Welcome to this Blog

This blog is for spatial analysts be they professionals, student, academician or just curious about spatial technologies. Spatial technologies include Geographic Information Systems, Remote Sensing, Global Positioning Systems, mobile spatial devises, and other spatial related programs (i.e., Google Earth.)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Maps for the Masses: GIS on the web, Neogeography, Volunteered Geography

Maps and map/satellite image servers (static or interactive) are common place on the Internet: Google Earth, MapQuest, etc.  Often, when I am trying to find out where retail stores, movies, etc. are located, I use Google Earth. This is common for many people.  If you are looking for motels at a destination, for example on a popular website, hotels.com, you can pick the city and then find its location. The maps can show in detail the streets, satellite image and nearby points of interest  The maps for this site are powered by Google.  There are numerous other examples of this on the Internet. This can be integrated with mobile devices such that persons can use these sites to locate a motel while travelling, see the location and then book it.  Navigation systems do some of the same things.  Most people are not aware they are using ‘pseudo-GIS.’  They do give a talking point with people unaware of GIS.

Like many professors teaching Geographic Information Science, I have also used Google Earth to illustrate some aspects of GIS, Remote Sensing and Cartography. Google Earth and others can be very useful in all geographically-oriented courses (i.e., urban planning, urban geography, physical geography, economic geography, etc.)  For students, it is very accessible and can be used with minimal instruction.  Also, if used in a laboratory, it encourages participatory learning. Some of the skills can be readily transferred to GIS, such as zooming, scales, legends, spatial proximity, boundaries, labels, orientation etc.

There are also some serious efforts to bring the power of GIS to the public, such as MapSrver . This is one example of open source GIS, but some have a higher degree of usability than others. Others ‘GIS on the web’ websites are providing geographic information for public inclusion and transparency in government, such as redistricting information for Wisconsin. These maps are created with ArcGIS Online.  There are many more examples of online GIS of government and non-profit organizations

Now, the general population is becoming involved in their own map making: OpenMap, Wikimapia etc.  Amateur ‘map making’ has been categorized by those in GIScience as ‘Neogeography’, or by Goodchild’s term, Volunteered Mapping.   A special issue of Future Internet (2011) has academic articles concerning neogeography.  Some think of the discussion of neogeography as trendy, maybe even vapid. It is interesting and hopefully giving a higher profile to spatial technologies and Geography.

Geographic Information Science is not just about spatial technologies, programming and making maps, but how geographic information is used. The use of maps and geographic information on the Internet is confusing, nebulous, non-structured, self-organizing and emerging.  It is on the edge of chaos, which is where all areas of studies that are technology related are located. This is what makes GIScience diverse, dynamic, exciting and challenging.  Trying to confine the definition of GIScience doesn’t work, as what is included is always shifting.

Personal Robots: a new development in Spatially-Aware Autonomous Mobile Robots (SAAMRs)

In the past blogs, I have been exploring the rapidly developing SAAMRs.industry and Geographic Information Science.  The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis recently posted an article on personal SAAMRs, “Personal Robots on the Horizon: A Robot Operating System.”
Open source software is being developed that will further accelerate the development of SAAMRs. Within the near future they may be commonplace.
The implications of personal SAAMRs as they become more embedded in our society is revolutionary.  These are directly related to the confluence of Geographic Information and technology. One of the first perceivable impact would be for those that are mentally or physically disabled. Within the house, the robot could get items, clean house, warn others about the status of the person (i.e. having trouble breathing, heart attack or general well-being), and with other SAAMRs drive the person to doctor’s appointment, help in shopping etc.  The more able-bodied could use them as personal assistants.  

Other possibilities such as using these robots instead of workers in factories would be foreseeable in the future as well.  The social and economic impacts of this would restructure economies around the world. The cheapest labor would not be peasants in developing countries, but those countries that possessed high technology and the infrastructure for this.  Even some professors could be replaced by robots.

All these tasks are dependent on spatial analysis, spatial technology, artificial intelligence and Geographic Information bringing them into the realm of Geographic Information Science. As such, these are ideas that should be contemplated upon by those in the field. I welcome comments on this subject.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spatially-Aware Autonomous Mobile Robots (SAAMRs) and Adaptive Mapping


The above video by the sFly project funded by the European Union  is to demonstrate the capability of micro-aerial SAAMRs to map areas. The ultimate purpose is to assist in search and rescue, property inspection and environmental monitoring.

The element that transforms robots into SAAMRs and makes them extraordinary, going far beyond merely remote-controlled mobile machinery, is the ability of these mobile robots to sense and map their environment in real time so as to be able to explore new terrains and adapt to them.--Adaptive Mapping.

As shown in the above video.micro-aerial SAAMRs can also be utilized to collect geographic information, if they are equipped with geo-referenced cameras, GPS  and other spatial technologies. This would greatly facilitate such tasks as creating an up-to-date urban GIS (particularly in those areas where there is none, as in developing countries), an environmental GIS for specific areas, detailed mapping of areas that are remote or inhospitable areas, at presumably at a much lower cost than using other methods.

Further implications of SAAMRs, once they become more affordable and pervasive in our society will be revolutionary such as: self-driving automobiles, truck and mining vehicles; automated ships, cargo and passenger planes,  non human security monitoring, search and rescue, etc.  There are several companies already manufacturing SAAMRs and it is expected their numbers will increase. Other implications are beyond the scope of this blog entry, whose main purpose is to introduce the potential of SAAMRs.

In the previous blog entry, I focused on the linkage between Geographic Information Science and the Mars Rover ‘Curiosity.’  However, the discussion should be broadened to consider the inclusion of SAAMRs under the umbrella of GIScience, which is the category one would place the Mars Rover ‘Curiosity' and other terrain based planetary SAAMRs.. As other outer space ventures, their technology advances have the potential to transform other technological areas , such as the increased sophistication of earth bound SAAMRs and other technological changes that can not be anticipated now.