Surveying, Mapping and GIS

Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development and enterprise architecture...

  • Geospatial Technology, End to End...

    Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development, enterprise architecture and policy

NGS 200th Anniversary and NAD83(NSRS 2007)

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/28/2007 07:07:00 PM 0 comments

The 200th Anniversary of the National Geodetic Survey is coming up - from origins as the Survey of the Coast, signed into existence by Thomas Jefferson, on February 10th, 1807 to the present, a legacy of much excellent work. NOAA and NGS have many events planned in celebration of their 200-year legacy of success.

With this, also comes the unveiling of the National Readjustment of NAD83 - NAD83(NSRS 2007). A key benefit of this will be in that this adjustment will be performed using all data in the National Spatial Reference System (NSRS), as opposed to the previous efforts, which were statewide and regional. The first, NAD83(1986) was performed on states, multi-state regions and so on.
Later on, with improved GPS capability came NAD83(HARN), referencing the High-Accuracy Reference Network. This exposed positional issues in the previous NAD83(1986) adjustment, and again, the HARN adjustments were performed on a state or regional basis.

As time progressed, we saw the emergence of the national Continuously-Operating Reference Stations (CORS) system - and with this, we gained a national network of GPS coordinates, which however exposed inconsistencies with the state and regional networks.
Now, with NAD83(NSRS 2007), 70,000 GPS points nationwide have been put into the mix, in a massive effort to place all of these on a common reference system, to eliminate the longstanding inconsistencies from adjustment to adjustment, network to network. With the excellent leadership of people at NGS like Dave Doyle, this release will be a boon to survey-grade, geodetic projects nationwide.

Technorati tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Looking for GIS integration experience

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/28/2007 08:04:00 AM 0 comments

I am looking for someone with TS/SCI clearance, a geospatial background, and integration expertise in Java, Perl, and Python - to work with a partner firm in Vienna, VA - send resumes to dsmith (at)

Technorati tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pennsylvania Surveyors' Conference 2007

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/27/2007 10:20:00 AM 0 comments

I was able to enjoy some time at the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors' 2007 Conference. It was great to see many old friends again, such as the great folks at PSLS that put the conference on, the Penn State Wilkes-Barre Surveying faculty (they have an excellent program there - I was fortunate to be able to tag along as an observer in the last ABET visit to Penn State, and have known Tom Seybert since my own days at Penn State as a student), as well as many fellow surveyors, PAMAGIC members, POBers and other folks - the conversation was great, I got a lot of input and thoughts on Continuing Professional Competency, data standards and geodesy, and many other things swirling around in my life of late.

My focus was to attend some of the GPS sessions, and though I was tied up with many other things, I was actually able to attend some, such as the "Horizontal Control Survey with GPS " session by GPS guru Dr. James P. Reilly, and the "Static GPS Post-Processing" session by Brian Naberezny, of PSU and University of Maine.

I also greatly enjoyed the excellent presentation put on by Patrick Lee, as a Daniel Boone re-enactor. As a pioneer in his westward movements, Daniel Boone was involved in surveying and land grants - and some of my own Searcy ancestors were colleagues of Boone, and were also surveyors in early Kentucky.

Patrick Lee as Daniel Boone

Technorati tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Continuing Education

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/27/2007 09:01:00 AM 0 comments

With the passage of Senate Bill 655 mandating continuing education for Pennsylvania surveyors, engineers and geologists, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will have 18 months to develop the rules and implementation. These will then go through the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and other bodies for review.

As President of the State Registration Board for Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists, I have appointed a Board subcommittee to expedite getting the regulations package put together. Our counsel has provided some implementation details from other professions in Pennsylvania which require continuing education, and we will try to overlay the model regulations and guidelines developed by NCEES, and try to harmonize these.

My hope is to develop a system which provides a robust and valuable continuing education system that will benefit professionals, along with a balance toward transparency and ease of facilitation and management - particularly as we have many licensees who are registered in multiple states, as well as licensees with multiple licenses (PE/PLS) and so on.
I'd appreciate any thoughts and input from fellow professionals on implementation of continuing professional competency - comments below, or email me at dsmith (at)

PSLS Conference

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/22/2007 09:22:00 AM 0 comments

I am looking forward to spending some time over the next few days at the Pennsylvania Surveyors' Conference. It's always a great time to catch up with old friends, as well as get some updates on various things going on in the world of surveying and mapping. This year I am going to focus on the GPS track, something I have not been doing my due dilligence on of late.

