Can artificial intelligence help us identify wildfire damage from satellite imagery faster? 我们能否借助人工智能算法快速地从卫星影响中定位火灾损毁地点和损毁程度?

The following work was done by me and Dr. Shay Strong, while I was a data engineer consultant under the supervision of Dr. Strong  at OmniEarth Inc. All the work IP rights belong to OmniEarth. Dr Strong is the Chief Data Scientist at OmniEarth Inc.

以下要介绍的工作是我在OmniEarth公司做数据工程师的时候和Shay Strong博士共同完成的工作。工作的知识产权归OmniEarth公司所有,我的老板Shay Strong博士是OmniEarth公司的数据科学家团队的领头人。

A wildfire had been burning in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and raced rapidly northward toward Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge between late Nov. and Dec. 2nd, 2016. At least 2000 buildings were damaged or destroyed across 14,000 acres of residential and recreational land, while the wildfire also claimed 14 lives and injured 134. It was the largest natural disaster in the history of Tennessee.

2016年11月到12月田纳西州的大烟山国家公园森林(Great Smoky Mountains)大火,随后火势蔓延至北部的两个地区Gatlinburg 和Pigeon Forge。据报道大火损毁2000多栋包括民宅和旅游区建筑物,损毁面积达到1万4千英亩,火灾致使14人死亡134人受伤。被认为是田纳西州历史上最大的自然灾害。

After obtaining 0.4 m resolution satellite imagery of the wildfire damage in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge from Digital Global, OmniEarth Inc created an artificial intelligence (AI) model that was able to assess and identify the property damage due to the wildfire. This AI model will also be able to more rapidly evaluate and identify areas of damage from natural disasters from similar issues in the future.

从Digital Global获得大约为0.4米分辨率的高分辨率遥感图像(覆盖了火灾发生的Gatlinburg 和Pigeon之后)我们建立了人工智能模型。该人工智能模型可以帮助我们快速定位和评估火宅受灾面积和损毁程度。我们希望该模型未来可帮助消防人员快速定位火灾险情和火灾受损面积。

The fire damage area was identified by the model on top of the satellite images.


2017-01-26 22.15.10.gif

Fig 1. The final result of fire damage range in TN from our AI model. 该图是通过人工智能模型生成的火灾受灾范围图。

1. Artificial intelligence model behind the wildfire damage火灾模型背后的人工智能

With assistance from increasing cloud computing power and a better understanding of computer vision, more and more AI technology is helping us detect information from trillions of photos we produce daily.计算机图像识别和云计算能力的提升,使得我们能够借助人工智能模型获取数以万计甚至亿计的照片地图等图片中获取有用的信息。

Before diving into the AI model behind the wildfire damage, in this case, we only want to identify the differences between fire-damaged buildings and intact buildings. We have two options: (1), we could spend hours and hours browsing through the satellite images and manually separate the damaged and intact buildings or (2) develop an AI model to automatically identify the damaged area with a tolerable error. For the first option, it would easily take a geospatial technician more than 20 hours to identify the damaged area among the 50,000 acres of satellite imagery. The second option poses a more viable and sustainable solution in that the AI model could automatically identify the damaged area/buildings less than 1 hour over the same area. This is accomplished by image classification in AI, using convolutional neural networks (CNN) specifically, because CNN works better than other neural network algorithms for object detection and recognition from images.



Fig 2. Our AI model workflow. 我们的人工智能模型框架。

Artificial intelligence/neural networks are a family of machine learning models that are inspired by biological neurons of our human brain. First conceived in the 1960s, but the first breakthrough was Geoffrey Hinton’s work published in the mid-2000s. While our human eyes work like a camera seeing the ‘picture,’ our brain will process it and be able to construct the objects we see through the shape, color, and texture of the objects. The information of “seeing” and “recognition” is passing through our biological neurons from our eyes to our brain. The AI model we created works in a similar way. The imagery is passed through the artificial neural network, and objects that have been taught to the neural network are identified with certain accuracy. In this case, we taught the network to learn the difference between burnt and not-burnt structures in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN.

