Geospatial Business Spotlight: The CEDRA Corporation

Company Name:         The CEDRA Corportation

Location:                     1600 Mosley Road, Suite 500, Victor, NY  14564

Website:                      http://www.cedra.com

Employees:                 12

Established:               1985

The CEDRA Corporation offers GIS based software for mapping, civil engineering design and modeling, surveying and database maintenance applications. CEDRA’s AVseriesTM suite of software operates directly within Esri’s GIS software (ArcGIS® 9.x and 10.x), thus eliminating the need to switch back and forth between various software packages. CEDRA software is developed entirely in-house and marketed worldwide to public works agencies, tax assessors, utilities, municipalities and private sector companies.

Complementing CEDRA’s Software Development Division is CEDRA’s Professional Services Division which has performed consulting projects throughout the U.S. and specializes in developing, populating and maintaining GIS databases.   CEDRA’s Professional Services Division offers consulting services to clients for a multitude of applications including CEDRA-specific software solutions or can be totally non-CEDRA software related consulting projects. CEDRA staff is highly proficient in GIS Analysis, Data Capture, Data Conversion, Map Production, Routing and Custom Application Development in toth the desktop and server environments.  As an authorized Esri business partner and reseller, CEDRA has a long history in the use and application of Esri’s GIS suite of software dating back to 1987.

CEDRA’s corporate mission is to provide services and software that improves the efficiency and productiveness of its clients. This goal is achieved by (a) developing software that is production oriented and (b) offering services that enable clients to streamline workflows. CEDRA believes the more automated a workflow can be made, the more efficient a client will be and a higher quality product will be produced. CEDRA offers Expertise, Experience and Commitment when undertaking a project.

Illustrative CEDRA products and services include:

Wayne County E911, Lyons, New York

Under this project CEDRA assisted Wayne County staff in developing the County’s E911 street database. Specifically, the work involved acquiring the NYS Street Address Mapping (SAM) data, extracting the street data for Wayne County, and working with the County in verifying and updating the street center line database for use in the County’s E911 system.

In performing this work, CEDRA staff was on-site at the County’s office performing the work and training County staff in the process. A workflow was developed and adopted by the County. Additionally, a training guide was developed enabling County staff to maintain the street center line data with their own resources.

In addition to establishing the street center line data set, CEDRA assisted the County in developing the EMS, Fire and Police polygon layers which are utilized by the County’s E911 system. Extensive polygon editing and topological verification was performed in developing these three polygon layers.

CEDRA’s Wayne County 911 address maintenance application is based on data from the  NYS street address program and a customized

Heavy Truck, Wide-Load Routing, Albany, New York

This work involved the development of a 3D street network dataset for New York State and a GIS web based routing application tailored for routing heavy and wide-load freight vehicles. With over 200 bridge strikes occurring in New York State annually and over 2,000 nationwide, the need for a routing application specific for freight vehicles was identified by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Using USGS Digital Elevation Model data in conjunction with NYSDOT street, pavement and bridge data, a 3D state-wide street network data set was created with ArcGIS.  The dataset accounted for vertical clearance, posted weight limits, speed limits, and roadway grade.  The NYSDOT data was obtained through the NYS GIS Clearinghouse under its Data Sharing Cooperative program and other sources.

As part of this project, an ArcGIS Server JavaScript web application was developed enabling routes to be generated based upon the 3D street network and user-specified route parameters such height limit, weight limit, desired speed and type of cargo, if appropriate. The web application consisted of a custom user-interface that integrated Esri’s Network Analyst extension with the 3D street network. Routes with turn by turn directions can be exported to Keyhole Markup Language (KML) format providing users the ability to download to mobile navigation devices and used with Google Maps. Furthermore, the application enables the user to generate multiple routes with each route appearing in a different color. The application also provides the user the ability to display various cartographic and orthoimage base maps, including Google-based maps.  This project involved extensive use of Esri’s Spatial Analyst and Network Analyst extensions, the ArcGIS Server software, Esri’s JavaScript API and HTML programming.

The heavy truck / wide-load application includes several NYSDOT data sets available through the NYS GIS Clearinghouse and a customized ESRI server technology application utilizing several extensions.  Users can also export to KML for use in mobile navigation devices.

PECO Application Support, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

GIS Administrators have long been dealing with how to get their GIS data into CAD environments, be it AutoCAD, Bentley and other CAD systems. One client CEDRA has been working with in this regard is PECO Energy located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

PECO Energy services nearly 1.6 million electric and over 511,000 natural gas customers and is the largest combination utility company in Pennsylvania.  It has a franchise utility service area of 2,100 square miles with a population of 3.8 million people. Much of PECO’s electric and gas data resides in their ArcGIS enterprise GIS while construction drawings are generated and maintained in Bentley CAD.   Having been ArcGIS users for over 10 years,  PECO’s enterprise GIS is extremely robust, up-to-date and contains information which needs to be accessible and be integrated with construction drawings. CEDRA was contracted to develop a solution to seamlessly transfer GIS data to the Bentley CAD environment as to avoid the unnecessary effort and cost of maintaining data in duplicate environments.

To this end,  CEDRA worked with PECO staff to develop a customized application utilizing ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Desktop a custom geoprocessing service and the CEDRA-DxfExport software. The goal of the GIS data transfer is to export the ArcGIS data from the Esri environment preserving point feature symbology, line styles, annotation and layering information into a format that the Bentley system can process.   Another requirement was to minimize the amount of user interaction.

To make the extraction of the GIS data as easy as possible the amount of information required by the user was kept to to the following:

  • Identify the area to be extracted
  • Specify the name of the DXF file to be created
  • Specify the desired output scale
  • Select whether a DXF, PDF or both formats were to be created, and
  • Specify the email address to which a confirmation message of the extraction’s completion should be sent.

Once the user has entered the above,  a Python based geoprocessing service is executed to begin the extraction and generation of the DXF and/or PDF files. Before and after images are below illustrating how the utility ports the same features in a defined geographic footprint from one environment (ArcMap) to another (Bentley).

