Archive for 'Spatial Applications'

So how do you go about creating a dialogue between technical experts and those who may be able to benefit from the technology in question whether they realize it or not?

Location Intelligence Conference 2009

Location Intelligence Conference bridges this gap and creates dialogue.   LI 2009 has come and gone, in the process offering a wide ranging presentation of location technology trends and their application.

While not the opening talk, Jeff Christensen’s (Rhiza Labs) presentation entitled “Designing Simple Tools for Powerful Analysis” framed the discussion when he reminded those in attendance that ultimately data is used to tell stories and make decisions.  Regardless of complexity of the solution or the technology applied, the end goal is the same.

From a technology perspective, LI 2009 opened with Steve Coast founder of OpenStreetMap describing the phenomenal growth of the crowd sourced alternative to Navteq and TeleAtlas street network data.  As much as anything OpenStreetMap is a reminder that new paradigms can lead to technology advances and amazing new applications.

Cloud computing was a recurring theme throughout the conference with various speakers offering their expert opinion and hands on experience with cloud computing.  Discussion touched on cloud computing concepts, benefits, technical challenges and trends.  A particularly interesting presentation by Mark Sundt described the development of Appistry’s CloudIQ that provides a cloud solution for clients who want the benefits of cloud services but want to deploy it in their own data centres.

On the application side presentations covered the spectrum of location technology application from the complex with John Bennett (Hunt Energy IQ) describing Hunt Energy IQ’s work to integrate a range of sensors to develop green intelligent buildings where it is possible to calculate and manage energy costs in real time through the role of IP location information at the foundation of Examiner.com (Dave Shafer, Co-Founder and COO) allowing them to provide users with hyperlocal news content.

Three days of presentations, panel discussions and individual conversations provided a basket load of information on location technologies and their application.

My takeaways from LI 2009:

  1. Confirmation that location intelligence technologies continue to evolve and offer opportunity for new applications, and
  2. Successful applications of location intelligence technology consistently exhibit clear understanding and very specific use of technology regardless of the simplicity or complexity of the technology.

When you combine appropriate organizational structure, defined roles and responsibilities and appropriate processes that are properly linked to a mission or business model, an organization can be comfortable that it has a proper governance structure to guide its operations.

Put another way, the key elements of a governance model are:

  • Build on corporate level mandate
  • Define authority
  • Establish and enforce rules of operation
  • Manage change
  • Measure results and optimize

So how is this relevant to an organization’s implementation of web-based mapping applications?

In the rapidly evolving world of technology the only thing that seems certain about the future is that it will be different from today and the degree of difference is proportional to the time scale.  I would suggest this picture applies to the current state of web-based mapping technology.

For an organization considering or already engaged in the development of a web mapping application, the challenge of making choices today that remain valid tomorrow can be daunting – and particularly so if the organization does not see its strengths in the world of technology.

Is it just me or do the terms governance and technical innovation seems at opposite ends of the cool spectrum?

All too often, inadequate attention is paid to constructing an application-appropriate governance structure to ensure the long term sustainability and evolution of web-based mapping applications.  My observation is that even though web mapping is a relatively young area of endeavour, many applications have a tendency to flag or grow stale over time.

The areas an appropriate governance model will touch on include:

  • Application alignment with corporate goals
    • Definition and refinement of application objectives
    • Budgeting/resource procurement
  • Definition of performance criteria
  • Application lifecycle management
    • Management of the initial service/application functionality
    • Data management
    • Application enhancements
    • Internal staff resource management
    • User training
  • Monitoring of application services performance and effectiveness
    • Application use
    • Service uptime/downtime or underperformance
    • Benefits to user organizations
    • Benefits to information users

The objective should be to strike a balance between a sufficient level of governance to provide direction without it becoming overbearing and bureaucratic.

As Kim Guenther has stated “… governance structures are most noticeable in their absence and seem invisible when working effectively.”

Spatial context is a part of our decision making but spatial information technology may not.

The recent announcement by YourStreet.com that they were discontinuing the use of maps in their hyperlocal news service is a reminder that there is nothing sacred about the application of spatial information tools in a business context.  That is sometimes hard for us to imagine – at least those of us living with spatial data and technology day in and day out.

The reason cited by Directions Magazine was a financial one – maintaining the service was too costly.  Assuming that is true, what does one make of it?

  • Technology used to communicate spatial context has a value associated with it
  • At some point the value of spatial information technology may not justify the cost
  • If that point is reached, the technology in question will be dropped or will atrophy

Should that surprise us? Not really since it pretty much is the way life goes.

In the case of Yourstreet has the importance of spatial information disappeared? I would argue that it has not given that they premise for their business revolves around local (read spatially relevant) news.  Instead, YourStreet has simply determined they will not use online mapping tools as a spatial reference system to help their users.  They have deemed that a descriptive spatial reference system (ie, a user defines the spatial context for news of a particular location in his or her request) is adequate for their user’s needs.

We need to be clear that spatial context is not the same as spatial information technology.  The former can be achieved in a variety of ways.  Technology may aid in providing spatial context but it needs to be evaluated within a cost/benefit framework appropriate to the business or organization in question.