GIS and Today’s Technology: A Beneficial Duo

Note: This is the last post by our Spring intern Aleigha. A big thanks to Aleigha and good luck after graduation.

The significance of location services, prominence of maps, and apps that allow us to familiarize ourselves with geographic locations is on a steady rise. Where we used to depend on paper, or some form of tangible maps or listed directions, technology has drastically increased the demand to have those exact same directions or maps accessible to mobile phones, and other electronic devices such as tablets, and portable GPS gadgets. Location based technologies are always evolving. A perfect example of this would be Mapquest, which was extremely popular at one time but is now a thing of the past. In its place, LBS like Google Maps for Android, Foursquare, and Geoloqi have cropped up – for now.

Geographic Information Systems, otherwise known as GIS, can be described as the computer systems that allow information from maps, objects and routes, and other related subjects such as cartograms, charts, and 3D diagrams to be stored and accessed on a regular basis. The technology used in today’s mapping processes has made the ease of access more readily available and demanding. The Internet and other technological advances had a dramatic impact of all GIS related activities, and also on those who use the product. Termed Web 2.0 in 2005, the second stage of Internet development was characterized by the growth of dynamic user-generated content. Undoubtedly, it is becoming more common for EVERYONE to do or desire to do EVERYTHING electronically, not just GIS professionals.
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GIS DAY 15th Anniversary: Take the way back machine

Take the way back machine to the first GIS Day in Spring of 1999. ESRI ARC News Online announced GIS Day 1999 Slated for November!  According to the press release, ESRI told users to “Get ready to learn more about GIS and geography. The National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers (AAG), and Esri are announcing the first annual GIS Day to be held November 19, 1999–the Friday of Geography Awareness Week (November 14-20, 1999)”.  According to Jack Dangermond, “The idea behind GIS Day is to create a single, worldwide event that effectively communicates the benefits and significance of GIS to the rest of society. There are about half a million GIS users in the world, but most of the public is unaware of this growing technology.”  It is difficult to comprehend that in the span of a little more than short years since that inaugural GIS Day, the world has experienced what Penn State calls the geospatial revolution significantly impacting the number of GIS users worldwide. Continue reading “GIS DAY 15th Anniversary: Take the way back machine”

Geocaching goes mainstream

In the world of advertising and marketing, it is fairly easy to guess that if something starts to show up on deal sites and clearance sections that it has either A. gone mainstream or B. jumped the shark and is no longer “cool”.  Either way, this is good news for geocaching which has shown up in some fairly mainstream places lately.

Todays, Woot megadeal site has an entertaining video, Mortimer’s Adventures in Geocaching, to sell geocaching items on sale that features their mascot, Mortimer.  Statements like “Geocaching is like a real life treasure hunt you can go on almost anywhere there is a steady population of nerds” might indicate that the Woot Seattle office has some veteran geocachers in the office.  However, finding cool Lego figurines might just be a geocacher’s dream item. Continue reading “Geocaching goes mainstream”

A Review of Apps and Maps

We downloaded several apps for our Very Spatial Road Trip that were recommended by friends, online reviews, and VerySpatial podcasts. Since she was acting as navigator, Barbara insisted on stopping at AAA and picking up a stack of paper maps for back up.  We found that there is no better crucible for  road testing a travel app than a lengthy trip into the unknown under sometimes stressful and time imperative conditions. We felt like the explorers in Dava Sobel‘s book “Longitude” who were sent to sea with new technologies that we hoped would live up to their claims. It wasn’t until after our trip that we heard more honest opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the apps we packed.  A friend, who is a global traveler, told us that it is good travel etiquette to leave our own input on any crowd-sourced apps as our “payment” for using it and to “pass it on” to other travelers. In that spirit, we have written a review of the apps that we used on our road trip from WV to CA.

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We Give Directions Differently Depending on Where We Live

Europeans and Americans just give directions differently. Who knew? Researchers conducted an experiment to see if people gave directions differently if they thought the person was driving verses looking at a map. Turns out that while that does have an impact, where you’re from has a larger impact on how you describe directions. Americans tend to give directions by saying street names and giving cardinal directions, e.g. “Go North on Main St”. Europeans tend to give directions by saying the number of streets to go and whether to go left or right, e.g. “Go up two streets, then take a left”. The article proposes a number of theories as to why this might be the case, but they don’t actually test any of them fully. Still, it’s a pretty interesting finding, I think. Also, it’s yet another point suggesting that I’m secretly European and didn’t know it 🙂

The Lightsquared Saga Continues

Lightsquared is not prepared to go gently into the night.  They have hired Theodore Olson (among others) to help argue their case.  Olson is most famous for having successfully argued for Bush in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case that settled the 2000 US Presidential election.  In other words, Lightsquared brought out the big guns.  Olson argues that government encouraged Lightsquared to invest in a startup technology then slammed the door in their face when final approval was sought.  I’m not enough of a legal expert to know if Olson’s argument holds water, but it is rather telling a relatively famous attorney would take up the case.

As I’ve said in nearly every post in this ongoing saga…. we’ll keep you abreast of the situation as news becomes available.

Lightsquared Pretty Much Out Of The Fight

Lightsquared, who last month received a conditional waiver from the FCC on its products, looks like it might be in trouble as the FCC has withdrawn that waiver.  Obviously the FCC acted in response to concerns over GPS interference.  This officially ‘kills’ Lightsquared’s proposed solution to rolling out a 4G-LTE network over the spectrum it owns, baring some sort of miracle intervention from who knows where.

However, I think they’ve made an interesting counter argument to the GPS interference test results – the GPS industry is too big to fail.  What they’re effectively arguing is that industrial GPS manufacturers use equipment that over listens to signals, meaning it’s paying attention to a portion of the spectrum upon they never were licensed to listen.

I’m not personally knowledgeable enough about spectrum use in general (and GPS spectrum use in particular) to know if the argument holds any water.  I do think it’s interesting the FCC chose – wisely in my opinion – to preference navigation over cell communications.  However, I believe more knowledgeable heads than mine should certainly investigate Lightsquared’s claims.  The license of the spectrum really only works if everyone obeys the virtual fences properly.  That’s true whether GPS is encroaching on Lightsquared’s territory as Lightsquared believes or whether Lightsquared is encroaching on GPS territory as testing has suggested.