Tag Archives: Google Earth

Crisis Mapping the Conflict in Georgia (Updated)

Update: Jon Thompson had initially mistakenly blogged that all roads/cities in Georgia had “disappeared” from Google Maps and Google Earth. A colleague of mine at Google has since informed me that they never had a roads layer for Georgia. According to this same contact, Google has just released this formal statement:

It is untrue to suggest, as some media reports have, that Google has removed data or imagery from our Google Maps product in Georgia, Armenia or Azerbaijan.  We have never had local data for those countries and that is why local details such as landmarks and cities do not appear.

An initial crisis map of the escalating violence between Georgia and Russia has been created for Google Earth. While dynamic maps add more value than static maps, we need a more interactive interface that permits for crowdsourcing crisis information in quasi-real time with fully geo-referenced information.

Here I am thinking of Ushahidi and the Humanitarian Sensor Web (HSW). Humanitarian organizations have already moved into the disputed region and have no doubt learned important information, which is likely changing every hour. But the one person behind these initial Google Earth maps may not have easy access to organizations on the ground.

This is precisely when we need a crisis mapping platform that enables field-based organizations and local communities to text in important information on events as they unfold. As more information surfaces, we’ll need that same platform to provide quantitative, time-stamped analysis within the same interface. Finally, we would want to let affected communities know how to receive or subscribe to this information as it is posted and validated. This is where Dial-Up-Radio could come in handy.

Patrick Philippe Meier


Powering Crisis Mapping with Google Earth

I coined the term  “Crisis Mapping Analytics” to highlight the fact that crisis mapping is more valuable when the data that is visually displayed can be analyzed quantitatively within the same interface. Recent crisis mapping initiatives are certainly breaking new ground, but they would be even more useful if they included a meaningful analytical component (which could be used locally). Since the field of conflict early warning typically lags behind in adopting new technologies, we must look to other fields of study for possible insights on mapping analytics.

One such field is energy resource management. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Labs have developed a new mapping tool (screenshot above) that combines images from Google Earth and data on electricity consumption to visualize the status of the national electric grid in real-time. According to NetworkWorld, the tool can be used by federal state and local agencies to “coordinate and respond to major problems such as wide-area power outages, natural disasters and other catastrophic events.”

The Visualizing Energy Resources Dynamically on Earth (VERDE) system, announced this week, mashes together images and stats of everything from real-time status of the electric grid and weather information to power grid behavior modeling and simulation. VERDE ultimately enhances situational awareness and speeds recovery times from power outages, ORNL scientists said. The tool also can predict the transmission lines particularly at risk of storm damage as well as the population in specific areas likely to lose power as a result of destructive winds from storms, ORNL said.

“With this tool we are able to monitor individual transmission lines and place the system as a whole in the context of potential impact on population, transportation and critical infrastructures,” said Mallikarjun Shankar of ORNL’s Computational Sciences and Engineering Division in a release.

The team at Oak Ridge just released the video below which demo’s more of VERDE’s functionalities.

Patrick Philippe Meier

UNHCR Refugee Google Earth Layer Released

UK Guardian: The new Google Earth layers weave together satellite maps, photos, videos and eyewitness accounts to give viewers a close-up look at the refugee crises in Iraq, Chad, Columbia and Darfur in Sudan.

They allow users to find out about UNHCR operations, locate refugee camps and discover the impact of the humanitarian crises on neighboring countries such as Sudan, Syria and Ecuador.

Users can explore the lives of those in exile by clicking on exact locations in the refugee camps to see photos of the facilities, such as health clinics, schools, water taps and sanitation. There are pop-up videos of specific operations and events, such as a visit to a Chad refugee camp by the actor and UN goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie.

The UN deputy high commissioner for refugees, L Craig Johnstone, said: “Google Earth is a very powerful way for UNHCR to show the vital work that it is doing in some of the world’s most remote and difficult displacement situations. By showing our work in its geographical context, we can really highlight the challenges we face on the ground and how we tackle them.”

A UNHCR spokesman said the programme could soon develop further. “With the new generation of cameras with GPS, we can foresee taking photos of a place and uploading it directly to Google Earth. For our planning, mapping and communications unit, that would be an amazing tool.

“Over time, we can envision increasing the number of elements shown that will certainly increase the ‘live’ experience of the platform.”

The next step for an iRevolution is to enable refugees to access this information on a regular basis. This need not require high-technology. The information could be broadcast by radio, for example.

Patrick Philippe Meier

Google Earth: New VHR (Panopticon) Imagery

The Panopticon is now watching select locations in the Sudan, Chad and DRC at 2.5 meters resolution. The entire country of Zimbabwe is available at 2.5 meters. Below is satellite imagery for Harare and Umm Ruwabah.

Patrick Philippe Meier