Geospatial Kickstarter Projects


Crowd-funding sites have allowed artists and individual entrepreneurs a footing to convert concepts into reality.  The Kickstarter site works by allowing individuals to post a project idea and solicit funds within a limited timeframe.  Investors can support a project they like in amounts as small as $1.  Funding levels are set up by the project initiator and each level has a return on the investment promised, usually in the form of some kind of product.  For example the low level investors may receive a postcard with the image of the finished project on it, while larger investors may actually receive a copy of the project.

Projects vary in their popularity among micro-investors.  Some projects receive funding well above the project goal, while others wither and close out the open investment period without meeting the goal. The site uses an “all-or-nothing” approach to fundraising.  Investors in submissions that don’t meet the project fundraising goals are refunded their money.

Finding geospatial projects is a bit of a challenge.  A search for “geographic information systems” reveals no results but the search term of “GIS” yields a host of non-geospatial related hits.  Searching for the term “geospatial” yielded only one unsuccessful project, GeoPhoto Tracker submitted by Peter Stratton which aimed to complete development on an “An easy to use windows app to help shutterbugs and geospatial professionals map and view their photos through a single shareable file.” “Cartography” yields only two results: one for a music project and a map project for fantasy maps for role-playing games.

The most interesting current geospatial project is SkyCube, a proposed nano-satellite by Tim DeBenedictis.  What is SkyCube? The nutshell version is:

A nano-satellite that lets you take Earth images and “tweet” from space, then inflates a visible balloon, and de-orbits cleanly.

Over 2,200 backs have pledged almost $100,000 to this project period which expires on September 12, 2012.  Even $1 investors are provided the opportunity to broadcast one 120 character message from space.  For $6, investors can broadcast six messages and request one image from space.  The top pledge category of $10,000 allows the investor operate the nano-satellite for one full day of the mission.  Sponsor messages will be pinged every ten seconds from space which can be detected by radio equipment; those sponsors in the $1,000 level or higher will be provided with free radio equipment.  Users with smartphone apps or access to the Internet via a web browser can accessed archived messages.

The nano-satellite is a 10x10x10 cm “1U” CubeSat which will capture low-resolution satellites and upload messages from sponsors.  The satellite is planned as a secondary payload on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2013.  Upon launch, the satellite will orbit for ninety days, capturing images of the earth and broadcasting the sponsor messages.  At the end of the ninety days, a ballon will be inflated and the satellite will descend back to earth after about three weeks.  The inflating of the balloon due to atmospheric drag will pull the satellite back in earth’s orbit and the project creators promise “a fiery “grand finale” that avoids any buildup of space debris.” More detail about the specifics of this project can be found on the SkyCube Kickstarter page.


 Three views of SkyCube: packed for launch, deploying solar panels, and operational in orbit.

Three views of SkyCube: packed for launch, deploying solar panels, and operational in orbit.

GIS Lounge has previously covered a couple of the early popular geospatial related projects from Kickstarter.

Dark Sky was one of the first geospatial projects covered in November of 2011 which featured a prototype for an app by Adam Grossman and Jack Turner to predict short-term localized weather events to let the user know whether it will rain or snow within the next hour. The project exceeded its goal of $35,000, raising $39,377 from 1,203 investors.  The app was completed and can now be downloaded from iTunes for iOS devices.

Dark Sky screen shot.

The Big Iron Map Project (featured in the Map as Art article) by artist Alisa Toninato was started to help her finish a map of the United States with the individual states formed out of shaped cast iron pans.  This project far exceeded the intial goal amount of $1,000 and eventually raised $5,656 from 216 investors.

Made in America by Alisa Toninato (progress shot). Media: cast iron, birch plywood, Poplar wood frame.

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