This guest submission by Chris Brown, CEO of MangoMap, takes a look at how open data and online GIS publication platforms empower individuals to create Hurricane Sandy maps.
As Hurricane Sandy began bearing down on the eastern seaboard of the U.S this weekend the National Hurricane Center were busy making updates to its predictions for the hurricanes path and releasing that data via its website as static map images and shapefiles.
As expected, the hurricane data was quickly being downloaded by the major news networks and hurriedly turned into info-graphics for the 24 hour news networks.
What really caught my attention though, were the interactive web maps published often within hours or minutes of a National Hurricane Center data update. These maps weren’t being published by international news networks, but by individuals wanting to tell the story themselves. What was even more amazing was that in some cases these maps were beating the international new networks to the punch and quickly propagating across social networks.
Hurricane Sandy Maps by Individuals
These maps in many cases were more informative and accessible than those created by the National Hurricane Center and stand as testament to the power of open data. We saw maps that showed the predicted path of the storm and a map entitled “Could Hurricane Sandy be New York’s Fukushima ?” went even further showing the storms predicted path along with storm surge risk assessments and the position of nuclear power facilities.
Other maps were took a more localised approach, displaying data that was of use to individuals in a particular location. One such map showed New York’s flood risk zones, whilst another displayed New York city evacuation zones.
Of course the big guns also got in on the act and we saw Esri release a public information map and Google add Hurricane Sandy to its crisis map, but the real story here is about the little guys and how now thanks to free web mapping tools like MangoMap & GeoCommons, individuals armed with easily accessible open data and no programming skills can literally publish informative interactive web maps during their lunch break and then send them out to the world via social networks.
This new era of web mapping, with its low barriers to entry truly excites me. There’s some amazing innovation currently taking place in this space and I predict that we are going to see web maps fueled by simple online GIS publication platforms and open data play a much greater role in the social media world as a whole from now on.
About the author
Chris Brown is the Founder & CEO of MangoMap. Chris is an internet startup entrepreneur that loves maps! He resides in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with his wife and two young children, where in addition to MangoMap he contributes to the countries burgeoning tech scene by supporting the local HackerSpace and Barcamp.