Archive for June, 2010

Depiction and Field Day

Saturday was Field Day for amateur radio operators, and a few enterprising hams put Depiction to good use in visualizing their contacts. Thanks to Dale, KB5NFT and Kevin, N5KRG for sending this along. Did anyone else use Depiction on Field Day?

Field Day Logs

Hospital & Healthcare Emergency Management Webinar

July 1, we’re teaming up with Ric Skinner, the editor of GIS in Hospital and Healthcare Emergency Management, to present a webinar for hospital and health care emergency managers, “Preparing for the Unexpected Disaster“. Details and registration available here.

A large part of the Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) carried out by hospitals and healthcare organizations focuses on events that have a “geographic” attribute — whether the events are external or internal, where the facility is located, where the event occurs, how to move people/supplies from where they are to where they need to be — all require actions for which “location” should be considered in your decisions.

Join Ric Skinner, GISP* as he co-presents a webinar with the folks at Depiction to learn how Geographic Information System (GIS) technology can be used to help you “think spatially, decide visually, act wisely, and be satisfied” that you’ve satisfactorily planned for, prepared for, responded to, and recovered from many of the hazard events that your facility may be exposed to.

Take a course in Depiction

Want to become a Depiction expert? Edmonds Community College, located in Edmonds, Washington, just north of Seattle, is offering an eight-week online course entitled “Mapping and Data Analysis” as a part of their certificate in emergency management program. The course will be taught by our own Kim Buike, and will go into detail on using Depiction for emergency planning, exercises and response. This is an affordable way to become highly skilled in the software, while getting college credit. Because the course is online, all out of state tuition fees are waived–so you can take this course from anywhere in the United States!

If you want to learn more about the course, contact the good folks at the Edmonds Community College emergency management department.

APRS Live now available!

We’re excited to announce today our first third party add-on–APRS Live. APRS Live is an add-on for Depiction that enables amateur radio users take real time data received by a radio using the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS), and bring it in to Depiction, combining it with all the maps, data, simulations and imagery you have combined there. Because the APRS data is all being received by radio, this can all be done offline!

Here are a few key paragraphs from our news release this morning:

“Depiction is a powerful tool for the integration of multiple types of data, including images, spreadsheets and GIS files,” noted the add-on’s creator, Brian Smucker. “The ability to receive APRS data in real time via radio, and to visualize it using the advanced tools that Depiction provides is a powerful new capability. Now hams can do things that used to only be available to big corporations and large government agencies.”

APRS Live is the first Depiction add-on built by a third party. “We are very excited about APRS Live, both because it provides our customers with exciting new capabilities, and because it is the beginning of what we expect to be a wide range of third-party products that work with Depiction,” said Depiction, Inc. President and founder Mike Geertsen.

APRS is a digital communications protocol for exchanging data between multiple radio stations across a region, including position information, telemetry, weather data, short text messages and more. APRS is used by amateur radio users for position tracking, gaining situational awareness during emergencies, coordinating large-scale public service events such as bike races and marathons and more.

The add-on allows APRS packet information received by a radio and transmitted to a computer using a terminal node controller (TNC) connected to a serial port to be displayed within Depiction as simulation elements. For example, search and rescue workers can be tracked alongside a simulation of an eight-foot storm surge, or bike race volunteers can be tracked along race maps. APRS Live also enables the sending of short APRS messages from within Depiction.

APRS Live data within Depiction

User-submitted public service depiction available for download

Last weekend, Depiction user Dennis Conklin, AI8P, coordinated 45 amateur radio users running communications for the Tour de Cure fundraiser event south of Cleveland. Dennis then submitted his depiction to us, and we’ve placed it for preview and download on the Depiction Downloads page, as a great example of a how Depiction can be used during such public service events.

