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 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?

Continue reading

The Blue Highways of GIS: Brooklyn, New York

Among the brownstones and sycamore trees on Carroll Street in Brooklyn, New York is the office of HabitatMap.  Founded in 2007, HabitatMap is an established metro-New York City non-profit environmental health justice organization whose goal is to raise awareness about the impact the environment has on human health.

HabitatMap was created as a nonprofit by activists focusing on the impact of hazardous facilities and sites on the well-being of residents in areas adjacent Newtown Creek in Brooklyn.    Today, HabitatMap’s products and services, including online mapping and social networking platforms, provide a framework for hundreds of community groups across the country to maximize the impact of community voices on government and industry, as well as strengthening ties between organizations and activists. The Founder and Executive Director of HabitatMap is Michael Heimbinder.

Utilizing Habitat’s shared advocacy and mapping platform individual and organizations can:

  • Alert the public to environmental health hazards
  • Hold polluters accountable for their environmental impacts
  • Highlight urban infrastructures that promote healthy living
  • Identify future opportunities for sustainable urban development
  • Promote policies that enhance equitable access to urban resources

Just a small sample of community-based organizations in the metropolitan area which use HabitatMap includes the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance Organization of Waterfront Neighborhoods,  Sustainable South BronxNeighbors Allied for Good Growth,   Brooklyn Compost Collective, the Bronx River Alliance, and the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park.   The HabitatMap website is accessed and used worldwide.

Similar to other smaller organizations with limited infrastructure and technical staff, HabitatMap integrates Google Maps to support it’s map viewer as well as a customized toolkit to edit and add “markers”.  Google products are also used as a means to publish content from their AirCasting platform.

The HabitatMap homepage at http://www.habitatmap.org

The HabitatMap homepage at http://www.habitatmap.org

HabitatMap Interactive Website

Once a personal profile is created, participants can start making maps on HabitatMap.org, mapping (aka “Add a Marker“) items of interest either by geocoding or clicking on a specific location on the map viewer  – which is based on Google Maps.  For example, I quickly created an account and mapped the location of a community facility in my hometown which is in need of minor repairs and perhaps retrofitted to provide space for community groups in a section of our town with limited such facilities.  As tags are associated with each marker location,  users can search the HabitatMap database for specific projects or areas of interest by using keywords such as water quality, recycling, fracking, community gardens, or greenways.  Keyword matches are then rendered on the viewing screen.

Community groups and individuals across New York State, particularl in the NYC metropolitan region, contribute to the HabitatMap by adding “markers” to identify a wide range of community-based issues and projects.

Community groups and individuals across New York State, particularly in the NYC metropolitan region, contribute to the HabitatMap by adding “markers” to identify a wide range of community-based issues and projects.

The Forums tab enables registered participants to start a discussion among other like-minded HabitatMap participants in categories such as Community Health, Water & Air Quality, Energy, Transportation, and Mapping.  Participants click on the forum category that best matches their intended topic of conversation and click “Post New Topic”.  The Blog tab is largely dedicated to the HabitatMap funded and developed Airbeam monitor which measures fine particulate matter (PM2.5), temperature, and relative humidity   Being used by community groups and activists across the country, the AirBeam connects to the AirCasting smartphone app via Bluetooth to map, graph, and crowdsource exposure to fine particulate matter in real time.

The Forums page enables participants to contribute and engage in dialog with others in topical areas such as Community Health, Mapping, Water and Air Quality, and much more.

The Forums page enables participants to contribute and engage in dialog with others in topical areas such as Community Health, Mapping, Water and Air Quality, and much more.

An excellent example of HabitatMap’s primary online mapping product can be seen as part of the Creek Speak map which provides access to stories of people and places near Newtown Creek. In addition to mapping the locations of local issues and events, the HabitatMap interactive map enables users to also include and associate URLs, graphics, and similar files with each mapped location.  Similar to other community organizations which partner with HabitatMap, the   Creek Speak Project map’s purpose is to highlight and document the knowledge of individuals who are “inside narrators” of day-to-day life in the Newtown Creek community.

Founded in the Newtown Creek areas of Brooklyn, New York, there have been many contributions to the online HabitatMap from individuals and organizations located nearby.

Founded in the Newtown Creek areas of Brooklyn, New York, there have been many contributions to the online HabitatMap from individuals and organizations located nearby.

.Other groups use the HabitatMap interactive map to identify locations in their community that either enhances the quality of life such as parks, scenic vistas, farmers markets, civic programs, or public parks, or those might  cause for concern, such as a graffiti, unsafe properties, traffic/pedestrian issues, or illegal dumping or discharges.  Users can also create individual maps highlighting a specific area of interest, embed maps on a personal or agency website or blog, invite fellow activists to contribute to maps, and discuss issues and recruit collaborators in the online forums.

