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Where2.0, WhereCamp; More Mapping Fun

May 15, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Bicycle Maps

Where2.0 is a conference for geo-oriented developers that is going on right now. O’Reilly, the mega-publisher of computer geek books, is producing the conference. Here’s what their web page has to say:

GIS has been taken to heart by neogeographers, a new breed of developers with increasingly powerful tools built on the back of open standards and free APIs from the likes of Google and Microsoft, and application frameworks like Mapstraction and GeoDjango. Increasingly, the open source GIS stack is supporting the Web, adding a new arrow in the neogeographer’s quiver. Geonames, an open-data service, is built from this data web-accessible data. Google has started exposing geo data in a separate index that is growing daily.

Translated, this means that everybody is in love with GIS (geographic information systems) and geographic data of all sorts right now, in part because GIS data used to be “for GIS professionals only”—now, this is changing.

The “geoweb” is the Web, powered by GIS dataa relatively new term that implies the merging of geographical (location-based) information with the abstract information that currently dominates the internet. This would create an environment where one could search for things based on location instead of by keyword only‘. GIS information is an important part of the geoweb, but it is not strictly necessary for the geoweb. A web page tagged with the location ‘Atlanta, GA’ in some standard format - without using any GIS data, per se - can become part of the geoweb as soon as Google geoindexes that page. GIS data is typically stored in old-school GIS databases and programs, and the data is not readily-available on the web. There is an incredible amount of information in the GIS world, so lots of people (including me!) are very excited to see it make into the mainstream of computing consciousness.

Check out this video for a joint presentation by Google and ESRI. ESRI (wiki) is the leading GIS software developer, with upwards of 50% of the total market share for GIS software. They are, in short, a very big deal. Chances are that your local, state, and national government uses ESRI software extensively.

The Where2.0 blog reports what all the hoopla is about:

John Hanke invited Jack Dangermond on stage. Jack is the founder and CEO of ESRI; he is the godfather of GIS and by extension neogeography. Jack and John are the only people who have spoken at every Where 2.0. The upcoming release of ArcGIS Server 9.3, ESRI’s flagship product, will now publish in KML and GeoRSS. Every install will be able to output to a streaming KML file. There’s always been a dark web of geodata. Now this is being exposed and we can expect the geoindex to grow because of it.

And this weekend is WhereCamp at the Googleplex. WhereCamp is more of a hacker get-together, where people organize themselves into smaller teaching-oriented sessions, hold Q & A’s, work, create mockups, learn, and much more. Maybe there will be some aspiring bike route mappers there? :)

All of this is good news for our efforts to see bicycle directions on the main Google Maps interface. Bike route information is generally stored as GIS data, and this new partnership between Google and ESRI should help make it easier for everyone interested in bike map/route data to gain access to it. And GIS experts will now have an easier time of sharing their knowledge and expertise with the world.

As we’ve mentioned previously, part of all this excitement surrounding “the geoweb” is being generated by the upcoming releases of the new iPhone, and the first Android-powered cell phones this summer—both of which are supposed to ship with built-in GPS technology.

P.S.: Google has introduced a new Flash API for Google Maps, and the Google I/O Conference happens in two weeks.

…Schwarzenegger Calls for Task Force in California for expanded GIS Use.

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Pedestrian and bicycle navigation on your Sony PSP

April 13, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Bicycle Maps

C|Net Asia brings us some cool info about the Sony PSP:

The map’s zoom-in, nine scales. A mediocre performance, not an impressive affair anyway. The most useful function for PSP model could be the pedestrian navigation and its route searching. While you are on foot, or on two wheels (bicycle; not recommended to motorcyclists for obvious reasons), you can search your shortest route through obscure back alleys and holes in the fence, at least, within the radius of 10Km.

So, you need a PSP, a GPS add-on, and some software from Zenrin, but it’s possible! :D

All in all, it sounds like the Sony PSP solution might be a bit rough around the edges, but I like anything that moves us towards more ubiquitous access to bicycle directions.

Also, there are rumors of the new iPhone having native GPS abilities - there already exists some ‘faux GPS’ ability in the iPhone.

And in perusing the web, I cycled across a cool blog called NaviGadget, which might be interesting to you GPS heads out there. I’m not a GPS head, myself, but I do love the iPhone - though, I’m gonna hold out for version 2 of the iPhone - hopefully in a couple of months. I’m actually curious to find out more about existing GPS devices that already provide bicycle directions - I need to do some reading.

For my future cell phone, I might also go with an Android-enabled phone if/when it hits the market. Android is basically an operating system for mobile devices/phones (wiki) - it is being developed by a group of 30 or so companies - and one of those companies is Google. The Android operating system is fully GPS-capable - the only question is whether device manufacturers will create handsets with built-in GPS capability or not. Let’s hope so.

There are lots of things going down in the mapping/GPS/directions/web arena right now, and it looks like things might really start popping in the summer (when the new iPhone is rumored to be released) - just a couple of short months away.

Speaking of GPS, I’m reminded of a cool Austin company I found out about recently - BarZ Adventures. They make these cool, little GPS-enabled tour-guide devices. Check out a YouTube video here. I like tools like this because they seem like they might be able to help excite people about walking. As cyclists, we all know how cool it is to be able to appreciate our surroundings. Hopping in the car is sometimes easier, but we roll down our windows so we can taste the air - like we would if we were on our bikes. Well, tools like BarZ’s GPS Ranger (and any GPS-enabled device) seem to me like they could have this effect of helping people (like me) to appreciate our immediate surroundings a bit more - and if we don’t like what we see, we might even get motivated to do something about it. I’m starting to believe that we all should be at least knowledgeable, if not experts in, the theory and practice of good urban design. We’ve left it to ‘the powers that be’ for too long, and now we have (sub)urban sprawl that is killing us. I’m not against suburbs or cities - I’m against poorly-designed suburbs and poorly-designed cities. More on this in a future post.

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