Interactive Cloud-based Density Map ... Without a Server!

Lemon Tree Web Map
The lemon map as it appears on the Just One Tree website.
Client:   Just One Tree

Just One Tree is a non-profit project to promote the value of tree crops in cities worldwide. Their initial campaign encourages San Francisco to become self-sufficient in lemons, by encouraging people to plant lemon trees. GreenInfo Network helped the organization quickly develop an inexpensive web mapping application to support this work.

The Just One Tree website allows anyone to register their lemon tree. An interactive map of San Francisco shows the registered lemon trees, highlighting areas of the city by the density of trees. Each night, a scheduled task loads the content of the website's Google Spreadsheet, updating the map.

The result is a visually attractive, low-cost, self-updating map, suitable for hosting on a standard website account without any server-side mapping infrastructure.

Of technical interest is the "web ecosystem" nature of this application. The map uses the CartoDB API and a "free tier" account at CartoDB. The entry form uses Google Forms and logs to a Google Spreadsheet. The custom code consists of a PHP script which reads the Google Spreadsheet, then updates a table at CartoDB, then finally updates the map's visualization (census block groups) based on the number of trees intersecting each census block group. To say that this is done "without a server" isn't entirely accurate, as the website and the PHP program reside on a web hosting account -- but the database components are entirely based on free-to-use web services.

Results: The process of manual, weekly updates of the lemon map, has been replaced by an automated process which runs nightly, resulting in decreased labor for the Just One Tree personnel. The previous map of dot markers, has been replaced with an interactive map of areas, definitely a gain for usability and attractiveness... as well as improving the confidentiality of the exact location of submitted locations.

Focus:   Conservation, Environment, Public Health  

Services:  Interactive Solutions, Applications Development, Web Mapping 

Tags:   California, Google Docs, Google documents, San Francisco, Trees  

Project Years: 2013

GreenInfo Network creates, analyzes, visualizes and communicates information in the public interest. We specialize in mapping and related technology for nonprofits and public agencies, focusing on using it for conservation, social equity, public health, environment and foundation grant making.
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