Posts Tagged ‘GIS’

Using the PortGIS Program to Explore the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan (NEVP)

November 9, 2010

At The Port of San Diego, like all public agencies, have hot button issues. The North Embarcadero Visionary Plan (NEVP) is currently our most contentious issue. On August 2, 2010, the These Days program on KPBS radio broadcasted a lively discussion between Irene McCormack of the Port District of San Diego and Don Wood of the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition on the future of “San Diego’s Front Porch.”

Most of the topics discussed were location/geography-based including view corridors down Broadway, overlapping plans for development, and ideas for land use changes on other Port properties. I recorded a video using our internal PortGIS Program, available to all Port employees on Port computers, with the objective of giving a geographic perspective to complement the dialog. The primary goal of this blog is to educate Port employees on the use of our internal PortGIS Program so they can make informed decisions. By utilizing tools, such as GIS, Port employees strive to be as effective, efficient and accurate as possible. This conversation gives us the opportunity to showcase these tools as they relate to NEVP and similar concepts should be used by Port decision makers across the Tidelands.

Click on the image below to watch the video. The video has audio.

If the video isn’t playing click the link below to watch it at

We really have a beautiful resource in the North Embarcadero. I think Don Wood said it best- “It has the potential to be one of the most iconic waterfronts in the United States and in the world if we do it right.” We hope the PortGIS Program will play a role in helping us “do it right.”

KPBS’s coverage

SocialNetworksRTakingOverOurLives Zen


Human Computer Interaction and GIS Book Now Available

May 24, 2010

A while back we were contacted by Dr. Muki Haklay about including an image from this blog in his upcoming book, Interacting with Geospatial Technologies. Of course we jumped at the chance to be included in a project of this caliber and importance.

The book focuses upon the intersection between the disciplines of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and GIS. I have only read the first chapter, Human-computer interaction and geospatial technologies-context (detailed review to follow) and I find it particularly fitting as my career evolves from a GIS Desktop user into the realm of web development. I suspect many of our careers, like everything else, is moving toward the web. Many of us are no longer GIS Desktop end users focused upon the creation of static PDFs or paper mediums. We are now web developers, and have to take into account all the factors which can make sharing GIS in this new and dynamic medium successful.

Some of these factors include our users’ technological aptitude, hardware platform, ergonomics and the most intuitive and advantageous way to present our specific type of data. Of course we still need to account for our traditional responsibilities  regarding projections, coordinate systems, subtypes, metadata, data formats and most importantly, license management.

Interacting with Geospatial Technologies at Amazon

Dr. Muki Haklay’s personal blog

Previous %scratchworkspace% blog post about this project

Nasa’sOilSpillGallery unZen

Utilizing the Building Interior Space Data Model at the Unified Port of San Diego

May 6, 2010

First let me introduce myself, I am Brian Mehl, a GIS volunteer intern at the GIS department working since February this year.  This internship fulfills my work experience course GISG 270 for San Diego Mesa College’s GIS Specialist Certificate program, and I expect to complete this certificate next month.  I am excited to be working at the Port with such knowledgeable persons as Malcolm Meikle and Ari Isaak.

The primary task I’ve been working on is taking existing Port CAD drawings of their buildings, such as the eight floor Administration Building on Pacific Highway, and converting these engineering drawings into a ArcGIS personal geodatabase utilizing the ArcGIS Building Interior Space Data Model (BISDM).  ArcGIS data models provide a geodatabase template for importing the data model as a template on which to base a geodatabase, and the BISDM allows a fast start by setting up the feature classes and datasets in a schema or plan, with the real data coming from the Port’s existing CAD drawings.

