2017 GeoCon Wish List: Part II

In January of this year, I published my first 2017 GeoCon wish list relative to geospatial mapping applications and topics I’d like to see as part of the Lake Placid October 17-19 conference.  Since January, writing and publishing eSpatiallyNewYork has enabled me to communicate with a wide range of individuals and organizations involved in geospatial programs across the state  – some of which are included in the list below.  Others itemized on the list are new business start-ups,  government and nonprofit initiatives, and programs involved in the emerging drone technology.

So without any further adieu, here is Part II itemizing geospatial topics and program areas I’m advocating for 2017 GeoCon in Lake Placid.  Speakers, presentations, and ideas to mix things up and start some new discussion – and why.

Opioid Crisis Mapping

With the opioid crisis well documented in New York State, Story Mapping and data visualization help further detail the magnitude of this public health issue to a much wider audience.  Story Maps also enable authors with much greater flexibility in developing a narrative to accompany the data which might be otherwise be difficult to interpret or understand with just a map by itself.  Here in New York, it’s the hope to see greater use of Story Mapping (not just ESRI’s solution – all platforms) by agencies and organizations which historically have been reluctant to publish maps due to concerns of data which might be sensitive or misinterpreted.  This Opioid Story Map provides a powerful message and can prove to be a catalyst in seeing other statewide public health data being published in a similar geographic format.  It would be interesting to hear more from this Story Map author(s) about the datasets used (availability, sensitive/non-sensitive, sources, etc.) and possible collaboration with other GIS programs and agencies at the federal, state, and local level.  See also the Northern Kentucky Story Map:  The GEOStory of Opioid Addiction and The Urban Observatory: The Opioid Epidemic.

Story Maps provide an easy and powerful framework to combine narrative and maps which is often very helpful when publishing sensitive or “difficult” to interpret data. Publishing agencies have can better help how data is interpreted and read.

New York State Wildland Fire Mapping

Nothing special or cutting edge here geospatial, but I’ve always had a soft spot for wildland fire maps having served on U.S. Forest Service interregional fire crews back in the day in both Idaho and Montana.   Though in context of publishing fire data, it’s unfortunate how little capacity New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has built in context of publishing their data and products as services. Not that statewide wildland fire data and map services would be a top seller for DEC, but the image below (scrapped from the DEC website) speaks to the continued reliance on static maps and other enterprise map applications  which cannot be consumed by other viewers.  The map is actually interesting in showing how there are more fires per square mile closer to urban areas (red) than in the more forested areas such as the Adirondacks – where most would think wildland fires occur and with more frequency.   Publishing this type of data as some type of map service would Continue reading

Highest Lakes in New York State

While planning on some Summer 2017 High Peaks hikes and overnights with my sons, I got to thinking about some previous communications I had with long time colleagues John Barge at the Adirondack Park Agency and Doug Freehafer at the U.S.Geological Water Science Center in Troy about other state highest geographic features.   Most know about the “46ers” – a.k.a the 46 mountains in New York State above 4,000’.  (Yours truly having bagged about ½ of them.)  But what about other geographic features and facts that might make good trivia questions –  like what are the “highest” lakes and water bodies in the Empire State?

No problemo.  Doug pointed me to the U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) search engine in which I queried for all New York State lakes over 2,500’ and the search returned 35 lakes  based on the National Elevation Dataset.  Surprisingly not are all in the Adirondacks.

The GNIS query builder is easy-to-use and allows users to search on names for geographic features such as harbors, islands, harbors, basins, summits and much more.

Saving the search results and converting to a spreadsheet, it’s easy enough to add the lake X,Ys to a  ArcGIS Online viewer (or any viewer of choice for that matter) called the Highest Lakes in New York State.   As shown in the following images, the highest lakes are located near Mt. Marcy (Lake Tear of the Clouds at 4,321’ and Moss Pond at 4,4,252’) with Hodge Pond showing up at 2,592’ (#26 highest)  much further south in Sullivan County.

Eight out the ten highest lakes are in Essex County though not all are found on the Mt.Marcy USGS quadrangle. What other quads are in play?

USGS 1:24,000 quadrangle grid covering the Adirondack High Peaks region from The National Map viewer application.

Won’t find any summer lifeguards on duty at these lakes and the water temperature probably won’t be the same as your shower water, but it’s nice to know if your back country trips might take you close enough to potential swimming or fishing holes?  (Our lastest route and trip manifest did not include any of these water bodies.)   GNIS is a great source of national and Empire State geographic features which we’ll occasionally explore in future eSpatiallyNewYork posts.

Enjoy your summer!

GPS Telematics for Fleet and Mobile Workforce Management

Several of my posts over past 18 months have focused on a core set of applications which I have seen evolve over the past three decades that serve as the cornerstones for many New York State local and county government geospatial programs.  Increasingly and central to many of these geospatial program areas is the “mobile” component albeit much of the attention to date has been on “field/handheld” hardware and software components for both spatial data collection and updates.

Increasingly  it is becoming recognized  another mobile collection technology can add value to  an organization’s work force and business systems productivity.  Originally referred to as Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) systems, this technology got its start decades ago focusing on the capture (mapping) of a vehicle’s location and display in a GIS or similar digital mapping system. These early systems were expensive and not widely used outside of business and industry.

Over the last five or more years,  fleet managers have increasingly adopted “AVL” technology to assist in the management of  fleet assets especially with availability of lower cost hardware components which connect  to vehicle On Board Diagnostic (OBD) ports.  This capability supports fleet managers with a wide range of metrics  providing  odometer/mileage readings, engine idling, vehicle usage and a variety of other vehicle related information.  Now recognized as “GPS Telematics”, this technology has become more affordable and accessible to a larger range of government agencies and organizations.  This modern use of the technology centers around the use of M2M (machine to machine) and telematics technologies.

Benefits of GPS Telematics

To date, much of the work focusing on capturing and analyzing data associated with field resources has been done the “old way”, i.e., capturing and recording the data by human fingers.  Historically, this method is fraught with inconsistencies. Machine-to-machine (M2M) data capture on average is far more accurate and consistent.

Fleet telematics monitor the location, movement, status and behavior of a vehicle and associated field resources.  This is achieved through a combination of the  GPS telematics device which is installed in each vehicle transmitting  location based data via wireless networks to web servers for near real time availability.  Users access location, movement and status information and metrics of vehicles via special web-based software applications or through existing in-house “vehicle tracking enabled”  business applications.  In essence, GPS telematics systems become platforms to collection and transport valuable mobile resource field information and activities.  In addition to locational data,  fleet telematics solutions provide the status of each vehicle and by extension the corresponding crew an inference of  ongoing work accomplishments and assignments to field resources.  Managers know how each vehicle is being used as well as mileage, idling status, location and speed.  Such systems can be extended to be connected to onboard systems and sensors which log activities such as street sweeping, plowing, spreading, and spraying – workflows which are particularly challenging to capture and document by hand during the normal course of business.  While Return-on-Investments (ROI) can and will vary greatly, calculating the benefits of investing in fleet telematics technology can now be  based on factual metrics such as improved routing and dispatching, reducing labor costs, improved fuel and vehicle usage, and newer more cost-effective system architecture (Cloud). Continue reading

Orbitist: Storytelling on the Western Front

It’s always refreshing discovering new startups and firms mixing geospatial concepts with other technology and media platforms.  Not necessarily true geospatial firms which we’ve come to label as such, but clearly operating on the fringe and providing selected products and services mainstream geospatial consultants market and provide.  One such relatively new firm is Orbitist based out of Fredonia, New York.

Orbitist is led by Nick Gunner who has been filming and directing video productions since 2007 when he began pursuing his Bachelor of Science Degree in TV/Digital Film, Audio/Radio production, and Earth Science at the State University of New York at Fredonia. During that time, Nick started building content management systems and digital mapping technology which he continued while serving four years as the university’s New Media Manager.   On the side, he continued to pursue freelance work as a public radio producer, freelance documentary filmmaker, and web developer. In the Summer of 2015, Nick launched Orbitist LLC as part of the Fredonia Technology Incubator with the idea of using digital storytelling and technology to make important information as accessible as possible.

Initial Work

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute (RTPI) of Natural History was Orbitist’s first client.   In the Summer of 2015 they commissioned a short documentary on the Chadakoin River in Jamestown, as well as map three tours about various natural history topics.  Representative examples of RTPI products can be viewed on YouTube and the bottom three links on this Orbitist web page.  During this same time period – and ongoing today – Orbitist also performed work for the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau.

Other recent products and services include:

A Story Map documenting the Winter 1929 Tewksbury boat and bridge crash on the Buffalo River resulting in the flooding of a 18 neighborhood blocks in South Buffalo.

This Story Map uses a variety of multimedia which pinpoints cultural and historical features from different Spanish-speaking countries, including architectural feats, traditional dances, and tipping customs, among others. Each map utilizes Spanish phrases with English translations to bridge the gap between languages.

Software Suite

Relying on the experience he gained building systems for the last 10 years, software products used at Orbitist reflects Nick’s commitment to combining content management with interactive mapping – much of which is accomplished by integrating and combining leading Open Source components.   Currently the Orbitist mapping platform is a simple content management system which associates posts (internally called “points”) with latitude/longitude values.  The Orbitist team often uses Mapbox GL as a primary front-end mapping library but behind that everything in their system is API-driven, meaning story maps are created top of products such as Leaflet and Google Maps.  They also use Carto as a stand-alone product for building real-time analytics maps.  All combined, the Orbitist “system” also manages images and a variety of data (icon type, time of day, external links, etc.) and provides access to YouTube, Vimeo, and even Facebook for video hosting. GitHub is leveraged to host static web projects. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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
  7. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.
    • Continue reading

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