2. How did we build the AI model

We broke down the wildfire damage mapping process into four parts (Fig 1). First, we obtained the 0.4m resolution satellite images from Digital Globe ( We created a training and a testing dataset of 300 small images chips (as shown in Fig 3, A and B) that contained both burnt and intact buildings, 2/3 of which go to train the AI model, CNN model in this case, and 1/3 of them are for test the model. Ideally, the more training data used to represent the burnt and non-burnt structures are ideal for training the network to understand all the variations and orientations of a burnt building. The sample set of 300 is on the statistically small side, but useful for testing capability and evaluating preliminary performance.

 burned.png  intact.png
Fig 3(A). A burnt building Fig3(B). Intact buildings

Our AI model was a CNN model that built upon Theano (GPU backend) ( Theano was created by the Machine Learning group at the University of Montreal, led by Yoshua Bengio, who is one of the pioneers behind artificial neural networks. Theano is a Python library that lets you define and evaluate mathematical expressions with vectors and matrices. As a human, you can imagine our daily decision-making is based on the matrices of perceived information as well, e.g. which car you want to buy. The AI model helps us to identify which image pixels and patterns are fundamentally different between burnt and intact buildings, similar to how people give a different weight or score to the car brand, model, and color they want to buy. Computers are great at calculating matrices, and Theano brings it to next level because it calculates multiple matrices in parallel, and so speeds up the whole calculation tremendously. Theano has no particular neural network built-in, so we use Keras on top of Theano. Keras allows us to build an AI model with a minimalist design on training layers of a neural network and run it more efficiently.

Our AI model was run on AWS EC2 with a g2.2xlarge instance type. We set the learning rate (lr) to 0.01.. A smaller learning rate will force the network to learn more slowly but may also lead to optimal classification convergence, especially in cluttered scenes where a large amount of object confusion can occur. In the end, our AI model with came out with 97% of accuracy, less than 0.3 loss over three runs within a minute, and it took less than 20 minutes to run on our 3.2G satellite images.

The model result was exported and visualized using QGIS ( QGIS is an open source geographic information system that allows you to create, edit, visualize, analyze and publish geospatial information and maps. The map inspection was also done through comparing our fire damage results to the briefing map produced by Wildfire Today ( and Incident Information System (


Fig 4. (A). using OmniEarth parcel level burnt and intact buildings layout on top of the imagery.


Fig 4 (B). The burnt impact (red color) on top of the Great Smoky Mountains from late Nov. to early Dec 2016.

Satellite image classification is a challenging problem that lies at the crossroads of remote sensing, computer vision, and machine learning. A lot of currently available classification approaches are not suitable to handle high-resolution imagery data with inherent high variability in geometry and collection times. However, OmniEarth is a startup company that is passionate about the business of science and scaling quantifiable solutions to meet the world’s growing need for actionable information.

Contact OmniEarth for more information:

For more detailed information, please contact Dr. Zhuangfang Yi, email:; twitter: geonanayi.


Dr. Shay Strong, email:; twitter: shaybstrong.

Global Zika virus epidemic from 2015 to 2016: A big data problem- 大数据分析全球Zika病毒传染

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided Zika virus epidemic from 2015 to 2016,  about 107250 observed cases globally, to Kaggle is a platform that data scientists compete on data cleaning, wrangling, analysis and provide the best solution for big data problems.

美国疾病传染防控中心 (CDC) 给大数据分析师们提供了一个记录有十多万个全球Zika病毒传染案例。这个数据传到了Kaggle网站上,Kaggle网站是一个大数据分析比赛和数据共享平台。

Zika virus epidemic problem is an interesting problem, so I took the challenge and coded an analysis in RStudio.  However, after finishing a rough analysis, I found that this could be an example of big data analysis instead of a perfect example for CDC on Zika virus epidemic. Because the raw data has not been cleaned and clarified yet, and the raw data description could be seen here.


A bit of background of Zika and Zika virus epidemic from CDC.

  • Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters. They can also bite at night.
  • Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects, e.g. Microcephaly.  Microcephaly is a rare nervous system disorder that causes a baby’s head to be small and not fully developed.
  • There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika yet.


  • Zika由通过Aedes蚊虫叮咬传播(主要是该蚊子的两个分种:Ae. aegypti 和Ae. albopictus 传播)。该蚊虫叮咬主要发生在白天,当然也会发生在晚上。
  • Zika的危险之处是病毒可以通过怀孕的母亲传给其腹中的婴孩。病毒可以影响胎儿正常的神经发育而引起生育缺陷,包括现在被发现和报道的小头症。
  • 目前可预防Zika的药物和预防针还没有。

Initiative outputs from the data analysis 初始的分析结果

Firstly, let see the animation of the Zika virus observations globally. The cases observations were started recorded from Nov. 2015 to July 2016. At least from the documented cases during the period, it started from Mexico and El Salvador, and it spread to South American countries and the USA. The gif animation makes the data visualization looks fancy, but while I looked deeply, the dataset need a serious cleaning and wrangling.



