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The Role of GIS in Solving Global Health Problems

When thinking about how technology has influenced the medical industry, what springs to mind?

Laboratories? Brain scanners? Advanced surgery equipment?

Whilst these developments have benefited patients in a direct sense, other technological innovations occurring behind the scenes are thriving. One of the most exciting yet overlooked technologies emerging today is the power of geospatial or location-based technology in the medical industry.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are an evolving technology that are saving lives indirectly. A GIS is a multifaceted form of mapping that enables users to capture, visualise, monitor and manipulate geographic data. Being armed with this type of data empowers health workers to see patient demographics in a way they’ve never seen before.

What if we could determine where the source of a disease was? Discover why an illness was occurring and predict where it would spread to next? Or improve our services to people in need?

These are the kinds of questions that are being answered through the integration of GIS into the medical realm, with their results responding to health problems all over the world.

Identifying Trends

To understand ‘why’ a disease or illness occurs, information or data is key. In both quantity and quality, the way we interpret data can make all the difference. GIS is used to visualise data and identify trends or behaviours associated with location.

A recent example of how GIS was used to identify trends in health was the United States’ National Community Mapping Institute. The organisation created a map identifying ‘Years of Potential Life Lost before Age 75’.

The map allowed people to physically see the clusters or areas that were high in premature mortality. The map suggested premature mortality rates were much higher in the southern half of the US, as opposed to the North. From there, specialists could make this a focus of their research and question why this is occurring; what other correlations do those areas have?

years-of-potential-life-lost

With illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease on the rise, GIS provides an invaluable source of research for health care professionals. Determining locations where illnesses are prevalent and implementing prevention strategies in areas that aren’t, are just some of the exceptional ways GIS is helping to identify and solve global health trends.

Tracking the Spread of Infectious Disease

Infectious disease is another ballpark. The spread of infectious diseases such as Measles or Ebola occurs at a much faster rate. This means it is essential for health workers and governments to have an immediate awareness and understanding of the infected persons’ location, how fast the infectious disease is spreading and where it will most likely hit next.

This type of geographic data has become increasingly accessible due to the recent development in GIS technologies. For example, our mobile mapping and data collection tool Mappt™ was recently used by a global health organisation during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

The mobile application tool allowed Ebola medical field workers to gather data in an efficient manner. The app worked on hand held tablets and smartphones, making the device light and compact, plus Mappt works offline so it could function in remote areas without internet access. Mappt enabled field workers to ascertain valuable geographical information by using features such as:

  • Offline GPS Tracking – track the ground field workers covered
  • Points, Polylines and Polygons – flag findings, highlight areas and store attribute information
  • Geotagged Photos – take a photograph using a device out in the field and geotagging it to a specific location
  • Drop Down Forms – log annotations and descriptive information in simple drop down forms.
  • Gridding – easily visualise and measure distances
  • Geofencing – mark out inclusion or exclusion zones to keep team members out of hazardous zones. Breaching a fence will alert the user with a visual and audial alarm
  • Importing and Exporting Data – fully compatible with WMS, WFS & WMTS and all major online and cloud based tools and imagery

ebola

Mappt assisted in the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history. These kinds of features empowered the medical teams with the data to create visualisations and run predictive model algorithms. In other words, health workers could create a picture to identify, predict and prevent the spread of such a horrific outbreak and create an informed health community.

Wearable Technology

Health related statistics have a major influence in identifying the causes of global health problems, but a high quantity of quality data is paramount to accurate and informative studies. Acquiring substantial amounts of personalised data has been achievable in recent years through the introduction of wearable devices. Personal healthcare technologies such as fitness bracelets that track a person’s heart rate, sleeping patterns and level of activity, are often used to determine how these levels are varied in different geographic areas.

When combined with GIS, wearable devices embody a powerful tool to uncover long-term geographic patterns and trends in diverse demographics. Adding geographic data to healthcare statistics has already begun to revolutionize the healthcare systems all over the world.

fitness

The Power of Location

Geospatial technologies such as GIS and mapping collection tools have transformed countless industries and will continue to address health issues like infectious disease control or unhealthy habits of people in specific areas. As technologies advance and medical industries adopt and integrate these innovations, unhealthy lifestyles and diseases will feasibly decrease.

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Ssiobhan-profile2iobhan Herne
Marketing and Communications

Siobhan has no background in GIS, she’s a beginner, just like you. Follow her stories for an easier digest of all things geospatial.