BEFORE:  User defined geographic footprint (ArcMap)

AFTER: Using the customized CEDRA “data transfer” utility, the same features/same geographic footprint rendering in Bentley CAD software.

Urban Forestry Management, Edmond, Oklahoma

CEDRA assisted the City of Edmond, OK in the development and deployment of a mobile based application which is being used in the ongoing inventory of the nearly 16,000 trees which are the responsibility of the City to maintain.  Using iPad devices, staff from the Department of Urban Forestry collect a wide range of data on each tree including: species code, diameter, condition of leaves, condition of wood, GPS location and any special notes concerning the tree.  Using a form, Urban Forestry staff can select from a pre-defined list of species codes, capture a GPS location and take a digital image of the tree.  Once the data has been collected, this information is synchronized with the City’s SDE geodatabase nightly.

Cities and urban centers are increasingly using easy-to-deploy/use mobile applications to collect and maintain important data on street features such as trees.  This image illustrates a form designed by CEDRA for Urban Forestry staff in Edmond, OK.

For more information on New York State based CEDRA products and services:

Contact:               Lisa Stone, Marketing Director
                               lstone@cedra.com
                               585-414-6541

2017 NYS Spring GIS Conference Specials

The last couple weeks I’ve been engaged in the following cutting-edge enterprise geospatial issues:  (1) staring at the sky on a daily basis,  (2) monitoring the temperature, and (3)  hoping the remaining snow to melt and the leaves to hold off in budding – both at the same time.  After nearly 33 years in County government and its boiled down to this! Why?  So we can get our aerial photography flown over the next 10-days to support our 2017 countywide base map update.  The heavy snow March 14th really set us back and the window to capture the photography is closing quickly.

So at any rate, its been easy to lose track of upcoming Spring 2017 regional one-day GIS conferences and meetings over the next 4-6 weeks.  Most of the Spring 2017 shows are held in locations accessible via a maximum 2-4 hour drive from furthermost parts of the Empire State, offer a wide range of geospatial topics and presentations, provide excellent networking opportunities among colleagues and industry representatives, and are generally light on the wallet.    For those unable to make or justify the big lift of getting to the uber ESRI conference in San Diego later on in the summer and/or chasing GISP certification credits these venues are for you.

Sounds sweet, right? So consider the following and get your travel approvals in order:

GIS-SIG 26rd Annual Conference, April 11th, Burgundy Basin, Pittsford, NY.  Unfortunately I cannot make GIS-SIG this year as it is one of my most favorite statewide one-day shows.  GIS/SIG provides the premier geospatial professional forum in the Rochester/Genesee Finger Lakes/Western New York region for GIS practitioners focusing on trends and policies relating to new geospatial technologies and current projects.  With a loyal following, the size and content of the GIS/SIG conference is broad enough to often substitute as an annual state conference for many GIS practitioners in the western half of the state. This year’s conference again includes vendor displays and an agenda covering topics such as mobile data collection, drones, 3D GIS, and ESRI software updates, as well as a keynote address from Dr. John R. Schott, founder of the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Lab at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).  Corporate sponsorship keeps the price tag of an individual registration at under $100 for the day which also includes lunch. Online registration is still available and while you are at the GIS/SIG website you can also see the many resources and links GIS/SIG provides to its user community.  This is a great show and if you have the opportunity to attend. Highly recommended.

Long Island GIS (LIGIS)  2017 Spring User Conference, April 26th, SUNY Farmingdale, Farmingdale, NY.  LIGIS meetings and conferences have grown in structure and content over the last few years and this spring’s April 26th meeting will continue to illustrate the improvement among the Long Island GIS stakeholder user community.  Scheduled presentations from government, academia, and industry are on the agenda including topics covering mobile applications, MS4 data collection, 2020 Census Bureau update, and GIS & hydrofracking among others. Located in central Long Island on the SUNY Farmingdale campus, this is a not-to-miss conference on “the Island” for those with limited travel budgets.  Make plans to attend.  Those interested in attending can monitor conference specifics at the LIGIS homepage.

Northeast Arc User Group (NEARC) Meeting, May 15th, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.  Spring NEARC meetings are conveniently located in Amherst, MA which is easily accessible to the Albany Capital District and GIS professionals in eastern New York State.  Unlike GIS – SIG, which is software vendor independent, this show is very much ESRI centric and packed with high quality user presentations. Even though only one day, the show has grown to be so popular that it now competes with the larger multi-day GIS shows and conferences across New England.   Price tag for attending:  $65 which includes lunch.  If you can afford an overnight, activities the evening before downtown Amherst and a hotel room at the UMass conference center make it even more worth your while. (As of the day of this blog post 4/4 the May 15th agenda was still in development; I did submit an abstract!).  Registration will open mid-April.  If your organization is an ESRI shop – this is a Spring show not to miss.

Westchester GIS User Group Meeting, May 11th, Purchase College, Purchase New York. As one of the largest geospatial meetings in New York State, the Westchester GIS User Group Meeting is a free one-day conference held at Purchase College. Made possible by financial support from exhibiting vendors and conference facilities provided by the college, the draft 2017 agenda  features user presentations from County government,  Westchester County municipalities, nonprofits including the Goodlands Project, and ESRI. There is also free conference training: At lunch “Leveraging Suvey123 for Mobile Data Collection” with instructor Larry Spraker and post-conference “Getting Started with How to Build Great Web Apps” with ESRI’s Mark Scott.   Also, sponsors get to present 5-minute “Lightning” talks over the course of the day.  The Purchase College location provides easy one-day access across the metropolitan NYC area, as well as the broader lower Hudson River Valley and southeastern Connecticut. Agenda and other meeting  specifics – including registration – are available from the Westchester County GIS website.

Other Venues:  If you are in the Metro NYC area don’t forget to check the GeoNYC Meetup calendar for ongoing meetings across the city. Subject matter and participation is pretty amazing.  And/or the many other geospatial related Meetups in the region covering big data, data visualization, agriculture mapping, and everything inbetween including drones. A little further removed geographically from the Empire State is the Northeast Geographic Information Society (NEGIS) conference on April 27th in Ashland, MA. You can follow and learn more about NEGIS via their blog.

