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2007 ESRI Federal User Conference
Environmental Systems Research Institute
Jan. 9n11
Washington Convention Center

The Industry: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and interactive mapping

The Attendees: 1,900 GIS users, CIOs, and IT managers who can map the world down to its last pixel

The Issues:

Neighborhood Watch: Demonstrating ArcGIS 9.2 Web mapping, a presenter explained that two nearly overlapping dots on a Colorado map represented the locations of a registered sex offender and a day-care center. Parole officers can use the new technology to digitize an area to ensure an adequate buffer zone. Another timely application: imaging Baghdad environs down to street level to reroute convoys around known and suspected IED (improvised explosive device) sites.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a Collision: Langley Air Force Base intern Sarah Smith described how GPS is used to monitor ospreys at the base, track their flight paths, and prevent wildlife run-ins that cost the military $100 million yearly. Adult birds returning to Langley are outfitted with a 30-gram solar-powered GPS system fashioned like a miniature book bag. The device revealed that one errant loner migrated north; his corpse was tracked down in Maine using satellite telemetry.

Google Earth to Eternity: GeoEye of Dulles will soon launch its next-generation high-resolution satellite, which simultaneously acquires 0.41-meter panchromatic and 1.65-meter multispectral imagery. Applications range from homeland security to insurance work.

Peek-A-Boom! On display: remote-sensing satellite imagery into the eye of a volcano, specifically Anak Krakatau, which in 1927 rose up from an Indian Ocean crater left after Krakatau’s 1883 cataclysmic explosion. Little Anak has been erupting ever since.

I Spy: The Ikonos satellite captured a god’s-eye view of the foundation for the Pearl-Qatar, a $2.5 billion man-made island representing Qatar’s first international real-estate venture. This new construction will be completed by 2009.

Disaster Master: Enhanced mapping capabilities mean more robust decision support: FEMA and community planners could continuously update flood maps, predict impact of new construction on flood risk, and determine where to direct emergency-management resources without block-by-block human inspections.

Remote Sensitivity: ESRI president Jack Dangermond solicited feedback on how to improve the company’s mapping technologies for everything from protecting soldiers and citizens to increasing efficiency in the post office. “Many times I can’t sleep at night worrying about the challenges you and your families will be facing,” he told a packed auditorium, not long after waiting out a lengthy, ill-timed testing of the convention-center fire alarm.

Basics Training: While outlining warfare-mapping advances, Michael Harper of the Army Corps of Engineers displayed a slide depicting a World War Inera mapboard. “We’ve spent the greater part of 10 years trying to get back to that mapboard,” said Harper, attributing delays in part to a lack of communication between divisions of the battle command system. This, he explained, illustrates the need to eliminate data stovepipes, build architecture to one effective geospatially oriented standard, and “train the whole force, including everyday infantry guys, in GIS 101.”

GISmos: Post-session talk turned to the improved infrared-mapping capabilities that enable the Roomba wireless vacuum robot to learn its owner’s floor plan for faster autonomous cleaning—a home version of robotic building-mapping systems discussed during the conference.