Partners, Projects and Partnerships

A Pattern of Partnering
Members of the Edge Team have partnered with leading research agencies, local, state, and federal agencies and industry to accomplish a variety of forward-looking projects over the years, many of which have advanced into statewide and regional programs.

Partnering with industry
In 2005, Edge team members began a relationship with Google to develop a statewide visualization system for the State of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Homeland Security. The collaborative nature of the relationship produced many first-of-a-kind features for the users of the Virtual Alabama program. 3D models of building interior and exteriors are augmented with live video feed and rapid dissemination of after-incident damage imagery and delivery of full motion video with camera control—as well as other features—within the Google Earth environment.

Google, Inc. nominated by Gov. Bob Riley in 2008, won the National Governor’s Association Public/Private Partnership award for its collaborative work with the State of Alabama and the Virtual Alabama program. "It's an honor to be recognized by the National Governors Association for our partnership with Gov. Riley and the State of Alabama," said Michael T. Jones, chief technology advocate for Google. "Even more important, we are glad that Virtual Alabama has equipped first responders across Alabama with easy access to geospatial data that helps them safeguard the citizens of Alabama."

Today, as a result of the continuing relationship, many more states are building statewide visualization programs based on Google technology.

Partnering with Federal, State and Local Agencies
The EDGE Team leader served as the Principal Investigator for the Precision Agriculture Geospatial Training Program through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) and Auburn University. A unique hands-on, immersive training program was developed to train over 300 crop managers, farmers, and professionals in the agri-business how to use the geospatial technologies; specifically GIS, GPS, and Remote Sensing to manage the various challenges related to land use; and to conduct site specific management thus increasing the bottom line profit from their land. Partnerships were created with a cadre of GIS, GPS, and agriculture professionals and luminaries from academia, research institutions and industry to build and execute the new training paradigm. The Tennessee Valley Experiment Station and farm sites throughout the state provided the training venues to give the trainees the “real world—in the field” training experience needed to successfully adopt the technology.

One of the lessons learned through the training was that in order for wide spread adoption of the technology to take place, a more cost-effective means of getting the much-needed GPS correction signal to the various farms located throughout the state would be needed. This signal correction was critical to providing the accuracies required for precision ag practices such as auto-guidance for the tractor and variable-rate spray technologies. The team leader and USDA developed a strategic partnership between USDA, National Geodetic Survey (NGS), Auburn University, and NASA researchers to provide the correction signal from a central remote location (or continuously operating reference station - CORS) through wireless communications directly to the farm. Within a few months, the system was providing GPS correction data not only to the farming community but also to the surveying, engineering, and construction communities within a 50 mile range of the CORS station. The success of this effort provided the opportunity to develop a larger collaborative partnership with NGS, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Alabama Department of Transportation to build the statewide network of cooperative Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS). The initiative provides a consistent network of GPS correction signal to advanced the availability, timely distribution, and widespread use of GPS correction data and technology for practical applications across the State of Alabama.

Partnerships to protect our coastal areas
EDGE Team Members developed a strong collaborative partnership among the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Alabama State Port Authority, the Retirement System of Alabama (RSA), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), local government and private industry to build a forward-leaning, wide area, wireless infrastructure covering 900 square miles in and around Mobile Bay to support the Coastal Remote Monitoring System (CRMS). The network is optimized to transport full motion video and other sensor data from a series of pole mounted PTZ cameras and sensors at boat ramps and other critical observation points throughout the gulf coast areas of Alabama.

A distinguishing feature of the system is that multiple users from multiple agencies can use the same assets. Both new and legacy systems can be combined for better efficiency. Secure viewing, control and customization can be done from almost any Internet enabled computer, mobile data terminal, tablet, or smartphone any time from any where. The program acts as a force multiplier to greatly enhance DCNR’s ability to protect, monitor and enforce the natural resources and coastal habitat laws of the State of Alabama, as well as Port Security and Homeland Security.

Partnering to protect the Homeland
The EDGE Team Leader partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) to develop a national model for establishing a virtual common operations platform to facilitate the establishment of an interstate common operating picture and information sharing. The concept is known as “Virtual USA”. The Regional Operations Platform Pilot (ROPP) program sponsored by US DHS engaged 10 states in an effort to share interstate information sharing through visualizations in order to speed response and recovery efforts during natural or man-made incidents. Chris Johnson served as Committee Chair for the ROPP Technical Working Group


Chris Johnson, GISP
President, A Visual Edge, Inc.
1910 Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35816, USA

Chris Johnson is the President of A Visual Edge, Inc. She was formerly Senior Vice President of the Geospatial Training and Application Center (GTAC) at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama and was responsible for management and operations associated with GTAC and the Geospatial Technology programs. In 1999, Ms. Johnson helped found GTAC which was specifically designed to bridge the gap between the research/developers and end users in the areas of spatial technology research and product development. GTAC has led many technological developments in the state such as installation of a Statewide Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) network, Alabama’s Statewide Digital Orthophoto Fly Plan, Alabama Geospatial Strategic Plan, Coastal Remote Monitoring System and Virtual Alabama, a collaborative effort with Google.

She served as Principal Investigator for US Department of Agriculture, NASA, Department of the Army, Conservation and Natural Resources, Criminal Justice and Homeland Security grant programs. Ms. Johnson developed and implemented the concept for a common operation picture, called Virtual Alabama, which enables thousands of government officials in every Alabama county, encompassing over 1,450 various agencies, to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively while providing better security for the homeland. Ms. Johnson assisted officials in 30 states with seven states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Illinois, Maine, Hawaii, South Carolina and our nation’s capital) implementing common operating pictures based on the model. In December 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security took this prototype to the federal level in an initiative called Virtual USA to enhance interstate situational awareness and information sharing. Under Ms. Johnson’s direction, the Virtual Alabama program was recognized for 5 National Awards for technology innovation and was twice nominated for the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Institute’s Innovations in American Government Award. The awards include the National Governors’ Association 2008 Public/Private Partnership Award, the American Council for Technology 2008 Intergovernmental Solutions Award, the Google Superstar Award (first time ever awarded to a government agency), the Council of State Governments 2008 Innovations Award, and the Government Computer News Outstanding Information Technology Achievement in Government Award. In May 2009, Virtual Alabama was featured in a Gartner Research Case Study: How Alabama Dares to Defend Itself. In September 2010, Ms. Johnson was recognized by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) as a recipient of its first-ever State Technology Innovator Award.

Ms. Johnson has over 18 years of experience in systems design; systems development and testing; Geographic Information Systems (GIS) development; relational database systems development; Network engineering; Global Positioning Systems (GPS) development, Remote Sensing (RS), visualization and communications. Further, Ms. Johnson was a member of the National Guard Bureau Counter Drug Technology Consortium.