NASA and high tech partners host Random Hacks of Kindness

nasa logoThe third Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) event included over 1,500 software developers, students and disaster risk experts for a “hackathon” at 20 locations around the world. The locations included New York, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv, Nairobi, San Francisco and Bangalore, India.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver joined U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to deliver introductory remarks at the RHoK event in New York. Google Vice President of Research Alfred Spector and RHoK co-founder Patrick Svenburg, director of government platform strategy at Microsoft, also attended.

“The RHoK hackathons provide a forum for innovators to come up with real-world solutions that can make a huge difference in people’s lives,” Garver said. “NASA’s commitment to building on its data and opening it up to other users allows us to expand the tools available for disaster response.”

At a RHoK event in Chicago, a group of software developers worked to create an application that has the ability to access mapping data from the Rapid Response Database in NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer project. The team found the publicly available land imagery after visiting NASA’s Open Government website, then worked to create a better interface to review the imagery. Response teams could use this tool to more quickly identify areas that may be affected by disasters, such as flooding and forest fires.

In years past previous notable hacks have included the “Break Glass” app developed at RHok which allows anyone with a cell phone to transmit their GPS location following a natural disaster. The application also transmitted information about about whether the person was safe or injured (and if the latter, how severely).

The first RHoK event was held in Mountain View, Calif., in November 2009. The event resulted in applications that were used after the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile to help identify survivors and help rescuers find them. The second RHoK hackathon took place simultaneously in six countries in June.