On another note, it's beginning to amaze me how many geospatial-related conferences are cropping up of late. I just got a notice of the Rocket City conference in Huntsville, and there have been several others in the last few months and more upcoming. I can certainly understand thematic conferences, regional ones, vendor-
oriented ones... but are we getting to the point where there are just too many?

Technorati tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Geospatial versus Surveying

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/19/2007 03:08:00 PM 0 comments

A battle is imminent, with several professional societies challenging the Federal Government on whether the Brooks Act should apply to geospatial contracting efforts.

A trial is scheduled for February 2nd, Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services (COFPAES) v. United States of America - to provide definition and clarity and to look toward Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) in mapping procurements.

Directions Magazine provides their perspective on the issue, and drew my attention. MAPPS provides a page discussing the background and legal history.

The outcome should prove interesting - many issues have been simmering with regard to state and federal definitions of surveying and mapping, particularly as technologies have continued to evolve. I have my own unique perspective, as a geospatial practitioner, as a licensed professional, and as a member of a state licensing board - and these perspectives are in some ways in great harmony, largely in support of Qualifications-based Selection, however also in some ways in dissonance with QBS, as mere fact of licensure may not qualify one to perform the work. As a regulatory body, the State Registration Boards' duty is to ensure protection of the public - and in many ways, lack of adherence to the Brooks Act has skirted this. However, many state laws are similarly overbroad, and/or antiquated.

Technorati tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Just received this announcement from a colleague:

National Land Cover Database (NLCD 2001)
The U.S. Geological Survey, on behalf of the interagency Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC), is pleased to announce the availability of NLCD 2001 products for the conterminous United States. These products are web enabled for download from the MRLC website at NLCD 2001 products include 21 classes of land cover, percent tree canopy and percent urban imperviousness at 30 m resolution derived from Landsat imagery. NLCD 2001 will support a wide variety of users, institutional sectors and local- to national-scale applications with this updated land-cover data. Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico will be completed by December of 2007, which will then represent the first compilation of nationwide land cover ever produced at 30-meter resolution.

Great news for a wide variety of applications - I was just looking at a watershed application, myself, where this data will fit quite nicely.

I did a quick check, it's not yet visible in the MRLC map viewer, however the data is available via FTP - visit the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics site:

Technorati tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

"Longitude" - by Dava Sobel

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/15/2007 10:48:00 PM 0 comments

I just finished reading Longitude, by Dava Sobel. An enjoyable read, presented in a great anecdotal style, with plenty of colorful detail and insight into some of the joys and tribulations of John Harrison's attempt to conquer the challenge of accurate determination of longitude. Sobel lays out the background for the challenge, with tragedy at sea and other powerful driving forces, to include a challenge, with a virtual fortune ostensibly to be recieved by the winner...

The dynamic of battles between clockmakers and astronomers, and beyond this, the twists and turns introduced by the both arbitrary and capricious, yet bureaucratic and obstinate Board of Longitude are presented with great wit by Sobel, with our self-taught clockmaker protagonist, John Harrison showing tremendous brilliance and tenacity in the face of adversity after adversity.

A well written, well-researched, and extremely well-presented tale, if with odd continuity from chapter to chapter - I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in science. Sobel spins an excellent tale, against a richly woven tapestry featuring many other great figures in 18th-century history, such as Astronomers Royal John Flamsteed, Edmond Halley, and Nevil Maskelyne, Captains Cook and Bligh, King George III and many others.

As fast as I read, the stack grows faster... Currently on the stack are re-reading Gödel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas R. Hofstadter, Drawing the Line: Tales of Maps and Cartocontroversy, by Mark Monmonier, I have Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah, Metamagical Themas (another Hofstadter book), The Geographer at Work, Mental Maps and a few others from my late Penn State professor Peter Gould and quite a few others working their way to the top of the stack...

Take-home goodies...

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/13/2007 07:40:00 PM 0 comments

Having a five-year-old in the house, I usually snag any little conference goodies, such as the LizardTech lizards, yo-yos, and other things of interest... And ESRI never fails to please with a few goodies of their own at the User Conferences.

One interesting one is the Mapping for Congress book, published by ESRI press, it was distributed in the conference bags at sign-in. In usual case-study style, they present a gallery of interesting maps that were developed in response to various Congressional inquiries and toward exhibits and policy development by the Library of Congress Congressional Cartography Program. Plenty of great studies toward support of public policy, social justice and other areas to be found in this book.

