Tag Archives: Spatial

Has it been two months and I’ve missed an election?

What a busy two months it has been, an election, almost a result, the launch of new and exciting products, location based marketing making it to the main stream (see Gruen Transfer Season 3 Episode 8: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/gruentransfer/watch.htm)

As I missed updating throughout the 2010 election (although who knows, another might be coming up?) I wondered where all the election promises and spend would be most affected. An interesting mashup indeed but alas I could not find one. The best use of spatial data covering the election that I could find came from our good friends at the ABC with a little help of Google Maps. The ABC Interactive Map (http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2010/map/) really made it easy to keep track of how each electoral seat is currently fairing. It is a fantastic mix of AEC data, address verification, modelling and presentation.

Other interesting sites were the Tally Room (http://www.tallyroom.com.au/election-2010) and of course our good friends at NuMaps (http://demos.numaps.com.au/myElectorate.html). These sites have done a good job of linking to one another and while on the Tally Room I got stuck on opening up many KML links to Google Earth for Australia and other countries. Who would have thought politics was so interesting?

NuMaps is increasingly becoming the source of truth for heaps of demographic information (that just happens to be location aware). So successful has been the Google/NuMaps integration that it recently won the Apps4NSW mash-up competition.

Yet, with these useful and insightful mashups I yet to find one that pinpoints exactly where each election promise will be affected and where the money is going. I’m sure a powerful map highlighting this information would be a powerful tool indeed.

Still, while the election draws out I can only wonder how the next generation of politicians will be interacting with their constituents. Surely with the rise of popular social mediums and interactivity what will our expectations be? Log an issue online, pinpoint it to a map (location) and wait for the politician to respond? I’ve seen more targeted pitches to win voters and so is the next step personalised pitches based on location? Time will only tell.

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The Spatial Enablement of Society

FIG2010 has provided many insights into all aspects of Surveying and Land related activities. Surveying is not only related to cadastral land surveying as it covers all activities involving land as highlighted in my previous post.

I like to share with you some learning’s which relates to some work currently being generated with my colleagues that has been developing over the last few months and happily been reinforced with presentations at FIG 2010. The spatial enablement of society, (a FIG2010 congress plenary theme) talks about the engagement of communities, citizens and government for the betterment of society as a whole. This concept at its heart requires that we move towards a system that sees information managed spatially. The concept itself is a change to the normal ‘technical’ thinking of our industry where Spatial Data Infrastructures and technology to collect, manage and use data is traditionally the focus of our projects.

Managing Data Spatially – We know that by using a common geodetic base framework for data that we can connect, integrate and analyse data, creating information that becomes enriched intelligence. A quote from the FIG 2010 congress that stuck with me stated ‘data on its own is useless’. Quite poignant in that we as a society require information and we interpret data to create the information we require.

An issue to overcome in reaching the Mecca of data management spatially lies in the understanding, worth and inherent under valuing of our industry compared against global challenges of environment, health, climate and urban growth. Perhaps a rethinking is required to how we promote and market the industry. Surveying and Spatial are expert terms we use to describe our industry yet words such as position; location and place are more commonly understood. Using these words we could promote the industry and career opportunities in conjunction with environmental issues, climate change, health and urban growth where we create and provide intelligence for the future planning and management of these issues.

Spatial Data Infrastructures are a core component for the future information society although this is only the technical enabler. Engagement with managers and leaders of society needs a cohesive vision and strategy that looks at these global challenges, communicates the linkages to land management and heightens the value of managing information spatially. For the first time the challenges of the surveying and spatial sciences industries are moving forward with recognition that we have to do more to educate and lead in the future information society.

I suggest that you read through some of the books that touch on this subject, some of which can be found here: http://www.csdila.unimelb.edu.au/publication/books.html

Building the Capacity FIG 2010

The International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) congress rolls into town this week (Sydney April 11-16) and from all the hype surrounding this congress it will no doubt be a well received and a great learning opportunity. Of course, FIG is not primarily aimed at traditional surveyors, the ten commissions setup cover everything from education and standards to spatial data infrastructures, planning and development , real estate, valuations and also construction economics. In all, FIG covers everything to do with land and as we are seeing more and more evidence of, almost all information collected is being linked back to the land.

What does this mean to the Young Professional?

FIG is large, it is a global body tasked with promoting professional practice and standards for all things surveying. As this congress theme is ‘Facing the Challenges – Building the Capacity’ there looks to be underwhelming support on how we grow this industry as a whole. To a young professional it is an exciting time to be involved. We have seen in the past few years that giants such as Google has taken what we do and thrust it into the limelight. Google Maps if anything has heightened the value of visualising information in map form yet there is little understanding of how this information is generated, maintained and delivered to applications such as Google Maps.

Facing the Challenges

Increasing the awareness and importance of the Surveying and Spatial Industries does present a challenge to us. The challenges lie in growing the interest of students to study and join our profession, in increasing the importance of location in all types of data, the connection and integration of data and the interpretation of data providing the evidence to build and prepare for the future. No small task by anyone’s imagination.

