Tomnod is using crowdsourced data to help locate Malaysian Airline Flight 370 – and it’s changing the public’s perception of Big Data in a positive way.

Flight and Big DataA few years ago, casually mentioning “Big Data” might get you quizzical looks—or wide, excited eyes from the tech geek at your table. Unfortunately, the biggest, explicit mention of Big Data in the public sphere came in the form of the NSA’s data collection, largely framed as a repository of personal details with seemingly dubious intent. Like many a new kid on the block, Big Data has earned a slightly tarnished public reputation, whether worthy of it or not.  With recent examples of big bad (or Big Brother) Big Data, it may be hard to impart the importance of such a concept for those only associating it with the negative connotation popularized in the general media. But a few days ago, Tomnod showed how Big Data can be a really positive thing.

Satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe has provided its Tomnod crowdsourcing tool to amass volunteered public information to help locate Malaysian Airline Flight 370. Tomnod is turning the public’s desire to aid in a crisis into an active effort, transforming helplessness into helpfulness. The Tomnod interface displays satellite-generated images of the Gulf of Thailand (and beyond, as the search grows) and uses visual keys, such as what an oil slick looks like on water, to guide users into looking for clues within designated locations.  Users review map areas and tag where and what they see as possible signs of the flight, such as debris. Algorithms are then executed to analyze and collect info patterns from the crowdsourced data, hopefully creating legitimate intelligence that will lead to the recovery of the flight.

This positive effort is a fine example of how user input can benefit in ways beyond why Miley Cyrus might be trending on Twitter. Giving a tactile, elected connection to data not only helps geospatial intelligence, but also creates a positive public context for Big Data—exemplified by the hundreds of thousands aiding in the Tomnod search. The efficiency and collaboration that the process lends in order to solve a problem is precisely what Chateaux is doing for clients.

When entering a project, Chateaux often encounters anxieties regarding the sheer volume and potential for overwhelming client data.  This trepidation towards data can jam up progress. Our Define. Design. Deliver. Methodology takes clients through a thorough interview process to clearly define business-level needs and pain points. Chateaux strives to take the fear out of what may feel like a daunting process and highlight how information can be used in a responsible and effective way. In the end, it’s what is done with information that is most important.

For more information about Tomnod and the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: