Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Google Map pinpoints blast origin

Reading my daily dose of updates from Google Maps Mania blog I came across this interesting post: Google Maps Finds Location of Pipe Bomb. It is a basic yet compelling example that simple GIS tools can be very helpful in solving real life problems. On this occasion community collaboration enabled police to pinpoint location of the bomb explosion that shook the neighbourhood a few hours earlier.

Open collaboration setting in Google My Maps allowed people to add coloured markers to the map to say whether they heard the explosion or not. Red markers meant they 'heard a loud boom, windows or building shook', blue markers that they 'heard it, but no further detail', yellow indicates it was 'heard with no shaking' and green indicates the explosion was not heard. The clustering of the markers pointed where the explosion originated.

Full story at:

Monday, March 22, 2010

MapData Sciences sale to ESRI

I was surprised to find out that MapData Sciences (MDS), a small but quite active on the local GIS scene vendor of spatial data and solutions, was sold in February to industry veteran - ESRI Australia - for $2.5 million. The company is a supplier of street maps to both Google and Microsoft, which is quite a feat considering it is not the only seller of such information in Australia. As well, because MDS competes directly with Google and Microsoft with its own commercial online mapping platform that is used by many prominent organisations in Australia, such as Australia Post or Woolworths. It is reported that MDS had “9 product lines and 300 clients”.

The question that popped in my mind is if it a sign of an imminent consolidation of local GIS industry. In 2007 there was a frantic consolidation happening in all segments of global spatial industry (eg. MapInfo was acquired by Pitney Bowes in March 2007, and in May that year Leica bought ER Mapper) but it seems that it was limited only to the big end of town. Is this now the time for consolidation in the smaller end of the market?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Map advertising Take 3

Google takes another crack at making money from map based advertising. From today a handful of Australian companies are able to display their logos on Google Maps (only official site, not the Google Map API option) in locations corresponding to their offices or business outlets. The markers appear only if you zoom very close.

Last year Google introduced clickable mini-markers on its public Google Map site. Things like train or bus stations, museums and other places of significance can now be “clicked on” for additional information. Markers are subtly incorporated into the overall design of the map so they do not detract from map browsing experience. Company logos are just an extension of this concept as Google tries to find more money making channels.

The first attempt to place advertisements directly on the maps was rather disappointing. Developers could “allow” those ads to appear as little markers when users zoomed to a particular location on a map but there was never enough advertising stock available to make it really pay and Google dropped the idea. Then Google allowed developers to incorporate normal text ads within the map. The ads are served according to relevance for the geographic extents shown on the map. This is a good concept but I haven’t seen many sites incorporating it yet.

This last initiative is only a test in Australia and New Zealand and if successful will be rolled out in other countries. I am not sure how this one will work out for Google. There is a whole range of logistic issues here – for example, accuracy and completeness of point locations for a particular company. It requires some effort to compile and maintain. And if cost of this activity is factored in the cost of advertising, it may be quite an expensive option for advertisers (advertising fees have not been revealed yet beyond that this is cost per thousand views arrangement). If bank, ATM, petrol stations and other POI locations were made available via Google Map API, I would gladly display that info on my maps for free!

via Google Maps Mania

Related post: Google Maps with ads revisited

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apps4NSW for iPhone

It is interesting to see so many iPhone applications submitted for the Apps4NSW competition. Proportionately, mobile applications dominate the list although there is still a very small overall number of submissions.

FiresNSW allows users to locate incidents reported by NSW Rural Fire Service. All incidents are colour-coded according to alert level (Advice, Watch and Act, or Emergency Warning) and are listed in order of distance from current user location. Incident locations are marked on a map with coloured pins and, where available, extents of fire damage are shown on the map as coloured polygons.
That's Camping! is an application that allows users to locate the nearest campsite based on current location. There are 250 camping grounds listed (NSW only) with basic description of available facilities, access restrictions as well as key attractions in the vicinity.

Gluten Free NSW is an application which lists gluten-free friendly restaurants and cafe's within New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. The application allows to easily find restaurants closest to user current location or in a particular suburb. There are over 650 restaurant listed and results can be viewed on a map.

NSW Crime application gives user the ability to research crime data in NSW.

Find Medicare offices near you pinpoints on the map current user location and presents nearest offices. Integration with native "Maps" application allows user to access many useful features such as directions, street view, bookmark and share, and real-time traffic information.

All the above applications are available as a free download from iPhone's App Store. And you can vote for your favourites on Apps4NSW Forum.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Apps4NSW open for voting

Apps4NSW mashup competition run by the New South Wales government that I mentioned earlier this year has just been open for voting: see AppsForum. Unlike Mashup Australia contest that allowed unlimited and hence uncontrolled voting for submitted applications, here participants have only 5 votes each (although, if this is IP address based control, the voting system may still be open to some abuse by "desperates"). There are 17 applications listed so far and only one week left for the submissions (closing date for Apps4NSW competition is 22 March, 2010). Voting by public is open till 9 April and the winners will be announced on 16 April.

I am not sure why there is such a low number of entries despite attractive prizes (first prize is $25,000!) and very generous time offered by organisers to build the applications (in fact, more than 4 months) but it may have something to do with the terms and conditions of the competition: "Clause 9.4 In the event that an entry is awarded a monetary prize, the entrant must, to the extent of the entrants ownership of intellectual property rights in the entry, grant to the Organisers at no cost a perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable licence which, at a minimum, permits the Organisers to use, reproduce and adapt such entry." I am not a lawyer but it sounds a bit like "here is your prize, sign away all the rights to us". This probably eliminated all the commercial operators from the competition.

There is a couple of Google Map based applications amongst the entries. StatMap allows users to displays interactively, as choropleth maps, a range of NSW statistics, including population data, crime and transport related information. It has simple drop-down selection options for data themes, geography (choice of Local Government Areas and Electorates) and time frame (by relevant year). Mouse-over specific regions brings name of the region and summary information ; click loads additional window with graph and table options showing additional details about the area. This application is built with Google Flash API.

What brought my specific attention is an interactive legend that allows users to choose a preferred colour scheme for choropleth map.

The second application, WebMap, is an example of a simple campus directory. It allows users to search for specific buildings or places of interest using text search or by picking from a list of categorised objects (eg. car parks, buildings, sport grounds, childcare).
Selected objects are then highlighted on the map and additional details are shown in pop-up information balloon.