Geospatial tools offer killer app for Gov 2.0

If the idea of government 2.0 revolves around using government information as a platform for enabling public discourse, then geospatial technologies are one of the killer apps, Jack Dangermond, president of ESRI, said today at the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington.

Maps and geospatial information systems are becoming richer, smarter, and more pervasive, Dangermond said, but government agencies still need to do more to convert data into services that can populate mapping applications.

There is still a barrier between FTP data sets and government sites that make data available as a service, he said.

“What’s behind maps are geographic data sets that can be ‘server-ized,' or turned into services," Dangermond said. "That could introduce a whole new wave of applications; where tabular data will be geo-coded, and where the map interface will become what might be the killer app of Gov 2.0.”

During Hurricane Katrina four years ago, “it took weeks to bring all the data together” to assess its impact on property and infrastructure, he said. “Had we had the services we have today, we could have had that information within hours.”

Dangermond said mapping technologies have evolved beyond marrying maps with information. “This isn’t so much about maps but about spatial analysis,” he said.

Adding to the discussion on mapping was Robert Greenberg, chief executive of G&H International Services, who described the evolution of Virtual USA, a geospatial emergency management tool being developed by the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate.

The initiative builds on work pioneered by Virtual Alabama, which aggregates and integrates property and infrastructure data in a visualization tool by using Google Earth Enterprise. The initiative also relies on the work of Virginia’s Virginia Interoperability Picture for Emergency Response (VIPER) system, which uses an ESRI geospatial platform.

Plans for the first regional demonstration of Virtual USA, which will weave together data from seven southeastern states, is expected this fall, he said.

A key to this and similar efforts, Greenberg said, is making information actionable. And a key ingredient to that, he said, is designing applications with end users in mind, tapping the ability to use what data those users have, and making sure the collaborative nature of the effort is sustainable.

Another geospatial advocate, Andrew Turner, chief technology officer of FortiusOne, said the evolution of geo-spatial analysis tools offers government a number of opportunities.

“Geography is a common pivot point for providing context for data,” he said, noting that about 74 percent of government services for citizens are tied to specific locations involving geospatial information.

One of the opportunities for governments, he said, is emerging from the way citizens are sharing and collaborating with mapped-based information. It offers a view that “helps government see what needs are arising among citizens and communities,” he said.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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Reader Comments

Sun, Sep 27, 2009 Bob Greenberg

For the record. 1) I (Bob Greenberg)am not employed by Google. I am a consultant to the Department of Homeland Security. 2) Virtual USA is designed to be technology agnotistic and, in fact, employs both Google and ESRI GIS platforms.

Fri, Sep 11, 2009

Let's be clear - Jack D. has an agenda, and he's driving to accessible services. Mr. Greenberg has an agenda, and he's getting paid by Google to implement accessible web tools. The differences are striking in the execution, however. The ESRI implementations will be accessible in an known format (albeit proprietary but nevertheless published) while the Google/VirtualUSA data will be accessible 'eyes only' since Google Earth data are completely locked up and unusable by analysts or other apps. Who is more open? ESRI with published proprietary formats or Google with unpublished and inaccessible (unless you're using their tools...) data. I'll go with Mr. Dangermond's view, thank you very much.

Thu, Sep 10, 2009 Brad Sydney

Well there is nothing wrong with the sentiment here I am just skeptical of the ESRI agenda. The whole concept of Government as a Platform is right on the money BUT it implies a distributed model and not a centralized data aggregated model. Of course a decentralized model depends on interoperable standards - not sure that big software vendors are really onside yet as they seem to be paying only lip service to this trend. Time will tell I guess!

Thu, Sep 10, 2009 gis101

Hey must work for Pitney Bowes. What a lame way to say hey look at what we got..

Wed, Sep 9, 2009 Ed Gillespie

Great article. More and more government agencies are taking advantage of location intelligence. Was reading on the Pitney Bowes Business Insight site and was surprised at how many applications there are in government.

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