Category Archives: Industry Focus

Multispectral Imagery in Action

Putting remotely sensed image data to work

Imagery provides more than just plain pictures. Some sensors detect energy beyond what is humanly visible, allowing us to “see” across broad swaths of the electromagnetic spectrum. This enables scientists, geologists, farmers, botanists, and other specialists to examine conditions, events, and activities that would otherwise be hidden. The implications are profound and the applications are seemingly endless.

Expanding your point of view

Every day, the earth is directly imaged from scores of sensors in the sky and from orbit in space. Almost everything that happens is measured, monitored, photographed, and explored by thousands of imaging devices mounted on satellites, aircraft, drones, and robots. Much of this information ends up as imagery that is integrated into a large living, virtual GIS of the world, deployed on the web.

Some of these sensors see beyond what our eyes see, enabling us to view what’s not apparent. Multispectral imagery measures and captures this information about a world that has many more dimensions than just the colors of the rainbow—it sees past the limits of what our eyes perceive.

Nicaragua’s Momotombo Volcano awoke with an explosive eruption in December 2015. This false color image highlights hot areas, primarily the lava flow that extends to the northeast.

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Esri Teams up with XPRIZE to Advance Sea Floor Mapping

by Jyotika I. Virmani, Senior Director of Energy and Environment for XPRIZE and Dawn Wright, Esri Chief Scientist

Over 60% of the Earth’s surface has not yet been mapped. The ocean covers 70% of our planet’s landmass, and of that, less than 15% of the sea floor has been mapped at a resolution greater than 5 km. In fact, we have higher resolution maps of the entire surface of the Moon, Venus, and Mars than we do of our own Earth. But this situation can be changed. We are in the midst of a Technological Revolution and with the advent of exponential technologies such as 3D printing, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality, we now have smaller and cheaper tools and greater access to information.

Mapping the sea floor has, historically, been a challenge. Seawater is obviously opaque, which prevents us from using visible, remote surveying techniques to get maps of the sea floor. Seawater is a harsh and corrosive medium and, with a viscosity greater than air, it has additional engineering challenges such as high friction resulting in rapid power drain for any device that is used to map the bathymetry underwater. It is also expensive to access because the technology of today requires ships to sail to the area being mapped before the mapping technology is deployed. At an average cost of $60,000 a day, it can easily cost a few hundred thousand dollars before mapping can even begin.

The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a 3-year competition launched last December, is incentivizing innovators to develop the autonomous underwater robots we need to map the sea floor at 5m or higher resolution and take high-definition images of the deep sea. Within this is a $1 million National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Bonus Prize, for teams who can develop an underwater tracking device that can autonomously track a biological or chemical to its source. The devices will be shore-based or aerial deployments, removing the massive costs associated with ships.  The competition will conclude in December 2018 and, like all other XPRIZE competitions, there will be a number of technical solutions that emerge to provide underwater cartographers the tools they need to survey the sea floor.

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Where’s the “G” in IS?

Visitors to Esri often pause for pictures beside an ivy-covered wall emblazoned with the word GEOGRAPHY in raised metal letters. The inscription speaks to an ingrained belief that geography offers a unique framework for organizing the world’s knowledge in a way that fosters better decision-making and a more sustainable future. Consistent with this belief, the education outreach team I lead at Esri does what we can to nurture geographic thinking and methods across the spectrum of academic disciplines.

That’s a big job. Disciplines have proliferated since the advent of the modern university in the 19th and 20th centuries. Consider this concept map of contemporary academic disciplines.  Few disciplines depicted explicitly recognize geography, let alone GIS, as an integral way of understanding the world. Given the longstanding claim that a science of geographic information undergirds GIS (Goodchild 1992), you might suppose that Information Science is one of the disciplines that’s likely to appreciate the special properties of spatial data. If so, you’d be surprised to find that there’s precious little “G” is IS.

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Esri and Leica Partner to Offer Grants to Governments

Smart Communities Innovation Challenge Provides Support for Improving Mobile Government

Esri has partnered with measurement instrument manufacturer Leica to encourage innovation of mobile field data collection in government by offering grants totaling $143,250 in goods and services. Known as the Smart Communities Innovation Challenge, 10 governments that submit detailed project proposals demonstrating increased efficiencies in collecting data for decision support or improved productivity delivering governmental services will be selected to receive a grant.