During this congress the Young Surveyors Group are holding a number of sessions as well as presenting on topics of how to attract more young professionals into this industry. The roundtable discussion scheduled for Tuesday 13th of April will surely be an interesting open discussion on how we as a whole can tackle these issues. It is nice to see that through a structured congress, social mediums such as Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/thewinternet?ref=mf#!/event.php?eid=375142717231&index=1) provide the tools to reach out and invite all those who have an interest to voice their opinions both online and face to face.

The plenary sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday titled ‘Spatially Enabled Society and  ‘The Big Challenges’ respectively are shaping to be very interesting talks and I wholeheartedly recommend arriving early for a good seat.

The week will sure to be jammed packed and while I and others will be there at 7am each morning to help setup and coordinate the activities I hope to see you all at FIG 2010. If the registrations are anything to go by this will surely be the biggest congress of its type in Australia for the last few years.

App My State: Victoria

It is no surprise to see that more and more application creation competitions are popping up all over Australia in response to the global push to release and access more public sector information (PSI). Victoria is the latest state to launch a competition for innovative application that showcase the best use of PSI data.

Map My State (http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/app-my-state.html) launched by the Premier of Victoria in late February is designed to run for 8 weeks and award prizes based on youth, sustainability, popular choice and an open category.

The Mashup Australia and Apps4NSW competitions proved to be quite popular (Apps4NSW is still open for those interested:
http://www.information.nsw.gov.au/apps4nsw) although one component that sets the App My State competition apart from the rest is hidden in the terms and conditions where only Victorians can enter. Still that hasn’t deterred me from trying (being from Western Australia) and one can only hope that the organisers of this competition realise that idea’s can spring up from anywhere and still benefit Victoria.

Personally I like the idea of open innovation and how these ideas to be tested amongst the public in an open forum. Mobile applications, the web, interaction and social networking are the mediums where new information is quickly released and facilitates a very smart path to reaching critical mass. These competitions have even pathed the way for new innovative businesses to take advantage of this push for open data. Kaggle.com.au is an example of an innovaive business structured around this style of competition. Data has to go somewhere doesn’t it?

The change we have seen in this industry over the last 2 years has heightened the core element of “location” and its importance to how information can be accessed and integrated creating a common understanding. Visual interpretation of information via maps has allowed a large audience to grasp the understanding and meaning of data and how it relates to the day to day life of you and me.

Let’s face it; the public are the ones who would get the most use out of information so it will be interesting to see what this competition brings us.

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.

The Age of Social Media: A Look at Emergency Management

Happy New year to you all. It has been a while since my last update on Project Spatial and in that time quite a bit has happened within Australia and the Spatial industry. As with each new year in Australia, extreme weather conditions seem to be a norm and bushfires are ever prevelant.

Recently in Western Australia, bushfires have ravaged the town of Toodyay, multiple fires are burning all over Australia which makes me think of a round table discssion i participated near the end of 2009. Under the Gov 2.0 taskforce a project emerged on how the government could use Web 2.0 technologies within the social media sphere to help the management of incidents such as bushfire, flood and alike. http://gov2em.net.au/

The project which only ran for a little over a month has delivered its report on how government can use social media tools to help premare and manage emergency situations. The key to it’s findings is that government needs to be able to convey trust, transparency and timeliness. In some situations, accuracy and reliability can be traded off against timeliness of information. Getting a message out there stating the threat can be more important than knowing exactly where the threat is. Of course you don’t want to instigate panic. J

I’ve talked about mashups in previous posts and the abilty to provide timely information can easily be mapped. Take the Landgate Firewatch service coming out of Western Australia, this data feed can be combined with othe feeds to create a ‘mashup’ of incidents happening around Australia. http://www.aus-emaps.com/fires.php is a good example of this where RSS feeds from NSW and Victoria are combined with Firewatch, BOM Weather and other data into a simple map.

Further out from Australia we are even seening new and exciting uses of social media for EM. For example, in San Francisco there is a twitter account setup for the earthquake prone area that people can subscribe to.  http://twitter.com/earthquakesLA. Combine this with TwitPics (see: http://mashable.com/2010/01/09/eureka-earthquake/) and you have a detailed account of an Earthquake, providing more timely information and shared accross many users faster than traditional media sources.

What is needed in Australia is a coordinated approach to 2.0 technologies in areas such as Emergency Management. Setting standards and policies will help ensure that information is not abused or worse becomes mis-trusted.

The key really is to keep it low tech (another finding of the Em 2.0 report) although as technology evolves very quickly and newer generations are turning away from normal media channels (radio, TV) any impementation of 2.0 technologies needs to stay consistent, reach a broad range of users and be simple. Technology isn’t a barrier although controling how much technology is used will remain a factor. Remember they say you only have 8 seconds to capture someones attention through the Internet so information related to EM incidents needs to stay clearly articulated and remain accessible.

Interesting Case Study on the Victorian Black Saturday Fires: http://gov2em.net.au/twittersocial-media-during-the-victorian-bushfires-february-20009-a-case-study/

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!