Tag Archives: Location

Why Spatial Data Will Fail:

Fail is a hard word; maybe using the statement that Spatial Data will never quite reach its potential would be a better way of summing up the title of this post. I have for the last few months been participating in a strategy document for Western Australia related to the power of location. This strategy document looks at how information can be used to benefit the future development of the state where embedding location into data becomes a recognised core element to expanding and deriving value out of the linked data concept. (see http://linkeddata.org/)

What I have really learnt from this experience is that ‘Spatial’ is unknown; an elusive term whose understands is limited to those geeks sitting in the dark corner of ones office. The other side of the coin is that data is meaningless until you link this data with other bits to draw out useful information that can be easily understood.

Reading recent updates on how much data is generated per year and how the numbers are becoming astronomical. All Things Spatial Blog In 2010 the amount of data generated will pass the Zettabyte level, something that I know my computer will gladly roll over, hand in its resignation and retire to some distant silicon oasis. Let’s just say that a Zettabyte is equivalent to 75 billion fully-loaded 16 GB Apple iPads

With that much data being generated yearly there is no doubt that most of it is unintelligent and would be difficult to mine, massage it all into a useful form.

So, if you take ‘spatial’ on its own and ‘data’ on its own they are both pretty meaningless. The Power of Location strategy for Western Australia takes its aim from others around the world such as the UK Location Strategy: Place Matters where ‘everything happens somewhere’ although we can add to this by including ‘and sometime’. The need to look at how information is collected in a variety of sectors and identifying and embedding a location element in it will help in the areas of data mining and massaging ensuring that the right information can be generated when needed relating to the right area.

Information is what gets delivered in applications, in reports and help makes those critical decisions that are needed. Data that is spatially enabled (i.e. has a location) provides the links to other types of data including environmental, social and economical. A triple bottom line effect on how data is collected managed and used to derive information will ensure that ‘spatial’ is catapulted into peoples consciousness as data needs to relate to it’s surroundings at a particular location.

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Google’s Location Patent

How much power can one company have? With the news of Google being awarded their patent for embedding location into their advertising model I wonder what the future will be for businesses using ‘location’ in advertising their offerings.

Location is a core element in today’s information society and has been integral to almost all aspects of development in the past. Maps, Addresses etc.. are core in finding where I am and where I am going to. In a business sense, the location of the business is key to selling goods and services whether that location is land based or web based as someone is conducting the work somewhere.

In this time of companies being sued for patent infringement some parts of the patent lodged by Google could be questionable. For example, in a broad sense the patent secures the use of geo-information in computer systems to link a request to an output. This means that if I use my location as the core component in the search criteria to find my local coffee shops and the computer system locates these for me and details the offerings (an ad) then at that point the service I am using could be breaching the patent.

Of course the Google patent refers to the advertising model which drives the Google ads system it can be expanded across many types of service offerings. With regarding to mobile applications and the increase usage of GPS in these devices basically making them location aware, any search from a mobile device for services ‘around me’ Applications such as Walk Score, Around Me, Urban Spoon could be reigned in by Google. As real estate basis its housing advertisements primarily on address (the core location reference globally), this may be affected.

Google is keeping tight lipped on the patent at the moment and so it is with interest we watch this space. The push for location advertising kingdom looks to be between Apple and Google and so in Australia where location is embedded in everything and many companies utilise location for services it will be interesting to see how the fallout might affect us. The question I have is that if Google and others rely on the information provided by Governments and US Department of Defence for GPS then will they licence and pay a royalty on the ongoing use of this core location asset information?

It must be noted that this patent was filed almost 6 years ago and signifies that Google has the foresight to look into the long term and secure its market place and so kudus to them!

More info on the patent can be found here.

Simple Interface + Rich Content

The Government 2.0 Taskforce “Mashup Australia” Competition closed some time ago and roughly 2 weeks ago the winners were announced. I have held off commenting on the winning applications due to work and a little bit of gloominess in that my help in a submission only rated 3 stars. (http://mashupaustralia.org/mashups/locate-me/)

The number of entries to the Mashup Australia competition attracted 82 entries ranging from web page mashups to mobile applications. Some were complicated and others were simple to use. A favourite of mine was the ‘Meat in the Park’ (http://meatinapark.appspot.com/) application which quite simply allowed you to find a public BBQ and invite friend so you can have a picnic. Very simple interface, rich content and specific outcome.

