GeoWorld June 2012

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Crowdsource This? Social That? Where's It All Going? POSITION I BY TODD DANIELSON t's quite possible (and some would argue that it's prefer- able) to not participate in or be aware of every advancement in modern technology. However, some aspects of modern living are difficult to avoid. Examples include smarthphones, pads, blogs and social everything. If you don't have or use these bits of modern life, you at least know what they are and how pervasive they have become. Geotechnology, Too If you're reading this magazine, you're probably immersed in the world of geo- technology. But that, for the most part, is just a subset of the greater technol- ogy world. So some of geotechnology's most-important innovations have been in these same areas. That's why this issue focuses on topics such as crowd- sourcing, smartphone interfaces and augmented reality, among others. Crowdsourcing and "Citizen Todd Danielson is editor of GeoWorld magazine, PO Box 773498, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477; e-mail: 4 GEO W ORLD / JUNE 2O12 Reporting" have been major elements in important world events, such as the recent "Occupy Movement" and "Arab Spring." But it can be argued that one of the first successful forms of crowd involvement began in geotechnology, with OpenStreetMap, a "collaborative project to create a free and editable map of the world," which began in 2004. I remember when the project was considered a "cute" undertaking that never would be able to compete with established mapmakers, because of accuracy issues and other errors the "crowd" would undoubtedly include. However, when enough critical mass was created, and enough people were working on and checking the maps (there now are more than 600,000 registered users), OpenStreetMap became a respected way to get accurate, open and free data. Some studies have indicated that OpenStreetMap often is more accurate than traditional forms, and private navigation companies rely on user input to fine-tune their own maps. Crowdsourcing has made map- ping more accurate—not less. Social media also have had an impact on geotechnology. Esri regularly distrib- utes maps created from Twitter postings, showing where major "newsworthy" events are happening and what those involved are saying in real time. In addi- tion, this month's "'G' in GIS" column, on page 12, describes several geography- based Web sites that use crowdsourcing to try and improve the world. Of course, most geotechnology companies and organizations also have Facebook pages, but now geo-apps are being developed for the ubiquitous Web site, including CloverPoint's recently introduced MapSocial on Facebook app. I expect more of the same. To the Smartphone In my opinion, the move of technology to smartphones is the most important of all the trends. There's so much that people now can do on their phones that it's a little scary. In addition to navigation services moving from proprietary devices to smartphones (with Android leading the way), many of the data-entry aspects of geotechnology are moving away from specialized devices to users' phones. Another branch of mainstream technology that's showing up in our "geoworld" is augmented reality. The most-common applications are for finding restaurants and rest- rooms, but if you read "Better than Real—Geotechnologies Are Prime for Augmented Reality," on page 18, you'll see that this is yet another space where geotechnology is following the lead of mainstream IT. So I asked in my headline, "where is all of this going?" To be honest, I don't know, but neither does anyone else. Those who say otherwise are either lying or think too highly of themselves. Regardless, these are trends that need to be watched, so we can all find out the answer together.

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