Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Today's Data Sharing-The Coast Guard's Enterprise Geographic Information System

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Mr. Pete Noy, Information Technology Specialist, U.S. Coast Guard Operations Systems Management Division, and CDR Joseph Sundland, Geospatial Management Officer, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Enterprise Architecture and Governance.

The U.S. Coast Guard collects and generates large amounts of information related to the people, vessels, and facilities it interacts with daily, ranging from law enforcement actions, to search and rescue activities, environmental response activities, and vessel or facility inspections. Often there is a common thread--the information has a unique geospatial component. As a result, it can be mapped for easier viewing and awareness.

Sharing this information poses the real challenge. For this, the Coast Guard relies on a geographic information system (GIS), an integrated collection of computer software and data used to view and manage information about geographic places, analyze spatial relationships, and model spatial processes. Simply put, this provides a way for a user to take data from a number of sources and generate a map that can be shared with other users.

USCG Enterprise Geographic Information System
The Coast Guard's Enterprise Geographic Information System (EGIS) arranges this information in a more user-friendly format, allowing the user to see the extent of a situation, such as an oil spill, and immediately identify Coast Guard assets for deployment. The system can also display SAR activities within a given sector and allow the user to access various Coast Guard systems of record to pull and display this information.

A key driver for the EGIS is the ability to ingest and share its large datasets and make them available to a broad range of users. For example, if a hurricane were forecast to impact an area, a user would be able to pull all facility information for a particular captain of the port and display this on a map. The user could then access the latest hurricane tracking information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website and overlay it to determine which facilities could be impacted, and plan accordingly.

Since the EGIS can share datasets within the Coast Guard and with external users, everyone can access the same information, which reduces duplication and potential errors.

Future Direction
At the time this article was written, the EGIS was undergoing a software rewrite to make it fully compliant with the current DHS Enterprise Architecture while offering a more positive and robust solution. Additionally, other Coast Guard programs have begun evaluating ways to share their own unique datasets. As a result, the Coast Guard established a Geospatial Management Office at its headquarters with an eye toward consolidating geospatial technologies across all Coast Guard programs.

For more information:
Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/summer2010.

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