The Globe and Mail has an interesting article today on a site called HealthMap, created by epidemiologists at the Children’s Hospital Boston which uses participatory GIS and other information mined from the Internet to quickly identify potential patterns of disease outbreaks. According to the HealthMap website partners and supporters include Google, NIH, CDC, Canadian Institute of Health Research, Wildlife Conservation Society, International Society for Disease Surveillance and International Society for Travel Medicine which make it quite a large undertaking. Their advanced search options are very robust including being able to turn on and off layers for news feeds for sources such as ProMed, types of diseases, locations, and dates.
That’s a great quote from Google Maps product manager Manik Gupta! What led him to say such a thing is that Google is now opening their map to user input. Users will be able to edit the map to make it better. They’ve already launched the tool in 183 countries who do not have an adequate abundance of “official” data. It’s like the world’s largest Participatory GIS project! If you want to get started editing, head over to Google’s Mapmaker tool and start adding information to Google Maps.
And if you’re curious who’s doing what, you can watch edits in real-ish time via their new Mapmaker Pulse tool. I gotta say, it’s fascinating to watch people digitize in real time around the globe!
I came across an interesting demo video on YouTube today for a web-based analytics tool named Bime. While I haven’t had a chance to sit down and delve into the web app it seems to offer quite a few geo friendly tools including recognizing geographic data and the ability to create visualizations for both exploring data and presenting your results. This video focuses on their heat and graduated symbol map output options.
There are many restaurant apps around that rely on users to input location on their locale or sites they visit to create a national or international database.
The most recent one I have found out about is The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood WATCH Project FishMap which asks users to share information on the locations of restaurants and markets for sustainable seafood. It provides seafood pictures and a list of seafood that is ocean friendly.
According to the Seafood WATCH website, they make
recommendations using science-based, peer reviewed, and ecosystem-based criteria. They state that “Since 1999, we’ve distributed tens of millions of pocket guides, our iPhone application has been downloaded more than 240,000 times, and we have close to 200 partners across North America, including the two largest food service companies in the U.S.”
The downloads and partners are important because voluntary apps are only as useful as the quantity of participants and quality/reliability of the information they enter.
Mapping social networks isn’t anything new, but I find this lovely map of Facebook users in the BBC to be incredibly striking. First, because it’s obviously beautiful. Second, because you can use it as a proxy for the digital divide. The map details connections between friends on Facebook with the bright points at the end being conjoined pairs of friends. The spidery lines are the connections between those pairs. It’s pretty striking that it creates a pretty good replica of a map of the Earth. However, there are clear missing points, most notably lower population and lower wealth places. China is the really interesting hole because of their restrictions and not because of wealth or population. It would be really interesting to look at a finer scale map with some demographic data on top of it. Are there places in even populated areas, such as the US, where Facebook just isn’t that popular?
Mashable (perhaps one of the cooler sites I visit each day) has a nifty story about an artist who drew Google Maps icons as if they existed in the real world. It’s rather interesting to think about these big push pins existing in real life, or a pop-up box over a building. Take away the surprised looking people and I think we’ll have a pretty good idea of what large scale augmented reality is likely to look in the near future.
Adam DuVander over at O’Reilly has written a decent summation article on the current state of mapping apis in the world. It’s a short read and highlights some issues, but I think the more important take-away is the lack of cross pollination between geographers and internet mappers. He doesn’t even discuss ESRI’s api, for instance, and it offers many of the capabilities for which Adam is asking. There’s simply too much stove piping between the ‘experts’, meaning traditional geospatial experts, and the ‘amateurs’, which are mostly people coming from more traditional computer backgrounds. Unfortuantely, I fear it might be on the shoulders of the geospatial experts to teach the rest that what we do is important and relevant. Otherwise we’re libel to see much re-inventing of our spatial wheels… except maybe with added spinners.
One of the fun things I get to do in prepping for my classes is getting to look at all the amazing video resources out on the interwebs for Geography and geospatial technologies. While putting together my Intro to Mapping lecture, I remembered this great 6-minute video introduction to the National Map, including a little bit about the history of the USGS’s role in mapping the US, how digital technologies are changing mapping, and the development of the National Map and its functionality. Even if you saw the video when it came out back in January, it’s still a great reference for what the National Map is all about.
While the King of Bing contest ended last week, there are lots of great map apps that you can now check out and play around with. This is the time to do so since the judging will be based on each map app’s use between August 1 through 15. Gizmodo, for instance, highlighted one of the apps which calculates your cab fare for you based on pick-up, time, and distance. Other apps offer parking locations, tourist info, and, my new favorite when traveling, GeoSalesTax
There are tons of other apps available that have either been submitted for the contest, by content partners, and by Bing itself. One of the newest Bing created apps (which just rolled out today) is an OSM map. For all these goodies and more (to come) head over to http://bing.com/maps/explore