The entire Empire State GIS community is fortunate enough to be close enough to a range of regional geospatial meetings and conferences which are accessible from most areas of the state and provide many of the same benefits of larger shows and not nearly as expensive.

Safe travels!

GIS Common Core Part 3: Health and Human Services (HHS)

Through a sequence of articles posted in eSpatiallyNewYork, I have proposed a series of GIS applications which provide a framework for establishing and maintaining  GIS/geospatial programs in local  governments (villages, towns, cities, and counties) across  New York State.  These applications areas are referred to as the Geospatial Common Core, many of which are integrated with local government office and administrative business systems.  Others are utilized in the support of regulatory reporting programs.    Together, the Geospatial Common Core contribute towards building sustainable geospatial capacity for local governments.   This is the third installment of the series.

“GIS Common Core” application areas in New York State local governments

The first article entitled Part 1:  Infrastructure and Asset Management focused on the growing and critical role local government GIS geospatial programs continue to serve in rehabilitating and maintaining the decaying and outdated New York State – and national – public infrastructure.  The second article Part 2:  Work Orders, Permitting, and Inspections (WOPI) published in March 2016 focused on geocentric software packages which are ubiquitous in government programs supporting work flows in areas such public works, health, planning, clerk, assessment, buildings/code enforcement and inspections.  Organizations investing and integrating WOPI systems with GIS will continue to help build long-term sustainable geospatial programs in local governments.

Part 3:  Health and Human Services (HHS)

Health and human services can often be broadly defined from one location to another but for the purposes of this article it includes a wide-range of government programs including, but limited to, public health services, social services, public assistance, youth and veterans programs, disability programs, housing and homeless services, child protection services, as well as the important network of contracted service providers governments rely upon in providing counseling and related support services.  I have long been an advocate of building geospatial capacity in these local government program areas.

Why?

Statewide local government HHS budgets typically dwarf other local government operational program areas with regard to annual appropriations.  While I am not a budget analyst and admittedly it’s sometimes difficult to follow the money trail of appropriations vs. revenues vs. actual tax payer costs in county budgets, here are a few examples to illustrate the size and magnitude of HHS programs in a selected 2017 NYS county budgets (Data/information from County webpages as noted):

  1. Stuben County 2017 Budget. (Page 3).  Pie chart indicates nearly 47% of the appropriated budget dedicated to Health and  Economic Assistance/Opportunity (includes Social Service disciplines) program areas
  2. Ulster County 2017 Budget. (Pages 1 & 2). Table and pie chart indicate nearly 42% of the appropriated budget dedicated to Public Health and Economic Assistance/Opportunity program areas
  3. Erie County 2017 Budget. (Pages 93, 159, and 174). Appropriations (rounded in millions) in Health ($86M), Mental Health ($47M) and Social Services ($591M) account for almost 50% of the $1,455,000,000 recommended general fund budget.  (Note:  There are other references to the 2017 budget being closer to $1.7B). Either way, HHS budgets are a significant portion of the overall county budget
  4. Albany County 2017 Budget. (Page 34). Employee Count table lists 657 of 2,535 County employees (26%) are in the Child, Youth, and Family Services (170), Social Services (308), Mental Health (90), and Dept. of Health (89)
  5. Suffolk County 2017 Budget. (Pages 101 and 366).   Appropriations (rounded in millions) in Health Services ($249M) and Social Services ($628M) account for nearly 30% of a recommended $2.9B budget
  6. Monroe County 2017 Budget. (Pages 157 and 275).  Appropriations (rounded in millions) in Human Services ($536M) and Public Health ($62M) account for nearly 50% of an adopted $1.2B budget

Challenges

New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH)  was one of the major supporters in the initial development of the existing New York State “open data” portals providing increased transparency and accessibility to public health datasets.  Today there are at least two primary sites for users to access NYS health data:  www.data.ny.gov and www.health.data.ny.gov.  There is a plethora of public health data being published in these portals which can be used in local government geospatial applications albeit not always necessarily GIS friendly. New York State government agency data providers could go a long way in providing the data/indicators through the existing portals noted above as a web/map service AND making the information available at smaller units of geography (i.e., municipal, zip code, census track, or better census block group). It’s noted many “health-related” environmental datasets covering the Empire State are available from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

On the other hand, County Social Service program databases are much more sensitive with regard to data confidentiality (patient) issues albeit some program areas such as SNAP are publicly available via the state open data portals though only available at the County level.       Working essentially as agents of the state in administering most social service programs, counties must conform to a wide range of state-mandated reporting requirements as well as using state-designed systems which provide a slew of technology challenges for use in local GIS/geospatial applications.  Particularly in context of preparing, and often generalizing datasets to larger units of geography (i.e., address-based data available as block group data) and/or  removing personal identifiers, for use in GIS software applications.

Where’s the Benefit?

While there are still many challenges, geospatial applications in the public health and human services arena provide tremendous opportunities for governments to improve the delivery of services more cost effectively.

"Service Delivery" nounthe act of providing a service to customers:

Source:  Cambridge Dictionary

As itemized above, government programs in HHS are often enormous with football field size floors of case workers and  managers in-charge of a broad range of assets including field staff, vehicles, real-time data collection applications, scheduling time-required appointments, coordination of contracted service providers, using government or publically owned facilities (schools, libraries, and community centers), and  often  requiring  the use of public and para-transit transportation systems.  To say the least of having to be prepared to answer to an already increasingly internet savvy tax-payer user base looking for government information and assistance 24 X 7 over the internet.

The visualization and analysis of all these geographically based features within the GIS environment can enable HHS administrators and managers to better manage service delivery systems more cost effectively in context of the following examples:

  1. Assigning appointments/cases/inspections based geographic areas; visualizing data on a map based on heat maps, inspection-type assignments, projects, or case loads is more intuitive and can improve a manager’s  ability to better allocate resources in areas of greatest need or priority.
  2. Developing “traveling salesman” schedules; optimally routing appointments so as to minimize road mileage and travel time from stop-to-stop.
  3. Using geography as a primary factor in establishing temporary/leased facilities required or needed to support program delivery. More cost effectively establishing temporary support facilities in the geographic areas(s) of greatest need.

