Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Google Maps of the Week

This week I was particular impressed with two Google Maps experiments. One designed to track grizzly bears and the other to predict the weather along a route.

The Foothills Research Institute has developed a great application to visualise GPS tracks with Google Maps. The application was developed in order to be able to visualise the movements and environments of two GPS-collared grizzly bears.

The application uses an ArcGIS Python script tool to parse raw GPS text files into a list of coordinates and the new Google Maps API Symbols and HeatMap layer to animate and visualise the GPS data on a Google Map.

The Foothills Research Institute can't reveal the real position of the bears so they have created a nice demo of the application using fake randomised data for two different bears. The Fake Bear Tracker Map uses an animated symbol for each logged location and, as the application progresses, uses a heat map layer to display the areas visited by each bear.

The result is a very effective visualisation of the bears' movements and of their territorial range. 

Dark Sky is an app for the iPad and iPhone that predicts the weather for your location to the minute. For example a Dark Sky prediction might say that it will start raining in three minutes and then stop raining in half an hour.

Predicting the weather to such a fine degree means that Dark Sky is a great resource for showing weather along a route. The Dark Sky: Weather Along a Traffic Route map does exactly that. The app lets users request directions and then displays the route on a Google Map.

The first 60-minutes of the trip also displays a forecast from Dark Sky, showing where (and how hard) you’ll get rained on if you left right now. The application is just a demo showcasing how the DarkSky API could be combined with the Google Maps API and Dark Sky warn that,

 "it lacks features, is not robust, and might behave erratically. Please do not rely on it!"

One feature that is missing is the ability to check the weather for a specific time. However the map could still be useful if you are heading out for a walk and you want to know if it is going to rain any time soon.

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