Imagine this: working as a wildlife poaching guard in Kenya, entirely hidden from the outside world, having no access to Wifi whatsoever. How would you be able to connect to your colleagues and report what you see, in real-time? Research used to be an act of simply bringing a notebook, collecting data, recording your observations, and then bringing those results back to your team.
However, the company Spatial Networks has developed a data software tool called Fulcrum. This platform enables users to capture information in the field and to share it, even if there is no WiFi connection available. Furthermore, it has a real-time tracking feature, so that spotters can keep up with other team members. Spatial Networks is a company that specializes in organizing and analyzing data from the ground – anywhere in the world. The company is committed to transforming a big dataset into relevant, accurate information that can be used for making quick decisions on important matters.
The American Geographical Society (AGS) spoke to Spatial Networks’ Vice President of Product Development, Coleman McCormick. We asked him about the application of spatial data in presenting human geographical matters. He notes that it is particularly useful in being able to visualize geographical information in an other-than-written format.
The company has partnered with departments all across the government: organizations in the defense sector, the intelligence community, and with humanitarian organizations. In addition, Spatial Networks has worked together with international clients, consulting firms, and merchants, among other sectors. They are all looking for similar types of information from every sector – according to McCormick,
‘Really, what a local type of life pattern would look like in any place in the world that they are unfamiliar with. And they want to understand to do business within those communities or within that reality on the ground.’
Revisiting the wildlife project in Kenya, McCormick explains that the goal is ultimately to counter poaching practices and preserve the animal stock. Guards use Spatial Network’s platform Fulcrum when they go out into the bush: if they make any observations while they are in the field, they can document those observations and that goes back to a fusion center where they take all their data and perform analysis on it. After reporting the observations via a mobile app, the data gets pushed back to the central observatory. Thus, the platform helps them to better cross-communicate; the documentation enables the wildlife preservation center to put the pieces together and to make decisions about what the next steps are going to be. Not only does this help to work against the poaching problem, but also against international crime and illicit activities as a whole.
In the U.S. educators, academics and students are using the Fulcrum app for different applications and across all school levels. The usage of mapping technology and understanding mapping data, and putting that in an educational context, is far more common now compared to twenty or thirty years ago, McCormick argues.
For their future projects, Fulcrum is getting involved in environmental services, construction, utilities. There will be substantial investments in organizations with laborers in remote areas. The goal is to aggregate the data and become predictive rather than reactive in the work field. Lastly, they are also going to work on integrating drones, to combine ground data with drone data collected from above. The advantage of that, McCormick says, is that it provides another perspective and a different type of data. A drone can cover a lot more territory, more instantaneously; this not only enhances the processing of the data but ultimately helps with using the data all at once.
Interviewee: Coleman McCormick
Interviewer: Kuan-Ting Wu
Article: Feija Bruinsma