Raw data 原始数据用Excel表格打开的样子

dataset screenshot

The raw data was organized by report date, case locations, location type, data field/data category,  the field code, period, its types, value (how observations/cases), the unit.



While I plotted the cases by counties from 2015 to 2016, we could see most of Zika epidemic cases were observed much more in 2016 especially in South American countries. Colombia had by far the most reported Zika cases. Puerto Rico, New York, Florida and Virgin Islands of USA have reported Zika cases so far.  During this data recorded period 12 countries were reported had Zika virus cases, from most reported cases to the least these countries are: Colombia (86,889 reported cases), Dominican Republic (5,716), Brazil (4,253),  USA(2,962), Mexico (2894),  Argentina (2,091 ), Salvador (1,000), Ecuador(796), Guatemala (516), El   Panama(148) , Nicaragua (125) and Haiti (52). See the below map.

把原始数据按照记录直接用来作图的话就会发现Zika传染病被报道的案例从2015年到2016年有一个数量级的爆发。换句话来说就是2016年的数量比2015年要多很多(不过2015年的数据记录才从11月份开始,所以其实也不足以说明问题)。哥伦比亚这个国家Zika被报道的案例在2016年是全球最高的。美国的话也有近3000个案例被记录在案,其中波多黎各,纽约,佛罗里达和维京各岛屿相继都有Zika案例报道。从全球传播来看亚洲欧洲被报道的案例数没有被包括在这个数据之中,而有12个北美,中美和南美的国家被大量报道Zika病毒的传播。这12个国家和这些国家被记录的Zika案例数量从最高到最低来看分别是:哥伦比亚 (86889 报道案例),多米尼加共和国(5716),巴西(4253),美国(2962),墨西哥(2894),阿根廷(2091 ),萨尔瓦多(1000),厄瓜多尔(796),危地马拉(516),巴拿马(148),尼加拉瓜 (125)和海地(52)。请看一下地图。


However, while I went back to organize the reported Zika cases for each country, I found the data recorded for each country was not consistent. It’s oblivious that the each country has their strengths and different constraints for tracking Zika epidemic. Let’s see some examples:



In the states, most of the reported cases are from travel. But I am confused that aren’t the confirmed fever, eye pain, headache cases overlapped with zika reported, and zika_reported travel were included in yearly_reported_travel_cases. If so, were the cases were overestimated for most of the countries. Probably only CDC could explain the data much better from medical conditions and epidemic perspective.


From the reported cases that Microcephaly cases caused by Zika virus were only founded in Brazil and Dominic Republic.  Microcephaly is a rare nervous system disorder that causes a baby’s head to be small and not fully developed. The child’s brain stops growing as it should. People get infected with Zika through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). A man with Zika can pass it to sex partners but there was a case that a woman who infected with Zika virus has been found passed the virus to her partner too.

从发生的Zika案例来看Zika病毒感染引起的小头症(Microcephaly )目前只有在多米尼加共和国和巴西这两个国家被确诊和报道过。小头症是一种病毒感染而阻止婴孩神经系统正常发育,而引起的不正常头部发育。小头症顾名思义就是婴孩脑子的发育比正常发育的头要小,婴孩的脑子停止发育造成的。所以准备怀孕和已经怀孕的妇女其实应该避免到这些国家履行。现在已经被报道Zika病毒除了通过蚊虫叮咬传播其实通过性交也是可以传播的。之前报道只发现感染病毒的男性通过性交会把病毒传给其女伴,但是最近有一个案例也说明感染病毒的女性同样也可以通过性交传播病毒给其男伴。

My original R codes could be accessed here; first gif animation graph was originally coded by a UK-based data scientist Rob Harrand, and I only edit the data presented interval and image resolution.

这也算是一个非常粗糙的分析,但是如果大家对我的原始分析程序感兴趣,请移步这里。这个博客中使用的动图原始程序是英国大数据分析师Rob Harrand做的,我只是改了他的参数还有生成的动态图的尺寸。当然除了动图之外其他程序都是我写的,如果有需要请注明出于

Note: Again, this is an example of big data analysis instead of a perfect example for CDC on Zika virus epidemic, because the raw data from CDC still need seriously cleaning. For more insight, please follow CDC’s reports and cases recorded.



PV Solar Installation in US: who has installed solar panel and who will be the next?

