Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Forecast: Ebola Hurricane 10%

The Belgian doctors who first described Ebola fever to western medicine in 1976 asked three questions whilst investigating the epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) - one was 'Where?'. These doctors diligently made maps from their information to help understand and defeat the epidemic back then. 

Ebola fever can spread fast; contagious and deadly enough to form a threat to experienced doctors as much as patients. If the current Ebola epidemic leaps into the Caribbean, as Chikungunya did only eight months ago, its spread might seem like a hurricane in comparison.

Timely and accurate information is a necessity in preventing incurable, deadly diseases from becoming epidemics. Forty years after "Zaire", do public health and immigration authorities in Caribbean nations use modern information management, mapping and spatial analysis tools?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Map Code

Here's another attempt at a global reference system. MapCode has assigned short postcode-like codes to all parts of the globe. Though its method is not fully described it does seem to be systematic - for instance, the position with mapcode GUY 9Z.LK is located between GUY 9Z.LJ and GUY 9Z.LL, each separated from the other by a few metres. It apparently produces more than one version of a mapcode for a given location. One version includes the country code, as in the examples above, and another is an international code 'independent of territorial borders'. This seems useful, though it's not clear why some locations have four versions of a mapcode. However, using any one mapcode related to a location, consistently gets the same location. With its consistent framework, the shortness of mapcodes seems to be a strength - GUY 9Z.LK is indeed easier to remember than '6.81726 deg N, 58.15884 deg W', and potentially equally useful in the many ways georeferences are used today. The system is apparently in use by a stated 50M car navigation devices.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Wot's That Word?

Here is an interesting take on a better global reference system. What3Words (W3W) divides the world into 3x3m spaces (57 Trillion of them) and assigns each a specific 3-word address. So giving someone your address apparently becomes easier. Or does it? I can see how telling, emailing or texting someone that my location is  'acrobat.explanatory.supper' might sound easier than '6.81726 deg N, 58.15884 deg W'. W3W says 'each square’s address contains totally different words to its nearby squares'. But therein lies a problem. This new global addressing scheme of W3W doesn't do something important that the old fashioned degrees N/S/E/W system provides - context. You can't relate any W3W address to anything else by yourself. You can't tell what a neighbouring location might be (one of mine is 'freehand.construing.uneasy'), etc..

In contrast, saying my location is approx. 6N, 58W allows people from many professions or high-school students to swiftly understand that my location is ... tropical ... West of Greenwich ... around South America. And to easily further figure out that say, Castries, Saint Lucia located at 14N, 60W must be to my North, or that Paramaribo, Suriname located at 5.8N, 55W must be to my East. 

It seems that W3W has uses - e.g. word games, poetry competitions. But a global addressing scheme W3W is not.

So why bother to carefully divide up the globe into 57 Trillion 3x3m squares? Regretfully, I think it has something to do with the following W3W option - 'You can purchase an additional, personalised address for any 3m x 3m square'. Paying US$2 per 3x3m of (cyber)space is a steal. But for whom? Thanks Tony.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Post GIS

The Bahamas Postal Services will release a new series of stamps on July 21 in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Bahamas National Geographic Information Systems (BNGIS) Centre (July 26, 2004). The special issue of four stamps features a 15 cent stamp, a 50 cent stamp, a 65 cent stamp and a 70 cent stamp. Text and image copyright Government of The Bahamas. Thanks GSDI.