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Spring 2006
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Global Mapping of Security Concerns

Delivering Geographically Enhanced Security Services with GIS

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Visitors to the Web site for the Security Alert Service see an overview map showing the day's security alerts across the globe.

Bombs, political unrest, disease, natural disasters, riots, and violence are all things that concern international travelers. The world is an increasingly tumultuous place, and there is a distinct need to be ever more vigilant and prudent when traveling abroad. Indeed, travel is a geographically intensive undertaking that consumes the time and resources of businesses, individuals, and governments alike. Recognizing that travelers have complex safety and security needs, International SOS provides products and services to disseminate information about security risks and concerns to clients. It provides medical assistance, international health care, security services, and outsourced customer care. With 4,000 professionals operating in 60 countries, International SOS (U.S. offices: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Houston, Texas) helps organizations manage the health and safety risks facing their travelers, global workforce, and customers. It offers corporate and individual assistance memberships, managed health care solutions, remote-site medical and security services, international clinics, specialized assistance programs, and patient support services.

While traveling abroad, people need access to in-depth information about security and health events that might impact their travel. Travelers need this information to make informed decisions about their own safety and the safety of their colleagues or family. To meet this need, the company's Security Alert Service e-mails alerts to more than 17,000 recipients worldwide, with summarized information about security concerns and links to detailed analysis of each security concern. Members of the International SOS community range from large businesses with hundreds of employees dispatched worldwide to individuals and families traveling for leisure. The common problem that ties this disparate group of travelers together is that they all need security information that is geographically relevant to their travel plans.

Simply put, the where part of the Security Alert Service is first and foremost important in the minds of users. Recognizing this, the company decided that GIS played an important role in providing good information display for users so that international travelers would be able to see security concerns on a map, rather than scroll through a list of dozens of security alarms on any given day. The company envisioned that a businessperson in Bangkok would be able to use a map and zoom to the security concerns of the Thai capital, and a honeymooning couple in Istanbul would be able to zoom in and check for security concerns in their Turkish destination.

To enable mapping features for users, the firm sought a lightweight and easily integrated solution that presented users with a static map in e-mail communications and an interactive map on their Web site. Based on its experience with Web services, public safety, and Web-based software development, Esri Business Partner Avencia Incorporated (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was selected to leverage ArcWeb Services. By using ArcWeb Services, International SOS was able to deploy the application quickly and without investment in server-side technologies. In addition, it was able to immediately access Esri's worldwide spatial database, including satellite and aerial imagery as well as a global gazetteer of five million place-names, without having to invest resources in gathering or purchasing basemap data. With Avencia's assistance, the mapping interface was developed and integrated into the existing Security Alert product Web site.

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Each security event requires valid latitude and longitude coordinates.

Today, users receive e-mails with embedded maps showing the locations of security concerns; visitors to the global security Web site can browse an interactive map and drill down to see the location of security concerns.

Marc Kaelin, director of Technology and Operations at International SOS Online, says, "Enabling users to explore security concerns in a mapping interface engages them in being proactive about their security and helps our company deliver valuable information in a cost-effective way."

In addition to the mapping Web service, the company has two administrative tools that support the Security Alert product behind the scenes. The first, the Global Place Finder, enables security analysts to type in a city or location and determine latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates for the location. These coordinates are in turn stored in the Security Alert database so they can be used to generate maps with alerts in the appropriate geographic locations. A second administrative tool monitors use of the Web site and tracks the number of ArcWeb Services requests.

International SOS' goal has been to incorporate advanced GIS technology into its products and services. Kaelin says, "We are constantly striving to leverage the best Web technologies to serve the growing needs of our business and leisure travel clients. We are excited to have so seamlessly incorporated mapping with our Security Alert product, and we are looking forward to further leveraging Web-based mapping technologies."

For more information, contact David Cameron, vice president of Security Services, International SOS (tel.: 215-942-8000, e-mail: david.cameron@internationalsos.com, Web: www.internationalsos.com), or Bradley Breuer, Avencia (tel.: 215-701-7712, e-mail: bradley@avencia.com).

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