Cops Can’t Track Car with GPS Without Warrent

The Electronic Frontier Foundation had an interesting piece about two weeks ago that I just ran across.  The Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently ruled that it is against their state constitution for the police to track a vehicle using GPS without court approval.  The interesting thing here is that the crux of their rationale is that the scale of GPS is too great that it interferes with the owner’s “possessory interest”.  To be honest, my understanding of the law is weak enough that I’m not sure what “possessory interest” means and why GPS violates it.  However, older US Supreme Court cases from the ’70’s ruled that beepers were permissible by the police without owner permission.  Basically because GPS is more powerful and more exactly, it is a bigger threat.  New York has similarly ruled that as well.

All in all, the case only has jurisdiction in Massachusetts, but it might set a precedent that Federal courts could follow.

EGNOS Goes Active

The precursor to the EU’s Galileo satellite positioning, EGNOS is now live for 27 EU states!  The basic idea behind the system is to take the US’s GPS system and make it more accurate – from 60 feet to 6 feet.  This will be a big boon to navigation system in the EU since they’re already EGNOS capable (at least most of them).

California Fires from Space

NASA California Fires from Space 2009

In case you haven’t seen this around, BoingBoing.net has a nice link round up for NASA’s photos of the current California fires as seen from space.  The smoke cloud is impressive in the most depressing way possible.  The BoingBoing link has links to NASA’s original image and large version, a NYT piece on the fires featuring the image, and some detailed information about the fires from the JPL at NASA.

Eight Most Dangerous Places to Live on the Planet

If danger is your middle name and you like to eat, breath, and sleep in danger, then you might want to check out this Popular Mechanics article.  Whether you like the extreme cold, fiery mountains, potentially getting drowned by global warming, living in the eye of hurricanes, there’s a place here for you.  I’m no expert in real estate, but I have to imagine at least a couple of these places would be housing bargains.  I can’t imagine, “Scenic views of lovely lake housing billions of cubic feet of methane and carbon dioxide that can potentially be released and kill you with a toxic cloud” is a big selling point in most “For Sale” ads.  Then again, I’m not in marketing, so I could be wrong.

Want more jobs in the US? Get rural broadband

Here’s an interesting bit of geographic news from the USDA – rural counties with broadband tend to have more jobs and those jobs are better paying.  Another fascinating finding is that households above the same income level tend to have broadband.  Rural-urban differences become non-existant above a certain level.  There are also some regional differences, with the south east unsuprisingly being behind the times relative to the rest of the US.  The article contains a link to the full report if you want to check the nitty gritty.  To me the whole report highlights the critical importance of our rural areas adopting broadband and doing so quickly.

Remote Sensing Used to Discover Ancient Roman Site

Really, what CAN’T geospatial do?  Researchers out of University of Padua in Italy took aerial photos of an area just north of Venice and discovered what used to be Altinum, a thriving city that existed before Venice.  The site is fairly unique in that it’s one of the few places that haven’t been built upon by later generations, thus making it ripe for study.  The team intends to continue their work using LiDAR and other techniques to help archeologists figure out the best places to continue their work excavating this important site.

Eye-Fi SD Card Adds Geotagging to Pics

Engadget is reporting the release of Eye-Fi’s new WiFi enabled SD card.  It provided automatic geotagging for life for all your pictures.  The product is designed specifically to work with iPhoto and all things Mac, which should be an exceptionally nice integration into iPhoto 09’s new geotagging features with ‘Places’.  The press release is a little light on details on how the geotagging works, but clearly it’s WiFi based.  That leads one to wonder how it knows a picture was taken in a place with no WiFi.  I have to think the “geotag” is based on the place you upload, which might not be the place you shot the photo.  Still, it’s a pretty cool service.  The card is kinda pricey at $60 for 2GB, but built in WiFi and geotagging ain’t gonna be free!  It’s still a better deal than most prosumer DSLR grade GPS’s, which can easily run two or three times that price.  The Eye-Fi SD card is available in stores as of today, it appears.

