Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 NSGIC Conference Summary

The 2015 National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) Conference was held October 5-9 in Kansas City, MO.  Nearly 40 states were represented along with people from the private sector and from federal and tribal organizations.

Tom Lee of Mapbox provided the keynote.  His comments on the value of open data were backed by the experience of Denmark which continues to see a return on investment since their efforts began in 2005.  Tom compared open data to generic drugs, something that is so important that it needs to be shared.  He also said that open street map data is now the equal of commercial providers in many aspects.

Statistics from the avian influenza panel were very sobering. 

  • Some types of this are highly pathogenic and have the potential to infect humans
  • Four of the top ten meat producers are in the US
  • The chicken industry alone represents about $74 billion in wages
  • Trade restrictions by 40 countries have so far cost the US $600 million
  • There have been two cases in ND as of the conference
The Minnesota GIO described his state's experience in which 108 farms were impacted in a 5,236 square mile area.  GIS staffing included 2.5 full-time employees during weekdays and 1 full-time employee on weekends.  They processed maps three times a day as they found interactive maps weren't all that useful; printed maps were best.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture wanted parcel maps for determining land ownership.  I believe this example is a strong business case for parcels in North Dakota. 

Tribal GIS was a topic this year.  There are 567 federally recognized tribes located in 36 states.  The National Tribal Geographic Information Support Center (NTGISC) is the largest Native American GIS organization and the only National Native American GIS organization.  During the conference the states approved a memorandum of understanding between NSGIC and NTGISC.  For states wishing to collaborate with tribal GIS activities the NTGISC might be good resource.

The crowd mapping panel provided information on the first-hand experiences of the presenters.  New Jersey has a road centerline project in which their DOT works with Open Street Map (OSM); citizens are able to add data and make changes after logging in.  Those changes are then QA'd before going to production.  One of the speakers expressed that putting an organization's data into OSM has more value than not doing so.  A question was raised about the liability of using crowd mapping.  The response to that question is that liability is the reason why people want licensing; states and other government agencies are getting away from selling data.

Of course, unmanned aircraft systems was the topic of a panel session.  In the US about 50 companies, universities, and government organizations are developing over 155 unmanned aircraft designs.  It was reported that the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) hardware is still in its infancy and that the return on investment is not always as great as manned aircraft.  Currently, public agencies require a certificate of authorization and commercial users need a Section 333 exemption.  The restrictions that are part of Section 333 are limiting enough that in one case, a vendor determined that after applying all of those restrictions only 28% of a county was flyable by a UAV.

Addresses are a common NSGIC topic and this year we heard about the National Address Database (NAD).  The U.S. Department of Transportation stated there are five goals of the current pilot project:  

  1. Determine minimum content standards
  2. Explore workflows for address creation
  3. Understand best practices for rolling up addresses from contributors 
  4. Assess the technical feasibility
  5. Insure that the final product is shareable in the public domain
Arkansas and Arizona are the pilot participants.  The U.S. Census Bureau spoke about using Community TIGER as a means to help populate the NAD.  Community TIGER is used to exchange and manage address data, is based on ArcGIS Online, uses Esri's Local Government Data Model, and is not limited by the Title 13 constraint. 

We heard about open data at last year's conference and this year we heard even more.  During the panel session data.gov and OSM were described. For example, data.gov follows the Project Open Data schema which describes the set of required fields.  OSM data is compared with proprietary data sources and over 300,000 people have contributed to OSM.  New York, which for some time has been on the leading edge of open data, did note some challenges of connecting a typical GIS clearinghouse, such as the GIS Hub, to an open data site.  The technologies differ which impacts display of data, searching, and metadata requirements.  Other challenges include linking to data versus copying of data and linking to web-based services.

The U.S. Census Bureau described the measures they are taking to reduce the cost of the upcoming 2020 census.  Streamlining of their processes should save them (and us taxpayers!) about $5 billion for the 2020 census compared to the 2010 census which cost $17 billion.  In the 2010 census there were 57 different languages in the census survey and 650 million pieces of mail were sent.  For the 2020 census they expect about a 63% response rate via electronic and paper media; for the remainder Census has to knock on doors.

Shelby Johnson of Arkansas, NSGIC's outgoing president, offers some additional insight of NSGIC and the geospatial industry in this article.

And finally, as I've done before, I'll leave you with two additional points:

  1. You do not have to be a GIS Coordinator, GIS Manager, GIO, etc. to attend.  You can be from a state, county, city, Tribal organization and no matter your title, you can attend. 
  2. Presentations from this NSGIC conference can be found on the NSGIC web site here.

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