Geospatial Grocery Store

The Telegraph recently published an article, “How Supermarkets Prop Up Our Class System” by Harry Wallop introducing his book “Consumed: How Shopping Fed the Class System“. In the article, he discusses how marketers use census data and other location based data to aggregate postcodes into 60 different social groupings that they then repackage and sell back to retailers who use the analysis to micro-target potential shoppers. He believes that instead of creating more opportunities for shoppers, spatial targeting is reinforcing class stereotypes and creating structural inequality.

Geospatial marketing for supermarkets and grocery stores is growing in popularity for industry and public health. The Food Trust documented how Pennsylvania is using geospatial and GIS to target underserved communities for Penn State Public Broadcasting’s Geospatial Revolution Project.  Job search databases advertise for positions such as geospatial marketing facilitator, interactive marketer, and geospatial marketing analyst.  The Shopper Marketing trade journal lists mobile applications, QR codes, location based shopping, and augmented reality among the trends it uses to both reach and collect data from shoppers.

In today’s society it is difficult for shoppers to take advantage of grocery deals without providing personal information. A LifeHacker article on saving money, “Use “Jenny’s Number” to Get Club Discounts at Stores without Providing Personal Information” jokingly suggested trying to use the phone number from the popular 80’s song. Which semi-seriously raises the question of which social grouping the people who provide her number would fall under or how many shoppers give fake geospatial data.

Flu trackers then and now

Influenza or “flu” is on the rise this month and so are the number of interactive maps being used to track it. Interactive maps have become an integrated part of social marketing, advertising, and educational outreach campaigns. The official tracking site is the CDC influenza map, which is part of their dedicated Flu.gov educational site. Their map shows widespread influenza in all but 3 U.S. states. Although, Google.org has a flu trend site that uses certain search terms to indicate flu activity and aggregates the search data. Currently, every state in the U.S. is red to indicate high intensity. Most sites such as Triaminic children’s medicine are using their interactive flu tracker to increase traffic to their website and boost sales, based upon the CDC data.  Multiple media outlets have reported on the Facebook flu app, “Help, my friend gave me the flu” that supposedly tracks who made you sick. It was created by Help Remedies Inc., a drug company to help increase its profile.

McGraw-Hill publisher has an interactive map of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic  from A Survey of American History by Alan Brinkley.  PBS.org has a complete transcript of their program on the Influenza of 1918 and then views on how it was spread and how to stop it.  Not much had changed more than 20 years after John Snow’s pioneering epidemiology mapping, dynamically described in Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. According to the CDC, while many public officials were advocating quarantine and still believed that the flu was caused by poor body humors, medical professionals were beginning to better understand flu outbreaks and how to track them.

The ZSL London Zoo

The ZSL London Zoo‘s annual census of every zoo animal as part of their zoo license renewal is an example of how to turn a seemingly routine geospatial task into international news. The media and public discuss the event in a way that evokes the celebration of an annual holiday like Ground Hog’s day. While the zoo keepers use clipboards to count each animal in the field,  it is logged into the International Species Information System (ISIS) software to manage international breeding programs for endangered animals from zoos around the world.  ZSL London Zoo participates in breeding programs for 130 species. An interactive map on the ZSL London Zoo website gives visitors an idea of the animals being counted during the census. It is a great way to highlight the work of everyone involved and introduce them to aspects of zoo management beyond watching animals.

The Zoological Society of London opened the London Zoo as the world’s first scientific zoo in 1828 and continues to add new technology, innovations, and discoveries as they develop.They award a scientific medal, like the one awarded to Prof. Simon Hay for his work investigating the spatial and temporal aspects of mosquito born disease epidemiology and manages the Malaria Atlas Project to improve cartography of malaria.  It is one of several different divisions that fall under the Zoological Society’s umbrella including the Whipsnade Zoo and the ZSL Institute of Zoology. The Zoological Society utilizes geospatial professionals in capacities from Dr. Chris Yesson‘s work on phyloclimatic modeling and classes in GIS to field scientists using remote sensing data donated by GeoEye for gorilla conservation. The ZSL created the EDGE Evolutionary Distinct & Globally Endangered program as a global conservation effort to protect species with unique evolutionary history using Google Earth to create awareness and interest. The ZSL encourages partnerships, collaborations, and opportunities for citizen science and volunteers on their website.

New York City Transportation Apps

The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)  has been in the news this week for it’s new Subway Time app, but that isn’t the only transportation app that they or several other creative individuals have created to use in the city. There are over 65 officially sanctioned MTA apps including the Exit Strategy NYC which allows users to determine the most ideal place to stand on a subway car or platform to real time bus schedules, historic bus tours, and 3d Maps to explore New York City.  One of the most interesting facts about these apps is the backstory of how and why they were created. Most of them begin with someone who has an idea, problem, or need and spends time making a geospatial solution that meets their needs and in doing so meets the needs of a section of the larger population.

The MTA serves North America’s largest transportation network providing over 14.9 million people with 5,000 square miles of inspiration. This inspiration is supported by the fact that the MTA has an in house geospatial technology department and provides a Developer’s Resources page to encourage application development. In the past, the MTA created a Challenge Quest – MTA App Quest to challenge software developers to use MTA developers to create new apps.  The use of the word software developers, highlights its use as an umbrella term to capture anything related to app development, such as geospatial developers, graphic designers, and others.  A review of the plethora of different types of contributers to the over 65 MTA apps indicates that it might be time to begin thinking of a more accurate term to describe app developers.

