Geospatial Technology

10 geospatial industry trends to watch in 2010

Posted in Apps, GPS Manufacturers, GPS Software, Geospatial Technology, Industry, Mapping, Mobile, Netbooks, Venture Capital on December 28th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

2009 was definitely the year that the geospatial industry took off from a mainstream consumer perspective. Sure location-based applications and services have been around for years, but not for the average Joe/Jane like you and I. This year will be the first year that I actually put together a prediction post, my thoughts regarding what will trend in the industry in 2010. It’s part of my goal to focus on content quality this year which I’ll talk about in a future post. So here goes. These are a few of the areas I think will be important to watch in 2010 and I hope you add your thoughts and opinions in the comments after the post.

1. Augmented reality explodes-and by explodes I’m not referring to the marker-based applications and browsers on the market now. While some industry insiders like to badmouth the augmented reality stuff available now, every successful industry needs to start somewhere. I think 2010 will bring a proliferation of location-based augmented reality apps running the gamut from marketing/advertising to social networking, and even filtering back up to military uses.

2. Game mechanics proliferate-right now Foursquare and Gowalla are the two biggest GPS-using mobile applications that have successfully incorporated game mechanics. Both have been quite successful acquiring users that use the respective apps repeatedly, though neither have the user base (and probably never will) that Facebook and Twitter have. I think we’ll see something from Twitter in this area in 2010 with the launch of its Geolocation API though I think it’ll be in the form of an acquisition (like its recent GeoAPI buy). Once Facebook incorporates location into its platform (which I think will be in 2010), I think we’ll see some interesting uses of game mechanics here as well.

3. Virtual goods and mobile coupons will be huge-I’ve talked about virtual goods before as a fitting business model for location-based applications. Geographical locations, especially those with some sort of historical significance, lend themselves to having a monetizable virtual good attached. Plus the next-to-nothing cost of a virtual good isn’t threatening to the average consumer, even young ones. Eventually though, and I think 2010 will be the year, mobile coupons will a massive industry. Especially once they can be tied to location-not only outdoor location, but in-store location as well. This year I was impressed with the “mobile deal” app usage by people looking for holiday buying deals. Next year the mobile deal apps will be much more complex, contextualized with geolocation, and even more popular!

4. Google-need I say more. Google’s movement in the geospatial industry in the past year has been something like a rocket taking off into space. It seemed like every week the company had a new geo-announcement pertaining to its Maps and Earth platforms, for both end users and developers. With innovations like Google SketchUp making it so easy to create 3D building models, the Google Earth platform will move increasingly toward a 3D interface in 2010 and count on many more information layers becoming available. Possibly most significantly, Google Maps Navigation, free and open source GPS navigation software that is only available legally in the United States will become globally (or at least moving in that direction) available. What that means for Garmin, TomTom, Magellan, Mio and other dedicated PND and GPS handheld manufacturers remains to be seen. Free GPS software that can be used by Garmin and others will also have a direct effect on the viability of companies such as NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas. Right now, on a global scale, both companies have better overall mapping data than Google. But remember that Google cut Tele Atlas as its mapping data supplier in the US recently and that trend will continue.

5. Android LBS apps surpass iPhone LBS apps-okay, maybe not in quantity. Right now the iPhone app platform is the place to be, but with the sheer amount of apps in the App Store it’s becoming tougher for developers to stand out. That goes for LBS apps as well as other types. In 2010 though, we’ll see a ton of Android phones hit the market and they’ll be better than the Droid (imagine that). With more Android phones available, and more Android APIs to work with for developers, I think we’ll see many LBS developers creating innovative applications for the Android Market. I don’t really consider the Blackberry App World, Palm App Catalog, and Nokia Ovi Store as major players at the moment.

6. Search engine results incorporating location-you could argue that there is already Google Local Search and other search engine niches that return search results that are local to the person searching. But I think that geolocation in real-time will play a part in search results, not only on the mobile phone but on the desktop as well. Google and Microsoft already incorporate real-time Twitter results in their search results. Indirectly that means Tweets appended with location information appear in search results almost immediately. Eventually location, whether it be indirectly or directly through mobile search, etc., will play a huge part in search engine results. Especially as search algorithms move to real-time rankings. Look for movement here in 2010.

