Google Earth inspiration was Star Treks tricorder !!

I flew into Dubai this morning to attend the second Map Middle East Conference, and was knocked over by the presentation of Michael Jones CTO of the Google Earth/Map/Local team. Jones presented the vision for Google’s “geography” applications, which was breathtaking in its scope.

Building on the Google mission to organise the worlds data, Jones presented his mission to geographically organise the world data, that is all data – not just explicit geographical information.

Michael Jones

What stuck me here, more than anything else, was the vision to present the context of geographical information rather than explicit information about locations, representing the sense of place – what does a place feel like, indeed the talk was entitled “A Sense of Place”. Geography here appears to be really important to Google – actually close you eyes and it might have been Jack Dangermond talking.

Indeed Jones cited “Father of GIS” Roger Tomlinson, who in the late 1960’s wrote of the ultimate GIS which would be a computer globe of interactive data, as an inspiration behind the development of Keyhole/Google Earth, another inspiration was Mr Spock’s Tricorder which could tell the science officer all the information he needed to describe his local environment.

With reference to the established GIS community Jones, perhaps mischievously, described Google Earth as the GIS for the 5.999999 billion people of the world’s 6 billion population who don’t know or care was GIS is.

To me it was quite a contrast to the other more traditional GIS vendors presentations, perhaps more than ESRI even, the Google Earth team seem to be driven by a very clear, user focused geographical vision.

Today’s business model for this may not be sustainable, but Google are building a massive user-base which will be difficult to displace, and the often forgotten professional and enterprise versions are gaining momentum in specific industries. When the current business model changes things will really get interesting !

And as many people at the conference mentioned, because of Google Earth, people at last know what we do !

Written and submitted from the Crowne Plazza Hotel, Dubai, using the hotels broadband connection.

Google Earth – A community GIS ?

Australian flying car project revealed

The latest Google Earth mystery to achieve fame has been reported by The Register , an apparent flying car spotted in Perth, Western Australia. What interests me most about this and the “black helicopter” spotting craze, is how these sightings rapidly travel around the community of Google Earth Users.

Perhaps we are all guilty of focusing too much of the neat globe user interface and unprecedented availability of data in Google Earth – in fact the thing which Google Earth may be remembered for is as the worlds first truly global community GIS, in which its long term value is making available really useful community derived data-sets.

After-all if you are like me, when I buy something now on Amazon, I always check the customers reviews – valuing this information at least as much as the manufacturers data.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

Wired worried about web map privacy

Wired adds to the debate over the threat to civil liberties from web mapping sites like google and microsoft local. As seems to have been the case with much of the recent reporting, the issue is not so much with mapping, but the use of detailed imagery. One of the concerns expressed is the apparent danger of identifing “..vulnerable citizens such as women in domestic violence shelters” from the photography !

Similar concerns have appeared in the UK press in the past couple of weeks, although here in typical British fashion the concern is more to do with the government “spying” on building home extensions.

It is all rubbish !! Somebody has been watching too many Tom Clancy movies.

All these reports share a common lack on understanding of the simple facts of remote sensing, as yet nobody is offering >5cm resolution aerial (no its not sateliite) imagery you would need to recognise people, and more often than not the imagery is historic.. for example the imagery in Google Earth for my home is at least three years old !!

The debate in the UK seems to be politically motivated.. so there is little hope for more accurate reporting I fear..

Anybody seen a black helicopter in Southampton yet?

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.