How 2012 Could Shape the Future of Geospatial Technology

The geospatial profession, especially those with interest in LIDAR and laser scanning, may look back on 2012 as a pivotal time for market growth.

This year was historic for MAPPS, the national association for private sector geospatial firms. While celebrating its 30th anniversary, MAPPS has seen markets and technologies change and expand over the past three decades, but the mission of the organization has remained constant — to advocate for private sector geospatial firms.

Congress this year took a major step in recognizing the significant benefit investment in geospatial can provide to Federal agencies and the citizenship. In July, President Obama signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), creating a demand for mapping data. This was a comprehensive legislative package that bundled highway, flood mapping, gulf coast restoration and student loan reform. Three of the four sections of this bill have a direct affect on the geospatial profession.

MAPPS was successful in advocating for substantial provisions that will be beneficial to the private geospatial market. One of the most significant provisions initiated by MAPPS was in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) national flood insurance program (NFIP). There are two provisions that will create a greater demand for elevation data and funding for agency programs.

Section100216 directs FEMA to use the most up-to-date geospatial technologies to assess the accuracy of current ground elevation data for hydrologic and hydraulic modeling of flooding areas. This section also mandates that FEMA use the most accurate topography and elevation data available.

In addition, Congress has authorized the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Corps of Engineers (USACE) and other Federal agencies to work together to ensure that flood risk determination data and geospatial data budgets are coordinated among the agencies and with state and local government.

This is significant for the geospatial community as it directs, for the first time, agencies to pool resources to collect elevation data. This mandate preceded a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Geospatial Information: OMB and Agencies Need to Make Coordination a Priority to Reduce Duplication, released in November. GAO concluded that while OMB has established policies and procedures for coordinating geospatial activities between federal agencies, this has not been effectively implemented. MAP-21 and the findings of the GAO highlight the need for greater coordination of geospatial programs, an issue that MAPPS has advocated for many years and is addressed in legislation introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the Map It Once-Use It Many Times Act, H.R. 4233.

Looking to the future, MAPPS will continue to highlight the need for coordinated geospatial activities in order to create ongoing, sustainable programs. The New Year will provide economic challenges, such as the impending introduction of unmanned aerial systems into U.S. airspace by commercial firms. However, new technologies and new ways of thinking provide opportunities for the geospatial community to showcase the benefits coordinated investments can provide to the citizens of the United States.

About the Author

Nick Palatiello

Nick Palatiello... is the assistant executive director for external affairs at MAPPS, where he oversees and supervises all communications with outside audiences. He also serves as the manager of state chapters; over sees the day-to-day operations of chapters and assists in the development of new chapters.
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