Hackers to the rescue: 'Random' asks coders to make the world a better place

NASA, along with Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, the World Bank and Yahoo, is encouraging tech enthusiasts to spend the weekend of June 4-5 brainstorming and problem-solving in the annual Random Hacks of Kindness hackathon. The event is dedicated to finding solutions to disaster management and climate change challenges using information from NASA and other open datasets.

Suggested problems for this year’s hackathon include creating a disaster dashboard to quickly alert the public to disasters and response efforts and adding a sidewalk layer in Google Maps so that pedestrians and cyclists can get accurate information about the location and condition of bike trails and sidewalks.

This will be the fourth RHOK. The last one, in December 2010, focused on disaster relief and included teams around the world, with main stages in Chicago, New York, Denmark, India and Kenya.

One of the award-winning apps used imagery from NASA’s Rapid Response Database and built an interface that would let response teams more quickly identify areas affected by disasters, such as flooding and forest fires.

Among the other winners were two mapping apps, Connectivity Mapper, which automatically uploads maps, and OpenScribble, which can create and share a map with one click.

Other applications from previous hackathons include I’m OK, an SMS service that lets people inform their families of their status in emergencies, and an application for visualizing risks from landslides.

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