Governments can do more to manage service provider contracts which are geographically and optimally located in the areas of greatest need so as to minimize the transportation burden on individuals required to meet with providers for program compliance. In urban areas, working with and establishing service provider contracts which are close to public transportation systems (bus stops, train stations) which can often be of assistance in connecting individuals with their providers.

5.  Newer and more cost effective vehicle tracking systems enable managers to make “location-based” decisions to dispatch or re-route field workers when schedules change or there is an immediate need to cover a geographic location.  Office managers often have limited or factual geographic information as to what field resources are spatially closest to respond to on-the-fly or emergency incidents;

 6.  Where data is available, GIS applications can be designed for HHS staff to help determine whether certain types of public assistance are legal or appropriate at a specific address based on local zoning designations. By  example, housing assistance subsidies should not be awarded to applicants providing addresses in zoning districts designated Industrial, Manufacturing, or Commercial/Business.

HHS program staff can utilitize GIS technology to help determine the validity of applicant data (re: local address housing use/conditions)  by cross-referencing  local zoning district maps and associated permitted uses.

7.  Mobilizing and automating field data collection work flows. Easy-to-use and affordable mobile apps can now be designed to collect most data electronically minimizing the number of errors associated with paper-based data collection efforts and reducing the need (and time) to key-stroke data into systems after returning to the office.

8.  Online resource directories and applications empower residents towards helping make their own decisions/data gathering lessening the need for “staff” assistance from public agencies – particularly during the traditional 8-5 work day.

Westchester County Office for People with Disabilities provides an online application which enables residents to identify service providers based on a selected radius search from a given address.  Public transportation system components are also included in the application.

9.  Location based mapping applications built with GIS software such as ArcGIS enable HHS professionals to conduct powerful spatial and visual analysis on data sets. Such comparable analysis is very difficult to duplicate when the same data is only being reviewed and analyzed in spreadsheets.    Location-based mapping software is increasingly being integrated with statistical software packages such as R and SPSS which are common in HHS community.   The integration with location based (GIS) and HHS statistical data provide broad and intuitive data visualization capabilities.

10.  As illustrated in the following images, local HHS program data can be mashed-up with a variety of state data sets which are increasingly being published via  Health Data NY and NY.GOV as well as map services from individual state agencies.

Child and Adult Care Food Program Participation locations in Westchester County as provided by NYS Office of Children and Family Services.

Child Care Regulated Programs in central Westchester County.   Data from NYS Office of Children and Family Services.

Local Mental Health Programs in Westchester County and the Bronx.  Data from NYS Council on Children and Families.

Summary:

While the actual cost-savings or increased efficiencies HHS agencies in local governments realize by investing in geospatial technology will clearly vary from government-to-government, many of the program areas itemized above provide specific examples of how GIS technology can be applied in New York State local government HHS programs.  These are big ticket budgets and just as important for the GIS community – mandated programs.  Tax-payer government programs which are not going away and will continue to be significant components of local government budgets.  Building geospatial capacity in these program areas, if only in a small context, will raise visibility of each local government GIS program and further institutionalize its long-term value.  Its time to get started.

Broad deployment of HHS geospatial applications in New York State, however,  will only be realized when there is a more dedicated participation and investment from NY state government agencies which are major stake-holders and data stewards in these systems. To say the least of the NYS GIS Program Office which clearly has other current projects and priorities.

Until this is realized, HHS GIS applications will evolve to some degree across the state at the local level, albeit scattered and not uniform.  What is needed are statewide HHS geospatial systems encompassing architecture, data, applications, and funding – and most importantly, local government input.

Let the discussions begin.

Geospatial Business Spotlight: Bowne Management Systems

Company Name:         Bowne Management Systems, Inc.

Location:                     235 E. Jericho Turnpike, Mineola, NY  11501

Website:                      http://www.bownegroup.com

Employees:                 35

Established:               1982

Bowne Management Systems (BMS) is unique in the technology world as the firm has been in business since 1982.   2017 marks the 35th anniversary of BMS and they proudly state “we innovate every day.”

The collective team of professionals are not only fluent in IT and geospatial technology but in the core competencies of any business – professional project management, diverse and adaptable skill sets and most importantly, customer relationships and satisfaction.

BMS is associated with their affiliate, Sidney B. Bowne and Son, a nationally recognized civil engineering and surveying firm that has been in business in New York State since 1895. The shared corporate culture and values has kept Bowne in the forefront for almost 125 years.

BMS has developed core practices to support the mission critical operations of local government. This client base includes local government at all levels, as well as State and Federal government agencies, and private clients. BMS has core practices in the following areas:

  • Public Safety
  • Land Records and Tax Mapping
  • Infrastructure and Asset Management

In addition to these core practices, BMS has robust operations in the areas of IT Staffing and Governance, Geospatial Cloud Deployment, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Services, and Project Management and Oversight. Some recent notable work includes the following:

Support for New York City’s emergency  dispatch   systems   – BMS built the street center line (“City- wide Street Centerline” [CSCL]) and the required maintenance  system. BMS also built and maintains  the software that transforms CSCL data to the geofile format required  by the NYPD and FDNY dispatch systems. To date, also most 50 million e-911 calls have been successfully handled by CSCL and Bowne developed software.

BMS has been involved in the development of many tax parcel systems in NYS. This includes New York City, the counties of Nassau, Orange, Suffolk, Sullivan, Oneida, and Tompkins and many of municipalities in Westchester County.  BMS staff maintains parcels daily and continues to innovate and introduce new technology, such as ESRI’s Parcel Fabric, to the customer base.

The BMS infrastructure practice is a leader in NYS MS4 data collection. Recently the practice  led  the  effort to successfully complete  field work for the Sleepy Hollow Consortium in Westchester County, which encompassed 20+ separate municipalities and led to consistent data for most of the County’s drainage network.

BMS’ mobile development group builds applications for all of their core practices.  As illustrated above, a recent Mobile Mapping component was deployed for the East Hampton Village Police Department which complements the web based Computer Aided Dispatch Map Viewer, which displays calls for service in real-time.

