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Supporting Humanitarian Relief Logistics Operations
through Online Geocollaborative Knowledge Management
Brian M. Tomaszewski, Alan M. MacEachren, Scott Pezanowski, Xiaoyan Liu, and Ian Turton
Department of Geography and GeoVISTA Center
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802
(1+) 814-865-4448
{bmt139, maceachren, spezanowski, xiaoyan, ijt1} @psu.edu
ABSTRACT
Over the past two years, horrific disasters such as the Asian
Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the Pakistan Earthquake have
demonstrated the critical need for effective technological
infrastructure that is scientifically grounded in geo-visual group
interaction theory [1] and humanitarian knowledge management
procedures [2] to quickly and effectively facilitate planning for
predictable events and post-event response. In this demonstration,
we address specific issues that negatively impact the effectiveness
of geocollaborative process in disaster relief. These include lack
of common group operating picture, lack of command structure
understanding
and
blatant
miscommunication
and
misunderstanding about where relief supplies needed to be
delivered, who will deliver them, when they need to be delivered,
and the relevancy of deliveries to stricken areas. Our approach
improves on existing systems by using methods and technologies
that meet the challenges of coordinating the efforts of diverse and
spatially distributed private, public, and governmental agencies
throughout
the
world
responding
to
disasters.
This
is
accomplished by applying new forms of distributed geospatial
data, technology, and collaboration functionality. We present our
progress on the development of the Geocollaborative Web Portal
(GWP), an asynchronous, open source geospatial information
framework designed to support international group interaction and
knowledge management in the context of humanitarian relief
logistics.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
H.5.3 [
Information Interfaces and Presentation
]: Group and
Organization
Interfaces
Asynchronous
interaction,
Collaborative computing, Computer-supported cooperative work,
Web-based interaction.
General Terms
Management, Design, Experimentation, Human Factors
Keywords
Geocollaboration,
Asynchronous
Group
Work,
Logistics,
Humanitarian Relief, Open Source GIS, Web Portal, Dynamic
Web Map Services (WMS)/Web Feature Services (WFS)
Integration, Concept Maps
1. INTRODUCTION
The Geocollaborative Web Portal (GWP) application (Figure 1) is
designed to provide a common and intuitive interface through
which asynchronous, geocollaborative activities can be conducted
in support of humanitarian relief logistics operations. The GWP
extends
the
core
goals
of
the
GeoCollaborative
Crisis
Management (GCCM) project [3, this volume]. It does so by
providing specific functionality and tools within a web-based
environment that support situation assessment, positioning and
monitoring of field-teams and distribution sites, and supply
routing. Special emphasis is placed on supporting international
group
interaction
through
collaborative
annotation
and
visualization procedures, support for awareness of group
interactions, multi-lingual map feature labeling, and organization-
specific symbol sets to overcome communication barriers. In
addition to facilitating asynchronous group interaction, the GWP
enhances group knowledge development through the ability to
integrate external WMS and WFS geospatial resources into the
portal, access and author concept maps that represent operational
rules and command structures in intuitive ways, store and retrieve
file-based data resources such as site-imagery and documents, and
monitor real-time RSS and GeoRSS feeds of situation-relevant
information such as news and weather reports. While there has
been independent research on most of these capabilities in other
contexts, they have not (to our knowledge) been integrated
previously within web-map / web-feature services, nor are they
present in existing disaster systems.
2. ONLINE GEOCOLLABORATION
In our demonstration, we will focus on three components of
online, map-based collaboration. The first of these is the concept
of a
map session
where multiple users interact via a common web
map space over an extended period of time. The map within the
GWP uses the open-source MapBuilder API and JetSpeed Portal
engine. These open frameworks have allowed our research team
to develop scalable functionality and interface elements that can
easily accommodate dynamic collaborative processes such as
quickly adding or removing collaborators, tools and functionality
as the situation dictates. Single user and subsequent group
interaction is managed and persisted by GWP functionality. As
Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for
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requires prior specific permission and/or a fee.
The National Conference on Digital Government Research, dg.o2006
,
May 21–25, 2006, San Diego, CA, USA.
