We were ecstatic when the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) invited the DataCapable team to join leaders from various industries to attend its first-ever “Mapathon” (#WHMapathon) on May 21, 2015. The event pooled efforts of crowdsourcing experts and leaders across industries and government to jump start crowdsourced mapping initiatives in the areas of US Parks, humanitarian causes and electric utility data. Before we jump into why we’re so excited about this project, we’ll take a step back to understand what exactly a “Mapathon” is, and why it’s critical to helping solve big data problems such as the aggregation of utility metadata.
CROWDMAPPING AND WHY IT MATTERS
Crowdsourced mapping, Open Mapping, or simply Crowdmapping is a strategy for aggregating huge amounts of data by sharing the task among a large number of volunteer users. These users employ “a wiki-like approach to contribute to maps of the world and [create] shared geo data layers” . The White House Mapathon leveraged the OpenEI (Open Energy Information) platform for its tasks; OpenEI is one of many crowdsourcing platforms that are now enabling volunteers from the general public to contribute to government datasets that would otherwise not be possible resources necessary for their creation. A great real world example of this concept in action is a recent OpenStreetMap response to the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Crowdmapping volunteers from across the world used OpenStreetMap’s satellite imagery to create a vast dataset of critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges and buildings that helped inform humanitarian efforts for organizations like The Red Cross (more info here). Crowdmapping projects and participants are part of a growing innovation movement, transforming the relationship between the government, industry and the general public.
Leveraging new processes, teams and technologies–such as what the White House OSTP has done with its Mapathon–is a strategy that DataCapable has embraced on multiple fronts (The Grid of Things and the Outage Data Initiative, to name a few). Using crowdsourcing and open data enables progress on big picture initiatives that lack traditional organizational support, resources and funding.
DIGGING IN AT THE MAPATHON
DataCapable was represented at the The White House Mapathon by Ryan Zaczynski, our Director of Data Science & Analytics, and joined by Sam Winans, Manager of Enterprise Integration for the OMNETRIC Group. Also in attendance was our good friend Ed Vielmetti of Power Outage Maps.
The Mapathon went beyond a traditional announcement followed by a meet & greet. Once there, everyone rolled up their sleeves and dug in to help kickstart the Utility Metadata Collection Initiative. It was amazing to see what a few focused individuals were able to accomplish in a short amount of time. We’ll be providing updates on the progress in future posts, so stay tuned if you’d like to learn more!
A full video recap of The White House Mapathoncan be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHQh68bXDqg
A summary of the event covered by CNN can be found here:http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2015/06/01/first-annual-white-house-mapathon.cnn
On Twitter and Instagram, The White House Mapathon can be found using: #WHMapathon
DATACAPABLE HONORED TO ATTEND
The authors of this article would like to thank Denice Ross at The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for inviting members of DataCapable and OMNETRIC to participate in this landmark event. Under Denice’s guidance and leadership our teams have proudly helped contribute to her vision of the power of open data for utilities and beyond. Having played a critical role with the relief efforts associated with the power outages of Hurricane Katrina, Denice has translated her experience into vision, and she’s helping teams like DataCapable leverage their technical capabilities