There is something undeniably amazing about seeing data stream at you in real time. Something about seeing the numbers change really hits home the fact that data is not just an abstract concept but a numerical reflection of real things happening in real time.

So why is it that sometimes we forget that data reflects reality? because numbers in a spreadsheet are so abstracted: so far removed from the data they represent that it’s easy for us to disconnect them in our minds. Real-time streams help bridge that gap, but not entirely.

That’s why this week we are focusing on data visualizations that not only are updated in near real time, but also directly represent the thing they are measuring. It’s the best way to realize that streaming data is like seeing the world as it happens.

What the earth looks like… right now.

With all of the satellites and floating space laboratories floating around up there in orbit it’s no surprise that there is a nearly constant stream of information coming to earth from space, and many of this is in near real time.

If anyone has gone to Google maps you’ve probably been amazed at finding your house on the map and marveling about how a satellite, thousands of miles away, managed to take such a detailed picture you can even pick out the outline of your car in the driveway.

But you probably noticed something else in that photograph- it might be in the dead of winter and yet you look at the photo and it’s sunny outside. That’s because many satellite photos only update every month or two.

Except this one.

real time earth data visualization
Cloudy day in NYC about 5 days ago…

What do we love about this visualization in particular? The fact that every single square you see has been updated within the past few days, not within months or years. There is also the neat information panel on the right that shows you your exact position but also how old the swath of earth is that you’re looking at.

It’s got details with the (literal) big picture all in one. And that’s something we can get behind.

Births and Deaths

While seeing the earth from above in near real time is certainly an amazing achievement and a breathtaking feat, this next real-time data visualization and simulation makes that big world just a little more exciting.

This visualization takes birth and death statistics and uses them to create an accurate model of who is being born and who is dying at this particular moment.

real-time births and deaths
Welcome, and farewell…  

While this might seem like a pretty simple visualization, the implications of it are staggering. Depending on the accuracy of the model you are seeing every new life crop up in the world, and every death. We are at once heartened by the amount of new lief we are welcoming to the earth while saddened to see the older generation pass away.

Whether it’s a bird’s eye view or a granular exploration into births and deaths it cannot be denied: real-time data is pretty amazing.

Until next time,

The VisualCrew