What is the Security Risk of Publishing Your Floor Plans?

 If you look at the profiles of attackers over the past 10 years in the United States, all of these people have been intimately familiar with the facilities they are attacking.  They don’t need the floor plans to execute their attacks.  They already know the buildings.  The people that really need the floor plans are the Public Safety community.  Locking up the floor plans is an easy answer.  In my view it is also the wrong answer.

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Facilities Information Infrastructure (FII) Revisited

In 2009, I first wrote a blog post about Facilities Information Infrastructure (FII).  Re-reading that post this week has prompted me to write about the concept again as the principles are as true today as they were a half-decade ago.

Our experience of the last six years supporting clients in the effective management and protection of their facilities has made clear to me that Facilities Information Infrastructure (FII) gets at a core challenge that virtually every one of our clients faces - managing and relating a variety of information about their facilities.   Data management is not new, shiny, or sexy.  But no matter what industry or what problem we try to address, the issue is essentially the same - ”you can’t manage what you can’t measure or see”.  And measurement and management are all critically dependent on sound data management.

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What is Your Innovation Strategy?

Taken together, there is a significant amount of change coming our way in the next 18 months or so and many of the changes will enable us to create new applications, new delivery models, and new business models that incorporate GIS. As I left California my mind was reeling with all of the new and varied tools that we will have available to us to build compelling solutions for our customers.
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GIS for Facility Management - Uses of GIS in Facility Management

As GIS is becoming more widely used inside buildings, facility managers are applying the insights gained from spatial data infrastructures to the spaces inside buildings. There are framework levels inside the building, just as there are framework levels at the landscape level, such as roads and parcels. A few examples of framework layers inside a building include floor levels, walls, windows, doors and the spaces that are defined by architectural structures.
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GIS for Facility Management - Introduction

We have been honored to be asked by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) to write a white paper entitled "GIS for Facility Management". This is the second chapter in the series.   A full copy of the paper can be downloaded from the IFMA web site.   We would like to thank Manhattan Software and ESRI for their support of the white paper.

Chapter 2 - Introduction

Our world is growing smaller by the day and, as a result, business processes that just a few decades ago involved only a relatively small business footprint now span campus, regional and national borders. This phenomenon is increasingly evident in the realm of facility management. Yet the tools and applications that professional facility managers use to manage buildings, capital assets, maintenance, infrastructure – and a dizzying array of business processes – were not designed to be truly scalable. Thus, these tools and applications are not ideally suited to meet the requirements for managing broadly geographically dispersed portfolios of physical assets and business processes.

Out of necessity, the facility management application industry has adopted architectural floor plans as the common denominator for viewing the built environment. This is understandable because architectural floor plans, and by extension, computer aided design (CAD), historically represented the only media available for understanding and interacting with buildings and their contents and associated workflows. The progression from hand-drawn floor plans to CAD drawings, and now building information models (BIM), is essentially a progression from single floor plate views to whole building representations. To be truly effective across geographies the tools used to manage these distributed and disparate assets and workflows need to be able to scale far beyond individual buildings and individual site maps.

CAD was conceived as a set of tools and applications for design and construction. By contrast, geographic information systems (GIS) were conceived of and developed as a technology for managing information related to entities across the landscape. The value proposition for utilizing GIS for facility management business processes is not as a replacement for CAD and other enterprise facility management applications, like integrated workplace management systems (IWMS). The true value of GIS to facility management is as a complementary technology that, when integrated with the myriad facility management technologies and applications already in use, provides much greater benefits than the sum of its parts.

While CAD traditionally was concerned only with buildings and building interiors, GIS focused on what is referred to as the landscape or exterior environment. Neither technology crosses the boundary of the other, yet business processes do not have such artificial boundaries. There are many examples where facility management processes cross these boundaries:
• Utilities – Power and water would not be of much use if they stopped at the outside of the building.
• Maintenance management – Maintenance workflows require work both inside and outside buildings and across the entire supply chain.

Before GIS, there has not been a single technology that provides a holistic view and supports integrated workflows that place the material components of these workflows into their real world, landscape-level context both inside and outside the built environment. Only GIS can do this effectively because it is the only technology that has the ability to scale across any expanse, from the individual asset within a building to a virtually global context. This is not to say that GIS can replace CAD and, more importantly,
BIM. When a workflow calls for interaction with extremely detailed construction and engineering information within a structure, these tools are by far the appropriate choice and can be accessed (integrated) from the GIS, similar to any other application. When the workflow calls for managing assets simultaneously inside and outside of the built structure, GIS is the only option for a
foundation technology platform that seamlessly provides “world-to-the-widget” scalability.