Sources

http://hitconsultant.net/2015/10/29/5-benefits-of-geographic-information-systems-in-healthcare/

http://www.giscloud.com/blog/mapping-the-disease-using-gis-for-improving-malaria-interventions-in-nigeria/#A56hdBiOEa3TkdMJ.99

http://communitymappingforhealthequity.org/past-maps-of-the-day/years-of-potential-life-lost-before-age-75-2012-2014/

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5 Ways GIS is Transforming Agriculture and the Environment

What are the major implications of GIS for agriculture, the environment and preserving our earth in 2017?

Geospatial technology is transforming the agriculture industry in unimaginable ways. In only a few short years, the power and accessibility of digital mapping both on and offline has changed the way farmers and agricultural structures are doing their most basic tasks.

Geographic information systems (GIS) allow us to visualise, analyse and understand geographic data. They can show us which crops are thriving, how pollution is hindering and which fertilisers are enhancing.

With this kind of revolutionary technology in full swing, there has never been a better time for farmers, environmentalists, foresters and agriculture specialists to capitalise on productivity.

Agriculture and Farming

GIS has revolutionised a farmer’s work. With the help of expert GIS consultants, farmers are now able to access the latest satellite technology with precision agriculture.

However, there are simpler, cheaper and more accessible ways the power of location can be utilised by farmers themselves.

farmer-880567_960_720

Mobile Devices

Mobile mapping applications have evolved dramatically in the last few years, making paper maps and pens ancient history. Mobile apps work on hand held tablets or smartphones, reducing the need for bulky computers or complicated surveying equipment when out in the field.

Mappt™ is a mobile GIS data collection app which enables users to create, edit, store, and share geospatial information. Farmers can use and handheld device to drop a pin or mark a specific location on a digital map. Using a lightweight, compact device such as a tablet or phone empowers farmers with the capacity to easily collect their own data.

Mappt’s receptive interface allows farmers with minimal training to use drop-down forms at each location point, noting a piece of information or attribute such as the type of fertilizer used, the condition of the crop or the topography of the land.

Some variables farmers may need to collect and analyse include:

  • soil type
  • elevation (topography)
  • crop yield
  • crop quality
  • field boundaries
  • management zones
  • remotely sensed imagery
  • weed and pest locations
  • historical land use

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compact

GPS

Global Positioning Systems or GPS are freely available and built in to most compact devices. A GPS displays your exact location on the earth’s surface by picking up data instantaneously sent from several satellites orbiting the globe.

Mappt’s GPS can be used to track a job out in the field. It’s ideal for remote locations as it works completely offline, can be paused and restarted at any time, and runs in the background while you collect other data. For example, a farmer may use GPS to pinpoint designated positions in the field to collect soil samples. This information can be logged in a handheld device before, during and after samples are collected, whilst tracking a person’s every move.

Geotagging

Another benefit of using a hand-held device with an inbuilt camera is being able to capture photographic evidence. Geotagging images collected in the field to their exact location provides farmers with additional information and offers a reference for future crop analysis and comparison. Thus, improving overall accuracy and efficiencies.

Geofencing

There are disasters to avoid in agricultural planning that can have a detrimental effect if inaccuracy occurs: droughts, drainage, roads, insects and floods. Their heavy impacts can be avoided through GIS assisted strategic planning.

Mapping is used to examine and evaluate these attributes to ensure maximum accuracy when identifying new areas to plant crops or make existing yields more efficient.

When working in the field, separating zones is also crucial as it’s not always clear where your boundaries end and your neighbours’ begins.

Mappt™ allows you to not only draw lines and polygons, but colour code areas and set warning visual and audio alarms. Once a geofence is created, a farmer will be alerted with an alarm notification if a boundary is breached. This ensures you do not disturb land that doesn’t belong to you or plant crops in a restricted area.

geofence

GIS for Climate Change

We know conservation and environmental management is imperative for the sustainability of the earth, especially in today’s rapidly evolving technological world.

Recent history has taught us that human impact can have a dramatic effect on the environment as well as shifting global climates. This is creating complex challenges for businesses in every industry – particularly agriculture.

According to the World Wildlife Federation, agricultural practices are responsible for around 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with contributing factors including fertilisers, livestock, burning of savanna and agricultural residues, and ploughing.

Farming our food does not always give back to the earth.

