Monday, September 17, 2012

2012 NSGIC Conference Summary

There is no way to compress the entire content of a typical National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) conference into a single blog posting, but I thought I’d try to list a few of the highlights from the 2012 annual conference that I attended last week.

Let's start with some information about the conference itself.  It was held in Lake Buena Vista, Florida which is roughly 20 miles southwest of Orlando.  Attendance was slightly down compared to previous conferences but the 38 represented states were an increase over the previous year.  Attendance was likely impacted by a number of Federal and State government representatives who were not able to attend due to travel restrictions. 

We were told that the cost to put on the conference in Florida was less than other locations.  I could see that NSGIC has implemented a number of measures to reduce the cost of the conference.  These include replacing the exhibit area with speed networking sessions (state representatives meet with vendors for about five minutes on a rotating basis) and reducing the number and type of printed conference materials.  Communication during the conference consisted of emails, Twitter, and Google Docs.  Attendees were asked to insert their notes into Google Docs during the conference.  I thought that this was a great way to record the event and it was interesting to watch as others typed their comments.

One of the things that I like about NSGIC is hearing first-hand the many “stories” that are happening at national and state levels.  The national stories are those initiatives and programs that will impact the states as a whole and those that help the federal government improve their programs, using input from the states via NSGIC.  The state stories are initiatives, programs, and technology that impact the individual states and their local governments.  Let’s look at some of these stories beginning with the national ones.
  • Landsat – there are about 3.4 million archived images, totaling about 2 petabytes of storage.  If you’d like to look at this imagery then be sure to check out the LandsatLook Viewer.
  • FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority) – this is the use of broadband for public safety. $7 billion (yes, billion) is allocated for building this network and $135 million for state, regional, and tribal grants. This ball is already rolling with a board having been appointed and grant guidance developed in August.
  • OnTheMap for Emergency Management – who would’ve thought, but the U.S. Census Bureau has released their OnTheMap viewer which can be used for emergency management. Check it out!  it’s a very nice tool that appears to use OpenLayers
  • Map-21 – No, it’s not a music group.  Rather, it’s a nationwide “basemap” constructed from state road data. This is part of the U.S. DOT’s “Transportation for the Nation” initiative which originated from NSGIC. Each state has to submit a plan to the Federal Highway Administration by June 15, 2013.
  • NG9-1-1 (Next Generation 9-1-1) – This is IP-packet-based technology that will replace the existing circuit-based 9-1-1 systems to allow text, video, and images and other information to be accessed over a common network.  It is GIS-based technology instead of tabular-based technology.  It was stated that governance is critical, the older 9-1-1 has been a local-based service whereas NG9-1-1 needs to be treated from a regional or state level
  • Geographic  Support System Initiative – from the U.S. Census Bureau, this is used to support TIGER updates.  They are planning to investigate the use of crowd sourcing which they define as users supplying suggested changes and the use of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) which they define as the user making the changes.
  • 3-D Elevation Program – from the U.S.G.S. this program has a goal of creating nation-wide elevation coverage.  States (including North Dakota of course) responded to a survey a year or so ago.  This data has been compiled and there is also a nice Elevation Inventory viewer for displaying the location of elevation data.
And now, a few of the state stories:
  • Cloud – Amazon Web Services of course but the majority of the cloud discussion centered around using ArcGIS Online for Organizations (AGOO).  Some folks are wrestling with estimating the use of service credits and others how to integrate AGOO into their existing systems.  Nice examples including those from Washington State and Indiana helped to verify some recent thinking about the use of AGOO here in North Dakota state government.
  • Kansas OneMap – I first heard about this at the recent MAGIC Symposium and saw again how this is a very powerful concept.  For example, a  Geo-note (similar to a fiscal note) is attached to a bill.  That Geo-note indicates where and what resources are being allocated. With this in place, alerts to the affected legislative district can be sent to citizens and legislators. In addition, because the bills now have a spatial component, the impact of budget decisions can be displayed on a map.  Propylon is the contractor working with Kansas and has also worked with North Dakota on its bill tracking system, though there is not a spatial component in the North Dakota system – yet. 
  • Use URLs – The Utah GIS web site has been redesigned and focuses on simplification. For example, every topic and every data service has its own URL.  These URls are the fabric of the web site.  This approach results in web searches returning these URLs at the very top and can make this much easier for people looking for data and other information.  The presentation from the Geographic Information Office (GIO) for the Federal Communications Commission reinforced what Utah was saying.  The GIO indicated that he believes there is about a 4:1 of API usage over web usage.  URLs are everything!
  • GISP – If you are a certified Geographic Information Systems Professional, take note!  The GIS Certification Institute is working on an examination component which will be implemented by 2015.
If you are interested in reading more and viewing the presentations, be sure to check out the 2012 Annual Conference Archive.