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Archive for April, 2016

US Census Business Builder App and the Opportunity Project

April 24, 2016 2 comments

The Census Business Builder app and the Opportunity Project are two new tools from the US Census Bureau that make accessing and using data, and, we hope, making decisions from it, easier for the data analyst.  Both of these applications are good representatives of the trend we noted in our book and in this blog— the effort by government agencies to make their data more user-friendly.  While I would still like to see the Census Bureau address what I consider to be the still-cumbersome process of downloading and merging data from the American Community Survey and the Decennial Census with the TIGER GIS files, these two efforts represent a significant step in the right direction.  While GIS users may still not be fully satisfied by these tools, the tools should expand the use of demographic, community, and business data by non-GIS users, which seems to be sites’ goal.

The Opportunity Project uses open data from the Census Bureau and from communities along with a Software Development Kit (SDK) to place information in the hands of decision makers.  Because these decision makers are not likely to be familiar with how to conduct spatial analysis within a GIS, the appeal of this effort is for wiser decision making with the geographic perspective.  A variety of projects are already on the site to spark ideas, including Streetwyze, GreatSchools, and Transit Analyst.

The Census Business Builder is a set of web based mapping services that provides selected demographic and economic data from the Census Bureau.  You can use it to create customized maps and county and city level reports and charts.  A small business edition presents data for a single type of business and geography at a time, while the regional analyst edition presents data for all sectors of the economy and for one or more counties at a time.  These tools are based on Esri’s online mapping capabilities and offer some of the functionality of Esri’s Business Analyst Online.  Give them a try and we look forward to your comments below.

census

A map that I created using the Census Business Builder.

 

A Privacy Concern from Perhaps an Unexpected Source

April 10, 2016 Leave a comment

Bruce Schneier, CTO of Resilient Systems and a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, as well as the long time author of a blog and numerous books on security issues, wrote about a privacy concern from a source that may be unexpected to many of our readers–Samsung Television.  The article points out that one of the company’s Internet-connected smart TVs offers a voice command that saves the viewer the work of finding the remote, pushing buttons, and scrolling through menus.  However, enabling this feature requires the TV to listen to everything the viewer says.  Yes, apparently “everything.”

Mr Schneier points out that these privacy intrusions shouldn’t be a surprise.  He cites many other examples that the consumer often assents to because the statement that indicates, if it truly exists, describing what the company owning the tool or service will do with the data–is often buried in a lengthy privacy policy.  Mr Schneier rightly calls ours the Age of Ubiquitous Surveillance, and advocates that the data being collected and how it is used needs to be regulated.  Reading his blog regularly as well as our Spatial Reserves blog should help inform the geospatial professional–and others–about these timely and important issues.

 

Categories: Public Domain Data Tags: ,

LIDAR Point Cloud Published as Open Data

April 5, 2016 1 comment

The UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food  and Rural Affairs (Defra), recently announced the release of a LIDAR point cloud, the raw data used to generate a number of digital terrain models (DTMs) that were released last year. In addition to providing terrain models for flood modelling and coastline management, the LIDAR data have also been revealing much about long-buried Roman roads and buildings, such as the Vindolanda fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England.

Vindolanda Roman Fort. Courtesy of the Environment Agency and Defra

Environment Agency/Defra LIDAR data

The point cloud data have been released as part of the #OpenDefra project, which aims to make 8,000 datasets publicly available by mid 2016. The first release of point cloud data contains over 16,000 km 2 of survey data and is available to download from:

http://environment.data.gov.uk/ds/survey/#/survey

The data are licensed under version 3.0 of the Open Government Licence.