Solving urban challenges with big data
On February 21 and 22, Microsoft gathered citizens in cities around the world in Santa Clara, California, to support Open Data Day with an International Big Data Hackathon. Participants leveraged worldwide open data catalogues and the power of Microsoft data platform technologies, including SQL, HDInsight, Microsoft Azure, Power BI, and Excel to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations, and publish analyses to support and encourage the adoption of open data policies by the world’s local, regional, and national governments.
Governments have already started applying big data to their complex public safety challenges with great success. Microsoft partner Shoothill, a United Kingdom-based software development company and winner of the 2014 Open Data Award for Innovation, creates online mapping and data visualization solutions that harness the power of open data and Microsoft technologies such as Microsoft Azure, Bing Maps, Deep Zoom, and Pivot.
Shoothill’s award-winning FloodAlerts, GaugeMap, and CheckMyFloodRisk tools use open public data to provide local governments and citizens with life-saving information, mapping dangerous flood conditions, river levels, and flood risk zones in real-time.
The FloodAlerts tool uses live flood forecast data supplied by four separate U.K. government agencies to monitor water levels and allows users to register any property or location in main land U.K. to be alerted via email or social media when a flood alert, warning, or severe warning affects that location. Multiple versions are available for governments, media, and users, including an app version for Windows 8.
GaugeMap was launched in 2014 to live-monitor nearly 2,500 river levels and sync them to individual unique Twitter IDs – which can also be embedded into other websites, data sets, or private gauges – all viewable within a single map. It runs on the Azure cloud and receives a raw data feed from the U.K. Environment Agency every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to show flood, normal, or below normal river and tide levels. It is also able to tweet updates more frequently during extreme weather conditions.
CheckMyFloodRisk is the first flood risk zone map for England, calculating risk and distance from known flood risk areas. The site uses open data from the Environment Agency to allow citizens to easily calculate their distance from known flood risk areas. The data is overlaid on an interactive map, enabling users to input addresses and automatically see their proximity to known flood risks, with greater pinpoint accuracy possible by dragging the ‘pin’ over any property or location. The risk level and distance to the nearest flood zone is then automatically displayed.
“By deploying our projects on Microsoft Azure we ensure applications are up and running faster, with improved manageability, enabling us to rapidly adjust resources to meet fluctuating and unpredictable demands,” said Rod Plummer, managing director at Shoothill.
Combined with Shoothill FloodAlerts and Shoothill GaugeMap, these three tools provide a suite of free products that put critical flooding information in the hands of end users before, during, and after a flood event – truly delivering citizens value from open source.