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Google Maps set to receive updates to help mitigate the effects of crises
by Paul Hill
Google has announced new updates to its SOS Alerts system that it is planning to roll out to users in order to help mitigate the effects of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. Some of the features are expected to on Android, iOS, desktop, and mobile web in the coming weeks while others will arrive later in the summer.
The new updates include warnings about hurricanes and their paths with the times they’ll hit different areas, shakemaps will be provided for information about earthquakes so you can see the epicentre and how intense the shaking was in different areas. In India, Google will show flood forecasts so that people can get better prepared.
Gallery: Google Maps Disasters
In addition to those items, if you’re travelling while a storm is in progress, Google is going to give you new, real-time, directions in order to keep you away from affected areas. If a route is reported closed on Google Maps, you’ll see a pop up letting you know that your area is affected and the software will try to put you on a safer route.
In order to warn about earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, Google is using what it calls crisis cards within the app to give you more details. With these crisis cards, you’ll also be able to perform other functions such as the ability to share your location with family and friends so they can keep a track of you in these fast-moving situations. There are also share buttons on the crisis cards which allow you to send details of the event to your contacts. Finally, if you use the traffic layer, you’ll be able to see road closures or report new closures that haven’t yet been reported in order to help other drivers.
Crisis cards should become available around the world in the coming weeks while the real-time re-routing feature is expected later this summer. If you live in India, flood forecast visualisations will roll out in Patna initially before expanding to the Ganges and Brahmaputra regions.
The USA TODAY Network release an investigative report on Sept. 23 about the dangers of aging, leak-prone natural gas pipes. The investigation finds gas explosions killed at least 135 people and injured another 600 people over the last decade, and some local gas utilities operate a high concentration of aging pipes despite years of warnings from federal safety regulators to replace them.
New research today says the nation's capital, notorious for leaking state secrets, has thousands of leaks of another sort: methane from natural gas pipelines.
More than 5,800 leaks from aging pipelines were found under Washington, D.C.'s streets by scientists from Duke University and Boston University, who dispatched a car equipped with measuring instruments across the city last January and February. Their findings appear in this week's peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The researchers found 19 of the leaks had high concentrations of methane, a potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming as well as smog-forming ozone. So they got out of the car and put probes into manholes. They found 12 could have caused explosions because of their levels ? up to 10 times the threshold at which explosions can occur.
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were the most generous American philanthropists in 2013, with a donation of 18 million shares of Facebook stock, valued at more than $970 million, to a Silicon Valley nonprofit in December.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported Monday that Zuckerberg's donation was the largest charitable gift on the public record in 2013 and put the young couple at the top of the magazine's annual list of 50 most generous Americans in 2013.
The top 50 contributors made donations last year totaling $7.7 billion, plus pledges of $2.9 billion.
Snapchat, a rapidly growing messaging service, recently spurned an all-cash acquisition offer from Facebook for $3 billion or more, according to people briefed on the matter.
The offer, and rebuff, came as Snapchat is being wooed by other investors and potential acquirers. Chinese e-commerce giant Tencent Holdings had offered to lead an investment that would value two-year-old Snapchat at $4 billion.
Evan Spiegel, Snapchat?s 23-year-old co-founder and CEO, will not likely consider an acquisition or an investment at least until early next year, the people briefed on the matter said. They said Spiegel is hoping Snapchat?s numbers ? of users and messages ? will grow enough by then to justify an even larger valuation, the people said.
Snapchat specializes in ephemeral mobile messages, including text or photographs, that disappear after a few seconds. The service has not generated any revenue, but is especially popular among teenagers and young adults, who use the app to send messages to friends.
The approaches to Snapchat come amid rising exuberance for social media, and mobile-messaging upstarts in particular. Twitter, an unprofitable short-messaging service, is valued at roughly $25 billion after its initial public offering last week. Pinterest, an image-sharing app, last month raised $225 million from investors who valued the company, which also has no revenue, at $3.8 billion.