Mapping & Educational Programs

One area which best exemplifies HabitatMap’s use of mapping is through its educational outreach programs.  Central to this effort is  MapThink, an educational toolkit series developed by HabitatMap which introduces maps-based research methods to high school students and community based organizations so that they can become active participants in their community and advocate.  The MapThink Toolkit series focuses on creating planning and advocacy maps using their online tools: HabitatMap.org and AirCasting.org.

Illustrative projects in this regard include youth program workshops in Brooklyn and San Francisco during 2014.  In San Francisco, HabitatMap worked with 60 seniors from the Galileo Academy of Science & Technology, a public high school that provides students with career pathways in biotechnology, environmental science, health, hospitality and tourism, computer science, and creative media technology.  In Brooklyn, HabitatMap worked with UPROSE which is a grass roots, multi-ethnic, intergenerational community-based organization dedicated to environmental and social justice. UPROSE Youth Justice members were introduced to the AirCasting product which was used to map the air quality problems in their neighborhoods, which is host to multiple power plants and waste transfer stations, dozens of auto shops, and bisected by the Gowanus Expressway.

Another HabitatMap mapping effort was conducted by the students at the Green School in East Williamsburg Brooklyn.   Their project, entitled “Drip, Drop, the Water Don’t Stop”, focused on the New York City water distribution system.  Using Habitat’s online mapping and the “Go With the Flow” toolkit, students developed maps based on research of the NYC water storage, filtration, delivery, and disposal infrastructures.  You can learn more by clicking through the project map, looking at photos, and reading student learning reflections.

The Green School’s research project of the New York City drinking water system as rendered on the HabitatMap interactive map.

The Green School’s research project of the New York City drinking water system as rendered on the HabitatMap interactive map.

This summer, HabitatMap is working with the North Brooklyn Boat Club and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission mapping and collecting water samples in Newtown Creek with the new HabitatMap WaterSense monitor, which measures dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and temperature.  The instrument connects to the AirCasting app via Bluetooth to record, map, and graph the data in real time.  Made possible through funding from the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, the project was initiated to address water quality concerns in Newtown Creek, a Federal Superfund site that is inundated by over a billion gallons of raw sewage annually, the result of combined sewer overflows.

HabitatMap:  Looking Forward

While boasting a diverse collection of partners and collaborators including Google Earth Outreach, New York Community Trust, Mozilla Hive NYC, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Carnegie Mellon CREATE lab, and the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, among others, the likes of NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Michael Heimbinde remains the only full-time staff at HabitatMap and envision’s a bright future for the nonprofit.  He notes:

“We’re excited to continue growing the AirCasting community. Our ambitions for AirCasting, and it’s true potential, lie in 1) creating ultra-dense networks of AirCasters that network together multiple schools and community based organizations in a single neighborhood and 2) scaling nationally and internationally. HabitatMap, in partnership with Sonoma Technology, NYU School of Medicine, NYU Wagner, and the Newtown Creek Alliance have crafted a proposal for a community based participatory research project that would enable us to create an ultra-dense network of AirCasters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, bring together the technical experts needed to address improving air quality in a neighborhood overburdened with pollution sources, and establish a model for expanding nationally and internationally.”

Tim Dye, Senior VP at Sonoma Technology, adds, “Our collaboration with Michael Heimbinder and HabitatMap on the development of the AirBeam sensor has been very rewarding. Together, we launched the Kids Making Sense program, which combines education and technology to empower students to drive positive change in their communities, in the U.S. and abroad.”

One community group and one map at a time.  Communicating community geospatial data that matters from Brooklyn, New York.  HabitatMap.

Along the Blue Highways of GIS.

Thanks for reading and see you down the road.

 

 

Imagery is Everywhere

The recent release of the joint Time, Inc., Google, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and Carnegie Mellon University’s Create Lab Timelapse website in May of this year highlights once again the increased availability of a wide range of imagery – in variety of formats – to geospatial users across the Empire State.  With aerial imagery becoming another market-driven commodity to support the expanding geospatial industry, consumers now have several options including either a la carte commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products or more simply consuming imagery online – for free – as part of a growing number of publically accessible Cloud applications and map services.

 Commercial Imagery Products

While imagery requirements to support large scale (1”=100’) planimetric feature mapping is often much more detailed and usually acquired through  formal procurement, COTS imagery can routinely be obtained in the 1m – 2m resolution range, which is normally sufficient to support many general viewing and “what-is-where” geospatial applications across New York State.   COTS imagery has never been easier and more cost-effective to acquire.

