By Mike King, Emergency Call Taking and Dispatch Industry Manager • Esri Public Safety Team
Recently, while preparing some breakout sessions for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Western Regional Conference in Southern California, I had the opportunity to sit with Lawrie Jordan, the director of imagery and remote sensing at Esri. My challenge to Jordan was to help the conference participants understand how geographic information system (GIS) technology has changed in recent years and how today's imagery impacts accurate location information.
I found myself captivated as I listened to Jordan simplifying the complex nature of in-vehicle navigation. Speaking in simple terms, he helped me understand the complexity of GIS and the navigation process. He used terminology I understood and artfully painted a picture in my mind that made it possible to comprehend the myriad of processes involved in navigating from one place to another.
In what he termed "the illusion of simplicity," Jordan said the following:
"Mike, think of your car's navigation system—it knows where you are, and when you tell it where you want to go, it simply takes you there. If you get lost or don't follow its directions, it will growl at you for a moment, recalculate a new route, and provide you with updated directions to safely get you to your destination. The benefit is that we are almost never lost. We simply hit the device's home button, and it will direct us home.
"What we don't see, fortunately, are the technologies that make this happen. They include four of the most complicated technologies ever invented. A constellation of orbiting satellites resides thousands of miles above us in space. Each satellite is triangulating its location with other satellites at a rate of a thousand times per second. While doing this, the satellites are communicating with your car, and while this is happening, the earth continues to turn. The satellites are moving, and your vehicle is traveling at a variable rate of speed on city streets, highways, or backcountry dirt roads. These roadways are a series of topologically vectored networks that have a geodatabase attached to them, telling us important information like where the restaurants and gas stations are located.
"Luckily for us, this all works behind the scenes, and we don't have to wrestle with the device for answers—we simply enjoy the benefit without having to struggle with the technology."
Using a navigation system is meant to be simple. At Esri, we like to say that the future belongs to the simple and quick.
As public safety agencies move closer to next-generation 911 and begin embracing IP-based technologies, GIS will become even more important. Everything is associated with a physical location on a map. Sensor datasets found in vehicle locations, weather, crowdsourcing media, traffic patterns, and more, have become readily available through what we now call the Internet of Things (IoT). Albert Einstein once said, "If I can't see it, I can't understand it." GIS provides powerful tools to analyze, interpret, and share results for better decision-making and is helping government leaders answer important questions.
As I was leaving Jordan's office, he remarked, "all of this information is bringing geography to life. GIS is migrating data from the static, two-dimensional world of the past into a living, dynamic, active, understandable, and motion-driven future. 3D capabilities are revolutionizing GIS, and we are seeing an entirely new chapter open. What we're witnessing is the reinvention of geography itself."
Esri understands how powerful the illusion of simplicity is, and our scientists are working tirelessly in pioneering ArcGIS, the world's most powerful mapping and analytics software. To learn more about how GIS benefits public safety and the emergency call-taking industry, go to go.esri.com/E911-blog-03312017.
Join Esri at the APCO Western Regional Conference in Ontario, California, to be held April 10–13, at the Ontario Convention Center, where a GIS track for next-generation 911 will be featured. Esri customers get a $25 discount off the registration fee by entering the promo code Esri. Learn more at www.APCOWRC2017.org.