GIS for Facility Management - Executive Summary

Geographic information systems (GIS) are one technology that has many practical uses for facility managers. A GIS is a system that allows one to view, understand, question, interpret and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports and charts. A GIS can be used by facility managers for space management, visualization and planning, and emergency and disaster planning and response, as well as many other applications.
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The Value of Face to Face Communication

People do business with people that they know, like, and trust. I know of no better way to build trust with another person than to spend time with them in their own environment. Anthony Bourdaine likes to say that the best way to build understanding is to share a meal with someone. I can't disagree. And understanding is critical to any relationship - business or otherwise. If we want to deliver truly compelling solutions for our customers, then we must clearly understand their problems from their own perspective.
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We Need More Woman Engineers

On my ride home from Orono yesterday I couldn't get the difficult questions out of my mind. Why is it that so few women consider engineering as a profession that they would find exciting and rewarding? How is it that American society has lost its inspiration and drive to lead the world in engineering excellence. In my mind, America could do with a lot fewer lawyers and bankers and a lot more engineers. How do we turn this tide and convince my daughter's generation that they should consider engineering as a viable career path? One of the things that Tom Peters is continually ranting about is how America is disastrously myopic in our inability to tap the creative genius of women in our society. This trend is at its absolute worst in the engineering community. Help me out here... how do we change current perceptions and inspire a new generation of women engineers?
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Thoughts on GITA 2010

I spent most of last week in Phoenix at the GITA conference. I had never spent any time in Phoenix before other than the airport so it was interesting to get a little bit of a fell for that city. I was fortunate to be able to give a presentation on Building a Facilities Information Infrastructure to Support Public Safety. Both the presentation and the paper are available on the PenBay Solutions Web Site.
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GIS Complements BIM for Facilities Management

We are writing a white paper about GIS for Facilities Management that should be released at some point in the April time frame. Over the weekend, I was working on a section about the relationship between GIS and BIM in this context. I would really like to get your feedback on whether this perspective makes sense to you. Please let me know your thoughts.
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PenBay Solutions Launches New Web Site

Today we launched our new web site at PenBay Solutions. The new site has been re-designed from top to bottom to more clearly describe our capabilities related to Facilities Information Infrastructure and Enterprise GIS.
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LiDAR is Changing the Worlds of 3D Measurement and Modeling

Nothing like spending four days with a bunch of really smart engineers to give me a little humility and to remind me again just how little I really know about the world.  The SPAR conference is an annual conference focused on 3D imaging technologies.  (For an excellent post on what LiDAR is and how it can be used see Matt Ball's excellent post in Spatial Sustain)   This year the US event (there is one in Japan as well) was held in The Woodlands (just north of Houston) Texas.  Attendance was up this year to around 775 which is a record for this event.  Around 20% of the attendees were from outside the US, I met many from Europe but there were a number from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, and other Pacific rim countries.

Mobile mapping LiDAR on display. Cost - $300K - $750KWhat impressed me most about the SPAR conference is how rapidly the industry is changing, and what a dramatic impact the technology of 3D imaging based on LiDAR is having on the worlds of 3D measurement and modeling.  This is game-changing technology.  If I were in the traditional surveying business, I would be very nervous.

So, what is it about this technology that gives it the potential to revolutionize the market for spatial measurement?  I think that there are several factors:


  1. You can collect a LOT of data with LiDAR very rapidly.  By mounting the collectors or airborne platforms on ground-based mobile platforms, you can collect a vast number of measurements (many billions of points) in hours.  The vehicle-mounted platforms are capable of collecting very accurate data at highway speeds.
  2. The sensors are capable of amazing accuracy.  Some of the systems being shown at SPAR are capable of measurements to tenths or even hundredths of a millimeter.  While it is not possible (or necessary) to get this kind of accuracy from a mobile platform, for some kinds of applications (forensic investigations, historic documentation, etc.) it is now possible to create 3D models that were previously only fantasy.
  3. The technology is very expensive.  You have to have some deep pockets to play in this game.  Table stakes is somewhere in the order of $250,000 and it goes up quickly from there.  The technology is also changing very rapidly.  I spoke to several folks active in the field that reported that the useful life of a sensor is about 18 months.  After that point, new sensors have made the equipment you own obsolete.