Here’s what Dennis had to say about the event in our forum:

This is a very complex biking event which features a 100K ride, a 50K Difficult ride, a 50K Moderate ride, and a 25K ride. The starts are staggered so that most rides are completed near the same time. This means that 4 rides are ongoing simultaneously. There are about 50 stations on the various routes which are manned by Amateur radio operators. We ran 2 separate nets and I used custom icons to code each station for which net it was on. Some parts of some routes overlay, but generally there are several different routes that have to be tracked and the first rider and last rider need to be identified for each. I have worked the Net Control for this event for several years, and I never really felt that I had the level of Situational Awareness that I desired. This year I had everything mapped in depiction and I was much more aware of exactly was going on and what the implications were. I was able to immediately know when stations could be closed. Also, I could mark each station as INACTIVE when it closed, which was a great visual feedback on the status.

Many people came by and were impressed by the zoomable map and the ability to display street names or aerial photography….

A fabulous advantage – terrific Situational Awareness was achieved by using depiction.

Dennis also writes, “I couldn’t even spell GIS before I got your program, so you can certainly make the point that a non-GIS person can do substantial work with your program.” That’s what we like to hear!

And he’s has been busy recently–he’s only had the software for a couple months, but he’s already made a presentation to his local ARES group about the software.

If you’d like to submit your own depiction to be profiled on our Downloads page, just click here!

A Few Case Studies

We’ve recently put together a set of case studies to show how different folks across the country are using Depiction. A couple of these are repackaged versions of stories that have been told before:

The other two are more recent, though regular readers of this blog will remember them.

  • Michael Craig, an emergency management consultant with PEMSTAR has used Depiction in numerous activities, ranging from maitaining situational awareness during “Snowmageddon” to playing “what if” with the attempted Times Square Bombing to determining needed road closures and evacuations after a tanker trailer overturned.
  • But Depiction is useful for more than just emergency management! The YMCA of Snohomish County used Depiction to compile and examine data needed for their 2010-2030 Capital Expansion Plan

Would you like to be featured in a Depiction case study? Or perhaps you would like higher quality PDFs of these case studies to print out and distribute? Drop us a line either here or at our website.

Depiction at SEA-PAC

George at SEA-PACWe had a great time at the SEA-PAC amateur radio convention this weekend. We met a great many fantastic new users, reconnected with some longtime friends of Depiction, and met quite a few folks who aren’t users yet, but who will be soon!

One of the highlights of the convention, for me, anyway, was the presentation by Gary Takis, K7GJT/NNN0KUL, about using Depiction with the Winlink2000 system. This is a fantastic way to extend the collaboration capabilities of Depiction, and I’m very pleased that Gary has made his presentationavailable to download.

We also made a special announcement at SEA-PAC, that I’m not going to share online just yet–but stay tuned!

“My neighborhood is wrong!”

Depiction uses OpenStreetMap as one of its key resources–a free, editable street map of the entire world. Usually, OSM is perfectly adequate–and often, it’s far superior to anything else available. Every once in a while, though, a user discovers that their neighborhood is missing or incorrect. That’s what happened to a Depiction user named Brett, who had exactly the right response–he created an account on OpenStreetMap.org, and updated his neighborhood information, improving the map for everyone who uses Depiction and/or OpenStreetMap. Thanks, Brett!

Headed to SEA-PAC

Tomorrow morning we head down to Seaside, Oregon for SEA-PAC, the largest amateur radio convention in the Northwest. On Saturday, I’ll be giving a presentation on Depiction–doing a general overview for folks who have never seen it before, going over some of the latest features of the software for those who haven’t seen it recently, as well as sharing stories from amateur radio operators across the country who are bringing Depiction into emergency operations centers as an emcomm tool. I’ll also be joined by Gary Takis, K7GJT, who will demonstrate using Depiction with the Winlink2000/Paclink system. There will also be a special announcement made at the convention.

I enjoy going to these amateur radio conventions, largely because it is very exciting to be able to provide cutting edge technology–with capabilities typically reserved for professionals working for large organizations–to everyday folks who care about their communities.

If you’re attending, be sure to stop by our booth!

…and a Yahoo group!

After our earlier post about our new LinkedIn Depiction User group, we were reminded that, months ago, a Yahoo group was started especially for Depiction users involved in Emergency Management and Emergency Communications, but it was never really publicized. So, better late than never–if you do Emergency Management or EmComm work, hop on over and join up!