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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

PolicyMap Release is a One-Stop Shop for a Variety of Data

 
March 13th, 2014 by Susan Smith

Maggie McCullough, President of PolicyMap, talked about the latest release of their product. The company has been around since 2007, and today’s release is a significant update, as not much has changed in the product since its inception.

PolicyMap 3-Layer Map

PolicyMap is a one-stop-shop for a huge variety of public and commercial data (15,000 datasets), as well as the tools to map this data.

“PolicyMap is an online tool that allows anyone, particularly non-experts, the ability to easily make data rich maps on the web,” said McCullough. “Our customers are not GIS specialists or analysts. They tend to be public policy analysts and the end user who is really looking to understand data in a particular geography for specific purposes. So when we launched in 2007 we learned what people want to do with maps and the kinds of data they want access to. We have grown the business to include a lot of public users. We offer a lot for free, have a lot of government agencies, commercial organizations, a growing number of universities and non-profits.”

McCullough said maps have grown in popularity with the use of open data and the federal government releasing more data to the public

Data maps are useful because they help people gain insight into a geographic area. The maps help people make informed decisions and helps them explain it to others. “When we use the phrase “data map” we’re talking about this kind of map, a status map with shading at a state level, with the data that comes out of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for example, every month. This map lets us know that the darkest purple places like Texas and Louisiana and Alabama have widespread flu activity as of Dec. 20, 2013. You can see how flu has spread.”

In a population data map, the data map shows how the population has changed between 2000 and 2011.

“If you don’t have GIS training, you’ve got to find software and the data and you have to know how to put data on the map, and that can be expensive and require training,” said McCullough. “And the data itself isn’t that simple. Open data sounds like it’s free and easy, but it has to be cleaned, normalized, validated, what it’s for and it’s not all in one place.”

Data incoming is not always going to be in the same format, so PolicyMap is able to get data ready and clean it so that users can go ahead and start analyzing it without having to worry about finding it and cleaning it up to make a map.

The biggest difference in this new version is the user interface has changed dramatically with a full screen map. Maps can be hard for people to understand. The tool allows for the making of maps, creation of tables, reports, 3 layer maps, where you can layer three layers on top of each other. There is a self service data loader for customers who want to leverage the data we have in PolicyMap but also want to upload their own data and see it in here as well.

In the Location bar – you can type in an address, city and county and you can also go to a geography like a census track, congressional district or school district. The search boxes and menus in PolicyMap are patterned after those in Amazon or LinkedIn so that they are easy to manipulate for the non-technical user.

From the press release:

Among the updates in the new PolicyMap are:

  • Greatly improved performance for faster mapping and great responsiveness especially for very complex maps built with large amounts of data
  • Reorganized data menumaking it quicker for users to find the data they need
    • The data menus are now organized by the topics most commonly searched for by users
    • The UI has been optimized to allow people to drill down deeply in an intuitive manner
  • Redesigned interfacewhich takes inspiration from modern online shopping experiences and brings it to online data mapping to lower the learning curve
    • A familiar map experience makes getting started faster and easier
    • Modern standard search, print, share and download buttons that are similar to other consumer sites
    • More map colors to choose from, to aesthetically or strategically match the look and feel of other materials
    • Full screen map (vs. ⅔ page) is more contemporary and user requested.
    • Legends are draggable, allowing users to see other parts of the maps
  • New data loaderallows users to easily upload and share their own data
    • Data loader allows all to upload address level data, choose icon, see all points on map
    • Thematic level data can be sent to PolicyMap for uploading as part of subscription
    • Uploaded data can be shared with specific users (both PolicyMap users and non-users)
  • Improved 3 Layer Maps(formerly known as analytics)
    • Highly-demanded, powerful functionality of layering multiple data sets on top of each other is now more prominent and easier to use
  • Additional data, as requested by users, including:
    • Commercial and residential vacancy via Vallassis, a provider of postal service vacancy data
    • Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics showing where people live vs where they work
    • Health related datasets from the CDC including monthly and seasonal flu activity, infectious disease rates and mortality rates by disease and injury
    • Emergency room visit rates, hospital beds, Medicare beneficiaries, health center services and location of concentrations of doctors and dentists
    • Bank branches, credit unions and bank failures
    • Community Health Centers, and Nurse practitioner led clinics
    • Public school finance data including expenditures and local, state and federal revenue
    • Indexes regarding Economic Mobility and Location Affordability
    • Wages by industry from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages
    • Consumer Expenditures (coming April 2014)
    • New indicators from the American Community Survey including health insurance coverage (coming April 2014)

The basic level of PolicyMap is free.  Give it a try: http://www.policymap.com/maps

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Categories: cloud, geospatial, GIS, GPS, location based services, mapping

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