Collaborate.org launches new platform to map the world

"We are providing worldwide geospatial infrastructure to empower people," says company CEO Kevin Montgomery.

Dan Farber
2 min read
Kevin Montgomery (left) of Collaborate.org and NASA's Patrick Hogan. Dan Farber

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. -- Collaborate.org wants to bring geospatial data to the masses, beyond where Google Earth has gone. The company, which launched Wednesday at the Future in Review conference here, is built around a geospatial visualizer, with more than 2 million data layers that can be overlaid on maps, and a broad set of collaboration tools.

"We want to harness the collective knowledge of the online global community, sharing expertise and enthusiasm," said company CEO Kevin Montgomery. "We are providing worldwide geospatial infrastructure to empower people." Collaborate.org grew out of Intelesense, a company headed by Montgomery that provides monitoring products for wireless sensor networks and a spatial data exchange.

Collaborate.org is built around World Wind, an open-source, spatial visualization platform developed by NASA. Google Earth doesn't allow for the global community to contribute data or modify the code.

"World Wind is Google Earth, but you can do what you want with it," said Patrick Hogan, NASA World Wind project manager. "It's an interface for that spatial data and puts it in the native context of the real world. It's a way to allow innovation to occur." World Wind is also used by the U.S. Department of Defense, universities, and companies like Northrup Grumman, Hogan said.

Hawaii Disaster Monitoring portal. Collaborate.org

For example, Collaborate.org can geolocate all the tweets in the world in real time, overlay all flights in the air, and locate all the major ocean going vessels in the world, with the relevant data a click or touch away.

The data layers include real-time sensor data, GIS data, and aerial and satellite imagery, as well as news, tweets, and other kinds of information that the company or users contribute. The collaborative portal includes a dashboard, blog, task list, shared folders, feeds, and layers culled from the mapping database, as well as video conferencing and network calendaring.

"Technologically, it's big data leveraging the cloud with community crowdsourcing moderating the data," Montgomery said. It's a bit of YouTube, with users uploading videos and data; Facebook or LinkedIn, with people sharing information; and Reddit, a community that works together to curate and improve the information, he added.

Collaborate.org is currently in private beta. The company will offer the service in a "freemium" model, Montgomery said. Users can upload data for free as long as it is publicly available. The company will charge fees for storing private data. In addition, Montgomery said Collaborate.org will generate revenue from consulting and possibly from custom data services. Versions of Collaborate.org for mobile devices also are in development.