Monday, January 9, 2012

Azavea's Hunchlab – Or maybe call it “Geospatial Alert Lab”

Last week I took part in a live demo of Azavea’s Hunchlab product for crime analysis.  Azavea's Jeremy Heffner does a great job with demo and discussion in the Hunchlab webinars.  

But I was confused for awhile by the product name and misled by the idea of a "hunch" in police detective TV shows.  But it finally sank in, like this:

Where is the "hunch"?

Hunchlab has three components: 

  • Crime Analysis = crime event mapping by checking layers on/off.
  • Early Warning  = get alerts for deviations from normal crime levels.
  • Forecasting    =  spatio-temporal analysis to show likelihood of, or deviation from, repeating patterns in neighborhoods of space and time.

The "hunch work" is in the Early Warning component, which is what interested me the most.

I have a hunch about what alerts I want

Hunchlab's Early Warning tool can send alerts to users when crime levels deviate from statistical norms, or when they exceed a defined threshold in a specific geographic neighborhood.  It gives the user a well-designed dashboard for adjusting parameters to get the alerts just right.   So that alert emails arrive often enough, but not too often.  That is, the alert threshold is not too high and not too low.  Or the statistical window is not to wide or too narrow.

Call it "Geospatial Alert Lab"?  Probably not.

So I think I would call this part of Hunchlab a very interesting "Geospatial Alert Lab" with great potential in many fields.   Then I'd try to wire it up to other live data feeds besides crime -- like earthquakes, land and sea temperature readings, wind speed and direction readings, mortgage foreclosures, maritime vessel tracking.  Maybe even road traffic.

But "Geospatial Alert Lab" probably wouldn't sell.  They say 2012 is the year we drop "geospatial" from the marketing literature and erase "GIS" from the user interface.

Hunchlab:  Crime Analysis

Hunchlab:  Near Repeat Pattern

Hunch:  Load Forecasting

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Okay, ArcGIS Online is not a online geospatial CMS

I read Jim Fee's blog to get a GIS reality check.  He challenges assumptions and points out the color of the Kool-Aid.

So, he's right:  Esri's ArcGIS Online is not a geospatial content management system.  Why not?  He says:

- It doesn’t support open standards let alone other formats.
- There is no geneology of data.
- There is no lifecycle to the product.

By that definition, it's not an online CMS.  

But the ArcGIS platform certainly is a geospatial content management system, by any valid definition.  and there are good reasons why GIS professionals (I mean, people trained in geospatial content creation, management, and presentation) buy into Esri's proprietary formats and "$10,000 client".  

It's because our work is more complex than simply creating Google My Maps.  For more complex geospatial work, GIS product developers and enterprise managers have told me time and again that open source doesn't always make economic sense for their bottom line.

When Esri has marketed ArcGIS Online before now, they've emphasized the web map, not "online geospatial content management".  You don't have to fall off a turnip truck to appreciate what Esri has done for us in the web map arena.  GIS professionals (I mean, cartographers, geographers, geo-statistical analysts, crime analysts who produce location-based intelligence, health professionals using geospatial analysis to see trends) can now publish and share our data in maps on the Web, without hiring a programmer.  We couldn't do that a couple of years ago.  

Our data isn't in CSV files or Fusion Tables, and we don't share it by clicking on the web map to set pushpins.  Our data is in our geospatial content management systems made up of geospatial databases, GIS servers, and applications servers.  We can hire Esri to integrate all that into a geospatial content management system.  Or we can hire other systems integrators to do it from scratch, using open source.

So, maybe it's premature to call ArcGIS Online an online geospatial CMS.  But that, too, is just around the corner for organizations that I've worked with.  For good reasons, most of them use the ArcGIS platform to create, manage, and present their geospatial data.  Most of them are now talking seriously about moving their entire geospatial enterprise into the Esri cloud.   Call it ArcGIS Online.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Server geoprocessing for 911/CAD. Got some?

I'm working with the metro police dept. to build and automate geoprocesses that support 911 and computer-aided dispatch (CAD).  The goal is simple:  Within minutes of a 911 call, we want to provide an "investigative package" of map layers, tables, and fact sheets for the area surrounding the location of the event.  Info like this:
  • 911 calls of the same or different types in past 24 hours
  • Active warrants and prison releases
  • Weapons seized and ownership information
  • Population and demographics
  • Schools and care facilities and their populations
  • Land use and cover, building footprints
  • Police dept. assets, fixed and mobile

I was fortunate to get on the phone with Esri's Public Safety Team to discuss this.  They're a great bunch - knowledgeable and helpful.  I asked the Esri team:

Has anyone in the ArcGIS community already built  911/CAD geoprocessing models they can share?

I had already searched Esri's Public Safety Resource Center, the Public Safety Forum, ArcGIS Online, and AGO’s Public Safety Group.  And googled around, of course.  I didn't find anything.

The Esri team acknowledged that a published set of standard tools and scripts to support public safety generally, and 911/CAD in particular, is still needed.  They're interested in working with us over the next few months to help get that started. 

Who has customized ArcGIS Server to support 911 or other public safety operations?

It looks like there's not much out there yet. But Esri could point to one example:

New York City 's Office of Emergency Management is using ArcGIS Server to automatically generate an "incident response packet" about each 911 incident scene. The packet includes maps of
  • area
  • aerial 
  • neighborhood maps
and reports of
  • administrative boundary
  • nearest critical facilities
  • demographic
  • land use
That's close to our "investigative package".

Application development at NYC OEM called for database design, ArcGIS Server 9.3, and programming with ArcObjects, ASP.NET, C#, and Ajax.  (Does that mean Esri Javascript API and Dojo?  Not sure.)  I'd like to see the geoprocessing scripts.

Is anyone using ArcGIS Server with Sharepoint for 911 or other public safety?

The obvious answer is that Esri has partnered with Microsoft to integrate ArcGIS Server with Sharepoint into what's they call the Fusion Core Solution.  Surprisingly, if you google it, you won't find a lot out there except Powerpoint by Esri and MS. But thanks to stoptimeculp at YouTube, we have a simple video demo.  

After the YouTube demo spends time on "punching in" and tracking personnel hours, it finally shows what you would expect for web mapping and Sharepoint:  Select layers to add to a map, and map the new incidents that you intake using web forms. and then looked at them together.  So far, I've seen no geospatial analysis -- automated or otherwise -- to provide additional location-based intelligence like what's listed above.

By the way ... Is there a national or standard data model for 911/CAD ?

I was thinking of standard categories for 911 events, and standard or recommended fields and formatting for 911 call processing. The Esri team discussed generic industry-level information exchange models. But we couldn't identify a standard specifically for 911.

Got ArcGIS Server geoprocessing models for 911/CAD you want to discuss and share?