A few weeks ago everyone on earth learned about Map Box’s cloudless atlas, a cloud free mosaic dataset, generated from freely available Lansdat data. It was all over the twitterverse and Wired magazine even wrote about it.
But, did you know Google came out with a cloudless imagery layer last week too? They did! Read about it here! Sometimes it’s good being the second one to the party, but I think only a couple people noticed that Google showed up at the cloudless atlas party. Whoever does the marketing and PR at MapBox should get a bonus and a raise. It’s not everyday you get more media traction than Google.
It is pretty well known that cloudless imagery is nothing new. I remember working on projects in grad school several years ago on this same problem and researchers have been developing tools and processes to analyze cloudless imagery for years, as a quick search on Google Scholar will demonstrate. Regardless, these are great datasets for visualization, and the fact that they are easily accessible to those making “beautiful maps”, not just GIS nerds, is excellent.
We need to give these organizations a lot of credit. They took a phenomenal, freely available data source, added some intelligent and creative processing, developed some incredible datasets, and got the spatial and non-spatial world to notice. Kudos to them.