A Wider Look at Data

By Hal Reid

As we plunge further into 2006, I’m thinking about the nature of technology, the traditional sources of information and all the things that make up Location Intelligence (LI). Here is a partial list:
  • Maps
  • Data
  • Imagery
  • RFID
  • Wi-Fi
  • BI
  • Data visualization
  • Data relationship mapping
  • The kitchen sink
  • Anything else I forgot
I inventoried all this “stuff” because I have been thinking about how we actually get at LI. Certainly there are the maps and Web-based sources of information and processes. But I think there are several things happening that will condition how we view the development of LI, especially as we adapt to the changes that will come about this year. One change we’re anticipating is further incorporation of location-based services into the mainstream of LI. But there is another change that may be the most fascinating.

Based on conversations with people in two groups at the University of Missouri (the Center for Geospatial Intelligence and the Library Science Department), I believe we are entering a new era of data access. No longer are we satisfied to “find all the widgets that are within a 10 mile radius.” We want to see data adjacencies - not just physical adjacencies, but also information that is parallel to that which we requested in the first place. It is sort of a “would you like fries with that” approach to data retrieval, only more expansive.

In the area of Library Science, there is a concept of data retrieval that extends the original quest into not just adjacent areas, but other potential areas that are tangentially relative. As a result, when you are researching a topic, you are given access to other relative information, which makes the original quest richer. Therefore, you end up with an overall understanding that is more profound. (See this article for a discussion of imprecise queries.)

Fuzzy queries, adjacent suggestions, relative facts, heuristic search assistance, and interactive queries are all techniques that are coming to bear on the ability to respond to a question. Examples are found with existing search engines, but they are still in the suggestive sell mode.

For a generalized look at the future of data adjacencies, look at Yelp, a site where you can find ordinary information and comments about it from ordinary people. How is the car repair shop? How good is the restaurant? It doesn’t just find a hotel or restaurant; it tells you what people think about it.

Applying the adjacencies concept to our field, it become evident that the advancement of geospatial technology will not come from the discipline alone, but from other technologies that support the movement, storage, processing, and manipulation of location data. This advancement will probably occur on a scale we haven’t yet even imagined. It is the Google Maps effect, only with information.

In this issue of Location Intelligence, we investigate some of these adjacent advancements and we hope to bring you a few examples of fuzzy queries in the near future. The logic behind this effort is to help you begin to think more broadly and to see the new skill sets you may want to acquire. Change is inevitable, and sometimes it is for the better.


Published Friday, January 20th, 2006

Written by Hal Reid



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