Here’s a look at how Mark Laudon, an experienced developer and Devpost user, harnesses the power of mapping technology to make the world a better place.
Venturing from the frosty landscapes of Canada to the buzzing world of hackathons, Mark is on a mission. His commitment? To use digital maps as a force for global awareness and positive change. Dive into Mark’s inspiring journey where tech meets passion—shaping a better world, one map at a time.
I started my career working as a forester in the cold Canadian forest. Needless to say, I needed an office job. At that time, using computers to make maps was a novel concept, but evolving quickly. I started to create forestry maps using digital mapping technology. This got me out of the frost and into the office. This transition kicked off a lifetime goal of figuring out ways digital mapping could solve problems, not only in the natural resource field, but anywhere maps could help.
Well, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say prize money is a great motivator. That being said, hackathons provide me with an excuse to explore new technology and figure out ways to solve, or bring awareness to, global problems that society might not be aware of.
“The World is Flooding” turned out to be a great template for being able to model and visualize the impact a flood could have in your neighborhood. Over the years, I created many [paper] maps depicting a flood scenario. The maps were understandable, however, being able to take these paper maps and show the same data in a realistic 3D model was awesome.
Some of the key challenges were on the technical side. Map data can be quite finicky. Getting flood map data and displaying it in 3D required quite a bit of manipulating and was a challenge.
With the release of consumer-based digital maps such as Google Earth or Google Maps, society now has access to a rich new medium for making maps part of their lives. So, there’s no better platform to embrace when it comes to generating environmental awareness.
"I received an email from a guy in a small village in Kenya letting me know the Save the Rain app was used to design water capture/holding tanks for his village," said Mark Laudon.
Positive change can also be achieved through map-related technology. For instance, I received an email from a guy in a small village in Kenya letting me know the Save the Rain app was used to design water capture/holding tanks for his village. Pretty positive feedback for sure.
I think the best advice I could offer developers would be to stay in sync with current real-world issues. Then, search for opportunities, data, and technology platforms that would lend to solving these issues, or at a minimum getting society to think about these issues.
An area of focus I am currently exploring/implementing is in the realm of indoor mapping. In this case, way back in 2010, I entered an app into a hackathon and ended up winning. It turned out that this app (Floor Plan Mapper) was a pretty good idea. So, I turned it into a business. This project is certainly evolving and is a great testimony to the merits of a hackathon.
The future of technology-driven environmental projects is looking pretty good. As more and more open data comes online, and mapping technology platforms evolve, maps as a medium will become more pervasive and digestible.
The most significant advice I can offer for someone who is considering getting into a hackathon is to start brainstorming early. Then get developing. And, if you don’t completely finish your project, find a way to wrap up what you completed and get your hackathon entry in anyway. You never know what the hackathon judges are looking for, and your entry could be the winner.
We’ve said it before and we’ll continue to say it: You have the power to leverage technology to make a difference in the world. Take advantage of that opportunity! Feeling inspired? Check out our social good hackathons happening here.
If you have your own inspiring story or would like to share your thoughts on hackathons and their impact, we'd love to hear from you.