Geo-tagging for the masses

Just got back from doing a plenary presentation at ESRI UK’s kick-off meeting, wow has that organisation grown some.. came back on the No. 285 bus – I do love these local meetings 🙂

The topic of my presentation was the increasingly mainstream appeal of geospatial technology, not so much the geoweb/neogeography of the tech community but the applications that have real mass-market appeal like the Santa tracking sites over christmas, and yesterdays announcement of geotagging in iPhoto 09.

The mainstream applications all share a common characteristic they are from a user perspective simple applications which provide a useful purpose / entertainment, but which nevertheless are built on a hidden geospatial infrastructure which may be very complex and sophisticated.

Now from what I have seen, iPhoto 09 may have quite limited geotagging capabilities compared to existing services, however the interface is very appealing and the process of geo-tagging straightforward. And it is of course simple, there is no mention of reverse geocoding or geoparsing, all of which is part of the process and necessary – but hidden.

The future of geospatial I believe will increasingly take this form, where complex geospatial functionality disappears hidden behind great interface design and brilliant process engineering.

Today I was drawn to use a wonderful Douglas Adams anecdote.. Douglas was told that one day all houses would have a centralised electric motor to run all sorts of home appliances, and what better job could one have than to be an electric motor repair man.

The study of electric motors was thus recommended as “the” thing to study. Of course today there are no centralised electric motors, and no electric motor repair men, but our houses are full of electric motors invisible in devices all around the house (Just counted over 20 in the very room I am sitting in, computers, hi-fi, coffee maker , etc.).

The parallel is clear for electric motor read GIS.. in the future, important and even more widespread than today; but ultimately invisible.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network

7 replies on “Geo-tagging for the masses”

I like the idea of GIS becoming ‘invisible’, but have the GIS community not been saying the same thing for the last 12 years or so? Meanwhile ‘visible’ GIS has still been hanging in there.

I remember going to a presentation at AGI in 1996 (I think), where the argument was essentially “we will not be saying the term GIS next year, as it will just be another part of mainstream IT”. But we were still talking GIS the next year…

Again this debate happened when we started using RDMS for GIS. GIS was just going to become another part of the database, rather than something special and ‘visible in its own right. And again we were still talking GIS the next year…

Yes, it not a new concept I guess the problem is many in the GIS industry don’t want it to have a lower profile 🙂

Happy New Year


I like to say that “software encapsulates expertise”…

… but what happens when it’s *your* expertise that’s being encapsulated? 😉

GIS to go invisible? To people outside the GI industry it’s just become visible in indirect ways like online mapping, local searches etc.

Think there maybe demand for Online GIS – like databases in these ‘clouds’ (Amazon S3, CloudMade etc)
Maybe a GGIS in Google Apps… so the term ‘Cloud GIS’ might form.
The more clouds the more likely of GIS thunder.

An excellent example is Cloud Made
(add postgis spatial capabilities to this and there is a Cloud GIS)

Spatial Blogs
Also Blogger has introduced Geotagging of posts and now supports GeoRSS


This is most definitely happening. In a way, it’s in parallel with other, similar technologies. For example, on my phone, I’ve an app which allows me to check the current (and inevitable) lateness of trains. It uses the XML feed from National Rail, but I don’t need to know that. It just works. The same is true for other technologies. Spatial is different, in that we’ve only recently been able to track self-location cheaply via GPS, as it becomes standard in phones/cameras/PDAs.

At the opposite end, of course, is the community that needs to know the location: Geocaching and such like. It’s good to know not everyone is removing their anorak as yet.

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