Project idea

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which convert solar energy into electricity, are one of the most attractive options for the homeowners. Studies have shown that by 2015, there are about 4.8million homeowners had installed solar panels in the United States of America. Meanwhile, the solar energy market continues growing rapidly. Indeed, the estimated cost and potential saving of solar is the most concerned question. However, there is a tremendous commercial potential for the solar energy business, and visualizing the long term tendency of the market is vital for the solar energy companies’ survival in the market . The visualization process could be realized by examining the following aspects:

  1. Who has installed PV panels, and what are the characteristics of the household, e.g. what’s the age, household income, education level, current utility rate, race, home location, current PV resource, existing incentive and tax credits for those that have installed PV panels?
  2. What does the pattern of solar panel installation looks like across the nation, and at what rate? Which household is the most likely to install solar panels in the future?

The expected primary output from this proposal is a web map application . It will contain two major functions. The first is the cost and returned benefit for the households according to their home geolocation. The second is interactive maps for the companies of the geolocations of their future customers and the growth trends.

Initial outputs

The cost and payback period for the PV solar installation: Why not go solar!


Incentive programs and tax credits bring down the cost of solar panel installation. This is the average costs for each state.

Monthly Saving

Going solar would save homeowners’ spending on the electricity bill.

Payback Years

Payback years vary from state to state, depending on incentives and costs. High cost does not necessarily mean a longer payback period because it also depends on the state’s current electricity rate and state subsidy/incentive schemes. The higher the current electricity rate, the sooner you would recoup the costs of solar panel installation. The higher the incentives from the state, the sooner you will recoup the installation cost.

How many PV panels have been installed and where?

Number of Solar Installation

The number of solar panels installed in the states that have been registered on NREL’s Open PV Project. There were about 500,000 installations I was able to collect from the Open PV Project. It’s zip-code-based data, so I’ve been able to merge it to the “zip code” package on R. My R codes file is added here at my GitHub project.

Other statistical facts : American homeowners who installed solar panels generally has $25,301.5higher household income compare to the national household income. Their home located in places that have higher electricity rate, about 4 cents/kW greater than the national average, and they are also having higher solar energy resource, about 1.42 kW/m2 higher than the national average.

Two interactive maps were produced in RStudio with “leaflet”

Solar Installation_screen shot1

An overview of the solar panel installation in the United States.

Solar Installation_screen shot2

Residents on the West Coast have installed about 32,000 solar panels from the data registered on the Open PV Project, and most of them were installed by residents in California. When zoomed in closely, one could easily browse through the details of the installation locations around San Francisco.

Solar Installation_screen shot3

Another good location would be The District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) area. The East Coast has less solar energy resource (kW/m2) compared to the West Coast, especially California. However, the solar panel installations of homeowners around DC area are very high too. From maps above, we know that because the cost of installation is much lower, and the payback period is much faster compared to other parts of the country. It would be fascinating to dig out more information/factors behind their installation motivation. We could zoom in too much more detailed locations for each installation on this interactive map.

However, some areas, like DC and San Francisco, have a much larger population compared to other parts of US, which means there are going to be much more installations. An installation rate per 10,000 people would be much more appropriate. Therefore, I produced another interactive map with the installation rate per 10,000 people, the bigger the size of the circle is the higher rate of the installation.

Solar Installation_screen shot4

The largest installation rate in the country is in the city of Ladera Ranch, located in South Orange County, California. Though, the reason behind it is not clear and more analysis is needed.

Solar Installation_screen shot5

Buckland, MA has the highest installation on the East Coast. I can’t explain what the motivation behind it yet either. Further analysis of the household characteristics would be helpful. These two interactive maps were uploaded tomy GitHub repository, where you will be able to see the R code I wrote to process the data as well.

Public Data Sources

To answer these two questions, datasets of 1670M (1.67G) were downloaded and scraped from multiple sources:
(1). Electricity rate by zip codes;

(2). A 10km resolution of solar energy resources map, in ESRI shapefile, was downloaded the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); It was later extracted by zipcode polygon downloaded from ESRI ArcGIS online.

(3). Current solar panel installation data was scraped from the website of open PV website, a collection of installations by zip code. It requires registration to be able to access the data. It is part of NREL. The dataset includes the zip code of the installation, the cost, the size of the installation and the state of each location.

(4). Household income, education, the population of each zip code was obtained from US census.

(5). The average cost of the solar installation for each state was scraped from the website: Current cost of solar panels and Why Solar Energy? More of datasets for this proposal will be downloaded from the Department of Energy on GitHub via API.

Note: I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the analysis. My results are based on two days of data mining, wrangling, and analysis. The quality of the analysis is highly depended on the quality of the data and on how I understood the datasets in such limited time. A further validation of the analysis and datasets is needed.