As Portal technology, and the use of Cloud-based services and ESRI’s ArcGIS Online continues to grow, BMS has been at the forward edge deploying solutions using platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS).  One recent experience is the Western Connecticut Council of Governments  (WCCOG)  represents 18 Connecticut municipalities.

To support WCCOG’s economic development and transportation planning efforts, BMS developed a central repository for WCOG’s GIS data, including both imagery and planimetric data and oblique photography. A client-facing portal using ESRI’s ArcGIS for Server and Portal for ArcGIS, as well as a map viewer,  the application provides extensive capabilities. The regional  base map and applications were developed using a modified version of ESRI’s Local Government Information Model. BMS deployed the GIS clearinghouse system architecture on the Cloud  utilizing  Amazon Web Services (AWS) assuring high reliability and low administrative overhead for the member municipalities of WCOG.

BMS is a qualified vendor under the New York State Office of General Services 73600 – Project Based Information Technology Consulting Services (PBITS) (Statewide), as well as the State of Vermont – Retainer Contract for IT Services: Enterprise GIS Services category. In addition, the firm has many local government contracts and and multiple Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) contract vehicles.

Contact:               Jim Hall, Vice President of Strategic Accounts

                               jhall@bownegroup.com

                               516-746-2350

 

Geospatial Business Spotlight: Systems Development Group (SDG)

Systems Development Group (SDG)  provides real property, imaging and GIS-centric software and professional services to government, education and private sector companies. The Company provides clients with the appropriate technologies to cost effectively improve tax payer services while reducing operational costs. Clients achieve operational efficiencies with SDG’s blend of expertise in assessment, imaging, GIS and software administration tools and professional services.  SDG currently collaborates with state, county and local government agencies.

Location:             44 Trenton Road, Utica, New York 13502.

Website:             www.sdgnys.com

Email:                   info@sdgnys.com

Phone:                 (315) 798-1328

Employees:        8

Established:       1991

Flagship Product: Image Mate Online (IMO) Real Property Web Portal

The New York State SDG IMO coverage area. Full County services are rendered in blue.  Individual City or Town services are denoted by pushpins.

Brief History

In the New York State Real Property System ( RPS V3) 1990’s era, NYS challenged SDG by noting it was technologically impossible to display photos during a live RPS V3 session.   SDG knew otherwise from similar projects performed for their parent company (Lanier Business Systems). Code being used to add imaging support to hospital applications was leveraged to build an initial application saving the Towns of Whitestown and New Hartford over $50,000 of previously ear-marked monies for Tyler-CLT Landisc street level imaging projects.

As SDG systems engineers and developers grew more familiar with assessment administration, opportunities arose to assist assessors with the development of line of business valuation software utilities including the Assessment Sales Analysis Program (ASAP)  search engine. A combination of these software tools contributed to the successful NYS Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS)  RPSV4  launch.

RPSV4 was originally developed as a client server – “thick” desktop application. However, within a few short years, the internet and web application (browser) paradigm entered the software mainstream. The web quickly became a natural conduit to share real property information with the public and between Government departments and agencies. The next “organic” step forward for SDG was the development of a web portal for real property and assessment information – Image Mate Online (IMO).

IMO quickly gained popularity with NYS Counties and local municipalities throughout the early 2000’s. The State Real Property Tax Administration Technology Improvement Grant Program (RPTATIP) Grant program in 2006 and 2007 helped open the door for many additional County Real Property and Assessment Departments to deploy IMO portals. A large percentage of RPTATIP grant projects included IMO due largely to:

    • Return on Investment (ROI) – The City of Yonkers experienced a 70% reduction in Assessment Office foot and telephone traffic within their first year of IMO operations.
    • Extensibility – Ease of building upon the IMO portal to create “one stop shops” for comprehensive parcel related information.
    • Tight bindings with New York State Real Property and Assessment rules and best practices.
    • Strategic  partnerships, projects and connectivity with “best in class” players including Pictometry, Apex, ESRI, Google, VHB, TerraGo and Sewall
    • Performance and scalability – The Onondaga   IMO site performs over 2 million parcel searches a year. At 20% the size, nearby Seneca County – over 80,000 searches annually.
    • Outpost extends IMO and live RPS data collection services to the field as a low-cost tablet mobile sister service.

Image Mate Online (IMO)

Image Mate Online [IMO] serves as the hub or “portal” for a government’s real property and assessment information. A typical IMO installation is a collaboration between the local government client, the SDG implementation team and contributing strategic partners. By design, IMO is highly extensible and offers connectivity and integration options with related spatial and parcel centric systems.

IMO sites are typically public facing, offering the tax payers easy access to detailed ownership, inventory, improvement, photo, sales, mapping and tax billing information. The application also includes intelligent links to local web mapping viewers and general web mapping services (Google Maps, Bing, etc…). Links to locally or third-party maintained GIS viewers create bridges from parcel specific searches to a full set of infrastructure layers valuable in inter-governmental data sharing.

IMO’s inherent flexibility can also greatly enhance the public’s understanding of and participation in revaluation projects. Having evolved from an imaging and forms processing technology kernel, IMO can serve as a 24×7 pipeline for property “owners and stake holders to interact with the municipality and their contractors while CAMA (Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal) and valuation work is in progress.

IMO services throughout New York State have become a staple for property owners and the professional real property community. IMO is heavily used by financial institutions, realtors, appraiser’s surveyors and developers. Having a robust IMO system available represents a high return on investment in the promotion of economic development. IMO’s greatest use by far is as an easy to use real property information “one stop shop” for the residents in a community.

IMO is a “one stop shop” for a municipality’s parcel centric data. Target parcel selection is supported by the IMO user-interface or via third party CAMA systems, Excel spreadsheets and GIS Web Viewer API links. The IMO Detail Page serves as a portal to display and simplify access to relevant and diverse parcel information and web service resources.

SDG Outpost Field Assessment System

Outpost data collection and inspections are streamlined using state-of-the-art mobile software and tablets. Time consuming post-inspection data entry is eliminated for both tabular assessment data and digital photos. Priority is always given to leveraging the Assessor’s RPS and Image Mate Online systems to provide for a powerful and efficient introduction of mobile technology to the assessment workflow.