Copyright 2006 ACM 1-58113-000-0/00/0004…$5.00.
we will demonstrate, users have the option to be online at the
same time interacting in near real time, and they can leave and
return to sessions as needed, interacting asynchronously. GWP
functionality tracks and records user map interactions such as
panning, zooming, map extent, and annotation, and allows users
to see what map actions others users have done, and where they
have gone in both map space real world position (the latter
through display of GPS tracks). This provides users of the
application group with perceptual anchoring of actions taken by
other users. Second, we will demonstrate the suite of tools that are
available to individual users in the GWP. These tools allow users
to input a diverse range of geospatial data into the portal and
subsequently share it with other collaborators using a variety of
methods. Capabilities include real-time address geocoding, GPX
point and track parsing and rendering, geospatial image overlays,
and dynamic WMS/WFS data source integration. In this portion
of the demonstration, we will show how our underlying
visualization and annotation procedures supplement data additions
for an international audience through multi-lingual map feature
labeling, and organization-specific symbol sets, and work toward
overcoming issues of communication and understanding. Third,
we will demonstrate the GWP’s ability to integrate work with
concept maps as well as with geographic maps. We are using
concept maps to help collaborators structure knowledge about
relief logistics procedures, understand how responsibilities and
procedures for different organizations in a relief effort relate (or
should relate), and identify tools and data relevant to specific
situations.
Figure 1. GWP Architecture Overview
3. APPLICATION SCENARIO
We demonstrate the utility of the GWP using a crisis scenario that
illustrates how groups can collaborate to facilitate humanitarian
relief logistics operations. This scenario demonstrates the myriad
of geospatial, temporal, conceptual, and contextual issues and
variables involved with international collaboration for disaster
response, and how the GWP can overcome them. In order to
determine the effectiveness of the GWP in relation to user
interaction performance, we integrated the GWP with the
NeoCITIES [4] emergency management simulation application to
develop group bench-mark performance measures.
Sample Relief Logistics Scenario:
A massive Tsunami strikes a heavily populated, island city located
in the Pacific rim. The city had 6 hours to prepare for the impact.
The broad effects of this include the disabling of military,
government and civilian institutions and subsequent effects on
transportation and communication structures. Civilians are
evacuated to different parts of the island, and main sea and air
ports of entry to the island are damaged, along with the island’s
main highway. As the situation unfolds, the GWP is used as a
central online location for information sharing and reporting by
all parties involved in responding to the situation, and to
coordinate the development of the response logistics supply chain.
GWP functionality also allows for temporally and spatially
tracking situational urgency at various locations (lack of food,
medical supplies), coordinating efficient and relevant resource
allocation, enabling relocation of groups participating in the
response as the situation develops, and identifying issues that
arise from having a hierarchy of groups interacting with differing
institutional perspectives (for example, a government agency
won’t
share
information
with
an
NGO).
Concept
maps,
organization-specific
symbol
sets,
shared
map
annotation,
external information feeds, and multi-language tools facilitate
this collaboration in an international arena.
This scenario demonstrates how geocollaborative technologies,
coupled with effective, intuitive information sharing can bridge
potential language and cultural constraints between team
members and lead to coordinated perspectives through the
construction of team knowledge that can overcome issues inherent
in disaster response collaboration.
4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This work is supported by NSF Digital Government Research
program under grant no. NSF-EIA-0306845. We acknowledge
contributions
from
other
team
members,
namely
Marc
Friedenberg, Joaquin Obieta and Adrian Cox.
5. REFERENCES
[1] MacEachren, A. M. Moving geovisualization toward support
for group work. In J. Dykes & A. M.MacEachren & M.-J.
Kraak (Eds.),
Exploring Geovisualization
. Amsterdam:
Elsevier. (2005). pp. 445-461
[2] King, Dennis. Humanitarian Knowledge Management.
Proceedings of the Second International ISCRAM
Conference
. Brussels, Belgium. (2005). pp. 1-6
[3] MacEachren, A. M., McNeese, M., Cai, G., Fuhrmann, S., &
Sharma, R. in press, Project Highlight: GeoCollaborative
Crisis Management
. 7th Annual National Conference on
Digital Government Research
, San Diego, CA, May 21-24,
(2006).
[4] Michael D. McNeese, Priya Bains, Isaac Brewer, Cliff
Brown, Erik S. Connors, Tyrone Jefferson, Jr., Rashaad E.T.
Jones, and Ivanna Terrell. The Neocities Simulation:
Understanding The Design And Experimental Methodology
Used To Develop A Team Emergency Management
Simulation.
49th Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Conference
, Orlando. (2005).
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