We finished up our simulations at Camp Roberts with a dry run of SlingshotSMS, a lightweight SMS server written in Python that listens for incoming messages and provides an HTTP service for a RESTful interface that we were able to integrate with Drupal.
Here Tom has SlingshotSMS running on his computer and is able to receive SMS messages from folks out in the field. All he needs to be operational is an internet connection and cell reception, both of which we had at the forward operating base.
Once we got the messages in Drupal, we could rely on the robust tools made available by the FeedAPI Module, OpenLayers, and all the other options that Drupal provides. This gave us a lot of flexibility in terms of routing alert messages back out to other members of the team, parsing text for location information and mapping them, and tallying vote counts in exit polling simulations.
Thanks to the flexibility of this approach to SMS relaying and parsing, data collectors in the field — with no immediate access to the internet — can send structured data to a secure site where folks back in headquarters or even spread around the world can see an aggregate view of the data.
We were also able to pull in KML overlays from the Beer for Data project as well as data from a custom data hub provided by GeoCommons that includes polling place locations, the number of likely voters at each, threat assessment information, and demographic data.
We used our aggregation and geocoding tools to display relevant news items on the map, providing further context.
We’ve been using Drupal for mapping, data visualization, and aggregation projects for awhile now. SlingshotSMS takes us one step further by allowing us to add data from mobile devices to the mix. We’re really looking forward to seeing how this can work on projects focused on situation reporting and food security.
We will be blogging about SlingshotSMS more in the coming days, but if there are some folks that want to start playing with it now, everything is available and open on github. Also, Tom has posted notes over on http://code.developmentseed.org/slingshotsms/dashboard.