GIS mapping and viewing applications that use aerial imagery primarily as a means to provide context to larger-scale, more spatially accurate vector datasets such as tax parcel boundaries, building footprints, and street features can use COTS products.   In the emergency response disciplines, rapidly deployed and developed COTS-quality imagery (+/-  1m – 2m resolution) has also become a standard in damage assessment for incidents such hurricanes, flooding, wildland fires, and other natural disasters.

Firms such as such as MapMart, WeoGeo, and TerraServer serve as brokers for several types of commercial aerial and satellite imagery –  including Digital Globe GeoEye, and QuickBird products – which are sufficient to support “what is where” viewing applications in most government mapping programs.  These commercial data warehouses also make available selected government image datasets such as the leaf-on National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) photography.    Commercial sites provide easy-to-use online forms to select areas of interest, imagery type/format, and cost estimates on the requested imagery.  Commercial aerial imagery can also be bought directly from the aerial or satellite imagery firm (i.e., Digital Globe) but marketplaces such as MapMart and WeoGeo provide a broader range of options for the consumer. (Note:  Georeferenced NAIP aerial imagery can be downloaded directly from Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) website.  As part of preparing this blog post, I received a cost estimate from MapMart for two scenes of Digital Globe Precision Aerials (0.3 m resolution) imagery covering the entire Westchester County footprint – which proved to be very cost competitive and affordable.

Of course the ease and speed of purchasing COTS aerial imagery with or without detailed specifications does not come without potential issues or concerns.   One, some commercial firms may only have imagery that is several years old for a selected “area of interest” or sometimes even more problematic is that a specific area may contain a combination of years of photography. Also, file formats, datums, or the ability to test (QA/QC) the imagery may not be possible and it is worth mentioning that commercial off-the-shelf aerial imagery products are typically not be used in the production or updating of large-scale planimetric vector datasets.  Users measuring distances with COTS may take heed as depending on the scale and resolution of the imagery as calculated distant may contain an unacceptable amount of error depending on user requirements.   Use and redistribution licensing restrictions should also be thoroughly reviewed.

Imagery as part of Cloud and Map Services

If users do not require a physical (local) copy of the imagery, there are also options to access web sites  publishing aerial imagery as a service  – for free –  which can be “mashed-up” with local datasets in a variety of desktop and web viewing clients.  One of the more notable aerial imagery map services in the Empire State is available through the New York State Digital Orthophoto Program (NYSDOP).  In production since 2001, the program makes imagery available for both download and through OGC-compliant Web Map Services (WMS).    Funded through a combination of federal,  state, and local  sources, many of most commonly developed NYSDOP image products across the state (particularly outside of urban areas) are 1ft and 2ft resolution imagery which are generally comparable to COTS available products.

A much larger and expanded source of online aerial imagery is The National Map Viewer (TNM) portal which provides several map services “containing orthorectified digital aerial photographs and satellite imagery” which are more than sufficient resolution to support “what is where” viewing applications.  In additional to making high resolution imagery available, the TNM also provides viewing software that enables users to add local content – either as layers or map services.  A somewhat similar “mash-up” system is the popular Google Earth viewer which provides imagery as base map and of course, the ability for users to add additional KML layers and WMS services.  Other closely related products such as Microsoft Bing Maps offer developer tools to embed and make available imagery (Pictometry obliques) in business and government applications.

The new approach of providing both Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in one interface – and for free – is increasingly empowering for organizations with limited resources or GIS capacity.  Albeit at its core, ArcGIS.com is a fee-based product that offers similar functionality and does include free options if contributors make project maps accessible to the public.  An exhaustive gallery of public facing maps – many of which include high resolution aerial photography as the base map AND can be modified and enhanced by anonymous users with local datasets – is available for viewing at the ArcGIS.com portal.  Many of the maps can be used as a front-end to add local content for site specific projects here in New York State.

All said, the landscape has changed dramatically in recent months with regard to purchasing COTS aerial and satellite imagery which can used to support desktop and web-based geospatial applications.  And the user community should expect options to only expand over the next several years as:  1) aerial imagery change detection technology continues to evolve (enabling consumers to purchase aerial imagery where it is really needed and/or physical changes have actually occurred)  and 2)  the next generation of smaller earth observation satellites promising a surge of commercial space-based imagery platforms combined with better web-based visualization and mapping systems that are ready to ingest and analyze near real-time imagery.  To say the least of anticipated options associated with the budding drone and unmanned aerial planes/vehicles which will be used to support imagery and data collection.

If organizations have limited budgets, do not require a complete update of the imagery database or do not have other “hard” requirements (i.e., photography to support large-scale feature/planimetric  mapping) COTS imagery can be priced very competitively and can be considered as a viable alternative in support of enterprise aerial imagery programs.