Magic On the App Store

Harry Potter's Marauder's Map is Now Real

Karla King

Technology and magic are not very different. In fact, the two are always interchanging places. What is technology today was magic yesterday, and what is considered magic today will be technology tomorrow. There is no better illustration of this point than the case of CityXcape, a Silicon Valley start-up that is literary creating a real-life Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map.

So what is the Marauder’s Map?

For those of you who do not follow Harry Potter, here is some background information you might find useful. The Marauder’s Map is a magical document that shows its possessor the location and activities of every person walking on campus, portraying them as moving dots. In other words, the Marauder’s Map shows you where people are and what they are up to.

The incredible power of this magic map made it popular amongst the Hogwarts community. Throughout the series, Harry Potter uses the map to find the people he needs help from to achieve his goals and to take routes that will keep him from running into people that will cause trouble. Quite a useful tool as you can see! It is the equivalent of having a map that shows you where the people you want to meet are located, while also showing you the places you might want to avoid. In a sense, we kind of all want our own personal Marauder’s Map because each of us has people we need to meet or avoid. Well it seems that our collective dream is becoming a reality, for there is an app that does exactly that.  It’s called CityXcape.

So what is CityXcape?

 CityXcape is a mapping app that shows you the activities people are doing in your city.  Not only does CityXcape show you what is happening in the city, it also shows you the location of actual people, portraying them as moving dots. In other words, CityXcape shows you where people are and what they are up to. Sound familiar?


Here is a side-by-side comparison of the similarities between Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map and CityXcape. 

Map uses the ether                                  Map uses Internet connection

Map requires secret keywords                  Map requires user credentials

Shows where people are in Hogswart       Shows where people are in the city

Shows identity of everyone                      Shows cultural association of everyone

Shows how to access sealed passages     Shows how to access private events

People can hide from the map                  Users can go invisible on the map

Is backed by impressive magic                 Is backed by impressive technology


Although CityXcape and the Marauder’s Map have many similarities, they certainly possess differences. While Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map allows its possessor to identify each and every person on the map, CityXcape keeps everyone’s identity anonymous, showing you where people are without telling you who they are.

This small difference is very important, for without it, privacy would be annihilated. James Pierre Louis, co-founder and CEO, stated "The biggest challenge in creating CityXcape was fear of losing privacy, especially amongst the older generation. One way we combatted this fear was by educating users that our app keeps their personal identity completely anonymous, both to the public and even within our own database." The CityXcape team went out of its way to make sure that users reap all the benefits of knowing where people are in the city without invading anyone’s privacy. Everyone on the CityXcape map remains as anonymous dots. This is achieved by using a combination of technological frameworks such as Mapbox, Firebase web-sockets, and R.

CityXcape’s mission is to transform each city into a unified community

There is another distinctive difference between the Marauder’s Map and CityXcape- that difference is social benevolence. In Harry Potter’s world, the Marauder’s Map does not give back anything to society; its use is completely private and its intent was to help a select few students make mischief. By contrast, CityXcape contributes data for scientific research and logistical improvements. CityXcape does this by turning the geo-data it receives from its users into a publicly accessible census record that developers and scientists can access for research. An easy example of the immense value of this data is in city planning. By analyzing geographic patterns of crowds, decisions towards urban development and transit can be made much more intelligently. So by just having CityXcape, users are in fact contributing to how their city is developed in the future.

CityXcape’s mission is to transform each city into a unified community. The CityXcape founders believe the strength of cities lies in their diversity as people come together from dissimilar backgrounds. James Pierre Louis, co-founder and CEO was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, while William Wolff, co-founder and CTO was born and raised in Berlin, Germany. Despite being non-natives, each of them culturally identify with the United States and have enjoyed residing in a number of U.S. cities.

CityXcape is breathing life into maps

CityXcape is a GIS app for finding life in the city. It does this by merging the world of social networks with the world of GIS. While maps are very old, social networks are very new, and we believe the combination of the two will create magic. What was once an imaginative piece in a Harry Potter series is now emerging into our reality. Like magic, this sort of power can be used for noble or base purposes. We hope the CityXcape team and its users will guides this power wisely, and lead the world of GIS into the new terrain of social networks.

If you would like to contribute to this smart city geographic system and visualize yourself as a dot in your community, download the CityXcape app by searching for it on the Apple app store.



Fall 2016 Volume 9 Issue 2

Connect with BayGeo on TwitterMeetupLinkedInFlickr PoolFacebookTumblr, and the BayGeo homepage.