MITRE's Jay Crossler speaks to "Why Maps Matter"

March 17, 2014

People used to use maps so they wouldn't get lost. But in recent years, access to the Global Positioning System and the proliferation of mobile technology have made paper-based maps almost irrelevant.

As mapping technology advances, it allows for far more than foolproof directions. Federal agencies now use geospatial data, geo-analytics and multi-layered maps for myriad purposes, including gathering intelligence, predicting disease outbreaks and sharing data pools with the public.

Disaster response has also spurred geodata-based applications that any user with access to GitHub can download and run in the cloud for a few dollars. MITRE, developed GeoQ for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast in late 2012. The app allows analysts to compare real-time images after a disaster with existing satellite imagery to conduct damage assessments and provide other valuable information. It also provides a Rosetta Stone of sorts for geodata, allowing users to import, convert and combine virtually all the commonly used formats.

The app has thousands of federal users, 2,000 of whom used it during the Boulder, Colo., flooding in September 2013, said Jay Crossler, senior principal software engineer at MITRE. Yet anyone can download the code and run it on a virtualized machine in the cloud for about $14 a year.

"We've made it all available so that anyone can set it up," Crossler said.

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