Climate change is anticipated to affect crop production in several ways, but most impedingly, precipitation and temperature changes. Rainfall and temperatures may shorten or lengthen the growing season or cause an increase in droughts and flooding. Because of these environmental changes, crop prices could skew and become economically nonviable.

GIS plays a fundamental role in the ongoing challenge to reduce and cope with the effects of climate change, specifically determining what crops we sow and where to maximise land efficiency.

Below are some of the ways GIS can assist with plotting relief:

  • Ensure accurate reporting with improved data collection
  • Improve decision making
  • Increase productivity with streamlined work processes
  • Provide better data analysis and presentation options
  • Model dynamic environmental phenomena
  • Create predictive scenarios for environmental impact studies
  • Automate regulatory compliance processes
  • Disseminate maps and share map data across the internet

Accumulating data on the problem and adjusting relief and contingency methods in accordance to this data, is how GIS can play a major role in shaping a solution.

crop-drought

What does it mean for our future?

In the past, it was difficult for farmers to know how and which farming methods were working efficiently due to the continuous variations and irregularities across the land.

Today, technological innovations such as GIS and mobile mapping have transformed common agricultural systems and revolutionised field efficiency and productivity.

With this kind of technology in our pockets, mobile GIS will expectantly continue to improve production for farmers in a way that is sustainable in the future and hopefully provide a reliable source of food for all.

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siobhan-profile2Siobhan Herne
Marketing and Communications

Siobhan has no background in GIS, she’s a beginner, just like you. Follow her stories for an easier digest of all things geospatial.

Sources

http://www.environmentalscience.org/agriculture-science-gis

http://www.sugarresearch.com.au/icms_docs/178430_GIS_and_Precision_Agriculture_IS14015.pdf

http://www.americansentinel.edu/blog/2012/03/14/farmers-use-gis-technology-for-a-growing-world/

http://www.hitachi.com/rev/pdf/2009/r2009_06_106.pdf

http://www.gps.gov/applications/agriculture/

http://www.pitneybowes.com/us/location-intelligence/case-studies/use-location-intelligence-to-turn-big-data-into-business-insight.html

http://www.gpsalliance.org/agriculture.aspx

https://theconversation.com/farmers-of-the-future-will-utilize-drones-robots-and-gps-37739

 

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Why Geospatial Technology is set to explode in 2017

When we think of the term ‘geospatial’ what springs to mind? Maps? Satellites? Space?
Of course those subjects are relevant, however, geospatial refers to all things related to location.

Data, drones, maps, cameras, sensors, cars, infrastructure and your mobile phone. The rapid expansion of this industry is happening right now, so why is this so important for us in 2017?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have the ability to integrate into every aspect of our lives. The recent and rapid increase in technology has enabled this integration, and it’s up to us to decide how we want to proceed. With more data and connectivity than ever before, humans have the power to solve real life problems.

So, let’s take a look at what’s in store for us this year.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is the massive network of connected devices and sensors that transmit messages back to us in real time. Yes, ‘smart’ devices. Smart homes, smart phones, smart cars and smart cities.

Cisco estimates the IoT market will be worth US$19 trillion within the next 10 years, and by 2020 the internet will have over 50 billion connected devices! Google and Apple have already built networks with over 5 million developers.

The geospatial enablement of these connected devices play a pivotal role in the IoT marketplace. Smart cities, for example, have the capacity to solve traffic congestion, improve waste management and help make our cities safer.

A recent example is the waste management app Bigbelly. The app uses cloud computing to transmit data specifying which rubbish bin locations are full and need to be collected. This has already begun to radically improve waste management systems in over 45 countries and will, in turn, reduce pollution as a global effect.

iot

Satellites

The latest stats from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) suggest there are currently 1,419 active satellites in orbit as of 30 June 2016, with thousands more under construction.

Interestingly, government-funded platforms are in decline, and privately funded micro-satellites are on the rise – costing a fraction of the price. This shift in operations will not only make satellite imagery more available, but cheaper and more abundant.

In 2015, Earth Observation Systems (EOS) alone contributed AUD$496 million in direct economic benefit to Australia and generated around 9000 new jobs.

In a bid to make internet accessible in lesser developed countries, Google has teamed up with O3B and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to deliver the internet via satellite. One solution, known as Project Loon, involves a high-altitude balloon network floating in the stratosphere.

