Welcome to GISWeekly! Sharing geospatial data continues to be a hot button with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as with private agencies. The issue has come to the forefront repeatedly during the critical emergency situations that the U.S. and the world have experienced lately - unprecedented disasters that have flung government agencies into a tailspin and created a huge demand for sharable data. Read how SANZ' EarthWhere combines data management, image processing and dissemination into an expert system that helps makes data usable in this week's Industry News.
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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Spatial Data Provisioning - Supporting the Role of Data Steward
By Susan Smith
Sharing geospatial data continues to be a hot button with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as with private agencies. The issue has come to the forefront repeatedly during the critical emergency situations that the U.S. and the world have experienced lately - unprecedented disasters that have flung government agencies into a tailspin and created a huge demand for sharable data.
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Much advice has been offered, such as consolidating rather than duplicating datasets. This approach has been stonewalled by many organizations for fear of losing control of data or allowing access where the agency doesn't want it to be. But what about providing access to your existing data sets for other agencies? If access is provided, how can agencies provide the guidance and expertise required to fully leverage these unique datasets?
SANZ' EarthWhere is a software application that combines data management, image processing and dissemination into an expert system that helps makes data usable. According to Mark Hardy, Vice President and General Manager Geospatial Solutions Group of SANZ, “In agencies, we're finding that a data steward not only manages the data, but provides valuable educational outreach on how to best use these datasets for real world applications. It makes sense to keep the knowledge base and the data in one location but then, given the situation, allow them to share both their expertise and their datasets with the rest of the community.”
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Secondly, EarthWhere can restrict access to datasets where necessary. “A customer may have a large quantity of data that they bought from DigitalGlobe that is license restricted to only select users,” said Hardy. “They can configure EarthWhere to allow only those users to have access to comply with license restrictions for the data.” Hardy explained that during Hurricane Katrina, SANZ EarthWhere hosted a large amount of DigitalGlobe data that could be served up to first responders, DoD and the National Guard units only. “Other people who logged in to the EarthWhere site didn't see those datasets. This makes it easy for data stewards to manage their archives in one catalog and restrict access to various users based on internal business requirements. With this approach, our customers don't have to have a catalog for their restricted data and another catalog for their open data.”
Thirdly, provisioning of data is key to the EarthWhere application. Provisioning is the process of creating custom derivative datasets from generic data sources and is a key component of the EarthWhere application. Hardy gave the example of a DigitalGlobe tile of over half of New Orleans, and another tile over the other half of New Orleans. What if you need a dataset over an area that's right in the middle of the two? “I can either ship these two files, that are each over 2Gb across the network and let somebody else piece it together for me, or with EarthWhere automatically create that derivative mosaic file on-the-fly and deliver just the pieces that are needed by that end-user,” suggested Hardy. “So instead of 4Gb of data across the network, I may just produce 10 Mb and I do that on-the-fly, based on the needs of my specific end-user.”
“In some cases, our customers can catalog their data in its source format prior to typical post processing,” Hardy explained. “If they purchase multi-spectral data, they can extract just the bands that they need within their area of interest. So if they need to produce natural color, EarthWhere extracts those bands but if the end-user wants color infrared to view vegetation impact, then the system will provision those bands. Users can take the source datasets and massage them to fit their specific needs.”
“For example, we had some National Guard folks who wanted to land helicopters. Their job is to go protect property and people in a typically unknown city.. First we provided access to the full four-band Quickbird imagery. They said to us, 'This multispectral data is great, but all we want to do is find out where we can land a helicopter.' So we showed them how to extract information that was very specific to their task by provisioning products that showed everything that was dry vs. everything that was wet. They then downloaded this specific product and measured the area to determine if they could land a helicopter there. We acted as data stewards by providing both the data, tools and education to help them extract the information that was critical to their mission.”
“This data usability is critical for operational end-users like the National Guard who potentially don't know remote sensing or image processing,“ said Hardy. “All they want is information so they can do their jobs.”
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