Not long ago, Geographic Information Systems referred to a series of colored dots and splotches on Mylar sheets that could be laid over a map of a region to depict elements of the region, display relationships and predict effects, such as traffic bottlenecks likely to occur from adding homes in one site or a shopping center in another.
Digital technology has advanced GIS imaging to generate real-time models for identifying actions and effects in multiple dimensions. It’s not unlike the step-up in visual imagery from 2-D to advanced 3-D, with a GIS having significantly more values in the data points to create what can amount to 4-D representation.
One group of software developers based on Maui is taking a lead in pushing the envelope to utilize GIS in multi-dimensional analysis. It’s because International Underwater Explorations LLC operates in the multi-dimensional environment of the ocean.
The ocean is a massive environment of constantly flowing fluid masses differentiated by depth, temperature, pressure gradients, direction and force. GIS analysis of the ocean entails acquisition of volumes of data, which requires systems to sort, establish relevance and translate.
For IUE President Joe Breman, it means there are opportunities for his company, combining expertise in ocean systems and information processing, to develop applications not limited to ocean systems but a GIS capability that extends to defense, energy, and conservation.
One such opportunity is a current contract to develop applications for the Navy to better access data that’s being collected by military and civilian agencies, including satellite imagery of weather systems collected by NASA, surface wind-swell-temperature data transmitted from NOAA buoys and ocean terrain data being developed by Google Earth.
“There are all kinds of devices in and above the ocean to collect data,” Breman said. “We are developing better ways to communicate that data so it can be useful to the Navy.”
There are other examples. When the Deep Horizon oil rig exploded off the Louisiana coast, IUE formulated a model of the Gulf of Mexico charting contours of the ocean bottom and compiling layers of data on currents, ocean surface movements, water temperature gradients and wind patterns to provide an analysis of the movement of the oil spilling from the blown well. The prototype was developed for CEROS, the Defense Advanced Research Agency program based in Hawaii to support Department of Defense needs for technology development in ocean science.
“We developed high resolution images of areas of the sea floor where it appeared that the oil would become a hazard,” he said.
Applications developed for ocean modeling are intended to provide decision support with projections and options in dealing with potential effects of an action. But IUE’s specialization in GIS modeling provides information technology assistance that extends well beyond applications for military analysis and disaster response. Breman said one reason for locating on Maui is the potential for developing renewable energy systems – if for no other reason than that the high cost of fossil fuels burned in Hawaii sets up the Islands as prime proving grounds for renewable technologies.
In analyzing feasibility of renewable technologies, multi-dimensional GIS modeling will be a major tool.
“Hawaii is among the states with the highest reliance on fossil fuels. We consume the most energy from fossil fuels at the highest cost. But Hawaii has the most renewable energy resources — wind, solar, ocean thermal and waves, geothermal,” he said. “There is a great reason for Hawaii to develop those resources.”
IUE already has contracted to develop wind and terrain analysis for a wind farm on Maui, to establish the optimum location for each turbine and for the placement of power lines.
The company’s data on the ocean bottom around the islands can be used in developing undersea power cables, while its capabilities create opportunities for energy generation from ocean thermal and wave energy projects. GIS analysis also will be useful for siting and positioning solar generators, for identifying the most efficient alignments for transmission lines as new generating resources are installed and for analysis of agricultural fields for biofuel crops.
Breman’s interest in energy efficiencies are a factor in a related program involving geospatial analysis, but on a small scale — to develop smart grid systems within structures including homes, and businesses.
IUE handles a Geo-Smart Grid software system that provides real-time data on energy consumption of components in a building to allow the owner to control, monitor and manage electricity use. In time, Breman sees IUE expanding its services to developing applications for utilizing multi-dimensional data sets, and Internet based web services, whether in the ocean, on land or in the atmosphere.
Expansion won’t necessarily be limited to Hawaii, although finding qualified personnel in Hawaii would be ideal. As IUE grows, he expects to recruit additional staff with programming skills and related capabilities in computer engineering and software development.
As with other software development operations, location doesn’t determine what work can be performed nor do individuals collaborating on a project need to be in proximity – as long as there are robust, reliable broadband links. New hires will be based on skill sets rather than location. IUE staff currently live in Denver, Oahu and the Maui operations are divided between offices in Wailuku and Haiku.
What makes Maui attractive – besides the appeal of being close to the ocean for Breman, whose career began as a diver conducting underwater archeological excavations – is the support systems. He said the Small Business Development Center, Maui County Business Resource Center and Maui Economic Development Board provided support and resources to set up IUE. Being on Maui, IUE also qualifies as a HUB Zone small business – an SBA designation that gives IUE priority consideration in contracting opportunities.
Maui also is a great place to raise his family, Breman says.