7. Venture capital cash flowing again-in the first half of 2009, venture capital investments were fairly slow given the recessionary economic environment. In the second half of the year though, investments picked up, and quite a few were in the LBS industry. I think VC cash will flow in 2010 into the LBS industry with a focus on monetization platforms (mobile advertising, etc.) and back-end infrastructure (think SCVNGR-it’s a company that has my antennae pointing skyward). The first half of 2010 will probably include quite a few VC investments into consumer application-focused companies as well. I don’t really expect anything in the way of IPOs, though I’ve heard rumors that Loopt may be heading in the is directions. In terms of acquisition behaviour, look for Google and Twitter to gobble up quite a few smaller LBS companies. Facebook may acquire a few LBS companies of its own as I expect its engineers are working on the geolocation aspect of the social networking platform behind the scenes.

8. Location-based mobile video-the ubiquity of GPS-aware mobile phones and even digital cameras has made geotagging photos easy. Just browse through Flickr and Picasa and you’ll seee millions of personal pictures with latitude and longitude coordinates attached. I think 2010 will be the year of location-based mobile video. Mobile video platforms like Qik are incredibly useful and growing quickly in popularity as more and more people have smartphones with generous data plans. 2010 will bring new mobile video platforms that focus on contextualizing videos with location information. Whether this will be from established platforms or from new names I’m not entirely sure. Microsoft Research has a project called Mobicast which stitches mobile video from multiple mobile phones together, kind of like Photosynth does for pictures. In the future Mobicast may be able to figure out how to stitch together multiple video streams from a single location into a single stream using GPS metadata. This is the future of mobile video and we’ll see it begin this year.

9. Every gadget to include a GPS chip-I admit this might not happen in 2010, but things will move in this direction. Dedicated PNDs used to be the sole domain of the GPS chip, but in the next few years every mobile phone will have one, not just smartphones. In 2009 digital camera and netbook makers began to incorporate GPS chips into their respective gadgets, albeit only occasionally. In 2010 I think most netbooks will have GPS chips and they make great little navigation gadgets with apps like Google Maps. In fact, Google’s own Chrome OS-based netbook will supposedly include a GPS chip and one-click Google Maps access. From a cost perspective, the addition of a GPS chip isn’t much to a company with good distribution, but has a high value for the end user. Most digital cameras and possibly video cameras this year will also include an embedded GPS chip. Geotagging pictures is popular among the average electronics user now and this trend will extend to video I’m assuming. Next will come the incorporation of GPS into every gadget imaginable. Just imagine the Amazon Kindle  10 geospatial industry trends to watch in 2010with a GPS chip. Can’t find an ebook? Just launch Google Maps and access an application that routes you to the nearest bookstore stocking your book!

10. PND prices continue to plummet-now that pretty well every GPS manufacturer pumps out hardware and software with the same features, with different names, they can only compete on price. That drives price down and that’s why it isn’t uncommon to net a decent GPS navigator online for south of $100. Even in the middle of summer. This year it won’t be uncommon to net a Garmin or TomTom GPS, an entry-level one, for $50. ‘Nuff said.

Brutus the wolf gets a GPS collar, travels the Arctic

Posted in Apps, GPS Manufacturers, Geospatial Technology on December 28th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

brutus gps Brutus the wolf gets a GPS collar, travels the Arctic

Living in Canada, I’m quite familiar with the site of Canada Geese making the rounds from North to South and back again every year. I’m not quite far enough north to be acquainted with the wolves though.

Researchers from the US Geological Survey have managed to attach a GPS collar to one wolf, Brutus, and the incoming data has revealed some fascinating things about the travails and travels wolf packs endure every winter.

One trip, an 80 mile jaunt from Ellesmere Island to Axel Heiberg Island, was completed in just 84 hours. And that’s with GPS coordinates being taken every 12 hours meaning distance is measured from point to point in a straight line. As you can probably imagine, wolves probably travel much more distance in the intervening, untracked time. You can follow the adventures of Brutus and his pack complete with pictures and maps on the the Wolves of the High Arctic blog.


