An Exercise in Building a Threats Dashboard with Public Environmental Data Sources

I am especially interested in environmental data and how society (individuals, businesses, and governments) make decisions with it. So why not build my own dashboard leveraging publicly available datasets and commercial cloud resources? Perhaps this blog post will encourage you to investigate the science, data, and technology behind decision-making dashboards.

Web services and dashboards are ubiquitous in business, government, and personal life. They are tools that supply people and businesses with information and data for decision-making. If you are not a techie or in a business that deals with dashboards, your bank website and the Amazon marketplace are types of dashboard you may be familiar with. Simply, dashboards aggregate many data sources in one location to give the human viewer the ability to make a decision with numerous data inputs. For bank websites, you balance or re-allocate your funds and on marketplace websites you choose the best deal and make a purchase.

For my dashboard, I am focusing on environmental threats in Florida. The following describes the key technology and data I’ve employed so far.

Key technology enabling personal dashboard (to date):

  • Google App Engine – Serverless Web Services and Hosting
  • Identify Aware Proxy – User Authentication
  • Google Maps Javascript API – Mapping Services
  • Google Cloud Bigquery and Bigquery Storage API to access public datasets

Data Integrated into dashboard (to date):

Screenshot of my personal Environmental Threats Dashboard. The first data source I integrated into the dashboard service is realtime satellite wildfire detection from NASA’s VIIRs Satellites

Obviously, one data source may not be sufficient for the decision you are trying to make. Overtime, I’ll integrate more data sources relevant to the decisions I want to make.

The NASA FIRMS website is a good place to start if you are interested in using or understanding the utility of dashboards and web services. FIRMS allows public access and subscriptions and has access to several data sources. The website description states FIRMS “distributes Near Real-Time (NRT) active fire data within 3 hours of satellite observation from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and NASA’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).”

As time permits, I’ll update this blog post with updates on my progress in building a tailored environmental threats dashboard. I may also investigate building a machine learning model for fire occurrence based on lightning, fuel moisture, and atmospheric variables.

This tool is an alpha version and open to a private audience. If you think you have a need for a tool like this and interested in testing leave me feedback by clicking here.

Disclaimer: These micro-tutorials and blog posts about various technologies and solutions do not represent an endorsement by me, my employer, or entities that I am affiliated with and are solely to be used for what they are intended (i.e. recreational learning in topic areas discussed).