Further to the emergence of Open Data, Shoothill was at the forefront of exploiting the opportunities that surrounded it.
Focusing initially on environmental data for rivers and flooding, we combined our online mapping and data skills, expanding and developing our offering to create multiple systems for the environmental sector.
Creating an innovative set of live data API’s, Shoothill’s river warning, river level, river flow, groundwater and rain gauge solutions are still in use by some of the UK’s largest companies and local and national Government agencies.
2015 saw Shoothill being asked by the Environment Agency, to provide these API’s to the Emergency Flood Hack called by the Cabinet Office during the devastating flooding that was experienced that year.
FloodAlerts was the UK’s first live flood warning map, and was launched in partnership with the Environment Agency in 2012. Uniquely, the system offers users in England, Wales & Scotland the ability to set personalised alerts and provides detailed flood warnings and alerts via email and SMS for any physical location in the mainland UK.
A reliable mission critical system with a 99.99% uptime, during the flooding of 2014/15 FloodAlerts was simultaneously used by the Environment Agency, The BBC, Sky News, Daily Telegraph and Facebook. Promoted by the UK Government, The EA, The Prime Minister as well as most of the UK’s media, the FloodAlerts system sees massive spikes in usage during floods, and is therefore a truly ‘battle-proven’ system that has seen 3 separate major flooding incidents, and has experienced over 50 million hits since its launch.
FloodAlerts also powers the Floodalerts Enterprise Commercial System (used by the Utility and Communication sectors), the Shoothill Flood Warnings API (used by weather companies, insurance and construction industries) and the @floodalerts system on Twitter, which visually tweets information and maps of affected flooded areas for all of the UK and has 92 individual accounts for each county in the country.
Shoothill develop API’s to give clients maximum flexibility and allow the development on fast and responsive applications.
An Application Programming Interface (API) specifies how some software components should interact with each other. Developing using a series of APIs means that an application becomes more agile and is easier to evolve as time and technology change. They also help facilitate access to complex data, by allowing access to the source and returning the data in a simpler format.
By developing using API’s from Google, Microsoft and the Azure platforms ensure that Shoothill can offer the best solutions and support the latest advances in software development and integration with the cloud. These can be incorporated into any development, reducing complex platforms to streamlined, powerful and mutable applications.
Custom deployment packages for the cloud can be developed to ease the transition from on-premises applications to cloud-based ones. Shoothill can maximise the potential of your cloud-based applications by providing auto scaling and monitoring to ensure that your applications remain responsive and cost effective.
This service provides secure programmatic access to the Environment Agency Flood Data for England and Wales and returns this data in either XML or JSON format. The service’s data is updated every 15 minutes.Register for this API
This service provides secure programmatic access to the Environment Agency River Level, Groundwater, River Flow and 3-Day Flood Forecast data in JSON format. The service’s data is updated every 15 minutes.Register for this API
There are currently well over 3000 river level gauges in England, Scotland and Wales maintained by the Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Natural Resources Wales. River levels are obviously a dynamic entity that constantly changes and can do so rapidly. Not only that but the higher the river level, the higher the likelihood that flooding will occur, and conversely, the lower the level the more likely it is that a drought will occur.
As the audience for river level information is incredibly varied (e.g. boaters, anglers, flood wardens, emergency services etc) and the information available was complicated and in depth, so the challenge was to:
As each river level gauge takes a reading every 15 minutes so Shoothill’s solution was to create from the ground up the individual graph visualisation that would display:
Feedback from user
The second problem was creating a map system powerful enough to change the pin colour of each of the 3000 gauges to indicate its propensity to flooding or drought. Shoothill built this functionality using proprietary code to allow the google map to display blue pins for flooding, green for normal conditions and brown for drought. Thus, with only a cursory glance at the map, any end user could get an instant indication of the live status of every gauge in the country.
Next, to allow other sites to embed any gauge graph into their website, Shoothill created the ‘Gauge Widget’ which allows anyone to simply embed any gauge from Gaugemap by automatically providing them with the necessary HTML.
Lastly, to maximise the use of Twitter Shoothill decided to create a separate Twitter account for each gauge (e.g. https://twitter.com/riverlevel_0036). This was no mean feat as normally this would be against Twitter rules on automated accounts. So we got in touch with Twitter directly who not only gave us their blessing, but also helped us in achieving this aim. Thus, the Gaugemap system contains more twitter accounts than anywhere else on the planet and has tweeted over 6 million times!
The GaugeMap system was the first live river level map system in the UK, and the knowledge gained in creating it and the experience in utilising Twitter in such an original way has helped us to export the basic solution aboard (particularly in Australia).
Since its launch in 2014, GaugeMap has been directly copied by .GOV (link) and NRW but in our view (and many 1000’s of GaugeMap users) even years after its launch, these imitation public sector systems are far inferior to our original.
Paul Cobbing MBE, National Flood Forum