Whenever you think of interesting data analysis tools or mashups, the U.S. Government probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. There are a lot of cool programmers out there doing a lot of amazing things to morph data, trends and information into awesome applications. Saikat touched on 7 useful map-based apps that aggregate news, and David hit on a few cool apps that mash up Craigslist data with other information, as a few good examples.
Believe it or not, the U.S. Government is now taking on the role of building interesting tools and data mashups. The datasets available within these apps are pretty impressive, and allow researchers to dig up statistics and correlate information in ways that were never before possible without a lot of very hard work. I’m going to introduce the five best Data.gov tools and show you some of the cool things they can do.
Introducing The Data.Gov Apps Showcase
If you liked the Data.gov app we previously mentioned called DataMasher, you’ll love what the Apps Showcase at Data.Gov now has to offer. The site now offers hundreds of datasets and mashups that you can use to visually and mathematically correlate information. The Apps Showcase is the page where you can find the best of those apps.
If you want to see everything the site has to offer, click on the “Tools” tab at the top and you’ll find yourself in a search engine featuring over 600 tools. The majority of these apps are simply RSS feeds for the latest alerts or trends, such as weather advisories, health estimates, and much more.
The 5 Best Data Mashups
All five of the best tools that I want to highlight are featured on the Apps Showcase, so if you like any of them, you can find them there.
The first app is the National Obesity Comparison Tool, which you can use to examine information about obesity levels by state. Just type in the state and you’ll see comparisons between that state and national averages.
If you travel a lot and you’re sick of getting held up at the airport, then this next app is just for you. It’s called FlyOnTime.us, and it lets you check recent statistics for airports or airlines that you’re planning to travel through. These statistics can really help you streamline your trip.
Airline data shows you how that airline has performed historically, as well as which airports where delays most commonly occur. For example, if you’re planning to fly Delta out of Boston, the odds are pretty good that the flight will be on time.
If you select Airport Security information and type in the airport where you’re planning to travel from or to, you’ll get another set of historic flight data for that airport. This data includes real-time information (within the last 30 minutes) of the full last seven days worth of “wait time” at security lines for that airport. Plan ahead and you’ll find short lines through security. Isn’t it nice to have the ability to predict the future?
If you’re unemployed and looking to move to a better part of the country where there’s more chance of work, then you’ll want to check out the Employment Market Explorer app. This is a very useful Google Maps mashup with unemployment trends displayed underneath. To check and compare local differences from one town to the next, just click on the map marker and the data below automatically updates.
Of course, I can’t list the five best apps without mentioning DataMasher. DataMasher is easily the best of all of these apps, because it gives you the flexibility to select from a long list of datasets covering a really wide range of national information. It lets you perform mathematically calculations on those datasets, and then displays them in a graphical format.
For example, here I’m creating a mashup of states with the highest combined elderly population and driving accidents. The datasets that you have to choose from are between 100 to 200 items covering a wide range of topics.
The resulting maps are color coded, and if you click on the “table” tab, you can actually see the real data broken down by each variable by state.
Finally, the last app that I’d like to share is the. This is a lot like DataMasher, except that it’s focused on Health data, and the entry form isn’t quite as visually appealing. You have to type in a text command, formatted correctly and listing the variables that you’d like to see.
The resulting graph can be either sortable tables, scatter plots or blot maps depending which you choose. The available variables are listed at the bottom of the page, and number at least three dozen topics. The information you can gather and visualize using these tools is pretty impressive, and could be an invaluable research tool for any academic or student researcher.
Have you ever used any of these Data.gov tools? Do you know of any other countries that have similar tools as well? Share your own resources and insight in the comments section below.