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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Spatial models have often been constrained by political boundaries (i.e. vectors) like Census Tracts or Zip Codes. Dana Tomlin's Map Algebra exploded the notion of boundaries by employing raster-based Map Algebra, and since, GIS systems have utilized heat maps, 3D volume models (voxels), quadtrees, and other modeling and visualization options to look beyond sometimes artificial bounding boxes. Now comes, aboutPLACE, a newly released API allowing developers to leverage the notion that a "place" can be characterized by many variables and should not be confined by political structure and may indeed be amorphous.

Let's dig a little deeper. URBAN4M, the company behind aboutPLACE, has its roots in urban analytics and studied the systems that comprise an urban setting. These systems could be transportation, utilities, hospital, retail, etc. The result, according to CEO Hillit Meidar-Alfi, provided the company a more fundamental understanding of how cities function.

PLACES, in the vernacular of aboutPLACE, are "created by the existence and abundance of the user's selected criteria." These criteria may include demographics but it may also be characterized by say, the number of hotel rooms in a particular location, or the number of pediatricians. So, in theory and practice, the size of the PLACE varies depending on the criteria. PLACE is not defined as a boundary. The area of the PLACE can be an amorphous shape and may vary in extent depending on the application and the data applied to define it.

URBAN4M has aggregated or licensed data from many sources, both public and proprietary. The result is a catalog of over 400 end points that developers can access through the API. Each endpoint is an API element, a data feature like a hotel or the number of hotel rooms, and is represented true to their services. Context can be built and changed according to the needs of the user or purpose.

At this time, the aboutPLACE API is being released for three MSA's: Austin, Boston, and Miami with more metros coming soon. According to URBAN4M:

The API requires two quick inputs that capture your geographic area of interest and the list of criteria (services, amenities, demographics, etc.) that matter most to you or your business. The aboutPLACE API offers independent and relatable key deliverables, including PLACE (interactive map), Pulse (evaluates and compare PLACES), Quality of Life Index (measures walkability, safety, schools and public transit) and Vibe (captures the area's personality).

A developer using the API must decide the target audience for the application under development. If they are creating a mobile tourist application whereby the end user requires the location of a hotel or restaurant near 4th and Main, for example, then the developer may tap into specific variables and return the name of a hotel. If however, the application is for economic development, then the API may tap into more variables associated with 4th and Main and return an area that satisfies specific criteria, such as the number of hotel rooms in that area. In short, the PLACE doesn't change but the context of the application may. Choosing different variables from the API can be an exploratory way of finding the best park in an area, for example. Or, from a completely different perspective, a user may create a query such as "here is where I am now; tell me if this is the best place for a park."

Meidar-Alfi says she wanted to create a platform to look at location differently and as such allow developers to employ spatial models she's developed through the API. In the end, she believes, developers may derive different results to common location-based problems.

by Joe Francica on 10/12 at 10:00 PM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 10, 2014


Hidden STD Epidemic: Maps Show Infection Rates in 50 States by Live Science culls data and maps and infographics on the topic. Jezebel summarizes:

If you live in California, Texas, Michigan or New York, you probably know someone who has the clap. If you’re in Alaska, it wouldn't be unwise to just assume you have the clap.

The map at right shows chlamydia cases per 100,000 population.

NH Cancer Cluster?

Patrick D. Short, one of the residents, told the Swanzey Conservation Commission Monday night he has mapped about 50 cancer cases in humans and another 35 in household pets in and around the West Swanzey Road (Route 10) corridor from California Street south to the village of Westport.
Who Sleeps Most?
I was excited about this graphic that Jawbone shared after the recent California earthquake. I even noted it in my presentation to NEARC GIS Educators Conference last weekend. Now come more graphics from Jawbone: maps of when different areas go to bed and how much sleep they get. It's county level data, but only from 1 million people who wear the company's fitness tracker. 

Continue reading...

by Adena Schutzberg on 10/10 at 05:08 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Cluster Map from Harvard Business SchoolThe Bronx Community College Geospatial Center Opens

The Bronx Community College Geospatial Center of the CREST Institute (BGCCI) opened last Friday.

The Bronx Community College Geospatial Center of the CREST Institute (BGCCI) is a collaboration between Bronx Community College of The City University of New York and CUNY Remote Sensing Earth System (CREST) Institute. Geospatial technology is an emerging technology that facilitates location-based analysis of geographical data acquired from a wide array of sources, including sensors mounted on platforms such as satellites and aircraft. This technology has applications essential to most aspects of daily modern life. As a result, geospatial technologies have been growing at an exponential rate, leading to a high demand for skilled technicians. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the geospatial industry is facing critical shortages of labor skilled in the field. This presents an ideal opportunity for Bronx Community College — through the BCC Geospatial Center of the CREST Institute — to offer education and training in this emerging field of study.

The newly formed BGCCI will be a state-of-the art facility that provides leadership in geospatial technology and its applications for both STEM and non-STEM disciplines. The primary function of the Center is to provide educational and research opportunities for BCC undergraduates, faculty and staff, specialized training through technical workshops and seminars for the industry, fostering international collaborations and enriching the global perspective of BCC-CUNY students. The Center will serve as both a teaching and training facility, and a center for international geospatial research and collaboration. It will have strong ties to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Remote Sensing Teaching (NOAA-CREST institute) and the Educational Office of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Goddard Flight Center, New York. The Center will work with international institutes such as The Energy and Research Institute (TERI), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), James Cook University, Charles Sturt University, the University of New South Wales and other global universities.

