Aerial view of downtown Chicago at dusk, looking west.

Understanding How to Capture the World in Context

This blog in an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent pocket guide, Geospatial Analysis: Breaking Down What You Need to Know. Download the full guide here

When trying to answer critical mission-need questions or build new applications, organizations are faced with the challenge of making sense of all of their data. They likely have information distributed across disparate data silos that tend to be rigid and tailored for specific uses. And, even within data silos, information is often disjointed and devoid of meaning.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the public sector. Most government agencies have been using geospatial tools and analysis for decades. But what they’ve been doing with those tools is capturing static objects and static location – like developing maps to capture roads, building footprints, location of citizens and more.

Today, most government agencies have to deal with new data sources that are coming to them almost daily – social media, open data, sensor data, military intelligence or data from a sister agency. And the biggest challenge? Currently, the constant stream of data the government is receiving doesn’t fit in current geospatial tools. Geospatial tools were designed to mostly deal with static and tangible map features – not to provide situational awareness of the latest information, across all the real-time data sources they are receiving.

“The challenge the public sector faces is they need to constantly update their maps and capture all their unstructured information and documents in a variety of systems, and then they have to manually correlate the information by hand,” said Dr. Idriss Mekrez, Chief Technology Officer, Public Sector, MarkLogic. “So this is where having a 360 degree view of all your data comes to play.”

The public sector needs a “360” degree view all data – persons, places, events or things that are important to its mission – everything from citizens, patients, finances, battlefield resources, oil wells – the list is endless. In order to obtain a complete view of all data, you need a platform that can integrate all data from various silos. That’s where the MarkLogic Geo360 solution, which offers a complete view of your geospatial data in context, comes in.

“With the Geo360 solution, a government agency will be able to capture and secure geospatial information coming from multiple sources, and show the information in all its richness, within a single geospatial view,” Mekrez said. “So people are able to not only look at the location but also directly access documents, and have all the historical context that is associated with that information.”

Here’s how it works. The Geo360 solution is a high-fidelity data-integration approach capable of modeling complex, real-time geographic information domains such as human geography, structured observation management, damage assessment and disaster recovery. The solution uses a flexible data model approach to store, enhance, analyze and disseminate dynamic geospatial features and things of life (i.e., “objects”). It places geography in context by answering who, what when and where.

With the Geo360 solution, a geospatial feature is combined with an object or entity – which means users can have multiple views of the geospatial data. For example, a “feature” such as the U.S. Capitol can be viewed as three objects: a building, a tourist attraction and the seat of the U.S. Congress. Additionally, a geographic location can be viewed as multiple points, lines or polygons. In current relational GIS databases, multiple locations need to be stored separately as features in the database, while objects, attributes, values and metadata are stored in multiple files in one or more different systems, buried in numerous documents. But with MarkLogic, all the information is stored in one database.

Mekrez gave an example: “Say you are a first responder, and there is a fire or an earthquake affecting a large building. It may have collapsed, or caught fire. When you arrive on location, and look at your typical mapping software that government agencies are using, you may only have the address, and maybe the footprint of the building.”

When looking at the same location using the Geo360 solution, however, first responders can see more than just the address and footprint of a building – a list of tenants, blueprints and floor plans of the building can be attached to a location. First responders could quickly come to the conclusion that within the building they have 20 tenants, and they could see on which level each tenant is located, and the quickest route to get to each person safely. Having all information within one screen allows a better response to the emergency.

“And if there is conflicting information, all information can be displayed to them, securely with all the sourcing information, allowing them to make better decisions,” Mekrez said.

Making quicker and well-informed decisions with a full view of all of the information you collect is what MarkLogic is all about. Their solutions deliver an accurate representation of the real world, with increased trust and security, allowing analysts to directly capture and relate their geographic knowledge on one platform.

“We are helping the public sector better understand and capture the world in context to improve government services and national security,” Mekrez said. “And it all starts with better geospatial intelligence.”

Download the full guide here

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