Development Alert! Tool Raises Awareness of Infrastructure Projects and their Impacts

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) announced today the launch of the newest tool from WRI’s Access initiative, Development Alert!. Built by Blue Raster, the free, mobile-friendly site provides the public with greater access to information about development projects that affect the environment and public health. The site plots approved and proposed large-scale development projects along with overlays of protected areas, fisheries, forest reserves and land cover so users can easily identify projects in or around environmentally sensitive areas.

Development Alert Homepage



In Jamaica, Development Alert! is helping promote transparency and public involvement in projects including the trans-shipment port in Goat Islands. The project is expected to flatten the Goat Islands to develop a $1.5 billion trans-shipment port.

Using the map of Jamaica in Development Alert!, members of the public can see that this project is not only located in a protected area but is also within a forest reserve and Special Fisheries Conservation Area.

See the Goat Islands Project in Action.


Carole Excell, Project Director, The Access Initiative“The dynamic new website Development Alert! Jamaica is the result of a close collaborative approach with Blue Raster. What has been accomplished is an innovative new advocacy tool for environmental defenders. It’s a first not only in Jamaica but in the entire Caribbean. We could not have asked for better partners in this project and hope to bring this website to other countries around the world.”

Carole Excell, Project Director of The Access Initiative at WRI


The site is developed on WordPress for easy content management by JET. It is integrated with ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Server via the JavaScript API for mapping capabilities. Learn More and visit Development Alert!.

Future Ready Map Video for White House Connect-ED Event

More than 1,200 School Superintendents Take the Future Ready District Pledge

Blue Raster is proud to have produced the Future Ready video for the White House ConnectED conference on Wednesday in partnership with All4Ed. The standing-room-only East Room was abuzz with more than 120 superintendents “signing the pledge”. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama addressed the invited guests. Enjoy a brief highlight of the event via YouTube as well as the map video below.


Behind-the-scenes look at producing the video:
A behind-the-scenes look at the video production.

A behind-the-scenes look at the video production.


The final video map:

City of Boston Zoning Viewer for Urban Planning

View planning and zoning information for properties across the City of Boston with the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s (BRA) new Boston Zoning Viewer. With the help of Blue Raster, this interactive web-mapping application was redesigned and updated with new data to assist city staff and the public in locating and determining zoning information for Boston land parcels.

Zoning Viewer Map Sample

Recognizing the need to build a tool that works across multiple platforms, Blue Raster worked to optimize the application (for the first time) on mobile devices in addition to desktops. The mapping tool was successfully migrated from Flex to JavaScript and uses the latest version of ArcGIS for Server.

Boston Zoning Goes Mobile

ArcGIS Image Extension serves imagery, and with the Zoning Viewer, both the public and city staff can access parcel information including address and owner, as well as many other contextual layers including zoning districts, smart growth, transit corridor and urban renewal.

Zoning Viewer Detailed Sample

For the first time, the new Zoning Viewer is available on tablets and phones. Users can select a parcel from the map, or locate a particular parcel by typing an address into the navigation search bar. The application also supports geo-searches with line-and-polygon buffer-selection tools.

Carolyn Bennett
This application greatly simplifies our ability to get at critical zoning information combined with other GIS data.

Carolyn Bennett,
Boston Redevelopment Authority GIS Manager


Staff and the public now have current information at their finger tips to make more informed planning decisions. Visit and explore the Boston Redevelopment Authority Zoning Viewer tool today.

APTA Maps American Public Transportation with ArcGIS

Blue Raster has always been a big fan of public transportation. Our office is strategically located across the street from the CourtHouse Metro stop. When the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) asked us to build a national map of public transportation for their members, we were excited to participate in their mission of ensuring public transportation accessibility to communities across the country.


APTA set out to create an interactive map to provide their members with an advocacy and outreach tool to educate public and elected officials about the vital role of public transportation. With ArcGIS Online Accelerate solutions, Blue Raster built an interactive Industry Footprint map that leverages APTA’s ArcGIS Online subscription as their mapping and analysis tool. The map includes:

  • APTA members
  • public rail lines and stops
  • bus stops buffered to 0.25 mi
  • 2010 Census urbanized areas
  • 113th Congressional districts

By using the map, users can view transit information localized to their community, as well as to the regional and national level.

Several of the layers include custom information useful to APTA Members. This puts quick facts into the hands of APTA members, for example, the number of passenger miles traveled within a legislator’s district. Blue Raster integrated Sunlight Foundation’s Congress API v3 for complete and accurate congressional details.

