How Crowdsourcing Feeds Hungry Big Data Apps

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Crowdsourcing and big data

Data collection is a bottleneck for many enterprises. To deal with this issue, many firms use crowdsourcing: engaging large groups of people to provide the data.

The OGC is working with its members to expand the testing and uses of standards in crowdsourcing. OGC Testbeds involve government, private sector and university organizations collaborating in a rapid prototyping activity to develop standards and best practices.

In OGC Testbed 9, the Cross-Community Interoperability (CCI) thread, participants advanced semantic mediation approaches that allowed conflating VGI data with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) directories of place names (gazetteers). Using the OGC Observations & Measurements (O&M) data model enables transformation of heterogeneous VGI data into a standardized model and format.

As a narrow OGC Geography Markup Language (GML) application schema, O&M ensures a high degree of interoperability. To further support crowdsourcing, projects can also use the candidate OGC Event Service Interface Specification to incorporate real-time, complex event processing on incoming O&M-encoded volunteered geographic information data streams.

Incident management in cities is a growing challenge that's addressed by applications such as Hexagon Geospatial’s Mobile Alert. Using mobile apps, people define and pinpoint issues, such as utility line damage, graffiti and illegal trash dumping, road potholes, missing streetlights and broken signage.

Geospatial Data Is Useful in Diversity of Efforts

Other enterprise-scale applications that rely on geospatial data and use crowdsourcing include:

· Search and rescue: People reviewed imagery and provided close to 13 million tags of objects in the effort to locate Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, using DigitalGlobe’s Tomnod application. Another project involved finding the location of an Idaho plane crash.

· Land preservation: Invasive weeds are aggressively spreading throughout Hawaii’s high-elevation rain forests, contributing to the destruction of more than 50 percent of Hawaii’s native forests. To help preserve Hawaii’s remaining native forests, DigitalGlobe partners with The Nature Conservancy to monitor change in land cover.

· Vehicle and pedestrian traffic: Crowdsourcing vehicle traffic is well-established with applications such as Google’s Waze. One recently funded company, Placemeter, pays people to attach an old smartphone to a street-facing window to measure pedestrian traffic via video feeds. Its systems detect and count pedestrians and vehicles in streets, estimate how busy places are, track how long people wait in line- and measure the speed of cars.

· Health information: HealthMap combines citizen-provided information with online sources to map public health threats. Flu Near You uses citizen-contributed information collected on its Website to map flu activity. Google Flu Trends analyzes flu-related searches to estimate influenza occurrence.

· Disaster planning and response: In response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the OpenStreetMap community began gathering data from imagery for damage assessment. The project used the OGC GeoPackage standard, which was developed and updated in OGC testbeds. Crowdsourcing was also critical for identifying damage and accelerating repairs in the Philippines in response to typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.

Crowdsourcing is an emerging and legitimate method for gathering data for enterprise-scale applications. Still, there are data quality concerns among involved professionals. Geospatial data is central to many enterprise crowdsourcing efforts, and data quality challenges result from the multiple and diverse sources.

Geospatial standards make it much easier to automate the conflation of multiple types and sources of geospatial data. Proper conflation improves quality by comparing citizen data to professionally collected data. Therefore, OGC standards should be central to crowdsourcing initiatives for collecting data that has location components.

Bart De Lathouwer is director of interoperability programs, Europe, for the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). He is responsible for planning and managing interoperability initiatives such as testbeds, pilot projects and interoperability experiments, with an emphasis on activities in Europe.

Ron Exler is a senior consultant for OGC. His focus is on enterprise technology, its trends, and the connections between business and technology that are needed by decision-makers.

This article was originally published on 2015-01-15
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