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Urban Observatory – Map, Compare And Understand Cities Around The World

When you think about the word “analysis” you understand it as taking some complex issue and breaking it to smaller parts to gain a better understanding of it. But when you look it closely ‘the analysis’ is always relative, which basically means that you have to compare the thing you’re studying to something similar in order to get some results. This can be applied to anything in the world. When you analyse geographic location, you will notice that it’s always in relation to something: 5m from the window, 3h ride from your home… even ‘lat’, ‘long’ are relative (so in a way compared) to a reference system. You know that your behavior was wrong, because you compare it to behavior commonly accepted by your society. You know that something is bitter, because you compare it with other flavors… Do you get the idea?

Now imagine the complex ecosystem of the city. You know which one is the biggest, the highest , the most populated… but is it really data that brings value to decision makers, urban planners or citizens? No… they need something more…

PopulationJack Dangermond – the CEO and founder of ESRI  together with Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of the TED Conference, created a project called Urban Observatory which aims to collect and create indicators about cities in a way that you could easily compare them with each other. It incorporates a lot of public information on urbanization, healthcare policy, education, crime, transportation, traffic and other data and basically presents it on the map unleashing the power of ‘geo’.

Richard Saul Wurman, the 78-year-old founder of TED has been trying to develop a tool that would fairly compare urban centers for decades, beginning with scale models made out of clay in the 1960s and ending with a handful of other attempts in the 70s and 80s. “Unfortunately, no two cities in the world collect information in the same way. The result—despite vast stores of data captured, collated, and stored, there is limited knowledge and understanding” the Observatory team explains.

Finally with the power of web-mapping tools this kind of analysis became possible. Essentially what you get is a simple interface that lets you compare 35 different aspects of 16 cities (with more to come), ranging from the weather to crime. Users are able to do side-by-side comparisons of three cities at a time, supplemented by text explanation that appear below the maps.


In my opinion is one of the best mapping project from a long time. It is attempting to establish a universal language that can compare and contrast those problems of cities around the world. For now it is still just a pilot on a small-scale, but I believe that it has a potential to change the way we think about the regions, cities and our own neighborhoods.

source: Gigaom

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Strategies for navigating the current geospatial job market – Part III – Get Involved!

overview-integration-webPart 3 – Professional Associations and User Groups

We already know how to prepare outstanding resume. We’ve also learnt about value of mentors and coaches in your career development. This week lets discuss why you should become an active member of industry associations and user groups.

Should you keep learning?

Simply put – yes. You should always be looking to learn as you progress in your career. That may mean attending additional courses, upgrading your qualification or simply just staying up to date with the software you use and how you can be of value to your employer.

Two great ways to keep on learning and being involved in your industry are your local professional association and user groups.

Professional Associations

Professional Associations are the support line for your career development. They often hold professional development seminars and conferences and are a great opportunity for you to network and develop professional relationships with peers.

In Australia, we have a number of professional and business associations for the GeoSpatial Industry including the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI), Spatial Information Business Association (SIBA) and Mapping Sciences Institute, Australia (MSIA).

There are plenty of others so search for your local association in your region and join.

User Groups

User Groups are also a great way to learn and meet people that use the same software (ESRI, MapInfo, Intergraph) or in the same industry sector i.e. mining or utilities. You will often find these groups are often free or very low-cost and give you the ability to ask the tricky technical questions to people in the know. They can also be a great social outlet outside the work environment but still enabling you to keep learning.

The key is to be involved. Attend the networking sessions, join a committee, and connect with your peers. You never know who you might meet or where that next great opportunity might come from.


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