Some thoughts on making the UC better

The ESRI sessions are a great place to really see what the people in our field are doing.  The diversity is really inspiring.  Occasionally I’ll get the random person who’ll ask, “What can you do with GIS?”  I’d love to have a copy of the User Conference program to whip out when that happens and say, “Take a look at this.  The question you should be asking is, ‘What CAN’T you do with GIS?’”

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ESRI UC Day 2 Roundup – Couple of Sessions

Frank Looking at His Tweet in the Socail Media Lounge

I caught a few sessions and two in particular I thought were worth taking notes.  The first is about return on investments and calculating them for government.  Ultimately the presentations weren’t that strong on this topic in that session, but there was a wealth of information about how local governments can develop GIS even on limited budgets.  Personally, I think the session was slighly misnamed, which is unfortunate because the presenations were great.  The second session wasn’t even actually a regular session – it was a Special Interest Groups.  Not a lot of people note the SIGs – largely because they happen at lunch time, I suspect – but there was a lot of great information at the Flex developers Special Interest Group.  There was a fascinating presenation by Adobe concerning skinning your Flex application.  Although the topic sounds trivial, anyone who’s done much with the Flex development environment can tell you that the interface development is a bit of a bear.  The session really helped boil some of that complex stuff down, I think.  Anywho, enough with my monday morning quarterbacking comentary and on to the notes!

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ESRI Live Blogging of Plenary

Live blogging – all times PST and I’ll try to get pictures up as quick as possible.

8:39 – Meet the people around you.  I met a nice guy from the ESRI surfaces office out of Denver named Jonathan.  He’s involed in the aerospace group out of that office

8:40 – Jack’s running down the wealth of work that everyone out in the field actually do.  No shock – nearly every field is touched by GIS.

8:42 – SAG Award winners stand up.  I always like to look for those badges and give them the two finger “howdy” salute bikers give each other on the highway.  Not sure anyone else gets that.  But it amuses me.

8:43 – Centpoint energy gets a SAG award.  Short video showing what they do.  No surprise energy is winner, as they’re a huge GIS user.  They’re heavily in the enterprise stuff.  Right now, they’re demoing how storm and hurricane predictions help they figure out where to put their repair resources.  It’s pretty cool.  Thousands of crews together ready to deploy.  Cindy is accepting the award for the company.  Jack is saying that in several hurricans, Cindy mobilized all their people to restore power in days.

8:47 – Making a difference award.  Being given to an Indian scientist Dr. Kasturirangan, who is the godfather of the India remote sensing space organization.  He has apparently run for office in the Indian government, and is now going to run the national planning in that country.

8:50 – President’s Award.  Jack’s favorite (no surprise there).  This year goes to the state of Maryland, one of ESRI’s first customers.  They’ve been doing some interesting things with server.  I know West Virginia has adopted some of the technology and techniques they’ve developed.  Jack says this is largely to result of the vision of the Governor O’Malley.  The Governor is saying that GIS isn’t just a tool or a techniques, it allows connections to be made between groups and ideas.  Side note – the green tie is kinda cool.  Not many politicians rock the bright green tie, so kudos.  He’s bringing up some of their government people actually doing the work.  He’s asking why every citizen’s first question is always – “Can you show me my house?”  Good question.  Then half of them will freak out because you CAN show them your house.  Just my own experience, not the good Governor’s.  He’s detailing how they’re using “smart maps”.  Oddly enough, probably the most popular is using them to reduce wait times at the DMV.  Is there any government agency more hated than the DMV?  Green print sounds cool.  It shows the environment of anyone who wants to put in their address and how it can be protected.  Now he’s talking about the recovery act.  Maryland has developed a really cool site to track how and where that money from the federal government is being spent.  West Virginia has adopted the same system.  It’s built on ArcServer and the Flex API (which is pretty fun in my experience).
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