Where 2.0 2008 – Day 3 – Wednesday

This was the last day of Where 2.0. A diverse collection of talks representing innovative startup-technology, innovative applications of free and open source apps for disasters and humanitarian purposes, long-established geospatial data providers, academics, and top tech companies like Yahoo and Google were all in the mix. In other words, another day at Where 2.0. Schedule.
Ok, so here is another summary of those talks with a Google Earth perspective:

  • Disaster Tech – Jesse Robbins, Mikel Maron – These guys mentioned how Google Maps/Earth have been used in numerous disaster situations like Hurricane Katrina and the California fires. They also spent some time pointing out some issues in using traditional mapping technologies. For example, Google Maps did not modify the routing around a bridge that was destroyed in New Orleans during the hurricane. It wasn’t until the media wrote some stories about this problem many months after the disaster that Google managed to fix it. Jesse and Mikel of course pointed to Open Street Map’s technology which enables anyone to suggest/make edits to the maps as one possible path. Although they recognized that relying on crowd-source derived maps only may not be the best course by emergency professionals in a large human disaster. They also pointed out that even if the data were updated, the Red Cross and other organizations may not have the time during the disaster to check the right sources with the updated data.
  • Eye-Fi – Eye-Fi is a new WiFi aware SD memory card you can put in a camera. They have announced a new card that can use WiFi location technology (like the iPhone) to closely approximate the position of your photos and automatically write the location to your pictures on the memory card. Not only that, but their card will automatically upload your photos to a secure server when it detects a WiFi (they support WayPort which can be found at McDonalds). You don’t have to log-in, or pay for a subscription – just turn on the phone and wait a few minutes and your geotagged photos are sent. See the Wired story.
  • Dash – Dash is the company giving Garmin some real competition in car navigation. Dash personal navigation systems have two way communication enabling them to give data back to other Dash users on the conditions of important thing like real-time traffic. In other words – crowd-sourced traffic. Their units also support geoRSS and KML so you can share location information. They also encourage independent developers of software and data to support their platform and they announced relationships with WeatherBug for local weather info, a service that lets you find out the name of the song you just heard on the radio, and Trapster – a service that points out likely police hide-outs.
  • Navteq – Navteq is one of the two main suppliers of geospatial data for navigation systems. Anyone who has looked at road maps has seen their data. They are being bought by mobile phone company Nokia. Their VP of Internet/Wireless, George Filley presented. He made an appeal to the Where 2.0 audience of developers that they should work with Navteq to gain access to their huge resource of geospatial data for unique applications. He stated that Navteq understands the importance of flexible business models – so it sounds like that more unique deals may be possible.
  • Yahoo Flickr – Next up was Rev Dan Catt from the Yahoo Flickr team. Dan has been well known the last few years for his efforts to proliferate geotagged photos and boost Yahoo’s use of mapping technologies (read his geobloggers blog). He also brought along one of their developers (whose name I didn’t catch) who spent some time clearly explaining some issues they’ve encountered in trying to derive the names of locations people have geotagged, as well as issues with inaccurately placed photos. Interesting stuff.
  • Google Maps announcements – Ok, so yesterday I shared the announcement from Lior Ron, Product Manager of Google Maps, on the new upcoming News layer. But, he also made a bunch of other Google Maps announcements (some previously reported). Here’s some highlights: the new Geo Search API, new “layers” (“More…”) option in Google Maps currently showing Panoramio Photos or Wikipedia articles as layers over Google Maps (see more), the recently introduce “Explore this area” option, the new StreetView data in New York, the “show search options” for Google Maps (to the right of the Search button) now have two new search criteria: “mapped web pages” and “real estate” – cool new ways to search maps, when you click on “more info” in business search result – you will see a new tab for “user-created content”, and finally they have announced a Flash version of Google Maps available through the Maps API. Wow! Now that was some announcements!
  • History’s Best Geo-Hacks – Chris Spurgeon gave the most popular talk of the day. An engaging speaker with great stories. He explained the history behind the Mercator map projection, and the development of longitude navigation using clocks. Unfortunately he ran out of time and the crowd was bummed.
  • Venrock – Venrock is an investment firm with a long track record. Dev Khare presented his view of the opportunity matrix in the geo-spatial arena. I was impressed with his analysis of where the money could be. Car electronics/software, weather, geobrowsers, mobile phones and LBS, voice technologies, etc. Obvious areas, but he provided useful insights on where to look. I noticed he had several startups rushing to talk to him afterwards.
  • Academic Satellite Analysis – (my title) Lisa Parks of the University of California Santa Barbara has been analyzing the uses of satellite imagery for all kinds of purposes (military, political, disaster, humanitarian, etc.). She has written many papers, articles, and even books on the subject. She shared a very brief glimpse into insights including many things that Stefan Geens often points out at OgleEarth about improper analysis of satellite imagery. And she mentioned the Crisis in Darfur layer (which was also mentioned by at least 5 other talks at Where).
  • InSTEDD – InSTEDD is an organization dedicated to using technology innovation to help with human collaboration especially in the area of disaster response. They gave an interesting talk on using wiki-like input through Google Earth to allow people to quickly see and provide information about disaster situations. They developed a Twitter gateway server that can let people during the disaster use mobile phones to provide geo-spatial input on where important things are happening. Then, when someone views the data in Google Earth, people can use the wiki interface to augment the information with further data or comments. Very cool stuff. And, it’s open source so anyone can use it.
  • Lifemapper 2.0 – Aimee Stewart of the University of Kansas gave an interesting overview of how they have helped to archive biological/ecological data from various universities (and other sources) and provide web services to enable geospatial visualizations – using Google Earth as well as other geodata resources.
  • Google Maps Mobile – Adel Youssef, Product Manager for GMM gave a “behind the scenes” look at their mobile maps technology. He explained how they are determining locations on phones – with or without GPS units. He also made sure to point out they are using anonymous data collection and strong security technology to insure privacy and prevent abuse. And, he explained their software platforms and tools such as Android and Gears.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D graphics for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank left in 2009 to circumnavigate the earth by sailboat as part of the Tahina Expedition.



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