Another one that I grabbed at the conference was GIS for Homeland Security, which in a vest-pocket size, provides a good high-level overview of various initiatives, Homeland Security Presidential Directives, and other ongoing efforts toward preparedness and response. A great feature of this book is the extensive glossary, which provides over 30 pages of definitions and explanations of the various terms, definitions and TLAs (three-letter acronyms) that one encounters in the Homeland Security arena.

What appears to be a real gem that was handed out in the conference bags is Standards for Success: GIS for Federal Progress and Accountability which as a sort of follow-on to Measuring Up: The Business Case for GIS - it is of particular interest to me, as it presents many federal geospatial projects - and here, the business case needs to begin getting aligned with the OMB GeoLoB, Agency Blueprints, FEA, CPIC and other directions. This book doesn't appear to touch on these directly, but does provide a high-level overview that is spot on, when it comes to streamlining business, collaboration, business logic and decision support, and optimal use of resources.

Going to have to read that one in a bit more detail.

Technorati tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

USACE Topographic Engineering Center

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/13/2007 10:12:00 AM 0 comments

As I mentioned in a prior post, the US Army Corps of Engineers Topographic Engineering Center was spotlighted at ESRI FedUC - CW4 Mike Harper gave an overview of quite a few interesting things going on in their enterprise, geared toward delivery of imagery and data down to the tactical level, along with collaborative data collection at the soldier level.

One interesting program is the award-winning BuckEye program, which gathers imagery using easily-deployable 39MP sensors, LIDAR, and other means, to provide imagery and DTM models which allow tremendous detail. Sample images shared with the audience included detail such as extension cords, individual slats of wooden pallets and other items to be identified - from imagery flown at 4000ft above the scene. These BuckEye soldiers and contractors have selflessly placed themselves in harms way toward gaining crucial data for military support, toward stabilizing volatile areas in Iraq and Afghanistan while minimizing noncombatant risk, particularly in urbanized areas, where detailed and granular intelligence is critical.

Other applications include the Urban Tactical Planner, Urban Skyline Explorer, and many others. Toward GPS and locational capabilities, TEC has been pursuing Defense Advanced GPS Receiver (DAGR), which allows military mapping products to be used as a backdrop - and as the demand for DAGR has outstripped production, TEC has also been working with Garmin toward allowing military mapping products from NGA to be brought into Garmin platforms as well.

Another interesting program described was in providing a framework for data collection at the tactical level - here soldiers can be debriefed or enter data directly, to be captured, geoenabled and databased, to provide a more transparent and collaborative means for sharing data at the tactical level.

Technorati tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

More from FedUC - What did Jack Dangermond Let Slip?

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/12/2007 02:43:00 PM 2 comments

A provocative title for the post...

The FedUC conference wrapped up with an excellent lunch (aside from the staple in my veggies)... and a great presentation from CW4 Michael Harper of the USACE Topographic Engineering Center on Buckeye, DAGR and other interesting things going on there... may merit a separate post.

The good Doctor provided, as he so often does, a great Q&A session as a wrap-up. Some of the bullets from that discussion

  • East coast tech support is coming - ESRI is standing up a tech-support team in North Carolina, to offer expanded AM hours, beginning at 6AM. Additionally, they may investigate the possibility of better search capabilities in the online tech support material, via Google.
  • ESRI continues to work with the University of Redlands, with the 1-year Masters program - potentially to be expanded to similar programs at George Mason for those of us working in the DC area. The DC area is a hotbed of geospatial activity, with good talent scarce.
  • Mr. Dangermond described some interesting things he has going on internally, to provide real-time financial reporting on the state of ESRI - which, no surprise - are geo-enabled. Being able to get this kind of reporting is an area of interest which I have no doubt will grow in other firms with a broad geographic reach.
  • In conjunction with FedUC was the first Classified ESRI GIS community meeting, attended by 300 or so - featuring discussion of applications in the TS/SCI NOFORN arenas. Typically the pitfall is stovepipes, but being able to get cleared personnel together to discuss topics of common interest will be a boon to the DoD/Intel community.
  • ESRI is trying to bolster its Java support, with their Java team growing and building better support for Java classes.
  • The Geography Network is to be overhauled, and replaced with a more robust, more collaborative version.
  • 9.3... Saving goodies for last. The 9.3 beta is scheduled for sometime this summer, probably around the Conference. Some improvements in the hopper for 9.3 include interoperability and OGC, improvements to ArcGIS Server, Mobile Applications development support, and addressing stability and known issues with 9.2. They are also looking at PostgreSQL.
  • A next iteration is probably a year to year and a half away yet. Here, the focus will be simplification of the user interface, support for multiple views and multiple documents, and capability of storing all types of geofiles in a geodatabase - such as metadata catalogs, and so on.

