Key Where 2.0 Announcements for the Geospatial Professional

By Adena Schutzberg

Where 2.0 has become a key conference for geospatial announcements big and small. You'd be hard pressed to find a single source that covered them all, and many are only tangentially relevant to those heavily involved in geotechnologies. Below are the key details of the "must know about" announcements, not in any particular order.
  • ESRI adds tools to ArcGIS Server to make searching for and using data in the Google environment simple. While this was not a huge technical feat (some wrote it off as "ESRI will write out KML"), the commitment to do it and the implications of it are significant. The choice to include developer tools in ArcGIS Server to make Map Services (data) and Geoprocessing Services (analytical services) not only findable via Google Search, but also usable in any app that uses KML, affirms ESRI's confidence in its role as a geospatial technology provider. By working with Google (this was referred to as a partnership), ESRI has opened up its users' significant accomplishments in both data and services to the larger world. More details at All Points Blog.
  • FortiusOne launches GeoCommons Finder! This next step in the company's vision for sharing public data is valuable because Finder! includes effective search tools and the ability to download data in shapefile, KML and CSV (comma separated values) formats. There's also a "personal account" where users can "hold" data of interest to them for later use. I like this idea of a personal storage location "for my data," one akin to how we store pictures (Flickr) and other data (YouTube, MySpace, etc.) in the cloud. Finder! is but one of the pieces in the triad FortiusOne will offer in due time; the others include Maker and Atlas, for map creation and group collaboration, respectively. Watch the Finder! video and read more at Mashable.
  • Urban Mapping launches public transportation dataset. While Google and many other sites try to put together single city or regional networks, Urban Mapping has done the hard work of collecting public transportation data from 53 agencies in the U.S. and Canada, standardizing them and cleaning them up on intake. One of the carrots to get transit systems to be part of the Mass Transit database - the ability to use the Urban Mapping system to clean the data for the agency's internal use. With its usual flair for completeness, the company includes "details" about elevators, restrooms and actual locations of station exits. In these times of high gas prices, this dataset should be in high demand.
  • Yahoo! opens its WEOID database/API; don't forget Fire Eagle. The WEOID is a gazetteer database with an API, part of the Yahoo! Internet Location Platform. It, like Fire Eagle, can jumpstart any geoapp. More at All Points Blog. The only real news about Fire Eagle from Where 2.0 is that a few more LBS developers are supporting it. Still, I mention it here because so few people in the geospatial community realize the power of this location broker. I think it has significant potential for Web apps, too. If you do not know what it is, I recommend this video.
  • The panel on monetization didn't offer answers. That observation is from Andres at BlinkGeo. Monetizing mashups, I agree, is a conundrum. But, the real challenge? If anyone really knew the answer, would they tell? We run into this situation annually with our Location Intelligence Conference. The good news: We have plenty of folks making and saving money in the enterprise with geospatial technologies, just not via consumer-facing, "for fun" mashups.
  • Poly9 highlights FreeEarth. Two big reasons to note this 3D globe and its API: It's got a solid API and it requires no special plug-in (it uses Flash). Or as the company puts it: It's "a cross-browser, cross-platform 3D globe." One more reason to pay attention? FreeEarth supports GeoRSS and WMS. I'm anti-globe for two reasons: the overhead of the software and my lack of navigation ability in 3D. FreeEarth solves half of my problems! Further, I think it'd be a great platform for Joe Francica's vision for Business Globes.
  • Google introduces Maps Flash API and other goodies. Poly9 gets Flash, so does Yahoo! and ESRI, which both support Flash Web implementations for their mapping apps. Google announced a Flash API this week. Also from Google: more data layers in Google Maps (Wikipedia, real estate, photos), and the opening of the GeoSearch API, which until now was only available in Google Maps and Earth. That allows developers to search for KML and business listings "near" a location.
  • Dash opens up its API. The Internet-connected, mashup-downloadable, speed-of-travel-sharing satnav system has opened up its API to developers. A few early services include weather (via WeatherBug) and real estate information (via Coldwell Banker). I'm most interested to see what kinds of crowd-sourced data can be collected from drivers (beyond speed of travel) and re-used with the system.
  • Plea for metadata and details on satellite images. Ben Lorica (O'Reilly) described Lisa Parks' (Professor of Media Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara) presentation on the use and impact of satellite imagery and its cultural and societal impacts (think wars, natural disasters). To help educate the public about this important resource, she ended with a plea. I quote Lorica's paraphrasing: "She closed by appealing to the technologists and web developers in the audience. Satellites are everywhere and impact a lot of what we do, yet we know very little about them. When embedding satellite images in web applications, developers should consider exposing important satellite meta-data to users: source of the images, sensing technique used, orbital address and owner of the satellite, etc."
  • EveryScape announces Ambassador Program. How will EveryScape, the company offering street photos akin to Google StreetView, stay competitive? By offering contract "jobs" collecting data. After training, teams of two, called EveryScape Ambassadors, will take GPSs and hard drives (provided by EveryScape), and digital cameras (self-provided) and collect data. The company is also looking for contract photographers to shoot business interiors. This is a nice mix between hired hands and user generated content. Google did a bit of this trying to get locals to encourage businesses to get on the map. This sounds a bit more exciting, and in time data gatherers can show off their handiwork to friends and family on the Web!
  • Presentation skills vary. More than one attendee (Dave Bouwman, Andres) noted the variation in quality/content of presentations. Few were at the level of TED and some were described as being nearly unwatchable. Bouwman suggests Presentation Zen as required preparation. Andres notes that a compelling story is at least as important as technical details. This situation is not unique to Where 2.0; it's just rare that it's mentioned in conference coverage. It's a good reminder to all who plan to speak to do their homework.
  • Nokia goes from maps on mobiles to maps on computers. Yes, that sounds backward, but Nokia is a mobile company trying to link back to the laptop/desktop. The company outlined a plan for users to be able to create, store and upload maps to their phones from its Ovi content sharing site in the coming months. Some point to this move as a serious step to compete with Google.

Published Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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