I believe that the combination of these three factors is going to drive significant consolidation in the survey industry in the coming decade.  Gone are the days when you could purchase a $1,500 theodolite and expect that investment to last 5-10 years.  New business models will be necessary to enable the new technology.  Given the economics of the technology, it will be only the larger businesses that have the capital resources necessary to play.

For those of us that consume spatial data, there is amazing opportunity unfolding before us.  In our own business, the ability to collect 3D LiDAR of the insides of buildings from mobile platforms represents a tremendous leap in our ability to model the built environment.  Suddenly it becomes economically viable to create Building Information Models (BIM) for existing buildings - at least at a level that is suitable for facilities maintenance and operations.  In the fullness of time, these capabilities will have the same effect on the in-building measurement industry that terrestrial LiDAR is having on the survey industry.  In the brave new world, a simple 2D CAD floor plan pulled together with a $500 hand-held will not deliver kinds of 3D, semantically-rich information that will increasingly be demanded by more sophisticated building owners and operators.  The Public Safety community will expect maps of building interiors and our underground environments to support their planning, analysis, response, and mitigation work flows.

The next few years are going to be very exciting.  Do these new technologies represent threats or opportunities?  Yes. 


Review of ESRI GeoDesign Summit

I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity this week to attend the ESRI GeoDesign Summit in Redlands, California.  In attendance were about 150 amazing people from academia, non-government organizations and commercial businesses.  I'm not sure exactly what the distribution of participants was, but it felt like probably the majority were from academia.  I found this refreshing as I don't often get to spend time with many academics.

The event was hosted in the new headquarters building on the ESRI campus.New ESRI Headquarters  It is a truly beautiful building and a wonderful space for the exchange of ideas with a group this size.  The schedule was divided into three basic experiences.  The first three presentations in the morning were half hour sessions that allowed the presenter to get into some depth in their chosen subject.  These were followed by a series of "Lightning Talks" - presentations of under 10 minutes - during which time the presenter could give a quick outline of their ideas.  The afternoons were spent in breakout sessions where communities of interest discussed topics including Sketching Inference and Feedback, GeoDesign in Urban Areas, The Role of 3D in GeoDesign and several others.  I attended the session on GeoDesign in Architecture Focusing on BIM.  Regular breaks were scheduled to allow participants to mingle and network.

Given the agenda, there were lots more presentations than I have the energy to review in this space, but the highlights for me were these:

Tom Fisher - Dean of the College of Design, University of Minnesota

Tom opened the conference by presenting a pretty sobering assessment of the current state of our planet and our impact on it.  His logic was compelling - if a little frightening - and left me with a sense of urgency that we must take some pretty dramatic action soon or the consequences for our little world may be dire.

Michael Goodchild - Professor of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara

 Mike laid out a vision whereby GIS analysis could iteratively provide feedback to sketched ideas and help us to realize a new chapter in Ian McHarg's vision of designing with nature.

Juan Carlos Vargas-Moreno - MIT

Juan Carlos described a very interesting participatory land planning project conducted in Costa Rica where local residents participated in a cooperative exercise in land planning for their region.

Brian Lee - University of Kentucky 

Brian challenged us to develop more interactive user interfaces to support land use planning processes.

Carl Steinitz - Harvard Graduate School of Design

Carl presented a fascinating talk on a wide variety of design processes with examples of how each had been applied to specific land use planning challenges.  For me, this presentation really helped me think about the design process in a much broader and more flexible way.

Bran Ferren - Chief Creative Officer, Applied Minds, Inc.

Without a doubt, Bran delivered the most compelling presentation of the entire event.  He laid out a vision whereby GeoDesign can become a new medium through which we can better communicate.  In Bran's vision, GeoDesign can enable us to better tell humanity's story.  It can help us to tell the story of our past and how we have come to be who we are.  It can help us tell the story of the present and how our behavior is affecting each other and our environment.  Most importantly, GeoDesign can help us to tell stories of alternative futures and can help us to intentionally imagine and create a preferable future.

I hope that Bran's vision is correct.  I am grateful to Jack for his vision and leadership in cultivating what may become a new movement.  It will be exciting to see where the path leads. 

Happy New Year!

Wow!  What a time the first decade of the century was.  As we look ahead, I am filled with great hope and anticipation of the road ahead.  There is certainly no end to the compelling work that needs to be done and lots of new adventures to be taken.  I hope that our paths will cross in the months and years ahead.

Here's to a bright and prosperous future.

Happy New Year!