Richard Turner reports on how a unique UK-base charity supports international humanitarian efforts with on-demand mapping - where and when it\'s most needed - and how advanced print technology assists its work
Since 2004, the UK-based charity MapAction has helped in 25 emergencies including the Asian tsunami, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods and tropical storms. It can deploy a fully trained and equipped mapping team anywhere in the world, often within a few hours of an alert.âBut before we can respond to a disaster, our first need is for information. Where are the affected people? Where are the relief resources? Who is doing what already?â explains Chief Executive of the charity, Nigel Woof.MapAction delivers this vital information in the form of maps. âBy conveying a shared operational picture, our maps play a crucial role in delivering humanitarian aid to the right place, quickly,â he says.An age-old tradition for 2011The cartography world has existed ever since humans felt the need to explore the world and record what they found. But now, in the 21st century, with almost all of the planet mapped and recorded in minute detail, map technology is still surging ahead. Today, cartography is at the centre of aid provision for global disasters and emergencies. âWe have harnessed the power and portability of modern technology â particularly geographical information systems (GIS) and satellite location systems (GPS),â Nigel continues. âWe can gather information on the ground, combine this with satellite images, and produce maps in the field, delivered directly to the rescue and relief agencies themselves.âIn a perfect world, we would have access to a fast, high-quality, high-resolution, large-format printer everywhere we work. But, of course, thatâs not possible! We canât take large-format printers out in the field â as much as weâd like to! But when we do have access to good printing, itâs invaluable. The potential to use OcÃ© technology with 24 hoursâ notice, is great. Our UN partners find that having a large-format map on the wall allows them to see the whole geography of an emergency site in order to visualise it and plan accordingly. When you arrive at an operation centre in an emergency, a map is the first thing you want â it becomes a hub for teams to work around and adds a lot of focus to peopleâs thinking as to how best to respond.âA map allows a clear operational picture before entering hostile environments where MapAction volunteers canât depend upon technology. A map that fits in someoneâs pocket or that can be laid out for teams to coordinate around is far tougher and more reliable than a personal computer screen. Maps for tough environmentsA printed map taken out into a disaster zone needs to be tough. It will be used in unpredicatable environments, held up in the rain, dropped on the floor, submerged in mud and folded many times, and still needs to be legible. Traditional aqueous inkjet just cannot withstand this treatment and increasingly people are looking for one off maps that can be used in many different situations, whether this is a Sunday afternoon walk, military exercises or disaster response situations. Many short-run printed maps suffer badly from not being waterproof and this renders them almost useless in any outdoor situation. However, OcÃ©âs CrystalPoint technology is now fast becoming the most sought-after product to achieve crystal clear maps. Found in the OcÃ© ColorWave 600, which is six times as fast as a liquid inkjet printer, it is rapidly setting new standards for on-demand map printing for organisations such as MapAction. Map-printing technology in the past has often compromised on accuracy â a river and road that might be parallel can look as if they overlap. Yet OcÃ© CrystalPoint technology can distinguish the finest of details; it is exceptionally accurate, which is of course vital for cartographers and mapping companies. It can also print onto the many varied materials the customer uses, from very inexpensive plain white paper and recycled bond to specialist materials for applications that require more durability. The material used for maps that will be taken into the environments that MapAction will take them to will be exceptionally robust; off white (non glare); good at recording very small line weights; and is designed to take corrections using drawing inks. Whatever the application, the bond between the toner and the material is the toughest one around. Maps on demandAt this very moment, MapAction is responding to the current crisis in Libya using maps printed on the OcÃ© ColorWave 600 at ESRI (UK), the UKâs leading provider of GIS technology. GIS allows organisations to view, analyse and visualise data in order to reveal relationships, patterns, and trends. The company understands the importance of high-quality maps and is working with OcÃ© to utilise CrystalPoint technology. It provides a service for its customers (one of which is MapAction) to create a customised map centred on a particular area of interest, printed on demand on the OcÃ© ColorWave 600. The ColorWave 600 delivers speed that enables on-demand printing, but does not compromise on quality. The four points of reference for a printed map â quality, clarity, resolution, resilience â are all ticked.Just like MapAction workers did under high pressure in order to respond to the crisis in Libya, customers can create their own map and take it home that same day. âGetting the right aid to people across and beyond Libyan territories poses a huge challenge of humanitarian intelligence gathering, planning and logistics for international aid agencies,â explains Nigel. âMapAction teams will gather and communicate vital information about the rapidly changing humanitarian picture within Libya and at its borders, using maps as the focal point.âOcÃ© is building a partnership with MapAction and will be making a financial contribution to the charity for every ColorWave600 system that is sold into the GIS and Mapping Environment in 2011.Richard Turner is Marketing Manager (Wide Format Printing Systems) for OcÃ© (UK)
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