A key component of Outpost’s success is building upon existing well-developed Image Mate Online and RPS ecosystems of content, applications and support networks. Outpost represents a mobile extension of proven

SDG IMO web portal services for their clients. With Outpost, the Assessor and field staff have a portable conduit to the entire assessment ecosystem. Outpost is a natural and flexible mobile evolution in the NYS assessment (RPS) software landscape. The Outpost user interface has been developed using the latest mobile software development technologies and has been optimized for tablet use. The Outpost system architecture is both flexible and extensible and as new mobile hardware options become available, the SDG technology team will modify Outpost to incorporate new mobile device capabilities. Likewise, the Outpost front end can be “re-fitted” for future upgrades to New York State assessment systems.

Outpost provides for:

  • Improved assessment efficiency and accuracy with enhanced and integrated mobile assessment inspection and data collection tools.
  • Consistency in parcel data collection and verification activities.
  • Digital photo capture support for built in tablet cameras with automated RPS V4 upload.
  • RPS V4 compatibility with upgrades to match changing RPS requirements.
  • GIS and tax map image viewing available from the field.
  • A powerful administration program to plan track inspection activities.
  • Google Maps and GPS support to locate and identify difficult parcels.
  • Real time remote support. The Outpost support team can access, monitor and provide “on tablet” technical assistance during field inspections.
  • Optional integrated Pictometry oblique and ortho aerial imaging services via 4G connections where available.

Outpost supports Android tablet based “paperless” assessment field inspections and data collection projects. Assessment data and photos are auto-synchronized to the muni’s production database via secure wireless connections.  The most common tablets being used are Samsungs  running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and above.

Corporate Position

“We take our local government partnerships and our shared responsibilities to the New York State taxpayers very serious. SDG’s track record, particularly with IMO, has been a continuous evolution driven by a willingness to always be open to the “what if” or “wow would this make a difference” questions and comments from our clients and partners that are out there busting it to improve the lives of New Yorkers. Like in the old westerns, the drumbeat of tight economic times has been playing in the background for longer than many of us care to remember.

 The strongest players (public and private) that we are most inspired to work with, understand the urgency and stay inspired. With the forecast for a continued tight economy, we anticipate the continued acceleration of GIS being at the core and key to “good governance – line of business” services. Great looking maps added allot to presentations over the years. Now we see spatial technology hitting an invaluable higher gear right when NYS and can use it most.”

John Kelly
SDG – President

 

Contact:  John Kelly johnk@sdgnys.com

 

Jonathan Levy: Cartography Remixed

Jonathan Levy is yet another geospatial enthusiast I have made contact with via the burgeoning GeoNYC Meetup group. It’s a small world indeed as Jonathan and I share some common interests including music, sports, and time spent in one of my most favorite spaces: Idaho. His path down the cartographic road might be considered a bit different than the conventionally trained geospatial professional.  However, what is coming out the other end today is a wide range of interesting cartographic products and services.  Enough for an interesting dialog and blog post – including some interesting personal stuff on the side.  Enjoy.

Jonathan Levy grew up in the Durham and Chapel Hill areas of North Carolina spending lots of time running around in the outdoors.  His dad was a huge fan of National Geographic exposing Jonathan to both the beauty and vastness of the publication’s cartographic products and at the same time taking him camping and trail hiking around  in the Appalachian Mountains.  In his teens, he completed an Outward Bound course which introduced him to orienteering and using maps for navigation and survival.

After graduation from high school, Jonathan attended Brandeis University majoring in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies with a minor in Environmental Studies focusing on conservation biology and environmental politics.  After finishing his undergraduate work he traveled to Grenada, West Indies, to teach environmental/social science to children with Dr. Dessima Williams.   Afterwards, he worked for Polaroid’s Corporate Environmental Department in Boston, MA for nine months before heading to Salmon, Idaho as part of the Student Conservation Association working with the U.S. Forest Service in the Frank Church Wilderness Noxious Weed Inventory program.  It was here he was introduced to Global Positioning System (GPS) data collection concepts and GIS software to make maps of field guides of rare plant species in the wilderness area.

Completing his internship work in Idaho in 2002, Jonathan was  given a grant towards graduate study at at Hunter College in New York City in the MA program specializing in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)  and Media during which time he was able to intern at the United Nations and the New York City Office of Emergency Management.  He received his Masters from Hunter College in 2005.

Getting Started

His first job out of Hunter College was with the NY State Legislative Task Force for Demographic Reapportionment which Jonathan notes “was very GIS heavy and really interesting”.  At this point he began picking up freelance work on the graphics side of things with TED.com, Maps.com and Not For Tourists – the latter of which was has continued to be a successful long term contract.

Along the way he has continued to expand his use of the ESRI software particularly with regard to the spatial/network analyst extensions as well as becoming proficient in QGIS and Carto. Because he extends his cartographic product beyond the what is available with GIS software, Jonathan uses Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for graphics processing, texturing and post production. For 3D renderings he uses Cinema 4D, After Effects, and Sketchfab.

Sample Cartographic Products

Lower Manhattan Buildings:

This 3D rendering of buildings in Lower Manhattan show the years in which they were built from 1700 to the present. The gradations of dark orange to light orange correspond to the newest to the oldest buildings. The data used to create this map came from NYC Open Data.

Environs Map Series:

This series is a way of sharing Jonathan’s life experiences of favorite places and spaces in his  life through map renderings and illustrations.  It is his personal experience of specific places and the personal “visions” of that space.  He gets requests to produce custom maps for friends, family and clients who want their town or neighborhood mapped in this style. He’s currently working on a Valentine’s day gift for a client who wants a map of Roncolo di Quattro Castella in this style.  These images are created using: Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, scanned textures and GIS data.

Jonathan notes: “I love seeing Long Island City from across the East River. The Pepsi and Long Island City signs are featured prominently although here I’ve replaced them with my sister and brother in law’s names in lieu of their recent marriage.”