Mapping defibrillators

The Wall Street Journal featured a health article on the need to map automated external defibrillators for heart attack response, “The Device that Saves Lives, But Can Be Hard To Find”.    Like many health saving devices, such as fire hydrants, many locations aren’t compiled in one easy to access location. The University of Pennsylvania and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used crowd sourcing and public participation to map AED locations. The  project was called The My Heart Map Challenge , which utilized cash rewards to develop a smartphone app. They are currently creating a toolkit that other municipalities and cities can use to hold their own challenges.

Geography of U.S. Charity

NPR’s Pam Kessler has an interesting story about a study done on the geography of charitable giving in the United States by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. She provides an audio story, text, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s interactive map. The finding that is highlighted by the study will be one that is common to geospatial analysts, people with more money tend to give more if they live in an economically diverse neighborhood. To paraphrase Tobler’s First Law of Geography, the First Law of U.S. Philanthropy is that anyone can give to any charity, but charity tends to begin at home and moves out from there.

The study itself was compiled using data from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service,  the U.S. Census by zip code, and data from the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics among others. The National Center for Charitable Statistics also created the Community Platform, a crowd-sourcing interactive map application designed to help communities and nonprofit organizations match community resources and needs.

Interactive Greenbelt Map

The Telegraph UK has an article on England’s Green Belt which provides an interactive Google map for residents to determine if they are in an area classified as green belt land. The most interesting part of the article is that it makes the data available to the public and states that in the past the data would have cost thousands of bounds despite the fact that it is funded using taxpayer money. It then provides a link to the downloadable data provided by The Department for Communities and Local Government.  This is a common debate among the GIS community, but not one that is normally brought up in popular media. It will be interesting to see the comments left by the public about the article and if the topic of available data comes up.

 

 

 

 

Forensic GIS: A Fast Growing Profession and CFP

The geospatial methods and technologies used in Forensic GIS are finally catching up to popular depictions in movies and television. Although most of the analysis done on shows like CSI is footwork done by geospatial professionals and not solely by a near omnipotent computer program. I have often debated the impact of the large number of forensic procedurals in popular T.V.,  movies, and books.  Mainly because the word GIS and mapping never seems to be used, even though that is the method being demonstrated. However, that will probably change considering the integration of Forensic GIS into the everyday practices around the world.

Forensic GIS has been used for many years in crime mapping around the world. Companies such as CSIR in New Zealand have used GIS and cell phone data to provide forensic evidence for criminal cases. GIS is used in every part of the investigation process creating jobs in the public, private, and university sectors. New jobs like GIS Analysis Expert Witness support for litigation have been created for companies like Digital Data Service or Geographic Resource Solutions which provides wildfire litigation. Other facets of forensic GIS include fraud dection, crime scene data , geospatial modeling in civil law suits, accident simulation, and for agency collaboration.

According to American Sentinel University, GIS and geospatial skills are a critical part of forensic science education today.  Many of these programs are offered at all levels of education from certificate programs to undergraduate, masters, and Ph. D.  It has led to innovation that serves the needs of forensic analysists in a unique way.  The Ohio State University Police Division used GIS mapping software to detect patterns inside human bones. Fellowships also exist for established professionals such as the  The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command’s Central Identification Laboratory, which provides a five course fellowship to assist in excavation and identification in Laos or Vietnam.  If you watch the  popular T.V. show Bones, this is the program that the main forensic scientist was involved in helping.  The U.S. Department of Justice and Crime Mapping Research Center provide an online Mapping Crime: Principle and Practice Book, which explains crime mapping from context, to methods, application, and ethics for law enforcement and others.

One of the ways to build up credibility and make it into the public and professional consciousness is to provide case studies of the real day to day work done by GIS professionals and any other type of GIS professional in the field. Many times people in the field think that calls for papers, book chapters, conferences, and journals are only for academics or journalists, however these same publications often have a hard time finding examples of real world projects to discuss. The same is true of other media such as television and online newspapers, who contact professionals and organizations that are visible. One of the most permanent ways to increase visibility and credibility is to publish in some format – editorials, blogs, conference papers, professional journals, popular press, and of course textbooks in the field.

If you are one of the many public, private, or academic professionals involved in the growing field of forensic GIS, there is a call for chapter proposals and chapter section contributions that can be considered for inclusion in the book at Forensic GIS: The Role of Geospatial Technologies for Investigating Crime and Providing Evidence, which is scheduled to be published by Springer in its popular Geotechnologies and the Environment series. The deadline is Friday, December 14, 2012.  Forensic GIS the profession is catching up to the popular perception of Forensic GIS the T.V. profession, share your real world applications and experiences with the next generation of Forensic GIS students.

Google Adds Amber Alerts to Maps and Search Results

Google has started adding Amber Alerts to its map and search results. They’re doing this through a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Basically, they’re combining the local search information with NCMEC’s Amber Alert system. It should include any descriptive information and how to contact the system if you happen to know anything about the missing child.

It’s good to see companies using their technology to help communities and I hope other companies help these efforts in any way possible.

Clever Google Maps Manipulations by Christoph Niemann

The Path to Rebates

Anyone who spends more than an hour around me knows I like clever word manipulations. Yep, I find them punny. Christoph Niemann has just taken this to a whole new level with Clever Google Maps Manipulations. Some of them are funny (like My Way or the Highway) and some of them are pretty nifty visual illusions. I personally like the one above best as I’ve gotten HORRIBLY lost on Mail-In Rebate Way on more than one occasion. Either way, they’re a good reminder that maps can be as much art as information.