For further contact the author, please find me on; or email

Finally got my GitHub account and some other useful resources for RStudio for Git, GitHub

I finally got my portfolio ready for data science and GIS specialist job searching. Many of friends in data science have suggested that having a GitHub account available would be helpful. GitHub is a site that holds and manages codes for programmers globally. GitHub works much better if your have your colleagues work on the same programming with you, it will help to track the codes editing from other people’s contribution to the programming/project.

I’ve started to host some of the codes I developed in the past on my GitHub account. I use R and Python for data analysis and data visualization; Python for mapping and GIS work. HTML, CSS and Javascript for web application development. I’ve always been curious that how other people’s readme file look much better than my own. BTW, Readme file is helping other programmer read your file and codes easier.  Some of my big data friends also share this super helpful site that teaches you how to use Git link R, R markdown with RStudio to GitHub step by step.  It’s very easy to understand.

Anyway, shot me an email to if you need any other instruction on it.


My web map application is online

Hi friends,

I’ve been working on a web application for Chinese Ministry of Commerce on rubber cultivation and risks will be out soon, and I just wanna share with you the simplified version web map API here. I only have layers here, though, more to come.

Screen shot for web map application

Web map application by Zhuangfang Yi: Current rubber cultivation area (ha) in tropical Asia

This web map API aims to tell the investors that rubber cultivation is not just about clearing the land/forests, plant trees and then you could wait for tapping the tree and sell the latex. There are way more risks for the planting/cultivate rubber trees, including several natural disasters, cultural and economic conflicts between the foreign investors and host countries.

We also found the minimum price for rubber latex for livelihood sustainability is as high as 3USD/kg. I define the  minimum price is the price that an investor/household could cover the costs of establishing and managing their rubber plantations. While the actual rubber price is lower than the minimum price, there is no profit for having the rubber plantations. The minimum price for running a rubber plantation varies from country to country. I ran the analysis through 8 countries in Asia: China, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. The minimum price depends on the minimum wage, labour availability, costs of the plantation establishments and management, average rubber latex productivity throughout the life span of rubber trees. The cut-off price ranges from 1.2USD/kg to 3.6USD/kg.

We could make an example that if rubber price is 2USD/kg now in the market, the country whose cutoff price for rubber is 3USD/kg won’t make any profit, but the investors in the country might lose at least 1USD/kg for selling every kg of rubber latex.


The natural rubber value chain and foreign investments in Thailand: how can we achieve sustainable and responsible rubber cultivation and investment?

I have an opportunity worked for Chinese Ministry of Commerce with ICRAF last fall, and have been studying natural rubber value chain since then. I led four technic reports on natural rubber value chain: the first report is for Thailand natural rubber value chain (please see the title);the second one  is about natural rubber value chain, foreign investments and land conflicts in Cambodia; the third report is the a comparison study between Thailand and Cambodia, the biggest natural rubber producer and the emerging rubber producer; the last report will concentrate on the risks of natural rubber cultivation and investment in Asia, from geosnatially perspectives. As I mentioned in the reports that there are no winner in the natural rubber value chain: we lost biodiversity and ecosystem services from covering natural forests to rubber monoculture (upstream of the value chain); and emitted million tons of polluted air and water, and carbon dioxide back to nature from rubber processing (the midstream); at the end, without sustainable livelihood for the poor who grows rubber; and limited competitiveness in the end products market (the downstream). We should go back the source and really think about how we can improve the whole value chain, and why.

The following content is the abstract of Thailand report in English. These reports are in Chinese recently, if you are interested in the content please contact Dr. Zhuang-Fang Yi, and

Upper Mekong Region

Figure 1. The great Mekong region and also the global nature rubber producers. 

Asia supplies 93% of natural rubber demand globally. As the world No.1 natural rubber producer, Thailand has exported nearly 40% of global rubber production demands, which is 87% of its domestic rubber production. The production improvement in Thailand is not only depending on its biophysical suitability of rubber growing, but also relying on its policy supports and subsidies to millions of upstream rubber farmers. Thailand has spent about 21.3billion Baht (586million USD) from Sep. 2013 to Mar. 2014 to subsidize its rubber farmers while the price of natural rubber went down. However, lack of manufacturing and financial supports for its midstream and downstream of the natural rubber value chain, Thailand highly depends on rubber exporting to other countries, e.g. China, US, EU and Japan.