GIS software helps real estate developers find the perfect ski hill

Posted in GPS Software, Geospatial Technology on December 28th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

ski hill GIS software helps real estate developers find the perfect ski hill

Jordan Silberman, a geographer at the University of Delaware in Newark, and colleague Peter Rees have created GIS software that helps resort developers pick optimal geographic locations for ski resorts. Highlighted in the January 2010 edition of Applied Geography, the software

“then homes in on the preferred general region and seeks out those locations with the combinations of available land and humidity levels most likely to produce powder snow. Among many other factors, it also analyses accessibility by road, slope steepness – to work out the risk of avalanches – and the likely erosion from tree felling. A key factor is the ready availability of electricity to power the ski lifts.”

In the last couple of years, developers have made quick decisions in a recessionary environment that resulted in ski resorts being built in areas that weren’t suitable. Hopefully the use of GIS innovations such as this one will help real estate developers make better decisions.

(Image credit:  larskflem)


Twitter acquires GeoAPI

Posted in Apps, Geospatial Technology on December 24th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

geoapi Twitter acquires GeoAPI

Just last month Twitter launched its Geolocation API which allows developers to create application features which use add location information to tweets. It’s no surprise that a plethora of developers have already incorporated the feature into their respective works and Twitter has decided to take advantage of this.

Yesterday on the Twitter blog, the company revealed that it had acquired Mixer Labs, creator of GeoAPI, a database of over 16 million points of interest (and a variety of other tools) that developers can use to add geospatial information to tweets.

Twitter hasn’t revealed the financial terms of the deal.

Google Earth comes to the Audi A8’s in-dash navigation system

Posted in Geospatial Technology, Mapping on December 17th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

audi google earth Google Earth comes to the Audi A8s in dash navigation system

Google has teamed up with German car manufacturer Audi to bring Google Earth to the car dashboard. Today on the Google LatLong blog, the company announced that the new Audi A8’s in-dash navigation system will include access to Google Earth with its 3D satellite imagery, terrain information, and even Layers including Panoramio photos and Wikipedia entries. The Audi A8 will have access to Google Maps and Google Local Search as well, and will include the ability to receive search information from a desktop computer. That means, for example, you could search for a place to eat for lunch and the route to get there on your desktop or laptop computer, send it to your Audi A8, and have it at your fingertips while you’re behind the wheel! This is almost as cool as an iPhone application that picks out snipers!

Baby Jesus GPS from Brickhouse Security

Posted in Geospatial Technology on December 9th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

Religious institutions that have outdoor holiday displays that are vandalized or stolen on an annual basis need to read this. Brickhouse Security is once again offering the use of GPS trackers for free this holiday season to religious institutions. While it’s not a new program, it is very successful, and this year will also include the use of a security camera just in case of a GPS savvy thief. Just head over to the Brickhouse Security website and input your info. I believe the company will contact your institution if it’s selected for entrance into the program.


Mobile GPS company Networks In Motion sold for $170 million

Posted in GPS Software, Geospatial Technology, Industry, Mapping on December 3rd, 2009 by Justin – Comments

Networks In Motion, a provider of GPS-enabled navigation software for mobile phones, was purchased today by TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. for $170 million to be paid in a combination of cash, common stock and promissory notes. NIM’s Board of Directors has approved the transaction and will recommend its approval by shareholders.

TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. provides carrier infrastructure with a focus on wireless text messaging and location-based services. With the explosion of mainstream interest in LBS this past year, the company thought it was time to beef up its capabilities in this area.

For Networks In Motion, the consensus seems to be that the sale couldn’t have come at a better time. Why? Because of Google’s impending turn-by-turn-providing mobile GPS software which will likely eventually be just as good as any paid software currently available. $170 million isn’t too bad for what could be a commodity in the very near future.

More details are available in the official press release.

