Visualizing a world of data

Jun 25, 2013

First released in 2004, NASA’s World Wind is an open source, 3-D model of Earth generated from satellite imaging data.

It’s not just a fancy globe. The model is designed to accommodate all kinds of information about our planet that can be updated in real time.

Strategic News Service publisher and KPLU technology commentator Mark Anderson says World Wind is sparking a revolution in planetary data visualization. Anderson is so impressed by the technology that he made “Digitizing the Planet” the theme of his recent Future in Review, or FiRe, conference in southern California.

Companies and nonprofit organizations are finding a variety of ways to use World Wind. Anderson highlighted two of them at FiRe:

This web portal is a product of Intelesense Technologies. Mark says the project puts 2.2 million layers of information about our planet at the fingertips of its users.

What kind of data is available? You name it. Geographic data, water temperatures, pollution levels, educational statistics, the location of ships and planes in real-time, and much more.

The Cascadia Resiliency Center (CRC)

The CRC, based in Seattle, is a pilot project of  the International Center for Earth Simulation. The CRC, in cooperation with researchers at the University of Washington and elsewhere in the region, will model all the natural systems in the Pacific Northwest.

According to the CRC, “the goal is to create integrated simulations of future regional change—visual stories that will both point to latent risks as well as to investment opportunities.”

These projects are just the tip of the iceberg. Anderson believes digitizing the planet will illustrate how human and natural systems interact, and help us understand the often unintended consequences of our behavior.