Quick Takes From the Southern Maryland GIS User Group

  1. The Fall meeting of the Southern Maryland GIS User Group happened on 5 October 2016. I’ve been involved with the organizing committee for two years, now. It’s been a learning experience trying to build a consistent community in a rural area. In addition to my colleagues of the organizing committee, I’ve met a lot of geospatial practitioners with whom I would not have crossed paths in my usual federally-focused work.

This meeting was a major milestone for us in that it was our first “sell-out.” We distributed all of the available free tickets, filling our venue to capacity. The meeting was superbly coordinated by Erick Pate of the Calvert County, Maryland government.

While the vast majority of attendees are Esri users, and will continue to be, the group is officially agnostic with regard to technology. At a previous meeting, we got feedback that attendees are interested in learning what’s going on outside their typical Esri stack, in order to better understand what’s possible and also what other tools can be integrated into current architectures. With that in mind, this meeting had a diverse agenda.

Tony Rose and Kathy Lewis of Charles County discussed the impending implementation of NextGen 911 in the Southern Maryland area. This will make 911 routing a completely GIS-driven process. Where jursidictions are currently chosen via phone-company data, the new system will route calls based upon address-matched locations and GIS-based jurisdiction boundaries. This will require additional coordination by the three counties of Southern Maryland.

Jason Wheatley and Shawn Pickett of Century Engineering provided an overview of using Fulcrum for mobile data collection. Century has successfully used Fulcrum on a number of projects around Maryland. It provides compelling opportunity to help jurisdictions standardize data structures, which can be important for adjacent jurisdictions. They’ve also done a lot of work using Fulcrum with survey-grade devices, in addition to smartphones and tablets. Finally, the real-time sync with ArcGIS Online was a useful feature to show to our roomful of Esri users.

Andrew Falker and Alex Brown of Esri provided a good overview of the updated Esri training program and vector tile basemaps, respectively. Esri’s vector basemap editor looks to be an efficient way to make and propagate changes to vector tiles. Esri gave ample credit to Mapbox for originating the vector tiles approach they use.

Jeremy Hurlbutt of the Town of the La Plata, Maryland updated the group on the town’s progress toward updating its zoning maps and implementing an open data portal. The town has been devoting a lot of effort to improving the quality of its zoning data prior to standing up its portal. As a member of the Maryland Council on Open Data, I’m pleased to see the open data culture taking root at all levels of government in Maryland.

Finally, Thea Aldrich of LocationTech gave the group an overview of open-source geospatial initiatives available through the Eclipse Foundation. There was a quick overview of potential open-source licensing issues as well as projects such as GeoGig and GeoTrellis. There is clearly more education needed in our region about open-source and open-source licenses. Even organizations that plan to stay with Esri may find themselves considering other open-source tools, such as databases or programming libraries, and understanding of how modern open-source works will be essential.