Integrated tools support sharing of GIS data

Two companies have meshed their products and provided the integrated tools to the government for tests sharing sensitive geospatial data.

ESRI of Redlands, Calif., is contributing its ArcGIS software for geospatial information systems to the effort. Swan Island Networks Inc. of Portland, Ore., will provide security and digital rights management through its Swarm software. The integration should make it easier to distribute sensitive information on an as-needed basis without the owner giving up control.

"This allows organizations to be more confident and more likely to share," said Swan Island CEO Charles Jennings.

The engineering and development agreement is new, but the companies already have worked together on two government demonstration projects.

"We have working integrations," Jennings said.

Both companies took part in the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration in June, in which the departments of Defense and Homeland Security participated along with the National Guard, state and local governments, and a number of foreign governments. During JWID, the two companies provided GIS data sharing for DHS' Transportation Security Administration, linking 22 ports in the Columbia River Project along the Washington-Oregon border. They also are taking part in a similar DOD-funded program in Louisiana.

Geospatial information systems provide data linked to locations, often with a map interface that lets a user drill down to uncover information about a particular area. Agencies that maintain GISes have been restricting the online availability of some sensitive data in recent years. Making the data available to law enforcement and other public-safety agencies during emergencies is a challenge.

Swarm is information-sharing middleware that can create real-time alerts across organizational boundaries. It can extend emergency communications networks to desktop and notebook computers, personal digital assistants, cell phones and other mobile digital devices.

Wedding Swarm and ArcGIS enables secure distribution of needed GIS data to authorized users. The digital rights component of Swarm allows control over the access, distribution and use of the data after it has left an owner's hands. The data can be embargoed or set to expire after a certain length of time, and controls can be placed on printing, copying or further distribution.

Integrating the technologies for delivery of map-related information was not difficult, Jennings said. The real challenge was targeting the recipients of the data based on the location of real-time events being recorded in a GIS, so that first responders receive alerts about emergency situations in their immediate area.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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