I’ve just returned from a very quick, but great, trip to London. I had the great honor of opening the Aspire Knowledge conference, which also included the honor of being interviewed by the legendary Jon Snow, long time news anchor of Channel 4 in England.
Another speaker on the first morning of the conference was Peter Barron, Director of External Affairs for Google in the UK. Peter gave a terrific presentation on Google’s data visualization tools that are free and easy-to-use for social change efforts. It was a tremendous display that included:
The use of Google Labs data to predict health treads. Here is a graph of the instance of people searching for flu symptons then correlated with the visits to doctors and hospitals for the flu. The first trend predicts the second, an amazingly powerful data set for health professionals.
He also demonstrated Google Refine that enables users to make sense of large, public, often messy databases. Here is an intro video explaining how this tool works.
The final tool he demonstrated was Google Fusion Tables, which I think was my favorite. You can upload your data to this tool and it maps it for you. All the power of Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Labs right there for you to use. It felt like the first time I clicked on a hyperlink and realized that I could hop around anywhere on the web and have all of this information available to me.
Of course, there is a catch to all of this great, free stuff, which is that you are handing over your data to Google. But data is fighting to be free in this world, and, well Google knows everything about you already, so what’s one more piece of data? I’m not trying to be flippant about that (well, just a wee bit) but that is the reality, we are all sharing data and Google is aggregating it for good, like the flu predictions, and commerce, selling their ads. I’m going to start playing with the mapping tools and will provide an update soon on how I used them.