The winning application, the Suburban Trends mapper http://www.suburbantrends.com.au/ showed that with a little bit of effort and a focus on user design that a complicated application could be quite simple to use. This application, like so many others combined Australian Bureau of Statistics data, location services and other datasets and presented this in map form. The application took the mashup approach one step further and applied dashboard style indicators to give the user a quick overview of their desired area. Not unique in the approach although commendable in the layout, colours and use. Certainly something for all of us is to think about is the intended audience and their technology prowess (or potentially lack of). They say you only have 8 seconds to grab someone’s attention on a website so the aim is to get it right and this application gets it right and better yet it was developed by a student!

With the push to open data policies and location aware data, a very significant mashup utilised typically non spatial data and combined this with location to produce ‘In Their Honour’. This mashup is dedicated to the service men and women who fought and died for Australia by allowing the user to search for their final resting place. http://mashupaustralia.org/mashups/in-their-honour/

A very powerful mashup that is easy to see why it won the peoples award.

I commend all entries to the Mashup Australia competition and with the Apps4Gov awards in NSW and other competitions that are springing up all over the place 2010 seems to be moving towards to social mapping/media space. With data access on the increase, content and rich content is at the fingertips for anyone who wants it. The challenge moving forward is to utilise the data in such a way that makes it easy to find, use and interpret!

Where did I go at 1am in the morning?

The Answer, the O’Reilly Where 2.0 Online Conference. (http://en.oreilly.com/wherefall09/). This was an online conference focused on utilisation of the Apple iPhone sensors and how applications can easily be built to use these sensors in weird and wonderful ways. Quite an insightful conference and I was amazed at how awake I was particularly at 1am in the morning.

So why I would attend an online conference particularly at 1am in the morning?

  1. Most importantly, allows me to attend in my PJs as the conference was run on New York time,
  2. Online participation is exceedingly high. No more waiting for someone to stand up and ask that first question. Just type away!
  3. Can save the presentations as they are given.
  4. My work did not want to fork out the costs of sending me over to America.

The online conference turned out to be a bit of a code fest although I did gain some pretty insightful knowledge in what goes into building an application. It was especially interesting to see how the sensors are being used and what the developers would like to see added. So lesson one, these are the sensors in your modern iPhone:

  1. The Accelerometer – This pivots and turns the screen based on the movement of the iPhone,
  2. The Magnetometer – The digital compass in the 3Gs and the basis of many new and cool applications for the iPhone.
    Magnetometer Settings

  3. The GPS Reciever – this is what give you your location although the phone refers back to triangulation (~700m accuracy) when you don’t have clear line of sight to the sky.
  4. The Proximity sensor – This turns the screen off so you don’t accidentally hang up while talking to someone on the phone!

The Where 2.0 conference setup this dedicated session on the iPhone as it is the most dominate ‘smart’ phone in Australia (and most places in the world for that matter) and for the fact that more spatial data requests and captures will happen on devices like these in the future than from traditional GIS desktop applications.  In fact it was predicted back in 1999 by Max Egenhofer speaking at the 1st Brazillian Workshop on GeoInformatics (http://www.spatial.maine.edu/~max/pubs.html) that the smart phone would be the leading GIS device of the future

“Spatial Information Appliances – portable tools for professional users and a public audience alike, relying on fundamentally different interaction metaphors: Smart Compasses that point users into the direction of certain points of interest, Smart Horizons that allow users to look beyond their real-world field of view or Geo-Wands – intelligent geographic pointers that allow users to identify geographic objects by pointing towards them”

Ref: Simon R., Fröhlich P. & Anegg H., Beyond Location Based – The Spatially Aware Mobile Phone (http://userver.ftw.at/~froehlich/papers/Beyond_Location_Based_W2GIS.pdf)

Sounds pretty cool hey? Lesson two, it may not be widely known in the spatial sector since we generally deal with top end GNSS receivers but companies like Apple and Nokia alike are the biggest GPS receiver sellers and consumers in the world. Knowing this I feel that it would almost be right in saying that these companies are the new leaders in GPS and navigation. Certainly mobile mapping is the new fad and with so many people out there collecting and geo-tagging information it seems likely that this is the new way for us to collect information.

It was nice to listen and provide input into this conference considering in each presentation, ‘location’ was key to the applications being talked about and how the future would be built around utilisation of GPS to a higher degree. At around 4am in the morning I perked up at mention of a new iPhone application called ‘Theodolite’. http://hunter.pairsite.com/theodolite/

Imagine this, a surveying term wrapped up in a surveying application for the iPhone. Ok, now I know the GPS receiver in the iPhone is accurate to ~40 metres and so this isn’t a surveying application but the future looks bright.

I talked about Wikitude and a little on augmented reality in a previous post and attending this conference re-assured me that this new technology can really make it in this mobile mapping, smart phone, social media age. I don’t think we will be calling our phones “GeoWands” in the future but damm they are cool.