The long history of natural rubber cultivation and supports from Thai government has grown Thai rubber farmers a better rubber economic resilience cultivation systems, which is rubber agroforestry. Rubber agroforestry is a rather complex intercropping system compare to rubber monoculture. Rubber monoculture refers to the rubber plantations that only have rubber trees, and other plant species has been killed and get rids constantly by using herbicide and manual clearance. Rubber agroforestry sustains better ecosystem services and also bring more economic returns. But the labour requirement and knowledge gaps from rubber monoculture to rubber agroforestry are the main constrains for a greener cultivation system. It means rubber farmers only need to intensively take care rubber trees in rubber monoculture system, but need other knowledge and time inputs for rubber agroforestry. However, there are about 21 intercropping systems and more than 300 farms are practicing the intercropped rubber agroforestry by the rubber famers without authority supports like rubber monoculture in Thailand. Urgent research and institution support are need for rubber agroforestry in Thailand and globally.

The merging economies and natural rubber producer countries, e.g. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar in Mekong region, are following Thailand’s foot steps, only practicing rubber monoculture, that highly support its upstream value chain but lack of rubber manufacturing and supporting financing systems for mid-stream and downstream. It leads to heavily depend on Chinese and the rest of world rubber demands. It leads to very weak economic resilience for millions of smallholding rubber farmers when the price goes down. In China market, rubber price dropped from 6.3USD/kg to less than a dollar in 2014. China, as the biggest natural rubber importer, consuming nearly 40% of global rubber supply. On the other hand, 20% of imported taxes are charged and have dramatically increased the cost of rubber end products, and loss its global competitiveness in the natural rubber market. There are no winner in the natural rubber value chain: we lost biodiversity and ecosystem services from covering natural forests to rubber monoculture (upstream of the value chain); and emitted million tons of polluted air and water, and carbon dioxide back to nature from rubber processing (the midstream); at the end, without sustainable livelihood for the poor who grows rubber; and limited competitiveness in the end products market (the downstream). We should go back the source and really think about how we can improve the whole value chain, and why.

While more and more Chinese state-owned and private enterprises follow “Go Global” strategy by Chine central government who have heavily invested outside of China. Natural rubber end products, especially tires industry is one of them. In this reports, we scrutinized the natural rubber value chain in Thailand and its foreign investments , especially Chinese investments. We tried to answer:

  1. If there are the best rubber cultivation systems that combine economic returns and a better ecosystem services supporting system;
  2. The relationship between Chinese investors and Thai natural rubber value chain;
  3. The possible ways of sustainable and responsible rubber cultivation and investment.

Coming reports in Chinese


Figure 2. Thailand as the biggest rubber producer, produce 4.5millions ton of natural rubber, and 80% of Thailand domestic natural rubber is from Southern Thailand. Each polygon represents of a province in the map and the darker of the color represents the bigger area of rubber cultivation.

Open source data of Great Mekong Region

My growing interests to Mekong area have also grown my spatial data collection in the area. Just some random stuffs, and you probably knew I love open source data, and really love to visualize the date.  If you guys are interested in collaboration on geospatial  data analysis, data visualization on research, writing, mapping, just let me know.

These are free datasets I collected and am also trying to digitize more data for the region. These are not for commercial use, if you are interested in using in research, conservation purpose. I would love to make my contribution to visualize the data.

All the data and maps present here are used analysis and cartography tool on  ArcGIS desktop, ArcGIS Online and QGIS.

Soil map in Mekong:


More details please visit my ArcGIS online map: Soil map in Great Mekong Region

Drought, typhoon risks and biodiversity conservation in Great Mekong Region.


biodiversity hotspots, TNC ecoregion, drought and tropical storm data layers

 You could turn on and of the legend on the map.

location, location, more locations: location intelligence and geocoding for growing the business

I’ve been browsing through the job broads too much recently. Yes, TOO MUCH, which makes me so anxious and angry sometimes. The employers out there just wanna you to do everything. Only the GIS job kinda things I am really interested in now, the employers want me to use ArcGIS for years, know all the spatial analysis/statistics, and also know open source data sources, and different satellite images processing—OK, I could do that. But I also need to be able to code via C++, Python, Jave, CSS and HTML, AND if I know the popular statistical and mathematical tools, like SAS, STAT, R, or MATLAB is plus. What about you could also use Adobe illustrator to make the most awesome maps and you better speak second and third foreign languages. The essential duties for the job position are …. a list of 20 duties, and requirements… another 30 of them and additionally… you must have xxx years of social, economic and environmental science related work experiences in Africa, Asia and South America…. I get it, I am never gonna be a good candidate. But, employers out there, come on… you don’t need a technical slaver, or Mr./Ms-knows-everything, you need the employee who can learn and wanna learn, and who can really evolve with your business and passionate about the job you give to them. When the employers refuse to give you the job offers that they are also so confident that they are gonna find someone right fit the position very soon, which terrified me the most. YOU ARE NOT THE BEST— that is the message I got everyday while I’m browsing through the job boards!