APTA Maps work on tablets

Blue Raster queries a secure APTA member web service and geocodes addresses using Esri’s ArcGIS Online World Geocoder. The tool leverages the ArcGIS Online Portal API and server-side python tools to seamlessly integrate member geographic data.

The transit information is built from the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data exchange. This specification defines a common format for public transportation schedules and associated geographic information. The GTFS data exchange is a site of “feeds” for public transit agencies to publish their data, and for developers to write applications that consume the data in an interoperable way. The result is a national layer of public transit in the Industry Footprint map.  Learn more about GTFS by visiting the Yay Transit! website that breaks down a GTFS feed for the ArcGIS user.

Contact us today to learn how your organization can benefit from our ArcGIS Online Accelerate solutions.


Mapping Education and Demographic Trends with MapED

The Census Mapping program at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) – U.S. Department of Education has just released MapED, a new online mapping platform developed by Blue Raster and partner, Sanametrix, to visualize education and census data across the country.

MapED Homepage

The platform unites NCES and CENSUS datasets with GIS mapping capabilities. The general public can investigate education and demographic trends on local, regional, and national scales. The improved workflow makes it possible for anyone to discover, map, and analyze the data with ease, as users walk through selecting a program or topic area and explore and visualize the data on customizable maps.

Initially, the platform contains school, district, and or state-level data from:

  • American Community Survey (ACS)
  • Common Core of Data (CCD)
  • Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS)
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
  • the Private School Universe Survey (PSS)
  • More data and programs are planned in the future.

Tai Phan, School District Demographic System Survey Area and Census Mapping Lead at NCESMapED is a valuable resource. The data has always been available but the ability to narrow down hundreds of Census demographic indicators over multiple years, starting out with a topic of interest; and then visualize it on a national map down to the district or school level is a new and powerful way to make it accessible to a much wider audience.
Tai Phan, Census Mapping Lead at NCES

MapED also features a series of  Story Maps that will be released in the coming months. The initial release features Story Maps exploring school bullying on the basis of race, sex, and disability as well as public school student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from 2003 to 2013. Future releases will include additional story maps including school enrollment by race comparisons using ACS data.

Map Ed Storymap on Bullying

MapED is developed using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript and ArcGIS Server and uses .NET web services to automate the addition of new data each year. Esri JavaScript templates and ArcGIS Online both support the development of story maps.

To learn more about the project and view the application, visit NCES MapED.


Global Forest Watch Fires Story Map – An Inside Look

Global Forest Watch (GFW) recently launched a new story map highlighting the functionality behind GFW Fires, an online platform for monitoring and responding to fires in Southeast Asia. The story map walks users through the platform and explains its growing role in the fight against land and forest fires.
Global Forest Watch Fires Story Map

Created using ArcGIS Online and the Map Journal Builder, the story map is organized into eight sections that users can scroll through. Each section highlights a different feature of the platform, and tells the story behind how it is helping government agencies in Indonesia and other countries monitor and respond to fires with more precision and speed. It also explores the environmental, economic, and social implications of these fires. From Digital Globe and Landsat high-resolution satellite imagery to wind and air quality data, the platform empowers people to combat these fires before they burn out of control and enables greater accountability where crimes of illegal burning may have been committed.

map showing air quality monitor data

To learn more about GFW Fires and how you can get involved, check out the GFW Fires Story Map and the GFW Fires platform today.

USAID DHS Program Indicator Data API Opens Door for Innovative App Development

On the heels of the White House’s commitment to open data, Blue Raster collaborated with ICF International under The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program to build the DHS Indicator Data Application Programming Interface (API). Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the API provides users direct access to over 30 years of Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data for more than 90 countries covering almost 1,500 indicators – more than 3 million records. By using this tool, developers, analysts, and researchers can obtain DHS data programmatically and develop applications that suit their needs.

DHS Program API Homepage

The API was developed by Blue Raster on the ColdFusion Web Application platform. Developers can query the DHS data using both a RESTful interface, which allows selecting parameters including countries, indicators, and surveys, as well as a conventional query-based interface which provides advanced options for obtaining more customized results. For those looking to query large sets of data, the API offers additional parameters that control the format, citation, and version information. Additionally, JSON, XML, CSV and HTML output formats are supported to provide users with flexibility.

DHS Program API Application Showcase

In the spirit of openness, the DHS Program has put together tips and code samples in JavaScript, ColdFusion, .NET, Python, R, Stata, and more to help users get started. You can even register to be a DHS API partner which allows you access to a larger number of entries returned per page and assistance in application development.

