Tag: mapping

Map Your Fishing Products

Cardinalus’ business is focused on enhancing is clients business value through the incorporation of location technologies.

For recreation, I enjoy flyfishing.  So when I saw how Cheeky Fly Fishing was using maps to help explain the range of fishing reels they offer, I was intrigued.

Cheeky offers a number of fishing reels to suit different fishing environments.  Those environments are location dependent so they use a clever map to illustrate where the reels are best suited – from the mountain streams and ponds, to larger rivers and eventually the open ocean.  By sliding the mouse over the various product labels different regions of the map are highlighted to illustrate the preferred zone for each reel.

Cheeky Reels

The application is effective but certainly not advanced in terms ofdata handling and representation. However it caused me to think about other applications companies might consider to more effectively illustrate their product and service offerings.

A few quickly came to mind:

  • a product manufacturer with a diverse product offering and an extensive distribution network could illustrate on a map both location of distributors but also which of their product line each distributor offers;
  • a retail business with multiple stores within a city or region could leverage real time inventory management and mapping to illustrate which products are available in various store outlets

Those are just a start.  The point is that spatial representation of your company’s product and service data can benefit your customer’s experience.  And that’s a good thing.




The location of information sources is useful information itself. Where information is published can be valuable in many ways. Hyperlocal news services are one example. They benefit from the ability to aggregate news information based on the source of that news.

Another interesting application is in mapping source information about a particular subject. I came across an interesting blog post from InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies Diseases and Disasters). Their recent blog post illustrates the value of mapping source information on a map.  In the post they show recent information tagged with ‘influenza’ by location.  They have then overlain a representation of  the data using what is called a heat map.

It should be clear that in this particular example the InSTEDD results are not necessarily pointing to events of influenza itself but they do show patterns of information dissemination that tell their own story for those knowledgeable in this field.  Depending on the nature of the source posts, the mapped results could provide useful information about the underlying issue or simply provide insight into the patterns around the actual post sources themselves.   In either case, map representation can aid in the interpretation of the results.

One of the underlying requirements for mapping data is the need to somehow attach a location to data – in this case the location of sources who published information about influenza.  This location information has to be in a form that will allow an association with a point or region in order for it to be represented on a map.   The technical term for this is geocoding and it is fundamental to all location based services or applications.

There are a number of ways in which geocoding can be accomplished.  They vary in method, degree of difficulty, accuracy and cost.  In a future post, I intend to discuss geocoding in more detail and provide and overview of various approaches that are being used.

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.

Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) have been around since the mid 1980’s when the Australian Land Information Council was first created.  While somewhat of a generalization – SDI promotion and use has largely been confined to those with a high degree of knowledge of spatial data and technology.

Recent coverage of government transparency and data access in the United States got me thinking about the role spatial information tools and infrastructure play in enabling a broader community of people and organizations to access and understand the value of spatial information.

The concept behind an SDI is that it provides a mechanism for greater accessibility to spatial information with resulting economic (to both the data providers and users) and social benefits to countries or regions implementing SDIs.  Today SDIs have been or are being implemented in well over 100 countries.


(modified from Rajabifard et al, 2002)

In their early formulation the focus of SDIs was largely on database creation but in recent years the focus has been more towards user community needs with emphasis on processes for data access, use and dissemination.  This shift can be seen clearly in the refocused mandate of the Canadian GeoConnections program which now concentrates much of its effort (and funding) on encouraging user communities to take advantage of the Canadian SDI (Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure).

Despite the shift in focus, considerable work remains to be done in order to facilitate greater access to data.  Surveys have shown that SDI usage is still predominantly in the world of research and government where knowledge of spatial concepts is on average higher and technology infrastructure greater than in the general public as a whole.

However, the emergence of tools such as Google Earth and other “geo-browser” tools and the associated interest in spatial information among a broader range of users has not gone unnoticed by SDI policy experts and researchers. Today there is considerable discussion about the evolution of SDIs and what can be learned from the Web 2.0 world of spatial information.  The challenge will be to draw the best from both worlds to create an environment where the value of spatial information can be realized more simply and by a broader group of people.

I see at least two threads emerging in this discussion: one around the challenges of evolving SDIs to bring all the value of past investments to a point where a broader group can access it in a user friendly manner and the second around helping users to fully benefit from all spatial information has to offer.

What form will user implementations take, how will they be sustained, and what benefits will users realize?  It will be interesting to see what the future holds.