GITA’s Location for Education – a great program for teachers

I was glancing through my issue of GITA’s Conference News that came today and I noticed a little writeup about the expansion of GITA’s “Location for Education” program, which allows middle and high school teachers to include GPS and location based exercises in their classes. Kits are available for 2-week periods, and include 12 GPS units, a video, a geo-caching book, and instructions. The teacher only has to pay the shipping costs to get the kit to them and back to GITA. There isn’t a lot of information up on the GITA website yet, just a landing page basically, but hopefully there will be more soon, and maybe even some supplementary materials to go along with the physical kits. Right now, you can call email for more info at info@gita.org or phone GITA at 303-337-0513. I know I am going to be forwarding the info to some teachers in the area that we have done outreach with before.

I think this is a great program, especially for schools who would like to include more geography and geospatial technologies in their curricula, but can’t afford to purchase specialized equipment like GPS receivers. I’d really like to see other organizations partner with GITA to really expand a program like this, and maybe start others.

Tokyo Ubiquitous Network Project

Starting next month, stores in the Ginza district in Tokyo will be beaming coupons, special notices, and other information to shoppers and passers-by through the use of RFID tags and wireless transmitters. The initiative, called the Tokyo Ubiquitous Network Project, will allow shoppers to rent a prototype reader or get messages on their own cell phones. The phone or reader’s location Shoppers can either rent a prototype reader or get messages on their cell phones. The phone or reader’s location is identified by the RFID network, and then matches it to information provided by shops within a certain proximity. People will also be able to access maps and visitor information in different languages by bringing their cell phones or readers close to street lamps with embedded RFID tags.

The service will be available as a trial from January 21st to March 10th and, according to the article, has generated significant interest from stores in Ginza. This is the first large-scale trial of RFID-based LBS services for conveying localized business information that I’ve heard about, and I’m anxious to see how successful it is. I am also certain that there will be others in the near future, as a lot of the innovation that we have seen in the law few years starts to bear results.

Via CNN

Click a Map, Call that Business

Min Zeng over at the Google Maps team posted an interesting blog post/feature announcement. They’ve added a feature where you can store your phone number in your google account, search for a store in Google Maps, then click on the map to have google call the store and your phone at the same time, no charge. That’s a pretty cool feature to add and just the tip of a the potential iceberg, I think. However, it does bring up important data issues. I know in our town, Google still says there is a fast food restaurant in the middle of town that went away under the first President Bush’s administration. This affects me on a personal level in that I happen to have the old phone number of a local auto parts store, which drives me crazy most Saturday mornings. These sorts of issues can only be resolved with better local data. I’m honestly curious if a top down approach can be reasonably manageable, particularly in fairly rural areas.

UK town tests Augmented Reality system for local planning

The town of Burnley Wood in the UK has become a test bed for a new system that will help local residents visualize how proposed development will change what their town looks like. The Augmented Reality Interactive Environment System (ARIES) consists of a 3D representation of what the area will look like following the planned multi-million pound redevelopment project, loaded onto GPS-enable handheld devices. Residents are then able to move around and see what that specific location will look like. In addition, residents are also able to use the handhelds to record comments and notes as they are walking around. The test is part of the Elevate East Lancashire project, which

There has been a lot of research into using GIS and geospatial technologies for participatory local decision making, and the Burnley Wood test of the ARIES system is just one of an increasing number of examples of how these technologies can be used to help local communities.

Via Burnley Citizen

National Geographic’s Digital Places Special News Series

If you haven’t read them already, you should definitely check out the articles in National Geographic’s Digital Places Special News Series. They cover topics relating to Second Life, to mobile gaming, privacy issues, GeoRSS, and next week, using Google Earth to monitor environmental damage. I think the articles offer a nice introduction to some of the technologies and applications, and the examples are accessible to pretty much any audience.

SLAM – Microsoft’s foray into mobile social networking

Microsoft has a new prototype mobile application called Slam (Social, Location, Annotation, Mobile) that lets users send messages and photos back and forth to members of a group, or “slam” Group members can also see each other’s locations mapped using Virtual Earth. The SLAM server handles all the messages and mapping, as it periodically polls the client application for its location, which is determined not by GPS, but by the nearest cell tower. The SLAM client came be downloaded for free, and works on any Windows Mobile SmartPhone. However, Microsoft does have one warning:

“The Slam smartphone client does not use SMS to send and receive messages, it uses HTTP to post messages to the server and to poll for new messages from the server. Because Slam uses the data pipe to send and receive messages, it is very important that all smartphone client users be on an unlimited data plan . We can not stress this strongly enough. Smartphone client users not on an unlimited data plan can expect bills up to $600 / month or more. SMS users will only have to pay for the SMS messages they send and receive per the plan they with their carrier. There are no special charges associated with Slam.”

Slam is another facet of Microsoft’s increasing interest in social networking applications, and it will be interesting to see what users think of the service. Not having a Windows Mobile device, we can not try it out of course.

Via InformationWeek

Location based police

Listener Eric pointed out a news item that discusses how police in the Dutch city of Groningen will be testing a handheld-based computer system which will allow them to access information specific to the areas they are patroling. The article also seems to say that information can be pushed out the systems and that they will be locationally aware. Sounds like a pretty sweet system for police walking the streets.

BBC NEWS | Norwich pioneers free city wi-fi

The city of Norwich in the UK has set up a city-wide wi-fi that is open to the public at 256kbs and open to municipal employees at 1Mbs. One of the goals of implementing the technology is to not only create access to the internet but to allow for public workers to access relevant data and information without having to return to the office. They didn’t specifically mention mobile GIS, but you know someone is wandering around with a tablet, updating a spatial database…even if they don’t know it.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Norwich pioneers free city wi-fi

Satellite Navigation for the visually impaired

ESA News has a really interesting article about a prototype satellite navigation system for the visually impaired that was successfully tested in Madrid, Spain. The system uses a mobile phone with a location receiver and a voice synthesizer. The phone’s position is tracked accurately enough to give turn-by-turn directions in an urban setting, which are relayed through a voice synthesizer and into a set of headphones. However, the test subject still had a service dog, since conditions like other people on the street or passing cars would have to be dealt with. Still, it’s a pretty cool and useful application of navigation technology

Mapping the Earth in Near Real-Time

One of the projects Microsoft researchers are working on is called SenseWeb, and Technology Review has a nice article that gives an overview of SenseWeb which, when incorporated into Windows Live Local, will allow searching for real-time location-based information, such as local restaurant specials or even gas prices. Local search and LBS will continue to be a focus of new applications, so it will be interesting to see how SenseWeb might fit into Microsoft’s long-term plans.