Tampa residents can help search for the missing Malaysian airliner online using crowdsourcing

TAMPA, Fla. - Want to help locate missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?  Now you can do so in real time with the click of your mouse.

By scouring high resolution satellite images, you can aid experts in the search.

DigitalGlobe Inc. , a Longmont, Colo., company, has "activated its crowdsourcing platform in an effort to locate the Boeing 777 jetliner that mysteriously disappeared Saturday while in flight from Malaysia to Beijing."

Crowdsourcing is a method used to perform a large task by handing it over to people here, there and everywhere, according to Tampa-based digital strategist Mitch Neff.

Neff is calling the tool, which is accessible at Tomnod.com, invaluable.

"You are looking for a needle in a haystack and the haystack in this case is in the middle of an ocean on the other side of the planet," Neff said of the search. "When you have 10,000 people looking at something as opposed to 10 it makes that process a lot simpler."

The company has uploaded high-resolution satellite photos of the potential crash zone online. The images are taken from 400 miles above Earth and are so detailed you could see home plate on a baseball field.

The area experts are searching is larger than 1,200 square miles. That's where crowdsourcing comes into play.

"In many cases the areas covered are so large or the things were are looking for are so hard to find, that without the help of hundreds of thousands of people online we'd never be able to find them," said Luke Barrington with DigitalGlobe.

Once you log onto the site, you are schooled on what wreckage or safety rafts would look like from above. Then you are asked to closely look and tag things you see.

"We will ask you to mark anything that looks interesting, any signs of wreckage or life rafts," Barrington said.

What you mark is then handed over to experts.

"Algorithmically, they're collecting that data and sending it to the experts (pointing them) to the areas of highest interest to look through for themselves," Neff said.

So far, thousands of people have logged on to aid the search. At multiple points through the day the site could not handle the traffic and crashed.

The company has used this technology in previous disasters including the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the deadly tornado that struck Moore, Okla. The images and tags helped locate survivors and potential areas where survivors could be stuck.

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