So why create a geodatabase using the BISDM?  A GIS-based data model will allow the Port to manage and report on the interior spaces of its buildings.  This will provide a basic structure to support a number of different perspectives on buildings – such as architecture, construction, landscape-level planning, facilities management, environmental management, and security/emergency preparedness.  The BISDM database I am working on will benefit the following Port of San Diego departments (at a minimum): Audit, Risk Management and Safety; Engineering – Construction; Environmental Services;  Harbor Police; Information Technology; Land Use Planning; and Real Estate.

Hopefully this introduction will provide you a quick glimpse into my work here at the Port, but I  will get into the geodatabase building process on my next posting.  But to give you an idea of the task at hand, I am working from 19 CAD drawings and have spent 60+ hours so far.  For more information about ESRI’s ArcGIS datamodels, here is a free online course you can take, and a link where you can download the BISDM model among others.

Introduction to ArcGIS Data Models

ArcGIS Data Models

Creating a Tree Inventory Using ArcGIS Server and Google Streetview

March 22, 2010

The benefits of trees cannot be overstated. They provide numerous financial, health and quality of life benefits for our community. The well-being of our urban forest at the Port of San Diego is one of the key resources we manage. The PortGIS Program attempts to identify resources which are advantageous to represent spatially. By placing utilities, proposed projects, the Port Master Plan, the 2010 Tidelands Mapbook, aerial photos and our tree locations within one spatial context we empower our Port employees to make  informed decisions by driving an enterprise-wide common operating picture.  Plans for future development will account for our urban forest resources from the outset if they are included in the primary set of guiding factors. It is much more costly and less likely to occur if urban forestry management is left to expensive last-minute change orders.

Much of the Port Tidelands can be seen through Google Streetview. Some find this disconcerting and an invasion of privacy, but Google Streetview is an invaluable and (IMHO) underutilized tool for creating and managing GIS Data. It can save substantial time and monies by moving expensive field work to the desktop. Managers can easily implement quality control measures by reviewing decisions made in the field by lesser experienced personnel in real-time. Real functionality comes from combining  Google Streetview images and GIS data housed in a Relational Database Management System. This PortGIS Tree Inventory tool is a departure from our other web applications in that it empowers end users to change GIS data. Our other tools are read only.

Below is a video showing how to use this tool.

Beware- GIS Dork Out Session below

From a technical GIS/database/developer perspective, this project started out as a proof of concept. Our goal was to enable our non GIS professionals to easily create, edit and manage a discrete set of GIS data through the web. In order to do this the data needed to versioned and housed within an SDE database. We also wanted to enable security, and grant permissions through Active Directory, so only certain Port employees are able to make changes. Our goals are to continue to build on this functionality and to expand the capabilities of the PortGIS Program. We would like to take this data into the field to collect more information, i.e., standard breast height of our trees and/or take pictures of the trees using a connected handheld device. Taking the PortGIS program mobile will enable us to offer real-time GIS data management to our non-GIS professionals where and when it is most convenient. This way they can use GIS as a tool which complements their primary focus of writing leases, creating architectural renderings, fixing electrical conduits, or making our urban forest as healthy, financially viable and beautiful as possible.

MyFavoritePicOfMy3MonthOldDaughter Zen

Introducing the PortGIS Present Conditions Web Application

October 30, 2009

The new web application PortGIS Present Conditions takes the most valuable aspects of PortGIS Utilities and builds upon them. With this iteration, our view broadens beyond our utilities infrastructure to gain full comprehension of our surroundings as they currently exist. This new web application brings with it a few enhancements, the largest being the integration of new, more accurate reference points to our engineering drawings. RH, as an intern in the Engineering and Construction department, spent many painstaking hours opening scanned record drawings, identifying the location where the majority of work took place, and creating point(s) so we can quickly and easily access them via a map. The PortGIS Present Conditions web application also brings direct access to these drawings, via a clear and organized structure. If you know the IMP site and the record drawing number, you can get to these drawings directly without finding them in the map. Below is a video where I go through accessing these drawings.

