Penn State video illustrates benefit of GPS technology in disasters

September 15, 2010

Penn State Public Broadcasting’s “Geospatial Revolution Project” highlights the use of digital mapping technologies

University Park, Pa. -- Geospatial information is more than just a handheld GPS receiver used to navigate personal travel. Geospatial intelligence helps with homeland security. Digital maps can unite people across the world and even save lives. After last January’s earthquake in Haiti, geographic information systems (GIS) helped first responders map cities, locate survivors and distribute aid.

Penn State Public Broadcasting’s four-part online video series, The Geospatial Revolution Project, tells how geospatial information transforms lives. The first of the series’ episodes is available now and focuses on how geospatial technology aided first responders during the Haitian earthquake relief efforts.

Geospatial technology was critical in providing first responders with the information they needed to help the victims. Ushahidi, an open source platform that uses crowdsourcing in crisis mapping, allowed anyone to share information from the disaster zone in Haiti with exact coordinates. Ushahidi staff and volunteers used that information to create up-to-date maps of the affected area.

“Whether you are that person in Des Moines, Iowa, who is reading Twitter or Facebook or you’re a Haitian on the ground, with this open sourcing information you’re suddenly empowered,” said Craig Clarke, a civilian analyst for the U.S. Marine Corps., who is interviewed in this episode.

The 13-minute episode, which is divided into four chapters, begins with an overview and moves into how GPS works. Following a brief history of the evolution of mapping, the episode wraps with the practical and human application of crisis mapping and crowdsourcing, and uses the earthquake in Haiti as the case study.

The Geospatial Revolution Project: Episode One is available in its entirety or in shorter chapters at Penn State Public Broadcasting’s website,, starting Sept. 15.

Penn State Public Broadcasting, licensed to Penn State, produces non-commercial television, radio and online media. Our public service media programming and complementary outreach materials address important societal issues for Pennsylvania, the nation and the world.

  • The world of digital mapping is changing the way we think, behave and interact. Click on the image above to watch the first episode of The Geospatial Revolution Project.


(Media Contacts)

Katelynn Levanduski

Last Updated November 18, 2010