OpenStreetMap – Project Haiti

We all followed the crisis that unfolded following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, many of us chose to donate money, a few were flown out and deployed as part of the relief effort. But what practical impact can many have without being there in Haiti itself? Well, during this crisis a remarkable story unfolded; of how people around the world could virtually collaborate and contribute to the on-the-ground operations.

With the heavily damaged or destroyed infrastructure, the situation was especially challenging for aid agencies arriving on the ground. Where are the areas most in need of assistance, how do we get there, where are people trapped under buildings, which roads are blocked? This information is essential to rescue and recovery efforts – and this “where” information is embodied in good map data. In many areas around the world, there is a lack of good mapping data and particularly after a crisis, when up-to-date information is critical to managing events as they evolve.

Enter OpenStreetMap, the wiki map of the world, CrisisMappers and an impromptu community of volunteers who collaborated to produce the most authoritative map of Haiti in existence. Within hours of the event people were adding detail to the map, but on January 14th high resolution sattelite imagery of Haiti was made freely available and the Crisis Mapping community were able to trace roads, damaged buildings, and enter camps of displaced people into OpenStreetMap.

The following video describes how they did it – at Where 2.0 2010: Jeffrey Johnson, John Crowley and Schuyler Erle, “Haiti: CrisisMapping…” present a remarkable story of GIS map volunteerism, coordination, and collaboration that saved lives on the ground:

Their presentation (~14min) describes OpenStreetMap, the workflow and data used to develop the crisis maps, how the maps were used, and includes an animation illustrates the rapid improvement of Haïti coverage in Openstreetmap following the January 2010 earthquake. Important questions are raised regarding sustainability of such efforts and a call for an Ethical Code of Conduct for OSM.

excerpts from itoworld

Is IT Suffocating GIS?

In an article “Why Geo Will Embrace The Cloud in 2010” in Direction MagazineBrian Timoney of the The Timoney Group looks at the emerging cloud computing arena and poises the question, fad or not? Putting that question aside for the moment, part of Brian’s article really struck a chord with me – “IT is suffocating GIS.” As a former statewide GIS coordinator, I’ve seen all too many enthusiastic GIS professionals sucked down this path. Brian articulates something rarely discussed – issues like burn-out in the long since changed role of GIS managers. Are we properly preparing GIS professionals for this aspect of their GIS career? Here is an excerpt of Brian’s article: Read more

New Product: Eye-Fi Geo

Eye-Fi has just released a new product that couldn’t help but catch my eye. The new Eye-Fi Geo is a “smart” SD card that includes wireless JPEG photo uploads to your computer (Windows or Mac) and geotagging. Geotagging is provided through Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS), which is different from Global Positioning System (GPS), and happens whenever you are in range of any wireless network, open or closed, private or public (according to the Eye-Fi website). Eye-Fi Geo is a new product available only at the Apple Store ($60USD). Though I haven’t tried it myself, the customer reviews seem a bit mixed. Definitely worth following this interesting technology.

Hold World Landmarks in Your Hands with ARSights & Google Earth

ARSights Using Google Earth
A while back I reported on virtual digital holograms, wondering when they would make their way into the mapping arena. Over the past year ARSights, a project by Inglobe Technologies, an italian company specialized in the development of Virtual and Augmented Reality applications, has been building a community-based collection of 3-d virtual models of landmarks all over the world. This fascinating use of the technology is focused on education. Imagine… your students fly to Europe, glide around Italy – looking at the topography of the country as they zoom into to Rome. Now they pick up the Colosseum to really examine it, turning it round and round to really examine what’s there. Requires Google Earth, a web cam, and the ARSights download.

Noel Jenkins of Digital Geography posts this YouTube video showing how things look:

According to the ARSights, there are over 400 contributors now who have started “to share interesting content from many parts of the world. You can take a look at new models mainly in the USA, South America and Europe. Among others, you will find many important landmarks, like for example the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Memorial, the “Fiscal Island” in Rio de Janeiro, the University City in Buenos Aires and il Ponte di Rialto in Venice.”

Ortelius Map Design Software for Mac: We’ve Launched!

A big thank-you to all of our testers and reviewers – we’ve made it! Check out our new web site for all the details on Ortelius, including a downloadable trial version. We’ll continue to add tips & tricks and screencasts to our web site to maintain it not only as our product site, but also as a rich educational resource for map making. To celebrate, we are offering an introductory special of $79 until September 30th. Development continues and we’d love to hear from you.

Maps Using Virtual Digital Holograms? It’s Only A Matter of Time.

I’m looking forward seeing the first mapping application using virtual digital holograms. What is a virtual digital hologram you ask? It is very cool technology that creates a 3-d image you can move around via tracking from your webcam. The best place to check it out is GE’s fantastic implementation Plug Into the Smart Grid.
GE Smart Grid Virtual Digital Hologram

Think of the pieces that might be used for a mapping implementation – it may be aerial photography, digital elevation models, Sketchup and other 3-d models of buildings and cities. And now FLARToolkit is available as a free non-commercial license to pull those pieces together to create virtual digital holograms viewable by anyone with a webcam, printer, and Internet connection. Due to the novelty aspect of the technology, its biggest potential may be its use for marketing, communication, and education campaigns. If you’ve seen mapping or other fun uses of this technology, please share them!

A Future Love Story

The e-book “Emotional Cartography” was recently mentioned on CartoTalk under interesting links. I thought it worth a quick glance, and got immediately drawn in by this short-story…

A Future Love Story, by Marcel van der Drift

Five stars. A perfect short-story for anyone interested in geo-locational/GPS/futurist technology, or just a fun read. I’m looking forward to reading some more.

Ortelius Will Be at AAG: You’re Invited to Learn More

Does your mapping software inspire creativity? Ortelius is a new breed of mapping software designed to make your mapping easy, fun and beautiful.

Come find out how Ortelius can help you create publication-quality maps without the high learning curve or costs associated with other software.

In this workshop we’ll introduce Ortelius and demonstrate its capabilities. Attendees will learn how to create custom maps from scratch and with templates. Learn about Ortelius’ robust tools and palettes, and how to create unique and inspiring symbols in a flash.

Attendees will receive a FREE Public Beta copy of the Ortelius software for evaluation. Come learn how Ortelius can work for you.
Location of the 2009 AAG Conference
Association of American Geographers
Workshop Details

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
March 25, 2009
Capri Meeting Room 108
Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas

Ortelius is Powerful Map Illustration Software for Mac OS X
Learn more at Using Free Zillow Neighborhood Boundary GIS Data

I’ve been very interested in the news stories I’ve read about neighborhood boundary data and its usefulness. About a year ago Adena Schutzberg, Directions Magazine, wrote about neighborhood data offereings and the announcement by that they would provide their neighborhood GIS shapefile data freely through a Creative Commons license. First of all, I am very interested to see the CC licensing being applied to geospatial data – this alone is worth following. And I applaud (which I love) for making their data available in this way. So I was really interested when I came across another very excellent site providing my home’s walkability score (which alas is moderately low) and my office (which is very highly walkable). is a site worth visiting. “Walk Score helps people find walkable places to live. Walk Score calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. Walk Score measures how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle—not how pretty the area is for walking.” The Walk Score algorithm awards points based on distances to the closest amenity in a number of categories. I especially love the heat maps showing the most walkable neighborhoods in the top 40 U.S. cities. And certainly turn around is fair play… Zillow is already leveraging the benefits of having made its neighborhood data available (in February, added WalkScore to each of their 87 million properties).