Esri and Leica representatives announcing the strategic partnership.

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Capitol Spotlight on GIS and Policy

Last week Jack Dangermond joined Esri’s policy team to host the first GIS and Policy event at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center. Nearly 100 policymakers convened to learn firsthand how the growing community is using GIS to inform and disseminate public policy.

Congress and its staff are increasingly relying on digital over print information sources, and naturally that drives demand for interactive data products. Most recently, this has led the Congress’s research institution, the Library of Congress, to expand its web GIS offerings. The Congressional Research Service’s GIS Team provides Congress and its staff with many GIS services, including cartographic maps, geodata, and interactive web maps. This shared geospatial analysis enables policy makers to identify how features intersect with proposed policy, and sometimes how those features intersect with a member’s geography.

Maps Communicate Complex Policy

Many communications, digital directors, and press secretaries use web maps to compliment legislative text. Offices are finding that a compelling, trustworthy map noticeably increases the number of times a story is picked-up and shared. Some are using maps to communicate complex policy ideas in an easy to understand way. Readers can identify with policy on a map, understand its impact at the local level, and decide how to act. For example, Senator Wyden’s Medicare Beneficiaries with Chronic Conditions interactive web map enables readers to understand how the standard of care for Medicare beneficiaries with three chronic conditions varies by local geography.

Visitors to Senator Wyden’s webpage can click on this interactive map and see the number of Medicare beneficiaries suffering from chronic disease in each state.

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Telecom of the Future

Predicting the future is always a risky business, but a safe bet in telecommunications is that technology will be at the core of what the future promises for the industry. It wasn’t too long ago that the telecom industry lived in a copper world and the dominant service was voice. Fiber, mobile, and IP technologies have ushered in a perception where it seems like anything is possible as long as you can solve the insatiable demand for more bandwidth. This ability to meet future demands will be sorely tested if we are to believe the Gartner forecast that there will be almost 20 billion connected devices supporting the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020.

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Collaboration When It Counts: Esri Partner Technology Addressing Domestic Terrorism

Smart City Tech Summit Social

Since 2013, more than 160 active shooter situations have taken place in the United States. Imagine for a moment if those incidents could have been prevented through the use of modern technologies such as mapping software, drones, social media analysis … Continue reading

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Eight Maps for World Water Day

Our water supply is finite. From areas of abundance to places struck with drought, ensuring access to a clean, reliable source of water is critical.

World Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development where an international observance for water was recommended. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. It has been held annually since then.

Maps help us protect water supplies and their integrity by understanding how human behaviors impact the natural system, document water sources and quantify their capacity based on current and historic data, and then share the story of the water system through engaging maps so everyone can see how today’s actions affect tomorrow’s water system. Continue reading

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Federal Innovation in the Spotlight

More than 4,800 people gathered at the 2016 Esri Federal GIS (FedGIS) Conference to share how government agencies are innovating with GIS. Attendees and speakers talked about making data more accessible and actionable, collecting imagery with drones, and expanding use of cloud technology and mobile apps to more seamlessly execute their missions and better serve their end users.

Keynote speaker and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) Deputy Director Sue Gordon shared how NGA is opening non-classified data, including making digital elevation models available, to the public for the first time. Like many federal agencies, NGA is increasingly implementing in a cloud environment and using mobile apps to enhance resource sharing. Doing so supports missions and will support safety at events like the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Across the more than 125 sessions, users demonstrated how GIS is providing the framework for applying geography to critical decision making. Here are the top four takeaways you should know: Continue reading

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Jefferson’s Quilt

Stitching Together the Fabric of the American West

Flying over the western US, you can’t help but notice the vast patchwork of square parcels of land. Perhaps the largest subdivision in the world, these six-mile square townships, each containing 36 sections, have a storied history and colorful cast of characters who braved the Wild West to survey millions of acres.

That riot of rectangles we see from the stratosphere is Thomas Jefferson’s vision realized. How we manage that patchwork isn’t common knowledge, but it’s pretty cool.


The Quilt Keepers

In addition to being the stewards of the country’s natural resources, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also manages these shifting squares. Specifically, it collects, records, and shares the data on all of the corner locations that make up the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). Continue reading

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