The map of the world is now available at your fingertips with services like Google Maps. And yet, that’s just a static view of things, isn’t it? Our pale blue dot has so much more going on it all the time. What if Internet maps would update in real-time with real information?
Google Maps has taken a few steps in that direction with live traffic and navigation info. But traffic is just one small part of how our world is behaving right now. A few websites and apps are tracking other things, from the flight paths of planes in the air right now, to thousands of earthquakes and tremors that hit our planet every day.
Let’s take a look at a whole new world, shining, shimmering, and splendid…
Flightradar24 (Web, iOS, Android): Track Planes Across the Globe
Man, this one is fascinating. Flightradar24 tracks every major aircraft in the skies right now, and actually updates the plane’s path as it flies to its destination. The app also has historical data of important planes under “pinned flights”, where you can watch the route of hijacked or crashed planes.
It also serves a practical purpose. Let’s say you want to check on your flight and whether it’s late. Just go to Flightradar24 and search for your airplane by its number, or key in your city and mouse over the planes circling it till you find the right one.
The web app is completely free, but the mobile apps cost a few bucks.
Download: Flightradar24 for Android [No Longer Available] ($1.99) | Flightradar24 for iOS ($3.99)
Windyty (Web): Live View of Wind, Rain, Waves, and Weather
Over the years, we’ve looked at the best weather apps for Android, unmissable iPhone weather apps, and many more. Windyty sets itself apart from all those. The sheer fluidity of its live view of weather conditions, as well as the changing patterns in its forecast, is a sight to behold.
You can choose between a few overlays: wind, rain and clouds, temperature, sea and waves, snow, and pressure. Search for your city and you’ll see the forecast for the next few days.
Look for the timeline bar at the bottom of the pane and click “Play” to see the weather patterns change in real time as it takes you through an hourly forecast. And of course, you could just leave it on and enjoy it as a beautiful screensaver of what’s happening outside.
Recent Earthquakes (Web): A Rotating Globe of Tremors
Whether you know it or not, there are thousands of tremors and earthquakes on Earth in a single day. Not all of them can be felt, it’s only the high-magnitude ones that shake the ground beneath our feet. But they’re still out there. Want to see? Check out the Recent Earthquakes project.
One of the several fantastic Chrome experiments available for free, the project maps the last 20, 100, or 200 tremors on the earth. Instead of a flat map, it uses the globe and charts the severity of the quake by spikes—the longer the spike, the higher the magnitude.
The Recent Earthquake project’s data comes from Mango Flash, which has its own quake-monitoring system and map, and is a bit more detailed. While Recent Earthquake is cool to look at, Mango Flash is where you should head for actual information and useful resources. It can help warn you of earthquakes, if that’s what you want!
Realtime Bitcoin Globe (Web): Track Big and Small Bitcoin Transactions
Bitcoin, the virtual cryptocurrency of the Internet, currently has an exchange rate where a single bitcoin is worth around $450 US. That’s a whole lot of money, so where is it going and who is mining these bitcoins? Check it out in this map of all the bitcoin transactions happening right now.
The Realtime Bitcoin Globe is another Chrome Globe experiment, which plots blocks across the rotating earth to show all bitcoin transactions. The larger the amount of money involved, the larger the block will be. You’ll see small transactions and big, some going into 5-digit US dollars! It’s a live map of money changing hands across the web.
Stuff in Space (Web): 3D Map of All Objects in Space Right Now
After checking out the Earth from all angles, let’s zoom out a little and check out our pale blue dot as it looks from space. Specifically, let’s look at the junk around it — especially all the satellites that we’ve launched over the years. That’s right, this is a 3D, real-time map of all objects in space, much like NASA’s 3D space exploration apps.
Here’s how to read it. A red dot is a satellite. A blue dot is a rocket body. And a white dot is debris. Now just pan and scan with your mouse just like you would with Google Maps, and explore the stuff in space! You can click on any object to get more details about it, along with finding all the other objects launched with it. The trajectories alone are fascinating! Of all the sites featured in this article, this one is my absolute favorite.
What Real-Time Map Do You Want?
This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. The Internet is filled with enthusiastic developers finding other real-time data and plotting it on a map in entertaining ways. From the rising population of the world to real-time maps of Periscope live feeds, it’s all out there.
So what real-time data do you want to see simulated on a map? Are there any cool maps we have missed? Drop a line in the comments, I’m sure someone can find it!