Loon has been tested in multiple countries, and is currently operating in Sri Lanka, making it the first country to have universal internet access via the helium balloon system.

a-train_satellites

Drones

Drones: arguably the most exciting devices zipping around today! Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), known to many as drones, are cultivating crop yields, filming Hollywood blockbusters and delivering pizza straight to your door.

Drones are dominating a market that’s forecasted to skyrocket by more than 6,000% by 2020. ABI Research estimates the small drone market will surpass US$8.4 billion by the end of 2017.

According to Dan Kara, Practice Director of Robotics at ABI Research, the commercial RPAS sector is where the market’s thriving, with revenues expected to exceed US$5.1 billion by 2019.

The capabilities of drones are still being recognised. Dangerous human jobs like wind turbine inspections, the mapping of collapsed buildings or oil spills during emergency situations are some of the exciting applications serving major benefit throughout the world.

Accessibility and affordability is also becoming mainstream, with drones available to anyone over the counter and online.

drone-1142182_960_720

Wearable devices

While wearable technologies may seem ultra-futuristic, these types of devices are not far away from the masses.

The market for wearable devices is predicted to grow at 99% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) between 2015 and 2020.

Fitness tracking bracelets only scratch the surface of the wearable device market, as Virtual Reality (VR) headsets are cropping up in a variety of industries.

In the field of geospatial, Topcon is working with DAQRI to create wearable technology (smart helmets) for surveying, construction, engineering and mining professionals.

Their aim is to make work safer through augmented reality and give users a hands-free tool that can be used onsite. Affordability is also becoming crucial.

With the help of our smartphones, VR headsets are available for as little as AUD$35. Although not fully revolutionised, it is estimated that more than 26 million VR headsets will be distributed by 2020.

DAQRI Smart Helmet

DAQRI Smart Helmet – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCAShzXhBCI

GIS (Geographic Information System)

When explaining what a GIS is, National Geographic sums it up nicely:

“A GIS is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface. GIS can show many different kinds of data on one map. This enables people to more easily see, analyze, and understand patterns and relationships. ”

Gone are the days when only qualified specialists could navigate a GIS and in specialist industries like remote sensing. Nowadays various GIS are used across a range of industries from real estate and agriculture, to local government authorities and educational institutes.

Mobile GIS devices are particularly beneficial as they enable anyone to create and gather location-based data on the go.

Our mobile GIS application Mappt allows you to create, edit, store and share geospatial information with your fingertips.

We differ from other GIS platforms because of our easy to use features, mobile and tablet integration, offline capability and our very affordable licenses. This makes Mappt the perfect GIS for beginners, and an easy to use advanced mapping tool for veterans; this is why businesses in over 130 countries use our software.

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mappt

Let’s wrap it up

With nearly half of the world’s population (that’s 3.4 billion people) connected to the internet, and a ‘space race’ to connect the other half, Location-Based Services (LBS) and the geospatial realm will continue to experience explosive growth over the next couple of years. Whilst leading technology companies like Google are in the lead, emerging smaller businesses are setting exciting standards.

As technology moves forward there is an exciting ambiguity as to how much digital transformation will shape and improve our lives.

Through rapidly growing modernisations such as the Internet of Things, satellites, drones or even virtual reality headsets, humans have never been more connected – geospatially or otherwise.

Although there are pressing matters like privacy and security, the opportunities for powerful geospatial innovations are endless.

If you want more than today’s slice of information, please refer to the CRCSI Global Outlook 2016: Spatial Information Industry report.

 

siobhan-profile2Siobhan Herne
Marketing and Communications

Siobhan has no background in GIS, she’s a beginner, just like you. Follow her stories for an easier digest of all things geospatial.

 

Sources

Coppa, I., Woodgate, P. W., and Mohamed-Ghouse Z.S. (2016), ‘Global Outlook 2016: Spatial Information Industry’. Published by the Australia and New Zealand Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information.

http://www. sciencealert.com/google-s-internet-balloons-will-soon-connect-all-of-sri-lanka-with-wifi

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-09/world-drone-market-seen-nearing-127-billion-in-2020-pwc-says

ABIResearch, “Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Market Exceeds US$8.4 Billion by 2019”, abiresearch.com

CISCO, “Industry Perspective: Understanding the Internet of Everything”

 

Mappt is now used in over 100 countries!

Here are the top 20 countries that use our offline mobile GIS

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