Personalised time/place knowledge goal of ThunderMaps

By Peter Kerr 16/11/2012

ThunderMaps co-founders (L-R), Lachlan Priest, Mickael Foucaux, Clint Van Marrewijk, Shannon Smith and Lewis Gyson; aiming to make geospatial information usable in real time

Location-based intelligence is one of the up-and-coming applications of all things mobile.

Wellington-based startup ThunderMaps reckons it has a solution to a problem – individuals and organisations having geo-knowledge that is valuable to others, but having no practical way of sharing their information.

ThunderMaps co-founder Clint Van Marrewijk says the five person team’s goal, is to reduce the barriers to the adoption and use of spatial information by the public.

“There is so much valuable data going to waste. We take data available from separate organisations, and data inputted from the public, and give users, usually smart-phone owners, the ability to filter that for themselves,” he says.

“Users can subscribe to receive alerts when things happen in places they care about. People can also report events or hazards that they witness, while they are on the move.”

Van Marrewijk says a good example of the problem that ThunderMaps is looking to solve is an individual knowing the location of missing manhole covers, graffiti, environmental breaches, or road hazards for example.

At the same time government and local government agencies also possess highly valuable geo-data from an individual’s perspective, but it isn’t released in a way that’s usable for normal people.

“ThunderMaps provides a platform where any organisation can distribute data, and control the types of data that is received from and shared by the public,” he says.

ThunderMaps has tapped into the NZTA’s Traffic Road Event Information System, so that road users can receive the same alerts that government officials receive when roads are icy, there’s a crash, hazard or major blockage of traffic. Anyone can sign up for free now, to receive alerts in their location of interest.

“Isn’t it wrong that this data isn’t easy to access? It’s almost criminal that this information isn’t accessible; the government simply must continue to release this data so that we can get it into the hands of people that can get the most use out of it – the public”

“We will enable efficient decision making, reduced costs, faster response times and increased community engagement in the role of government.”

The spatial dividend gap, defined as a failure to reap the benefits of spatial information, has been estimated as having a cost of $480 million a year in New Zealand (2009 ACIL Tasman study).

Van Marrewijk says ThunderMaps will help bridge this gap by providing an easy to use platform for both individual users, sharing their geo-data with others, and an easy way for government agencies that collect information, to distribute it to the public.

With development being carried out since June, ThunderMaps aims to eliminate the need for a business, organisation or cause to build an expensive individual app to report the location of incidents, in their particular field of interest.

ThunderMaps have been taking their platform to first mover organisations, and they are beta testing it with them now.

Among those showing positive interest are neighbourhood watch groups, graffiti response trusts and government agencies concerned with hazard reduction and awareness.

Watch this space – literally!

Since yarning to Van Marriwijk, they’ve scored a couple of forward-moving successes:

• It has recently been accepted in the ‘Dragon’s den style’ presentation round of the government’s Open Door to Innovation – a bureaucrat attempt to harness market innovation
• It has trials pending with two Wellington schools for truancy reporting