There's a video from the local news which states that (some?) classes are free and the public can sign up online. I found no evidence of that on the center website.

Cluster Map

The University of Minnesota  released an online tool (above, right) that lets users visualize where businesses cluster in specific areas. Researchers developed the tool over the last four years through research from the Harvard Business School. The interactive map’s primary function is to serve researchers in business and academia but is simple enough for non-technical users.

Esri ArcGIS Online Credit and Names User Additions Coming to Educational Site Licensees

Number of named users should be increasing in the next week; no word on when the additional credits will appear. Via Esri Higher Ed list.

Continue reading...

by Adena Schutzberg on 10/09 at 03:14 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Black spotsMapping The Philippines for Google

Wayne Manuel is a volunteer who spent the last six years updating maps of The Philippines use Google Map Maker. He and other volunteers "have been crucial in making sure that places used during a crisis — like health centres, government offices, and schools — are clearly and correctly marked on Google Maps." Business Insider has the story. It's a lot of work for both Google and HOTOSM and others to get word out about their volunteer work.

No Mobile Coverage in Australia

Australia has 6,000 mobile phone black spots, where residents have inadequate coverage. The data (map) compiled by the government comes from a crowdsourced effort and results in funding being available to address the issue. As you might expect the black spots are in outer urban and rural areas. Heavily urban areas are ineligible for funding (like Darwin, at right)

Fairfax County's Big Data Solution: NoSQL

Fairfax County, one of the largest in the U.S. had some issues with its crime mapping solution. It overwhelmed even Oracle. So, the Department of Information Technology (DIT) tested some other options and ended up with a NoSQL database from MarkLogic. The Police Events Application is now much faster and more in demand. The front end looks like ArcGIS Server and JavaScript API.

Bismark, ND Fire Dept Taps GIS

In Bismark, ND firefighters don't use GIS just for routing but also for planning.

The record systems give the department analytical maps and reports to help them decide which neighborhoods to assign to each of the five fire stations. The city is divided into 24 zones.

"We are able to analyze each part of the community in regards to our performance, the demand for service and what types of risks are there," explained Boespflug.

With continued development on the east side of Bismarck, Boespflug says it would make sense to move the Sleepy Hollow Station farther east in order to keep response times short.

by Adena Schutzberg on 10/08 at 05:28 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 03, 2014

Ontario Birthing Resources MapBirthing Resources in Ontario

The regional children's hospital has birthed a new mapping tool [right] to provide parents and parents to be with detailed information on all birthing centres in Ontario.

GIS in Monitoring and Evaluation of Disease

Folks in the know about Rugg's Staircase Method probably will want to review this freely available paper: Applying Geospatial Tools to Rugg’s Staircase Method for Monitoring and Evaluation: MEASURE Evaluation’s Case Studies.


We believe GIS’ role in M&E will also rapidly increase in importance with the availability of the software and data. However it is important to stress that GIS can’t just magically fit into an M&E environment, accordingly we present the following recommendations for use of geospatial tools:

1)  Include geographic identifiers in programmatic data – in order to use data in a GIS, it must have a link to geography. This can be something as simple as district or community name or could be coordinates collected using GPS receivers or from a digital globe such as Google Earth.

2)  Adhere to data standards for both geographic identifiers and programmatic data. Many countries have standardized unique identifiers and spellings of geographic features in their country. Following these standards will make it easier to link datasets. Programmatic data should follow relevant standards for metadata, indicator selections and other key factors.

3)  Be open – Making programmatic data widely available, makes it easier to employ that data in other evaluations. There are confidentiality and security issues that must be considered, however the growth of the open data movement offers promise to M&E.

4)  Build organizational capacity to use GIS first: Before asking stakeholders to share data, it is critical they have the necessary skills to use GIS technology, and their own data, within their own organizations. Ensuring the training has a practical use builds ownership and supports effective data-sharing.

5) Develop a strong logic framework: Linking data through GIS is feasible without a logic frame. However, a robust logic frame is critical to ensure a clear linkage between program activities and the output and outcomes indicators associated with these program activities. It is essential that GIS users not only understand GIS technology, applications, and use, but also the need for a sound logic framework to justify the data linkage--as well as how to use linked data to support decision-making

6) Continue to build the evidence base: More research and better data are needed to improve understanding of the drivers of risk for vulnerable populations. For instance, all women aged 15 to 24 are not uniformly at risk for HIV infection, and further research is needed to understand the specific characteristics and risk behaviors to effectively target these women with prevention interventions. Similarly, serodiscordant couples may need different approaches, depending on which partner is infected. In addition, more data are needed on such marginalized groups as men who have sex with men (MSM) to develop appropriate programs and activities and ensure adequate coverage of these populations. 

Tracking CDIFF with DEDUCE-GEO to visualize links between clinical data and physical environments

Deverick Anderson, MD, an epidemiologist for Duke Medicine, is using a new tool at Duke to hunt down hidden sources of contamination of antibiotic resistant microbes. His target is Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), a dangerous antibiotic-resistant bug that the Centers for Disease Control calculates contributes to 14,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. ...

Anderson’s new tool is DEDUCE-GEO. It is Duke’s newest addition to D.E.D.U.C.E., a web-based query tool that allows investigators to filter millions of rows of data in Duke’s vast enterprise data warehouse of clinical information. 

Continue reading...

by Adena Schutzberg on 10/03 at 03:18 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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