CurrentlyBoomingFromGISTeamCubes Zen

The Port of Los Angeles GIS Request For Proposals

February 18, 2009

As San Diegans we sometimes view Los Angeles as a bigger, more pushy, older brother. We are buffered by Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, Anza-Borrego National Park and Camp Pendleton on the south, west, east and north, respectively. These buffers will keep San Diego a unique destination for residents and vacationers alike. This being said, we should do everything we can to learn from our larger neighbors.

The Port of Los Angeles (POLA) has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for GIS Consulting Services for their Harbor Police Department. A consultant will be selected around May 2009. As you might imagine, at the Port of San Diego GIS department, we are very interested in their choices and progress. They are working hard to accomplish many goals similar to ours. Not only are we in the same industry, but we both work with similar environmental laws, financial constraints and weather which effect the state of California and our region.

For Example, both Ports are working to bring Engineering drawings into GIS to be shared with their respective Harbor Police Departments. If you are a regular reader of %scratchworkspace%, you are familiar with the Port of San Diego GIS departments work with Jerry Wallenborn from Halcrow to bring our utilities data (currently only accessible through our engineers, surveyors and architects) and project closeout PDFs to every internal computer at the Port of San Diego, including the Mobile Data Computers (MDCs) in the patrol cars.

Much of the funding for these types of endeavors comes through the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP). We are classified as a Group 2 Port, while the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together are classified in Group 1. Under this program, they receive about 10 times the funding we do.

Before the RFP was released in December, POLA released a GIS Strategy Project, written by NorthSouth GIS LLC, which detailed specific steps to bring a world class GIS program to the POLA Port Police and POLA as a whole. This 67-page document was very well thought out and in-tune with today’s thinking in the GIS, Information Services (IS) and IT communities. This document details required skills for positions to fill, how to leverage current systems, what type of servers to purchase, software vendors to use and a myriad of other strategy implementation specifics. I found myself saying “right on” out-loud more than once while reading this document. Many of these concepts directly apply to our GIS goals at the Port of San Diego. Below are some of the quotes I circled.

From POLA Port Police GIS Strategy Project (January 2008)
Executive Summary p4
“Accurate, timely and complete geographic information improves emergency response time: The primary need for GIS within Port Police is to provide accurate and timely information to officers in the office and in the field. GIS should help answer key questions of: “Where am I?”, “How do I gain access to this facility?”, “Who is the tenant and how do I make contact?”, or “Are there hazardous materials or circumstances at this location that I should be aware of?” GIS reduces the time needed to respond to a call for service.”

Needs Assessment- Systems Integration- Software Applications p12
“GIS implementation often relies heavily on a GIS analyst to provide products (typically maps and reports) on behalf of clients, which becomes a bottleneck in operations. The judicious building of a specific software application that provides specific search query and analysis tools, coupled with customized reports and map templates, can deliver powerful capabilities directly to users. This not only removes the human bottleneck, but permits users to make many more requests than would be feasible through a human agent, and in police work this can be a crucial freedom.”

Recommendations – A Vision P14
“Successful GIS implementation at Port Police will not be possible without senior management commitment to the project, including acceptance of the proposed strategy supported by way of financial investment and commitment to the proposed organizational structure.”

Recommendations –Implementation-Create a training program p17
“While GIS implementation is focused on data, it is possible for most Port Police to “experience” GIS through other systems that consume this data, like CAD. Similarly, if most applications development is Web based, then very limited training may need to be provided.”

Recommendations-Infrastructure-Software Applications-Support COTS First, Provide Access Second, Custom Applications Last p35
“CAD/RMS and Integrated Command are examples of systems already being funded, which rely on GIS data. It would be a missed opportunity to let the vendors provide their own data, in a manner that would not benefit the broader GIS effort. Conversely, this could be an opportunity to push GIS development forward (and get funding), and also to be in the driver’s seat for the data that will be provided to those systems.”

