The GEOINT tradecraft continues its evolution to address an increasingly complex world overflowing in geospatially relevant information and technological advancements. Cities are applying GEOINT to improve the life of citizens and address significant challenges, such as community resilience in the time of COVID-19.
Geospatial analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, for example, are used to better predict and track disease outbreaks, support urban mobility automation, address the implications of climate change, and a host of other critical applications of value for citizens, commerce, and government.
Cities that leverage geospatial information are gaining an understanding of the implications of new technologies such as sensors, artificial intelligence, and social media messaging to improve city governance and the general well-being of the community.
“Cities are no strangers to embracing location as a virtual underpinning for [better] understanding and decision-making in support of good governance and improving city services,” said Mark Reichardt, chair of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee, who served as the moderator for last week’s GEOConnect Series virtual main stage event.
The panelist provided their insights and perspectives on how GEOINT is enabling cities, with a focus on major activities shaping the near future of urban governance, service delivery, mobility, public safety, and the well-being of citizens.
Underground Infrastructure: The Information is the Foundation
GEOINT is knowing where everything is, and underground infrastructures are the last frontier. According to Alan Leidner, president, NYC Geospatial Information Systems and Mapping Organization (GISMO), this is because it’s invisible and difficult to know, see, and gather data about what’s underground.
“[But] it’s extremely important because underground infrastructure connects everything together,” Leidnersaid. “You may have perfect information about buildings, but if you don’t know how they’re all connected together with all the different services, you’re really lost.”
The goal of integrating underground infrastructure data is to align all the different infrastructure layers to a common base that are aligned with each other. And consequently, all the components of all the different systems will be seen in relation to one another.
“It’s a major hurdle, a very difficult one, but it’s doable,”Leidner said.
Mapping underground infrastructure, for example, prevented another disaster at the World Trade Center site. One of the first uses of New York City’s enterprise GIS was by the Emergency Mapping and Data Center in the response to 9/ 11. Federal and state GIS personnel worked together to build NYC’s common base map.
Using GIS and computer-aided design (CAD), analysts were able to see a 200,000-pound tank of freon gas underneath the debris at the World Trade Center site. They were also able to locate fires nearby and keep the tank cool so it didn’t explode.
“And it was because we were able to do the mapping and CAD analysis that we actually found that tank underground,”Leidner said.
However, during Hurricane Sandy, the city did not have proper infrastructure maps and suffered about $35 billion worth of infrastructure damages. According to Leidner, a lot of that could have been avoided if they had proper mapping of infrastructure.
“We need to integrate GIS and infrastructure data so we can model the entire world and natural environment, in cities, but also in suburbs and rural areas, as well,” Leidner said.”Once we get all that information together, smart city technology is an analytics [approach] that we want to use. That would give us sensors, smart pipes and conduits, connections, artificial intelligence, the works. But it has to start with the data.”
The Context of a Smart City: Smart Tampa
According to Vik Bhide, mobility department director in the City of Tampa, the framework upon which any smart city exists includes urbanization, demographic, technology, climate change, and safety data. Lately, in response to the pandemic, safety has been a prominent focus for the city of Tampa.
“We’ve also used GEO-enabled insights, which includes our syndromic survey, which aggregates symptoms by zip code. We’ve meshed that with GPS data, and we’ve overlaid that with our testing data, which is also zip code data,” Bhide said.
This data is then used to create dashboards to understand where the potential for clusters are and detect problem areas so more testing can be made available.
“We’ve actually set up two different test sites in areas where we found a disproportionate difference between testing levels and actual cases,” Bhide said.
Bhide added that Tampa has undertaken several ‘Smart Mobility’ projects. One is geared toward addressing the issue of limited curb space in cities. Curbs are very active, be it for pickup, drop off, or pedestrian access. On-street parking limits curb use to about one person per hour in a mid-sized city like Tampa.
“We’re working with a company called CurbFlow to aggregate commercial deliveries, register them online, and track their location in real time so that we can make that space available and guarantee that service level,” Bhide said. “This will minimize double parking, reduce congestion, reduce emission, and [provide additional] benefits.”
GEOINT to Solve Location-Based Problems
It’s clear that the smart city revolution is in full swing. City agencies around the world continue to invest in developing and implementing solutions that transform the lives of their residents.
Public city agencies leverage location data and technology platforms, like HERE Technology, to obtain GEOINT solutions that support operational analytical efficiency, from managing infrastructure to guiding drivers to their destination safely.
“HERE, for example, provides a better understanding for the dispatcher, first responder, and command center of the reality and imparts knowledge not just to one another, but also to the general public,” said James Nenaber, public sector customer solutions manager at HERE Technologies.
Emergency response agencies can leverage HERE’s large-scale virtual city replicas to address location-based problems in regard to solving outbreaks, natural disasters, day-to-day fire routines, etc.
GEOINT helps build foundational knowledge that public city agencies can turn to in order to solve location-based problems.