Today’s the 15th annual GIS Day, “the annual salute to geospatial technology and its power to transform and better our lives” with over 700 events around the world. For example, in Indiana, drone-heads will collect GIS data with UAVs.
WTH is GIS, you ask? GIS stands for Geographic Information System, or sometimes people call it geospatial information studies. It’s your data-door to make the map of your dreams and analyze what’s happening in the world around you.
The helpful open-source GIS site OpenStreetMap came in useful yesterday when I needed a simple vector map of the town where I live, for an activity I led with my son’s first-grade classroom. I know we’re all very used to using a certain ubiquitous mapping service to figure things out, but do give OSM a try and you’ll be happy you did. It’s a community-driven, open database collecting local geographic knowledge. My friend Jamie met OSM founder Steve Coast years ago, and remembers that Coast claimed to first get the idea after looking at GPS traces from London cabbies that somehow he got from a friend. He could make out the main roads (traveled many times a day by many cabs) as well as see where the mosques were. Check out this amazing visualization of how OSM grew in 2008, and notice the way entire nations, like the U.S. and India, would blink into existence on the OSM. (The visualization starts after 06:53.)
Then, head over to OSM’s wiki to see how the community incorporates data captured by UAVs (drones) into the map database. Again with the drones! Well, long-time Makers know we’ve been excited for the possibilities of aerial mapping back to the days of Cris Benton’s Kite Aerial Photography in Make:01, our inaugural issue, and shared again below in this clip on Make:TV.
To continue your celebration of maps, check out Geography Awareness Week, which this week focuses on where our food comes from. Here’s one way to contribute: add some urban foraging sites in Edible Cities’ collaboratively built global map, which is expanding bush by bush and tree by tree.