High-Tech Mapping Protects G-8 Summit
An enhanced high-tech, collaborative mapping tool is helping law enforcement and emergency management officials better coordinate event and incident planning and real-time response.
In its most significant deployment to date, the Geographic Tool for Visualization and Collaboration (GTVC) developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), Atlanta, proved its usefulness during the G-8 Summit of world leaders at Sea Island, Ga., in June 2004. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), which is funding GTVC development and deployment, made the tool available to state and federal law enforcement agencies during the event to coordinate their combined resources and responses in real-time.
While extensive state planning and tight security prevented any significant law enforcement problems during the summit, GTVC’s developers and users were pleased with the enhanced system, which was originally developed for military use, says Kirk Pennywitt, a GTRI senior research engineer. After nine months of work by Pennywitt’s 10-member research team, GTVC provided many new features for its G-8 use — including maps with six-inch resolution for G-8 areas of interest. Researchers also boosted GTVC’s reliability and robustness, and added secure encryption for communications.
“GTVC proved to be an extremely useful tool,” says Ralph Reichert, director of GEMA’s Terrorism Emergency Preparedness and Response division. “Using GTVC, law enforcement teams were able to monitor and track activities in a manner that kept them one step ahead of protestors. Consequence-management staff also used the system to make sure key resources were available at the right place at the right time. Furthermore, and probably most importantly, command staff could immediately get a snapshot of what was going on without relying solely on traditional voice communications.”
Besides GEMA, other agencies using GTVC during the G-8 were the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Guard and the U.S. Secret Service. Users were able to share information simultaneously, keeping officials informed and coordinated, Pennywitt notes.
GTRI researchers provided technical support during the event, training users and configuring laptop computers for field agents. Researchers also demonstrated the system’s features, including high-resolution imagery available at 1-meter resolution for the entire state, and even higher resolution for certain areas. The maps scale with each view and maintain all the markings made on them electronically.
“The G-8 Summit was a good test, and it confirmed the system’s geographic-planning and information-sharing capabilities,” Pennywitt says.
He and his colleagues also derived numerous lessons learned from the G-8 experience. They are prioritizing work on 130 potential new features and requirements for the next version of GTVC software, including making network connectivity easier; creating better information reporting capabilities that include both icons and text or other details; implementing real-time GPS-based tracking of vehicles and personnel; and adding more powerful geographic search capabilities, such as showing all the hospitals within a 50-mile radius.
GTVC is constantly undergoing enhancements, and the technology has caught the attention of other key government programs. The system may lend its mapping capabilities to the Joint Regional Information Exchange System (JRIES) if it joins this partnership of law enforcement agencies. Through JRIES, officials can request information on suspects and/or events.
GEMA also uses GTVC for hurricane and flooding evacuation planning and for public event activity planning.
Pennywitt and his colleagues expect to deploy a new version of the GTVC software within the next year to support a statewide infrastructure for wider use.