Ever since we got the first preview of ArcGIS.com and ArcGIS Explorer Online back at the Dev Summit, we’ve been waiting for the chance to try it out ourselves, Well, ESRI’s Bern Szukalski tweeted earlier today that the ArcGIS.com public beta is now live, so you can head over to ArcGIS.com and start making and sharing maps and checking out its other features. In this week’s podcast, Episode 253, which will be going live tomorrow morning, you’ll be able to listen to Bern tell us a little bit more about ArcGIS.com and how it fits into the overall ESRI platform.
Recently we featured the Grassroots Mapping project, a community participatory mapping initiative from the MIT Media Lab, on the podcast, and now the Grassroots team has headed down to Louisiana to try to utilize their balloon-based camera system to acquire imagery and map the Gulf oil spill along the Louisiana coast. Their goals are not to replace official imagery and mapping of the disaster, but rather to supplement the information by allowing citizens to provide their own documentation of the event using low-cost balloons to get aerial images for mapping.
If any of you are in the area, and would like to help out with the efforts, you can find more information at the Grassroots Mapping wiki for the Gulf Oil Spill project. There is also an article posted on CNN.com.
While I continue my research in the area of immersive virtual worlds and serious gaming, I have also been doing a lot of work recently in the area of digital cities, and trying to implement the idea of a “smart” 3D city or town landscape that can be used as a visualization and collaboration tool for municipal management and planning. Once again, an IBM project has grabbed my attention by combining serious gaming and digital cities into one cool project: CityOne. Today I saw a press release announcing the CityOne project, a SimCity-like game using real world data that will be designed to bring together players of the game to help work through and solve real problems facing cities around the world. IBM will be introducing CityOne at Agility@Work Zone at Impact2010 in Las Vegas this week (this is the IBM software conference for business and IT, not to be confused with another conference called IMPACT 2010, which some blogs and sites have linked to by mistake)
Check out the CityOne preview:
In case you haven’t listened to this week’s episode, you are missing out on our conversation with a couple of the guys (David and Mark) of IndieMapper. Part of that conversation included them rolling out a coupon code for our listeners and readers. If you use the code “veryspatial” you will get 50% off the price of the first month (I assume after the 30 day free trial). Watch the video to learn a little more.
In my infinite Apple fanboyishness I am going through the iPhone OS 4.0 keynote video from earlier today. A couple of nice things that will be rolling to your iPhone/iPod Touch later this summer and iPad in the fall when the new OS ships will be background location and multitasking (need to let your location app run in the background). With background locations you get two important things:
1) If you are running a turn-by-turn app, then switch over to another app, your turn-by-turn app will keep tracking your GPS location and continue giving you voice directions.
2) If you are running a social networking app like Loopt or Google Latitude (maybe?) then there will be a low power mode that will use your cell location (which tower your are connected to) as a proxy for your location. When you move to a new tower your social networking app will be pinged so that it knows to grab a more accurate location using GPS.
This is huge and something that other services such as Veriplace (as you will hear in this week’s podcast) are rolling out for multiple platforms.
Perhaps the most important note is that now, with multiple apps running, it may not be as easy to keep up with when you are sharing your location or not. Apple has a solution (or 2) for that. When an app is pulling your location via wifi, cell, or GPS it will display a new icon on the top bar next to the battery. It won’t tell you which app is pulling location, but at least you will know when you are sharing. The other thing that they are doing is letting you know in the new Location Services control panel whether or not you have shared your location with an app in the last 24 hours. The Location Services control panel will also be where you dictate which apps have access to your location, doing away with the “are you sure” screen that pop-ups each time you open an app.
I have to say that I am pretty impressed by the steps they have taken to secure privacy…now I am just waiting to see if they blow it by using your location to push location ads (haven’t watch that part yet).
There is another GIS app in the US iTunes store. iGGIS is a an app for the Netherlands that seems to be a GIS without a map, using your location to grab local textual information. Translated from iTunes:
Do you find it so difficult to find information about a town? iGGIS is a smartphone application that makes it easier for you in the municipal Web information. Through its simple interface you quickly find the information you are looking for. IGGIS The name stands for “interactive Municipal Geographic Information System”. The app is in an interactive manner, based on geographic coordinates, community information display. The application is accessible in all 431 municipalities of the Netherlands (rural area).
If you are in the Netherlands check it out and let us know what you think of the app in the comments.
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently highlighted an interactive map of state spending on higher education institutions and how federal stimulus monies are being used in each state. The focus is on three themes: Percent of higher ed budget from stimulus monies (FY 2009-10), change in general fund spending (FY 2008-2010), and budget gaps as a percent of the general fund budget (FY 2010). It is interesting to see which states are in the best position to support state schools and which ones will have significant issues when federal stimulus monies begin to disappear in 2011. The image below is the % budget from stimulus map, click through to play around with the interactive map.
Apparently lots of people have been asking Google for biking directions and now they get their wish! The directions get added right along with the driving and walking directions we’ve all come to know and love. They’ve even added the ability to avoid hills (good luck with that in West Virginia)! Like the walking and driving directions, the biking directions report total miles and estimated time. I’m not a biker, although I’ve considered trying to bike part-way to work this summer. It’s nice to know how many miles it will take and how long I should budget in the morning to do so. It also seems to do a pretty good job of planning the route to avoid major roads with no real bike support. I did my house to work and a large section of it is basically a county highway with little to no shoulder. It routed me through a residential area for part of it so I avoid the traffic.
There was a press release back in late February that I just came across from the folks at Leica Geosystems which caught my attention, partially due to the product, partially for the picture. The product is their new Zeno handheld GPS/GLONASS device. It is a Windows CE device, as has become the norm, and they have rolled out their new Zeno Office that includes an OEM version of ArcPad 8 for the device and a desktop client extension for ArcGIS to get your data in and out of the device.
The hardware has most of the features you expect now-a-days: 2 MP camera, 640×480 3.5 inch screen, and SD and CF card slots for expansion. The Zeno 10 includes a numeric pad while the Zeno 15 adds a QWERTY keypad, which brings us to the picture of a GPS unit that immediately made me think ‘green fish’. My mental image aside, the new Zeno line looks like a great option for those in the market for a professional grade handheld GPS unit. If you get a chance to play with one, let us know what you think.
While editing the podcast today I realized I did a horrible job of describing Microsoft’s new features. In my defense, I was talking about it as I received an error in 2 different browsers as I tried to get to Bing Maps and then trying to decide whether or not to bail on that news item. The upshot, I should have bailed, but here is a bit of what I probably would have said
I am happy with the updates that have made their way into both Bing Maps and Google Maps over the last few days, but the thing I am truly excited about is Microsoft’s integration of Photosynthish 3D surfaces that show up when a Streetside scene moves. Pick a place like the corner of Wabash and Monroe in Chicago where there is a portion of the El and an urban canyon effect. As you move along east to west along Monroe under the El and toward State you see the impact of texturing the images to the 3D models. It takes what is a great tool for getting to know an area from informational to immersive. This will not hold true in rural areas, but the difference it makes in downtown Charlotte and Chicago (the only two areas I have looked at in Streetside) is significant. It is good to see some of the news we talked about back in 2007 making such an impact today.
The difference between the Google and Bing maps continues to grow. The underlying features aren’t radically different, but the difference in feel between the two is notable. Bing continues to push toward a professional set of tools from my perspective, not something that you use to place a map on you personal webpage, but a set of tools to encourage companies to embed and advertise through Microsoft’s tools.