India is struggling to find a way to provide enough drinkable water to satisfy its growing population. The problem is likely to intensify in the coming years, as one study found the country will have to double its water-generation capabilities by 2030. "Not one city in India provides water on an all-day, everyday basis," said World Bank economist Smita Misra.
Researchers have studied the link between weather patterns and influenza outbreaks. In temperate zones, flu outbreaks tend to coincide with times when temperatures drop and the air gets drier. In warmer areas, however, flu outbreaks tend to correlate with periods when the air is wet. "Nobody has a really good theory for what's going on in the tropics," said geographer James Tamerius, a postdoctoral student at Columbia University.
After tornadoes struck the U.S. in 2011, University of Georgia students and geography professor John Knox used Facebook to track the distance that debris was carried by the storms. One piece of debris traveled 220 miles; multiple other items were carried more than 100 miles each. The study could have important implications if a future tornado were to pick up nuclear waste or some other hazardous material. "[S]omeday we may be worried about material falling from the skies that could cause harm," Knox said. "And we want to know in advance, where in the past these sorts of objects have landed."
This year's South by Southwest Interactive Festival is as much about interactive media and technology as it is about music. Software firm Esri commandeered a unique venue in Austin, Texas, to connect developers, hackers, entrepreneurs and executives with its geographic information systems mapping solutions. "GIS has been used for a long time in natural resources and government ... But commercial companies are starting to use it more and more, for things like: Where's the best place to locate a store? What are the trends in demographics so that we can project where we need to be building and buying land? Even things like, 'Where should we open flu-shot clinics?'" explains Esri Chief Marketing Officer Linda Hecht.
When the U.S. Navy decided to reduce its energy costs and become more environmentally friendly, it developed the Navy Shore Geospatial Energy Program. The system uses GIS software to track energy consumption on a global scale and at individual facilities. "Geospatial capabilities are changing the way that we all do business," said Sandrine Schultz, energy program manager at Naval Facilities Engineering Command. "We turned data into decisions."