Technorati tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FedUC Thursday - Enterprise Service Bus?

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/11/2007 09:18:00 PM 0 comments

Just got home from FedUC and see snow on the ground here-

I actually ran out of room in my "little blue book" with all the thoughts and notes from the conference. Very productive, all in all.

I reckon I can probably share a few more of the thoughts going through my mind...

I followed some of the Enterprise Architecture track today... SAIC gave a presentation on DHS and their notional architecture, which was interesting, and applicable to where we are and where we want to be over at EPA. Their model consists of a foundational layer of geospatial data, harvested via ETL, consumed via web services, et cetera - essentially static data. Next, an OLAP layer, of analytical and modeling tools, and finally realtime, streamed and dynamic data. These are to then plug into an enterprise service bus, for consumption by clients which can make use of the BPEL, flows and integration platform provided by ESB.

We currently need an integration framework as well - we have been pursuing a few things in deconstructing and decomposing EnviroMapper into constituent parts, aligned with functional needs, to get them ready for this type of thing, but is ESB and BPEL really ready?

Now, here, Mark Eustis from SAIC is viewing OGC as the world's "virtual service bus". Is this really true? Are OGC services really up to the challenge - and further, ready to be plugged into ESB? Some say no. Time shall tell.

In another Enterprise GIS session, an application was demoed, using ArcGIS Server and IBM WebSphere Process Server as the ESB. ESRI does have ESB in mind for AGS, however here we are still ESRI-proprietary, which doesn't look good for mix-and-match map services in a dynamic application. What about WFS-T and transactional services?

I see I have much to learn about ESB. Seems exciting, but is it really ready for primetime? Our own pursuits of an integration platform are on hold in the meantime... but that doesn't mean we shouldn't still focus on build-out of services and look at the possibilities as things continue to mature...

Technorati tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ESRI FedUC Wednesday...

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/10/2007 11:25:00 PM 0 comments

Just got back from the reception at the Organization of American States - many great conversations, and overall a very productive day for me.

Organization of American States

I sat in on a few of the Homeland Security and Emergency Response sessions - we are having an ever expanding role in that arena. Prominent was IRRIS, from our business partners and fellow Pennsylvania firm, GeoDecisions. We are currently looking at some possibilities for bringing data from mobile sensor platforms directly into IRRIS, as well as dynamic search and discovery possibilities for sensor data - will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

Other Homeland Security / Emergency Response sessions touched on EMMA, as a good model for statewide emergency management with wide stakeholder support.

There was a good session on NIMS, as it moves forward. The pieces are rapidly falling into place for broader integration and use of incident data, the vision of local-state-federal finally becoming more of a reality. Within NIMS, they mentioned the NOAA plume modeling facility, which is continually run for known sites, utilizing current weather conditions. My wonder is in how well this is or can be tied into available facility data for all of the applicable EPA FRS sites. The NIMS document is currently being revisited for updating, presenting many new opportunities to harmonize incident management efforts across agencies.

It makes a great deal of sense to get ever more stakeholders put together, not just for simple data sharing, but also for lessons learned, sharing of SOPs, models, types of analyses performed, and so on. One report cited as an excellent resource is the 2007 National Academy of Sciences Report, Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management, which cites a number of areas for improvement - for example that data standards do not yet meet emergency response needs, and that training and exercises for responders need geospatial intelligence built into them.

While we didn't have a booth at this event, I saw at least one fellow SDVOSB exhibitor, Penobscot Bay Media - they are doing work in LIDAR scanning mounted on a robotic platform. We talked VETS GWAC a bit... My friends at the EPA booth saw some very brisk business, although they didn't manage to draw Jack Dangermond in. We did catch up with Jack later (will post the picture another time, as it was not my digital camera...)

I got a few minutes to chat with Adena Schutzberg, of Directions Magazine, All Points Blog, and many other good things - she was my Teaching Assistant way back when, at Penn State for Spatial Analysis with Dr. Peter Gould. A few encouraging words from her on my blog and the many diverse things I manage to get my fingers into...

