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Massive amounts of NYC data can be parsed using this new tool

Alas, it’s not available to the public

New York City is drowning in data, that, theoretically, would be very useful — if it was readily available in one easy-to-understand location. But as Fast.Co Design points out, while open data movement has made it “far easier to plunge yourself into the deep pools of data cities can collect,” it hasn’t necessarily made that data any easier to interpret.

“While every agency might have its own tool to parse numbers, there wasn’t a tool to generate broad, location-based insights for people at the top,” Fast.Co Design writes. That’s the point of the Mayor’s Office’s new dashboard: not just to collate the endless stream of data pouring in from the city’s myriad agencies, but to make that data actually intelligible at a glance.

The new platform was built by Vizzuality, a socially-conscious data design firm, and Carto, a platform for location data tools. The difference between this and similar platforms used by other cities is the sheer scope of real-time data that’s being parsed, as well as the user-friendly, easily sharable interface.

What exactly does that look like? Fast.Co Design explains:

The dashboard pulls data from across the city, mapping it geographically to give decision-makers a bird’s-eye view of hundreds of "indicators" from across city organizations, which vary wildly across agency and can involve anything from robberies to traffic fatalities. For example, an indicator for the Housing Authority might be "average time to resolve elevator outages," while for the NYPD one might be "major felony crimes," or "average length of stay for single adults in shelter" for the Department of Homeless Services.

Not only can users see how the numbers are changing in real time, they can set up alerts to be notified anytime a key-to-them metric goes above or below a certain threshold. If you get an alert when, say, 311 calls are spiking, or real estate prices in a certain area have reached a certain level? It can do that.

The point isn’t just to access a whole lot of data in one central place, though; the point is to see how systems intersect. For example, Carto’s COO Miguel Arias told Fast.Co Design that something like this could eventually be used to conceptualize how a natural disaster might ripple across the city,and inform subsequent decision-making.

Alas, the dashboard is available only folks within the government, so for now, at least, the rest of us will be left to wander the open data wilderness ourselves.