Monday, July 9, 2012

UK Real-time Flood Alerts Online - Using Information in Novel Ways

A BBC report on 6th July ( informs its readers of the online launch of a real-time flood alerts map developed by Shoothill, a Shrewsbury-based company, which uses data from the Environment agency network of monitoring sites. Users can zoom into the map and see flood alerts and warning as issued by the Environment agency within the previous 15 minutes.

The site is worth a visit but it does beg the question, particularly as the unseasonably weather continue in Britain and elsewhere – what does this company add to the existing EA site that makes it more useful? The EA flood warning front page ( shows a map of Britain that you can click on by region and then text information on flood warnings including locations are provided. Clicking further through the individual warning locations provides more detailed information. The Shoothill site provide the same information if you click on the symbol on the map.

The answer seems to be that the Shoothill site provides the information visually linked to a map. Is this such an advance? It seems to be and it indicates a key component of using the Web – the concept of mash-ups. Amazon and Google use a similar view of the flexibility of information in their Associates programmes – increasing revenues by allowing specialist to access databases and the facilities to purchase goods through links to Amazon and Google sites.

For Shoothill, the data is provided by the EA but the use to which it is put, and the value added to that novel use, is provided by Shoothill. Locating the flood warnings in a map may seem obvious but it takes specialist skills and time to do this, particularly in beign able to update the inforamtion in real-time. Shoothill uses the existing information in an innovative way adding value to the data in terms of how people can use and interpret it. Such innovation would not be possible without access to that information. This may seem like an odd view of data and information but within the Web environment, the value of information does not necessarily lie in keeping it the private and the exclusive property of one company or organization. The value of information can be released or expanded by allowing others to access it and to use it in a manner that may not have been envisaged by the information generators. Both parties can gain as Amazon and Goggle have already figured out!

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