NASA Updates Topographic Maps

NASA has teamed with Japan’s Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center to create a new topographic map covering 99% of the Earth’s landmass.  The maps are created using two sets of data from Japan’s ASTER sensor which are slightly offset from one another.  Merging the data creates a 3D look like Google Earth’s topographic display.  The elevation measurements are 30 meters apart.  The real benefit here is that it’s the first global elevation model and it’s freely available for anyone in the world to use.  Furthermore, since it’s using the existing ASTER sensor, new models can be built often, which allows for significant change detection from year to year.  That’s especially important in areas like West Virginia, where mining techniques can have a significant impact on the topography.  Watch the video at the link for more information and some great visuals!

Via Gizmodo

Always… Never Forget To Check With The Experts

Thanks to Real Genius for the title. Climate scientists are engaged in a little damage control after Britain’s Time Comprehensive Atlas of the World mistakenly claimed Greeland’s glaciers are melting at a breakneck rate. If you compare the ice cover from 1999 and 2011, the Atlas reports a 15% loss in ice coverage. Climate scientists report the real number is closer to one-tenth of 1%. That’s a healthy difference! Scientists have been quick to point out the error and the publishers are attempting to address the issue (although they go through great pains to keep from acknowledging the Atlas is wrong). Nobody’s really sure why the error was made, however one scientist attempted a little ‘cartographic forensics’ and claims someone has confused a thickness for an extent. The publishers deny this happened, but have offered no alternative theory.

Obama Seeks Data Experts

It seems pretty obvious to me this will be a trend in future elections – Obama seeks data experts for edge. The President leveraged social media pretty effectively in the 2008 campaign. As the article points out, Governor Rick Perry did the same in his election campaign in Texas. What I find the most intriguing is the degree and effectiveness the campaigns have in synthesizing and analyzing all of these streams of data. It’s certainly true a Presidential election is about collecting public opinion as much as anything, it’s pretty clear they’re developing a pretty comprehensive factual resource. I really like the nugget in the article that mentions combing both traditional streams of data with social media streams to create more holistic and targeted information. That’s a model we in the geospatial industry are quickly moving to adopt, with greater and lesser degrees of success. It seems to me there might be a lot of lessons to be learned in the geospatial community as to how to gather nuggets of useful knowledge from similar efforts.

Flickr and GeoFences

Flickr has added a pretty cool new feature to their API set – Geofences. The idea is based upon the increasing concern over privacy, particularly spatial privacy. In the past versions of the API, one could only make the spatial location available to all or hide it from all. Geofences adds the ability to specify where ‘public’ photos are taken in your stream and where ‘private’ photos are taken. You can then share your ‘private’ fence with different classes of people of your choosing. For instance, you might make photos taken in and around your home in a ‘Family and Friends’ private Geofence and those taken at a public park as a public Geofence. The neat thing is you set the geofence spatially. You draw an area around a place you want to be private and by default any photos taken within that area are private. It’s a fairly cool implementation of privacy and it allows you to change your feelings about place without having to edit a ton of photos to reflect that change. Plus, to be honest, I love the phrase ‘geofence’ ?

Via ArsTechnica

ESRI UC 2011 – Jeff’s First Exposition Hall Tour

On Tuesday at the ESRI UC I spent the majority of my day wandering through the many tables and displays set up in the exposition hall.   At first I was overwhelmed by the size of the exhibition hall and the number of exhibitors but as I walked through the displays I became impressed with the number of ingenious ways that society makes use of GIS.

ESRI had a fantastic set up this year with their showcase featuring workstations set up to help with specific skill sets or applications regarding ArcGIS.  Each station was staffed with knowledgeable assistants to help with your questions or comments.  I stopped by the Training and Certification to inquire about ESRI’s new technical certification program.  If you haven’t checked it out lately you should as large changes from their past instructor certification program have taken place.

Finally, I got the urge to enter drawings that many of the vendors were offering.  One such company was offering a large remote controlled helicopter and I couldn’t resist.  That entry led to a conversation with Bill Emison of Merrick & Company.  Bill informed me that Merrick & Company were demonstrating Lidar processing software and gave me the tour of their product Merrick Advanced Remote Sensing Software (MARS).

All I can say is wow! The software processes millions of points super fast!  After my whiplash settled down, Bill showed me some of the software’s capabilities in generating different GIS friendly formats, generating TIN surfaces, classification tools, and filtering abilities.  Merrick & Company provides a free viewer and a 30 day evaluation of the full viewer.  Definitely worth checking out if you make heavy use of Lidar data especially since it exports to so many usable formats.

“Local Information is The Final Frontier”

That’s a great quote from Google Maps product manager Manik Gupta! What led him to say such a thing is that Google is now opening their map to user input. Users will be able to edit the map to make it better. They’ve already launched the tool in 183 countries who do not have an adequate abundance of “official” data. It’s like the world’s largest Participatory GIS project! If you want to get started editing, head over to Google’s Mapmaker tool and start adding information to Google Maps.

And if you’re curious who’s doing what, you can watch edits in real-ish time via their new Mapmaker Pulse tool. I gotta say, it’s fascinating to watch people digitize in real time around the globe!

NYC BigApps Winner

Laurie Segall’s article for CNN Money, “Bloomberg opens NYC data to entrepreneurs” announces the winner of this years NYC Bigapps using NYC public data sets. This year’s winner out of 50 apps was Roadify, a real-time app that sends alerts about subway, bus, and driving conditions. New York City, like many government agencies in recent years, wanted an innovative way to use many the unused or unexplored data sets that they don’t have the capacity to use. It is a great way to create jobs, create usable data, and involve the public.

2011 DigitalGlobe – IEEE GRSS Data Fusion Contest

Until I got an email today, I had forgotten I’d signed up for the 2011 DigitalGlobe – IEEE GRSS Data Fusion Contest which is due by by May 31, 2011. I am under no illusions that I know enough to win the contest or even enough to finish a contest entry, but I know that many of you could give it a good show. The Data Fusion Contest has been organized by the Data Fusion Technical Committee. It is uses a set of WorldView-2 multi-sequence images collected over Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) that have been provided by DigitalGlobe. Each participant decides the research topic and application they want to submit. Submissions are in accordance with the IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium guidelines.

The IEEE is also asking for survey input on a new IEEE-GRSS journal tentatively entitled the “IEEE Journal of Geoinformation Science and Engineering” (JGSE) created do to the increasing crossover of geoinformation science and engineering

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

In 2008, Sue posted about the U.S. Department of Energy‘s National Renewable Energy Laboratory Atlas that was in development. I ran across the completed NREL FTP site with geospatial toolkits and GIS data by the NREL GIS team. They analyze wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other energy resources and provide corresponding GIS data. This includes a beta version of their MapSearch of maps created by the team. I had the honor of attending (sitting in the audience) a surprisingly tense and exciting National Middle School Science Bowl many years ago, so it was interesting to find out that NREL manages the National Middle School Science Bowl for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.