Airbnb:

Jonathan notes this was a “fun” project. Using some fancy internal tools Airbnb developed, Jonathan helped map out neighborhood boundaries in 20+ cities across the U.S – including New York City.   It involved lots of research and involvement with city planners, residents and/or a combination thereof to get a feel for the individual city.

Sample of one NYC neighborhood maps – Chinatown – Jonathan researched and created for Airbnb helping users better define which areas and neighbors they are looking for lodging and accommodations.

Montauk 3D:

This was a personal project that was inspired by his time this past summer learning to surf in Montauk. He was struck by the interesting topography of the area. He took digital elevation model (DEM)  data, exaggerated the contours in Cinema 4D for effect, created custom topographic palettes and created a website that uses Sketchfab’s API to switch out textures on the 3D surface. Link to website: http://aws-website-montaukd-vr1zr.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com.  (Note:  Sketchfab recommends WebGL to display 3D content in real-time  which is a standard in most modern browsers.  Check your browser for compatibility at http://get.webgl.org/).

Amped Topography of Montauk: If you know the Montauk landscape and locations of specific geographic features (i.e., Lake Montauk and the Lighthouse – chances are you would find these renderings of the area very interesting – and different.

Loud Noise/Noise Complaints:

Jonathan also enjoys scrapping data from public web sites to develop maps and visuals.  While living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Jonathan created a Party/Loud Music Complaints map based on 311 data obtained from New York City’s Open Data Portal. These maps include and reflect his interest in rendering the “personality” of geospatial data through design choices – as illustrated in this map/web map – including a dark background, a purplish nighttime color palate and star animated Gifs.  Indeed an interesting map from a person who loves loud music and spends his spare time playing in a metal band!

Built with OpenStreetMap, this interactive map allows users to pan around Manhattan to see which NYC zip code has the largest number of noise complaints as filed through 311.

The Other Stuff

Jonathan always finds his legal mapping client work interesting as it requires mapping and data development to such a fine level of detail.  Often such work involves boundary disputes requiring the review of historical deeds and historic photogrammetry to determine boundary line changes. Looking forward he continues working with Sketchfab in context of mapping in the 3D space.  He supports Sketchfab because it is “accessible, light and has a community for sharing 3D models with annotation”.

As a one person shop, Jonathan does not have a large marketing and public relations budget and as such all of  his business development is  word-of-mouth.  He’s recently created an interactive presentation for a close friend and chef/owner Will Horowitz (Duck’s Eatery / Harry & Ida’s) which he presented at the Food on the Edge conference in Ireland. He’s working on an online platform, Common Scraps, which addresses the issue food waste.   As an extension he has produced some animated maps that show how food scraps can be saved and reused in an exchange system between local farms/suppliers and restaurants.

Jonathan covers a lot of ground and styles in his work which is more detailed and described on his website. Take a look, and if you are really lucky you might find him playing at a local club down the street with his band Autowreck.  Go check them out.

Though take some ear plugs and hold on.

Contact:  Jonathan Levy @ jl@jlcartography.com

 

Finger Lakes Trail Conference: The Reach of Digital Mapping

As a hiker myself, I first visited the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC) website in search of information about the trail system with little knowledge of the incredible structure the organization has in place for creating and publishing hardcopy and digital maps. Thus, the genesis of this article and an overview of how FLTC makes all of the digital content come together.

Background

Established in 1962, the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC) mission is to “… to build, protect, enhance, and promote a continuous footpath across New York State. Forever!”  With administrative offices near the Mt. Morris Dam Visitor Center in Mt. Morris, New York, FLTC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which works in cooperation with its members and various organizations to develop and maintain the premier hiking trail system in New York.   The Finger Lakes Trail System includes the main Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The main FLT is 580 miles long. There are six branch trails and 29 loop trails and spur trails that extend from the main FLT. These branch, loop and spur trails currently total 412 miles. Including the Main Trail and all branch, loop, and side trails, the Finger Lakes Trail System offers 1,000 miles of hiking.    Today, more than 1,400 individual and family memberships currently support the FLTC  of which approximately one fourth actively volunteer to operate the organization and its programs.  The sale of maps and GPS track data help  build and maintain the trail system.

FLTC also recognizes Sponsors which are individuals or organizations which formally accept responsibility for maintaining a length of trail in the FLT System and Affiliates which are hiking clubs and Scout troops that operate their own local hiking program and sponsor (maintain) their section of the trail system. The FLTC is a Partner of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) and cooperates with that organization and the National Park Service in maintaining and promoting that portion of the FLT that carries the North Country National Scenic Trail.  The FLTC is also a member of the Great Eastern Trail Association (GETA) and is constructing a branch trail of the FLT system (the Crystal Hills Trail) that will carry the New York portion of the Great Eastern Trail.

The Finger Lakes Trail System main trail from its eastern terminus in the Catskills to Allegany State Park in western New York State. From their interactive web application this image also show outlines of section maps which provide detail at larger scales.

Mapping and Cartography

Since the early 2000s with advancements in GPS technology and digital data collection, trail mapping responsibilities within the FLTC have been increasingly assigned to the Trail System Management program within the organization.   Within this structure, the mapping of new and/or changes to trails fall on the responsibilities of volunteers trained in use of  GPS devices – either their own Garmin device or an FLTC-owned Garmin Montana.  FLTC maintains  detailed specifications on what GPS devices are acceptable and how they are to be configured.  The GPX file from the walk is emailed to the mapping team which is currently under the direction of Greg Farnham and Jo Taylor).    Following a very detailed process document, the mapping team uses Garmin Basecamp to edit the official, unfiltered GPX track, which is referred to as the “trail centerline”.    There is adequate iteration with the person who walked the trail and the  Regional Trail Coordinator (RTC) overseeing that section of the trail where the data is being collected to ensure an accurate rendition of the (trail) data has been collected.  Regional Trail Coordinators and other FLTC administrative positions are highlighted on the organizational chart on their website. Continue reading

2017 GeoCon Wish List: Part 1

I first wanted to publish this article initially as a wish list to the GIS Santa Claus in early December, but the holidays came and went so I am now submitting it as a New Year’s wish list (Part 1) for the 2017 GeoCon  in Lake Placid.  There will  be other suggestions over the next several months and I’ll remain cognizant  what I wish for as I may be submitting an abstract to present myself.  Maybe.