Major map updates: Microsoft Streetside and Silverlight maps, Google Street View Canada, Natural Earth Data, and much more

Posted in Geospatial Technology, Industry, Mapping on December 3rd, 2009 by Justin – Comments

It’s been a busy past couple of months for me as I’ve had to go back to punching a clock ( :( ) and just this past Sunday, November 29, I became a father for the first time with the birth of my daughter Ryleigh ( :) ). This evening I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and plow through my feed reader for bit and was astounded at the changes in both Google and Bing Maps over the past month. That said, I think I’ll do a quick roundup for both you and me now.

google maps 3d 150x150 Major map updates: Microsoft Streetside and Silverlight maps, Google Street View Canada, Natural Earth Data, and much moreOne of the most significant announcements for me was the addition of Google Street View in Winnipeg, Manitoba where I currently live. My hometown was added yesterday along with 8 other Canadian cities including Victoria, Nanaimo, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Sudbury, London, Sherbrooke and St. John’s. Today some new imagery was added to both Google Earth and Google Maps and a cool new partnership with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) was mentioned that will have World Heritage sites such as Stonehenge and the Louvre to Street View. On a smaller feature-based note, starred favorite places which have been available for Google Maps for mobile and desktop Google Maps separately for some time, now can be synced. This means you can do handy things like mark points of interest on your home computer with Google Maps in preparation for a business trip, and then access those favorites during your trip at a later time.

Finally (from a Google Maps perspective anyway), Google has launched a new contest aimed at encouraging Google SketchUp users to build 3D buildings for Google Earth. Called Google Model Your Town Competition, the contest is open to everyone including teams, will reward entrants that provide a good look at their town or city from a character or historical perspective. (Any interested Winnipeggers, please shoot me an email at [email protected]!).

 Major map updates: Microsoft Streetside and Silverlight maps, Google Street View Canada, Natural Earth Data, and much more

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Bing Maps platform which has been playing catch up for a while now, just pushed out a huge upgrade with the inception of Streetside photography (much like Street View) and a beta Silverlight version.This looks pretty good though I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet. Hopefully this weekend I’ll have the chance to do a more comprehensive review.

natural earth logo 300x62 Major map updates: Microsoft Streetside and Silverlight maps, Google Street View Canada, Natural Earth Data, and much moreQuickly switching gears, Natural Earth launched today as well. Providing public domain vector and raster mapping data, the website is to provide high quality geographic data for small scale map makers.

Ekahau wristband tracks you over Wi-Fi

Posted in Geospatial Technology, Mobile, Other Devices on October 14th, 2009 by Justin – Comments
Ekahau Wi-Fi tracking wristband

Ekahau Wi-Fi tracking wristband

Ekahau, a US-based provider of real-time Wi-Fi tracking solutions, has introduced the T301W, a wristband tag usable in applications where people-tracking is required. It runs over a user’s existing Wi-Fi network, and is optimized for indoor applications though it also works outdoors. The company cites hospitals and underground mines as two use cases. The Wi-Fi tag is capable of two-way communications, so a user could press an included location button to alert a supervisor to a safety emergency, or the supervisor could alert the wearer that he/she needs to return to a specific area. The waterproof wristband is also waterproof and can be submerged in sanitizing solution for reuse. The included lithium-ion battery typically lasts a minimum of “a few weeks” after which it only takes a few hours to recharge. Available in the fourth quarter of 2009, the Ekahau Wi-Fi wristband will retail for $60.


Google Building Maker crowdsources 3D mapping

Posted in Geospatial Technology, Mapping on October 13th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

building maker logo Google Building Maker crowdsources 3D mappingGoogle has launched today Building Maker, a tool for creating 3D building models in Google Earth. Using 3D shapes and aerial photos provided by Google, you can construct a model of any building in-at launch-50 different cities. Once your model is completed, Google will review it and if it is the best one available for a given building, it’ll be moved to the 3D Warehouse where you’ll find models of all 3D material found in Google Earth. This is definitely a play by Google to speed up adoption of its 3D modeling tools which include not only Google Earth, but Google SketchUp. Initially it’ll cover cities in 14 countries and I’m sure it’ll expand in the near future.