Back to the location intelligence. Business people, enterprise and industries leaders out there have grown their interests on analyzing your shopping behavior, habits and locations. Yes, it all about us. U.S Census bureau has launched two programs about the location analysis/intelligence for small business people who wanna start they own business, one is called country business pattern and another one is ZIP code business pattern.It aims to help small business people. The data are from 1998 to 2013, I never have a chance to use them but it could be super cool to dig out the information and pattern through the data. Future business starters would need more and more of this kinda information. From my own opinion is that: firstly, the business pattern would help you to analyze or map out the similar business you wanna run out there in your town, county or even nationally; secondly, the ZIP code business pattern could do the similar thing like business pattern analysis , but the ZIP code could also be used to analyze your potential customers’ behavior, race and so on, which means just map out your potential customers largely; the last step could be the real location analysis/intelligence, which would help you to analyse where is the best location to build/start your business, to avoid the potential business competitors but target to a bigger group of future customers. It’s certainly a mixing of information science, spatial analysis, statistics….

I only know about the ZIP code/geocoding so far, but it’s way too cool, and just wanna make a little note to myself in this blog. For an example you could go back to see my first blog in this blog site. The main process for matching the addresses/ZIP codes is: 1) Build/obtain reference data, which could be points, e.g. cities, counties, nations, or houses; polyline, e.g. streets, roads, and polygons, e.g. independent house, business centers; 2) Select address locator style, they are US Address-Dual Ranges, One Range, Single House, Street Name, City States, ZIP 5 Digit, ZIP +4, General-City State Country, General- Gazetteer, General-Field; 3) Build address locator, and then 4) Perform address matching. ArcGIS geocoding could do process this for you, and you could just run the geocoding through it. In the spatial analysis, besides the locations, the scale of your interest in are very important, for example, independent house and shopping mall are polygon in bigger spatial scale but they become points when you zoom out to a smaller scale.

location map

Creating interactive maps inside existing business systems can help users see patterns that graphs and charts cannot reveal. (ESRI)

Reference for the blog content except the complaining at the beginning and my own thought:

  1. location analysis for business from ESRI;
  2. Geocoding on WIKI ;
  3. Business pattern analysis data from U.S. Census;
  4. Business strength geocoding;

Why it has to be an ESRI certification?

After I signed up an ESRI ArcGIS certification exam, I felt regret immediately. It just sounds a bit  stupid that whoever wanna be certified that how good and efficient of they could use a software (platform), even though people do that all the time. As some of you might know that I just moved to the states from China and recently have been looking for a job as a geospatial analyst. Every single job that I wanna apply have a sentence directs to ESRI and ArcGIS skillets e.g. “GIS-related applications including…… ESRI ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Suite (ArcMap, ArcSDE, ArcCatalog, etc.”. That’s the initial reason I signed up for the certification exam from ESRI, if I could think of one. Of course I am also very curious that why people are so obsessed with ESRI since there are several alternative tools out there could get spatial analysis done.  Don’t get me wrong that I’ve been using ESRI products for years, and I think they are super powerful, only thing I really need is showing the proof that I could do the spatial analysis to the future employer.
I am just trying to think one or two things might explain why I need a certification and why it has to be from ESRI. Firstly, why we need a certification on GIS:
  1. Geospatial technology is a growing industry itself, and a lot of employers need to identify the future employees who claim they got the skill-sets they want;
  2. There are no a really good certification that could be pursued in the geo-industry standard really, and GISP sounds supper high-ends that only 7000 people have it and 5000 of them are in the states. For whom are in the field and wanna take the exam, Geographic Information System Certification Institute (GISCI) just announced a GIS profession certificate exam several days ago:
These two reasons are what I could think about why I need a GIS certification to certify people who have the skill sets. But why it has to be the ESRI certifications. I’ve been asking around that why in GIS professional groups. I posted a question on GIS group to ask people “if having a certification from ESRI would really help me find a job in the states”. There were no direct question for it, if you’re interested in seeing how people responded to that you could go to: To answer that why it has to be ESRI certification:
  1. ESRI has included the dominated geospatial skill-sets that an industry/company could asks for, from very basic desktop analysis skills to enterprise big data analysis;
  2. ESRI has a 43% of share in GIS market, and the second-largest supplier share 11%, which tells that ESRI is leading the geospatial Market; They are keeping the core GIS coming from many talented employees, and ESRI’s core GIS is used by more than two-third of Fortune 500 companies;
  3. ESRI has great educational platform. I mentioned in my last blog post that ESRI is promoting it’s ArcGIS Online, the online campus classes have more than 5000 students participated and the number is growing everyday; Other than that they also have a lot of free online tutorials (some are not) for people from beginner to developer;
  4. The marketing strategy is selling stories rather than fancy technical functions that ESRI ArcGIS could preforms. I am a huge fan of them since I brought 6 big books last year and went through most of them. they are: ESRI ArcGIS Desktop Associate Certification exam book, GIS Tutorial Basic Workbook, GIS Tutorial Spatial Analysis Workbook, GIS Tutorial Advanced Workbook, Python scripting for ArcGIS and The ESRI Guide to GIS Analysis. The real-world problems/stories that provided behind the data and spatial analysis just keep motivating me to try more and learn more. The overall theory behind the problems/stories are very solid, and I feel the hand-on analysis exercises, solving the real world story, really enhance the knowledge and theory I learn.
  5. ESRI also provides some cool blogs, e-magzines, and materials that you could extent the knowledge as a GIS fan.