So to start the discussion, here is an initial list of  ten geospatial mapping applications and program areas I’d like to send a speaker invite to for the 2017 GeoCon – and why.

NYS Office of the Attorney General:  New York Crime Gun Analysis https://targettrafficking.ag.ny.gov/tool/

While mapping continues to be one of the primary end products of GIS analysis, geospatial data is increasingly being used in a wide range of data visualization platforms such as Tableau.    I’d welcome the opportunity to attend a presentation by the Office of the Attorney on the Crime Gun Analysis report outlining data collection, data analysis, and the rendering of the data through maps, tables, and charts.  Not the normal GIS menu.

New York State Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC) http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/

In context of geospatial, this program reference isn’t so much about “what it is”, as opposed to more about “what it isn’t”.  Or at least I think.  From my level, the REDC framework has always been somewhat of a mystery since current state administration created the 10 Regional Councils in 2011.  And even more confusing that the geography of the REDCs do not coincide with the statewide Regional Planning Commission boundaries. That said, there is an incredible amount of geospatial information and analysis in the Council’s underlying mission.  Everything happens somewhere.  And there is a ton of money coming through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process which I believe the GIS community should be more engaged and recipients of to some degree. Uber opportunities for web mapping applications, Story Maps, and GIS-produced maps for publications though one would be hard pressed to see any real evidence of a professional GIS touch in any of the Council products and services.   I looked through four regional 2016 “progress” reports (Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes, Capital Region and Southern Tier and found very limited reference to GIS/geospatial technologies.   Some kind of presentation by one of the REDCs and/or regional GIS personnel involved in this program would be most informative for the statewide GIS community.  Otherwise I doubt we’re going to hear anything through the state GIS program office on this.

511NY
https://www.511ny.org/

This is more of a selfish request than anything because I really don’t fully understand the makings and how 511NY operates in context of GIS/geospatial data collection, sources, work flows, or even development of their applications including the online mapping stuff.  I do know it’s big, visible, seemingly growing in functionality, supported by a mess of New York State transportation agencies -even though it has its own .org web address.  It also creates a lot of data which would be useful to consume and use in local government web mapping applications.   I’d be the first one to sign up to hear how it all comes together, funding, sources of the data (including what is being taken from and/or generated at the local level), opportunities for collaboration with local GIS programs, and what’s next.  How long before we see an Uber icon on the 511NY homepage to help support trip planning?

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Deep GIS: Mapping What You Touch In the Subways

I’ve recently been communicating with Ebrahim Afshinnekoo who is Project Director for the PathoMap project based at the Weill Cornell Medicine Mason Laboratory in New York City.  Launched in the summer 2013, PathoMap was the first project of its kind, with the intent to comprehensively map and investigate the presence of bacteria and DNA on the surfaces of large urban, metropolitan environments such as New York City. And of course what better venue to collect bacteria samples in NYC than the subway system – the large subterranean behemoth home to 5.5 million riders on an average weekday.

I was drawn to the project in that it involves several common geospatial components the traditional GIS community is routinely involved with such as  data collection/data validation, data analysis, mobile apps, web mapping and visualization. To date, discussion on this geospatial research effort has focused mainly within the Cell Systems (scholarly journal) community, though with little exposure within the traditional NYS GIS community. While both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times published articles on PathoMap in 2015 we’ve seen little work of this nature at statewide conferences or how it can promote similar geospatial analysis across the Empire State. With this in mind, eSpatiallyNewYork initiated this blog entry with the purpose of exposing the PathoMap project, and its subsequent global expansion (MetaSUB) to the larger statewide GIS community.

Data Collection

The molecular profiling initiative launched in the summer of 2013 with the help of undergraduates from Cornell University and Macaulay Honors College – which were soon to be given the appropriate moniker “Swab Squad”.  To create a city-wide profile, the research team first built an Android/iOS  mobile application in collaboration with GIS Cloud to enable real-time entry and loading of sample metadata directly into a database (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Data collection from the project included the “swabbing” of sites and subsequent analysis and data entry of the findings into a mobile app which are dynamically uploaded to the Cloud GIS database. Source: Afshinnekoo et al., 2015

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10 Questions: Dr. James Mower

Dr. James Mower is a familiar face across the New York State GIS landscape.  Having started at SUNY Albany almost thirty years ago, he has mentored hundreds of geography and GIS students whom have gone on to work in a wide range of government and industry positions across the state.  Over the past two decades, Westchester County GIS has employed at least six of his students as full-time employees and numerous summer interns.  His teachings have contributed significantly to the continued development of the Westchester County GIS program.

eSpatiallynewyork:  You’ve been at SUNY Albany for a while now – how long?

Mower: I started in the fall of 1987.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Take us back to your  doctoral work. Your PhD came from the University of Buffalo– one of the early most recognized centers of GIS research in the United States – in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Who was your mentor at Buffalo?

Mower:  My mentor was David Mark who recently retired (from teaching, anyway). Dave was a great mentor—he let me run with some unusual but ultimately successful projects.

eSpatiallynewyork: What classes are you teaching these days? 

Mower:  I have focused more on programming courses recently. I have a 2-course Java programming sequence that has become a lot more interesting with the exploding interest in open source GIS. I’m retooling my courses to focus more on mapping libraries like the GeoTools package from OSGeo  (the program that also supervises GRASS, QGIS, GDAL, and other great tools). I also teach a Python course aimed at ArcGIS scripting (at least for now).

eSpatiallynewyork:  How has teaching GIS/geospatial at the university level changed over the last 5-10 years?

Mower:  The biggest changes are yet to come. Cartography and GIS are learning how to embrace mobile platforms with smaller screen space. Generalization issues in mapping have never been more important. Along with mobile mapping has also come global navigation satellite system position finding and its use in almost every cell phone app out there. Also, the coming revolution in autonomous vehicles will impact our field in many unforeseeable ways. Continue reading