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GCN : February 2015
GEOSPATIAL DATA MANAGEMENT From NASA to NOAA, and the De- partment of Agriculture to the Department of Defense, federal agencies and departments are collect- ing geospatial data at a pace that would choke many ser ver farms. The data isn’t just being amassed: It’s being analyzed to guide troops in unfamiliar terrain, to track the spread of disease and to deci- pher crime patterns across the law en- forcement enterprise. While geographic information systems (GIS) have become well established in the federal government, the current challenge for agencies is to develop tools to connect their geospatial programs with their counterparts in other jurisdic- tions. While some agencies have been coor- dinating their data collection and analy- ses, as a general rule data collected by one agency can rarely be integrated eas- ily and effectively with data collected by another. Steps are now being taken to change that. In fact, the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) – the main fed- eral unit charged with integrating fed- eral geospatial efforts – in its National Spatial Infrastructure Plan 2014-2016, said its primary goal is to “develop capa- bilities for national shared ser vices.” According to agency geospatial lead- ers and technology experts, there are two major hurdles to achieving those goals: neither the resolution of collected data nor the formats for creating meta- data are compatible across data fields. Not surprisingly, the lead organiza- tion researching geospatial data integra- tion and developing tools to enable such integration is USGS. In fact, the agency has created the Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science (CEGIS) to lead the effort. According to Lynn Usery, director of CEGIS, the initial impetus for finding ways to integrate geospatial data was the USGS National Map – a collaborative effort among USGS and other federal, state and local partners to improve and deliver topographic information across the nation. The first hurdle Usery’s team faced was the different resolutions of collected data. “ The reason we started the [CEGIS data integration] project was that when we were developing the national map, we realized that the different layers of the national map were all actually com- piled and generated separately,” said Usery. That meant that when the layers were put together, it might look as if they didn’t match up. Usery’s team then tried to determine exactly what it means for a dataset to Agencies are building tools to more easily integrate mapping data with varying formats and legacy sources The push for geospatial data integration BY PATRICK MARSHALL 28 GCN FEBRUARY 2015 • GCN.COM CyberGIS is a geospatial-specific infrastructure that manages, processes and visualizes massive and complex geospatial data, while performing associated analysis and simulation. To drive development of the technology, a consortium of government, academic and private-sector partners has come together to build the National CyberGIS Facility at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. With funding from the National Science Foundation, the group will build a high-performance computing system optimized to deal with geospatial data. The system will be equipped with more than 7 petabytes of raw disk storage, solid-state drives, advanced graphics processing units, a high- speed network and dynamically provisioned cloud computing resources. “There are critical problems that cyberGIS can assist in, from mapping water resources across local, regional and global scales to managing the preparation and response to disasters and emergencies,” said Shaowen Wang, the founding director of the CyberGIS Center. CyberGIS: Community-specific infrastructure NATIONALMAP.GOV 0215gcn_028-029.indd 28 2/3/15 11:12 AM