You’re welcomed to share any insights here.

More links about my work:

Data visualization via ArcGIS: from data to information and my Geo-Cases 4 and 5

Spatial analysis through Geographic Information System is very powerful that allows us to dig out the pattern and the message behind the random look data we collected. Geospatial analyst believes that the information is there, and it’s just how we could find it out and visualize it.

ESRI ArcGIS provide several spatial statistics tools, e.g cluster,regression,geogarphic relationship. I am playing with datasets of two separate cases today. First case is mining the crime data of 2008 in Pittsburgh, PA; the second case is analyzing population at risk from earthquakes in California city. The data-sets are provided by ESRI ArcGIS tutorial.

Knowledge needed: Geospatial statistics, mainly on buffering and cluster.

Geo-case 4 crime data mining from Pittsburgh, PA in 2008. The dataset I have here only have larcenies in Pittsburgh from 2008, the data included crime date, locations, the age, gender, race. To map out the larceny frequency for each neighborhood, and the criminal features are what I am going to present here. Group cluster analysis is used to dig out the pattern and message behind these random data.

Map results:

crime data mining in Pittburg-densityFrom the frequency/density of larcenies, there are more larcenies in some area especially the up right corner of the city. However, some areas are safer in term of larceny density, and have marked with a hollow fill.

crime data mining in Pittburgh1

Using group cluster analysis, six groups of larceny criminals are mapped on the map above. Each group contents race, gender and average age of the criminals.

Geo-case 5. Population at risk and number of death from earthquake since 1985.

Result map: Clifornia earthquak risk

Map interpretation: the points on the maps are the earthquakes distribution in California from 1720 to 1994. Only MMI higher than 6 were presented here. MMI,stands for Mercalli Intensity Scale, from 6 to 12 correspond to increasing damage, from considerable damage of poorly constructed buildings through total destruction ( Only death from the earthquakes since 1985 were counted. 440 death and 70% of them are from a earthquake in southern California in 1992. The circles on the map are the areas that significantly impacts by the earthquakes since 1985, and the number labeled are the death.

** data presented here might be modified and uncorrected, and I DON’T TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the correctness of the information presented here. They are JUST the practice and assignments I’ve done for the professional certification test on ESRI ArcGIS 10.2. Please don’t use THE maps for any other purposes. 


*** I have a legal work permit in the states, and am now open for a job position in Geospatial Analyst/GIS Analyst around DC area (or telecommuting). I have knowledge on: 

  • Utilize advanced modeling techniques
  • Apply fundamental spatial statistics
  • Perform advanced vector and raster analysis
  • Perform surface modeling and analysis
  • Understand and apply python scripting
  • Perform fundamentals of spatial database design
  • Determine and define an appropriate coordinate system
  • Demonstrate proficiency in application configuration
  • Apply advanced visualization techniques
  • Understand fundamental network analysis concepts
  • Perform some basic network analysis

I mainly using ESRI ArcGIS 10.2, ArcGIS online, server, and have experience using open GIS softwares and platforms on QGIS and GRASS, and spatial modeling scripting via R and Python. I will present the knowledge above in the  geo-cases I’m doing in my future blogs. English is my third language, and any comments, proof reading, and advice on language polishing and even the content revision are welcomed.