called Highfield. They had a meeting last week on water security.
They're very much involved in making data available as best they can. There are limitations.
They meet regularly. They have specific topics. Sharing data is certainly one of those. They use a lot of open data but they put it behind the FOUO, restricted for government use only. It's one of those things that we have to overcome.
Steve: I'm well familiar with HIFLD and HSIP data and that whole approach to business. It's a step in the right direction. Don't get me wrong. It's like the government rolling out the Internet. It servers a very valuable purpose.
At the same time, if you look to their Outreach to the Regions program, that is poorly focused, tends to wander into using commercial contractors to do overreach into a community to harvest data, or have found some other source like Dun and Bradstreet.
Whatever the case may be, to get a hold of data. Why aren't we spending the money at the state level to facilitate the collaboration? My organization has already built one for the state of Minnesota, a way for data to flow up all the way down to the fire chief level.
Into a system that HIFLD or the Department of Homeland Security can plug into in a way to go with the data. We need to be spending money on efforts like that, in my opinion. So they've heard me talk at and they know how I think about that.
Malka: We have time for one more question. Steve, thank you so much.
Steve: Thank you.
Transcription by CastingWords
Please join the Interior's Office of Policy Analysis on October 6 for their monthly speaker series, which will focus on the importance of geospatial collaboration. Steve Swazee, Executive Director of SharedGeo, will offer lessons learned from the Katrina crisis response, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and the largest Geospatially Enabling Community Collaboration (GECCo) event ever conducted in the U.S. He will also provide insights about how geospatial analysis can be applied to a wide spectrum of events, ranging from tracking diseases to climate change. Learn how the Geospatial Revolution can support your operational mission.