The final sessions I got to sit in on - I had a few meetings here and there, which punctuated the day, and unfortunately ended up missing the GeoLoB discussion, but caught the tail end of the Geospatial One Stop presentation by Rob Dollison of USGS. He discussed a number of things coming down the pike in the next few months, as build 2.1 gets pushed to production in the next month or so, 2.2 in March-June timeframe, followed by 2.3 - many interesting enhancements, such as search relevance, search booleans, viewing results as a bounding box, a fast base map, 3D viewing, and so on. Exciting stuff. On our end, we are looking for ways to tie our GPT instance at EPA, the GeoData Gateway, into GOS, through the EPA firewall, and using integrated security. We are lucky there to have Marten Hogeweg and the same ESRI team working with us that developed GOS.

One thing that had me wondering on the implementation was "authoritative data sources". Here, the intent would be to present "authoritative data sources" in the search results near the top. Will this be another field in the metadata record? Is it determined by virtue of its' publisher?

At any rate, it was an enjoyable day, saw many friends, had a lot of exciting and productive discussion, and I am looking forward to more of the same tomorrow. But now, I'm ready for bed...

Off to ESRI FedUC

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/09/2007 02:43:00 PM 0 comments

As soon as I finish getting a few more things out the door, I am heading down to the ESRI Federal Users Conference. Had a few too many things on the plate today, but hopefully I will be able to attend tomorrow and Thursday... I am curious if any fellow geobloggers will be in attendance. Haven't seen any postings on FedUC yet.

Pennsylvania Surveyors' Conference

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/05/2007 08:30:00 PM 0 comments

I am planning on attending a few sessions at the Pennsylvania Surveyors' Conference again this year - looking forward to seeing many old friends again.

Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors Conference 2007
January 21-24, 2007
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center,
Hershey PA

I hope to get down there Monday afternoon, and we have also scheduled our January Registration Board meeting for Wednesday during the conference.

Interestingly enough, the conference announcement cover features a re-enactor as Daniel Boone. I had some Searcy ancestors who were friends and colleagues of Boone, not to mention surveyors.

USEPA Geospatial Information Officer

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/03/2007 01:26:00 PM 1 comments

The USEPA Geospatial Information Officer (GIO) position was posted on USAJobs last week - finally Brenda Smith's shoes will hopefully be filled. Beyond this, from all I have heard, this will indeed be a very high-level position within the agency, which should bode well for the future.

Aside from applications development, much of what I have been doing to date within EPA has been getting a handle on the Geospatial Segment Architecture, identifying alignment with FEA Geospatial Profile and GeoLoB, and other projects, to lay the groundwork for leveraging and harmonizing all of the GIS-related efforts within EPA. This might be a perfect job for me - however, I am thinking I might like to stay in the private sector...

Google Earth and GPS

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/03/2007 12:57:00 PM 2 comments

I recently picked up a Holux GPSlim 240 bluetooth unit - it's got the SiRFstarIII chipset, and the whole package is barely the size of my thumb. I have been having some fun with it with various PDA-based and laptop-based software packages for navigation and tracking...

I have thus been overjoyed to see that one of my favorite pieces of software, Google Earth, is now looking at realtime GPS tracking... About time!

The Google Earth Blog provides an overview, along with some good insight on how the functionality works. This will add a whole new layer of fun to Google Earth!

Ferrarri Vista?

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/02/2007 10:33:00 AM 1 comments

One of the stories circulating in the blogosphere is the Microsoft initiative to circulate some Vista-loaded machines to select bloggers - more here:

I Started Something Blog

It's one thing to give out copies of Vista for evaluation - after all I participated in the beta as well - but another to give out fancy $2000 Acer Ferrarri laptops with it. As one might expect, the response has been mixed, but generally not favorable.

Bribery? Unethical? I won't comment on that, as I think such a blanket condemnation would be premature. What might be more interesting is to look at who they selected, and why. I, in particular, would be more interested if it's pursuit of buy-in by outspoken critics, or reward to those troops who supported Microsoft in the past, neutral honest-broker bloggers or a mix of all of these.

Happy New Year!

Posted by Dave Smith On 1/01/2007 12:12:00 PM 0 comments

Happy New Year!!
Hope all is well with everyone - I am looking forward to the new year. As an interesting note, I am flattered to have just been selected "Surveyor of the Week" on the RPLS.COM message board, with which I posted the obligatory biography - I am definitely excited with many new prospects in 2007.