Recommendations-Software Applications-Prioritize Applications that Benefit Most from Spatial Analysis and Integration p37
“GIS is a technology capable of managing and displaying geographic information, but also of analyzing this information and integrating it with other systems and types of information. Whilst GIS is most critical in the initial phase for supplying up-to-date data to other systems, such as CAD/RMS and Integrated Command Console, over time GIS will find utility in supplying capabilities that other systems are incapable of supplying. One of GIS’s particular strengths is in bringing together data that would be difficult or impossible to integrate, by using the spatial element of the data. It will be at this stage that GIS will gain particular visibility at Port Police – until then it may be limited to a supporting role.”

Interview Summaries w/ Director of Real Estate p61
“It is perceived there is a need for a GIS division within the Harbor Department.”

From POLA Port Police GIS Consulting Services RFP (December 2008)
Project Description-Project Goals and Objectives p8
“The Port Police desires that a number of data sources external to the Harbor Department be able to “stream” data into its GIS, and into other systems, such as the Integrated Command Console. Such data sources include a variety of vehicle, vessel, and cargo tracking systems. The Port Police seeks to leverage Services Oriented Architecture (SOA), so that the data streams are able to be “plugged into” a variety of client applications. To easily accomplish such use of these data streams, an architecture should be designed that permits different data streams types to be funneled into a uniform format that can then be consumed by any system capable of understanding such data streams.”

We have been in contact with POLA’s Project Manager for the POLA RFP. She has kept us informed of her progress and we are excited to follow, learn and collaborate.

If you would like to view these documents you can borrow the hard copy I have printed out for my files or click the links below. They have also been uploaded into our Docs Management System at the Document Numbers below.

Display Options and Using Tasks

September 17, 2008

I had a little impromptu meeting with LJJ, of Harbor Police, and TW of Dispatch yesterday. LJJ mentioned that any GIS developed by the Port is going to be measured against Google Earth (GE). I think we can all agree that typing in an address and looking for directions is much more pleasant in GE than in most professional GIS systems out there. Searching for directions from one address to another in the ArcGIS desktop suite is cumbersome. ESRI knows this and has created ArcGIS Explorer (AGX). AGX looks and functions much like GE, but it allows us to point to our own internal server and use both ESRI proprietary data formats and non-proprietary formats. In many ways AGX exceeds the capabilities of GE. I created a basic video showing the display options and how to use Tasks in our Port GIS.

One last point, based on the number of acronyms I used in the last paragraph I am going to start keeping a list of their relevance in DM (Docs #315612). Please leave comments if you have problems accessing this list.

Some freestyle horse zen

Application of GIS Technologies in Port Facilities and Operations

September 10, 2008

From the American Society of Civil Engineers:
Application of GIS Technologies in Port Facilities and Operations Management discusses the recent advances in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technologies for port professionals. This committee report identifies effective GIS techniques for the management of complex port and harbor infrastructure and discusses in-depth the capabilities, requirements, and limitations of available GIS applications. It also provides useful GIS database techniques and software integration tips, an overview and discussion of GIS data types and map projections, and several case studies focusing on facility and operations management.

I think most of us would much rather learn from others’ experiences than try to reinvent the wheel. I ran across this book a while ago. We shortly thereafter purchased a copy of it through the IT department. It is a very short book (82 pages) which has made the rounds through Malcolm M, Richard M, Adolfo S, and Bill H, and the engineering department has recently purchased their own copy. It is a valuable book, and I suggest everyone interested take the opportunity to flip through it. It probably has at least a few pages which deal directly with your department, and it presents GIS from a Port industry perspective. For example: Engineering may be particularly interested in different types of standards used in integrate AutoCAD and GIS, while directors of various departments might be interested in the Return On Investment (ROI) section, and Environmental might be interested in the water quality compliance case study at the Port of Virginia. Currently, I have a copy of the book if you would like to borrow it. I think Steve A has the other.

Click here for some GIS Zen. Try out the Enable Drill Down feature.