Trever Croft, DHS Program’s Capacity Strengthening Technical Coordinator, says:

“The DHS API provides a new level of access to DHS data. Blue Raster has produced a wonderfully simple but powerful tool that will power both the DHS website and STATcompiler as well as users and developers own applications.”

For more details, visit the DHS Indicator Data API website. Let us know if you build an app, and follow the API on Twitter (@DHSprogramAPI).

Global Forest Watch-Fires using High-Resolution Imagery to better respond to Fires

Fires across Indonesia are one of the largest threats to the life, environment, and people who rely on Indonesian land. To address these risks, Blue Raster partnered with the World Resources Institute (WRI), Esri, DigitalGlobe, Google and others to launch the Global Forest Watch-Fires (GFW-Fires) online platform. GFW-Fires was built using Esri’s ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS API for Javascript. The platform contains comprehensive information on the locations of fires, land use, land cover and conservation areas.

Burning fields and oil palm plantations

Users can view locations of fires on peat lands, which has become imperative due to environmental and health implications, including haze and smoke that result from burning on high carbon soils. FORESTS News reports that, “Peat fires were the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 (larger than energy).” What makes this application truly exceptional, is the addition of DigitalGlobe’s remarkable 50 centimeter resolution satellite imagery, giving a bird’s eye view sharp enough to see each tree on the ground.


With the help of NASA’s MODIS data and imagery, used to locate the fires, DigitalGlobe can now be directed to a location to take super high resolution images. This imagery is so clear that you can easily distinguish between healthy and dead vegetation, the type of vegetation effected, view and draw burn area boundaries, and detect previously existing burn scars. This allows accountability to be assigned to the fires, as one now has the tools to investigate where and how these fires have started. What was once a point on a map can now be confirmed through close to real-time imagery. In additon, the user can then view wind direction and air quality data, key components of determining who will be effected downwind.

Often, a fire may be located in Indonesia, but the toxic air is carried to a neighboring island in Malaysia or Singapore. By utilizing the ArcGIS Image Extension for Server, the platform computes and provides statistics on a selected area of interest, and allows the user to export the analysis in a report. In order to get this information to the public, GFW-Fires also offers an SMS Alerts system, using the Twilio platform. The addition of this capability has made it possible for Global Forest Watch to achieve their goals of responding to environmental hazards faster than ever before. It is now possible to locate a fire, confirm and analyze the fire, and get the word out through SMS Alerts in a matter of minutes.

Global Forest Watch Fires

Using the extensive amount of data available on the platform, users have the  capacity to voice their concern and request change towards a sustainable future free of dangerous smog and land conflict.

Susan Minnemeyer, WRI’s Senior Mapping and Data Manager for Global Forest Watch, says:

“The website puts near-real time data and analysis tools in the hands of citizens and decision makers to learn more about developing fires crises and effectively respond. Working with Blue Raster, we were able to develop the site over only a few weeks and automate analysis our GIS team had been doing in house.”

Read more by the World Resources Institutes’ blog series on Indonesia Forest Fires.

Smithsonian Story Map – Tradition and the Art of Living China

The second in a series of story maps for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Tradition and the Art of Living China highlights the culture bearers appearing at the 2014 Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. Built by Blue Raster and Cricket Media, the map allows users to experience the artistry and heritage of those keeping China’s diverse traditions alive.

Tradition and the Art of Living China Story Map built by Blue Raster

Created using ArcGIS Online, the story map integrates photographs of the Folklife Festival participants and their work. As a result, it offers a comprehensive look into the cultural heritage of China. From calligraphy and pottery, to martial arts, users worldwide can explore the unique stories of these tradition bearers.

Tradition and Art of Living China

Smithsonian’s Virtual Field Trip around the Globe‏

The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and Cricket Media, an education media company and global learning network, recently invited kids from around the world to identify and interview people who exemplify important traditions in their communities, then asked them to document and present their stories.


Cricket Media and Blue Raster created the Traditions of the World story map using ArcGIS Online, highlighting the top video submissions from kids ages 8-18 from around the world.  The result is an interactive virtual field trip with lively hosts that include a 9 year old boy from West Bengal India showing traditional saris being hand woven and students in China documenting everything from dumpling making to martial arts.

The challenge was launched in coordination with the Smithsonian Center’s annual June-July Washington D.C.-based Folklife Festival and extends the folklife experience to millions of students globally.

“The challenge inspired students to explore the richness of their local traditions and unique stories of tradition bearers, and the map created by Blue Raster captured this amazing student work in an engaging way that will preserve these traditions for generations to come,” said Cricket Media CEO, Katya Andresen.  “It’s a truly unique, global digital museum, curated by kids.”

Traditions of Calligraphy with Ruochen