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Patrick Meier: Integrating Geo-Data with Social Media Improves Situational Awareness During Disasters
A new data-driven study on the flooding of River Elbe in 2013 (one of the most severe floods ever recorded in Germany) shows that geo-data can enhance the process of extracting relevant information from social media during disasters. The authors use “specific geographical features like hydrological data and digital elevation models to prioritize crisis-relevant twitter messages.” The results demonstrate that an “approach based on geographical relations can enhance information extraction from volunteered geographic information,” which is “valuable for both crisis response and preventive flood monitoring.” These conclusions thus support a number of earlier studies that show the added value of data integration. This analysis also confirms several other key assumptions, which are important for crisis computing and disaster response.
The first version of the Humanitarian UAV Network’s Crisis Map of UAV/aerial videos is now live on the Network’s website. The crowdsourced map features dozens of aerial videos of recent disasters. Like social media, this new medium—user-generated (aerial) content—can be used by humanitarian organizations to complement their damage assessments and thus improve situational awareness.
The purpose of this Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) map is not only to provide humanitarian organizations and disaster-affected communities with an online repository of aerial information on disaster damage to augment their situational awareness; this crisis map also serves to raise awareness on how to safely & responsibly use small UAVs for rapid damage assessments. This explains why users who upload new content to the map must confirm that they have read the UAViator‘s Code of Conduct. They also have to confirm that the videos conform to the Network’s mission and that they do not violate privacy or copyrights. In sum, the map seeks to crowdsource both aerial footage and critical thinking for the responsible use of UAVs in humanitarian settings.
“What if, to solve our problems, we simply need to rise above them?” CartONG and France’s OpenStreetMap (OSM) community recently teamed up to support OSM Haiti’s disaster risk reduction efforts by deploying a small UAV, “which proved very useful for participatory mapping.” The video documentary below provides an excellent summary of this humanitarian UAV mission which took place just a few weeks ago.
As I noted in this earlier blog post on grassroots UAVs, the use of UAVs at the community level can be viewed as an extension of community and participatory mapping, which is why community engagement is pivotal for humanitarian UAV deployments. In many ways, a micro-UAV can actually bring a community together; can catalyze conversations & participation, which should be taken as more than simply a positive externality. Public Participatory GIS Projects (PPGIS) have long been used as a means to catalyze community conversations and even conflict resolution and mediation. So one should not overlook the positive uses of UAVs as a way to convene a community. Indeed, as CartONG and partners rightly note in the above video documentary, “The UAV is the uniting tool that brings the community together.”
byon June 23, 2014
The current Iraq crisis began in early June, when the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which already controls parts of Syria, seized much of northern Iraq, including the major city of Mosul. The conflict has roots in Iraq’s complicated history, its religious and ethnic divisions, and of course in the Iraq War that began with the 2003 US-led invasion. These 27 maps are a rough guide to today’s crisis and the deeper forces behind it.
Patrick Meier: Zoomanitarians – Using Citizen Science and Next Generation Satellites to Accelerate Disaster Damage Assessments
Zoomanitarians has been in the works for well over a year, so we’re excited to be going fully public for the first time. Zoomanitarians is a joint initiative between Zooniverse (Brook Simmons), Planet Labs (Alex Bakir) and myself at QCRI. The purpose of Zoomanitarians is to accelerate disaster damage assessments by leveraging Planet Labs’ unique constellation of 28 satellites and Zooniverse’s highly scalable microtasking platform. As I noted in this earlier post, digital volunteers from Zooniverse tagged well over 2 million satellite images (of Mars, below) in just 48 hours. So why not invite Zooniverse volunteers to tag millions of images taken by Planet Labs after major disasters to help humanitarians accelerate their damage assessments?
Mini-Me: GoogleMaps Add Elevation — Good-Bye National Geospatial Agency? Can Tiling Extend to All-Source Data M4IS2/OSE?
Google, the world’s largest internet search operator, is bringing one of the most useful features to bikers using its Google Maps service. While cycling can be fun, sometimes an arbitrary hill climb can be a challenging task. But it appears that Google has finally come up with a fix for that, not essentially helping you get the bike to the top of the hill, but by showing an upcoming elevation in Google Maps’ bike routes. The app now features elevation statistics to help bikers tackle steep hills.
Google did not officially announce the feature but confirmed to TechCrunch that the addition is indeed new to Maps. The Mountain View, California based tech giant has offered GPS functionality for bikers for few years now, but helped not more than being a map.
Bikers can simple select a bike route on the map and Google will find the directions for the destination. Following the update, information showing an elevation and descent will populate. In addition to the graphical representation of the hill, Google also displays a card to show the number of feet a biker must climb before reaching the top and descend through the other side.
Google will not display any elevation statistics when bikers are riding on flat roads. Google also confirmed to the tech blog that the new feature is available in all 14 countries where the biking directions are available on Maps, including Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden and the US.
Google has been updating its mapping service quite frequently, of late. Earlier this month, the web giant added offline support for Google Maps, integrated Uber taxi service, improved local business search and more. These changes show how badly Google wants to stay ahead of its rivals, such as Nokia and Apple. The addition of more features to make the service useful for end users is surely an added advantage.