Where in the world is the geospatial data?

Policy, technology combine to improve data management

Agencies need to better coordinate their geospatial information needs to reduce duplicative efforts and provide more complete information, several experts recently told Congress.

At a July 23 hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee's Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, witnesses said the federal government’s approach to geospatial data is not well-integrated with state and local efforts.

While experts say policy changes must be made to improve the situation, they add that emerging technologies might help agencies make better use of geospatial information.

For example, Google recently launched a new version of Google Earth Enterprise, the technology used to build Google Earth and Google Maps, said Dylan Lorimer, product manager at Google Earth Enterprise.

The product lets organizations use their geospatial information to build custom versions of Google Earth and Maps, Lorimer said.

“A number of our customers have huge archives of aerial or satellite imagery over their areas of interest, so now we are allowing them to essentially build with all of that data and view it with Google Earth,” Lorimer said.

For example, the South Florida Water Management District, a regional agency charged with managing and protecting water resources, uses Google Earth Enterprise to create a common picture of the state of Florida’s waterways.

The agency uses aerial photography and information layers depicting structures, canals, district-owned lands, water use permits and environmental monitoring stations.

Water officials throughout the district log on to the system to see all available information — such as canal levels — visually integrated in one place.

The new version lets organizations easily publish custom globes to the Web in 3-D. The previous version allowed only flat, 2-D maps to be published to the Web. Anything more complicated required customized servers and programming.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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