Monday, April 25, 2011

Rockstars, Google goes SDI, and DIY Panoramas

Wrap-up of Where 2.0, 19-21 April 2011

After Tuesday's workshops, Where 2.0 really kicked off of Wednesday. Two things immediately became apparent. Firstly: some of these young entrepreneurs are revered as rock stars. The only thing missing in the opening interview with Foursquare's CEO Dennis Crowley were the screaming teenagers.

Secondly, every self-respecting LBS product company uses the conference for a product launch. Thus we saw exciting new products & capabilities from established players like Microsoft, Nokia, ESRI and Google, and about a million start-ups.

And of course, this was the conference where the iPhone tracking 'scandal' was revealed. If you've been living under a pebble: unbeknown to most of us, iPhones and iPads track and store your location, unencrypted. It’s very easy for others (employers, suspicious partners) to read this.

By the way, lost in the debate, Android phones do the same thing, and actually send the data back to Google every few hours. Would you be happy to share all your movements with Apple or Google?

So what will the location industry bring us over the next 12 months?

At an enterprise level, the launch of Google Earth Builder (available Q3 2011) will be most disruptive to the GIS industry. Remember how for the last 10-15 odd years, the GIS community has been attempting to put geospatial data online, make it discoverable and have it displayed quickly and easily? Despite some good technology and in some cases (e.g. INSPIRE) lots of money, none of these attempts really took off (why not, is something worthy of another post, or even a book or two).


Google Earth Builder will solve that problem. It allows anyone to publish and share spatial data: points of interest, vectors and imagery. And everything is automatically indexed so it’s searchable (indeed: no ISO Metadata required!), automatically georeferenced, reprojected and (voila) displayed in Google Earth or Maps. Oh, and it sits on Google's cloud: so no storage, scaling or performance headaches anymore.

Interesting little fact is that one of its first (beta) users is Australia's own Ergon Energy.

Among the many other amazing technology launches, the one that stood out for me was Believe it or not: this app allows you to generate immersive, 3D panoramas, straight from your iPhone. In minutes. For free. For real. Try it!

There were too many other great talks, announcements and launches to mention now. But you can see the slides and videos here


  1. Great blog Maurits, surely Google EB will have to drive the price of COTS down? I wander about what current GIS profesionals will be doing for a living in the future "just data gathering and data managers" or just talking about how hard things used to be? Bit like cartogarphers!

  2. Thanks for your comments Ashwood. Not sure about driving the price of COTS down, as I understand Google EB might require you to buy an enterprise licence first. The commercial model is not clear yet, and who knows: Google might try a Fremium model.

    I do believe that, as with Cartographers, GIS professionals will remain in demand. Look at the woefulness of online mapping graphics: we'll continue to need cartographers to tell us how to visualise effectively with (online) maps.
    Same with GIS professionals: Google EB won't tell users how to properly do data collection & management, it just provides a cool tool to support it.

    In the end, I strongly think that Google EB will have a similar effect as Google Earth did: it will raise awareness about SDI and the power of spatial data sharing, which over time will actually make our job easier.

  3. Hi Maurits, thanks for blogging about where 2.0 I watched the video of the interview with foursquare founder Dennis Crowley. The guy didn't pause for breath,saying Foursquare is "his destiny". I also enjoyed the Waze video. They are so excited about their products. It's how I remember the GiS industry was in the 80s (showing my age).

    In the Directions Media webinar announcement about google EB it says "organizations that own, license or manage large amounts of geospatial data". Is it just for the big boys or do you see SMEs with no GIS currently, taking it up?

  4. Thanks for the comment Jose. I certainly agree with your observation re. the excitability of the new generation of location entrepreneurs. Is it just an age thing?

    Google EB won't be free (see e.g., which will provide a barrier to individuals and (very) small enterprises. At the same time, it is "well-suited for those needing to get data out of the GIS department and into the hands of employees, customers, constituents and the public at large" ( So I do believe it will bring spatial data publishing capabilities to a much larger group of organisations.

    we could of course ask the question at the webinar on the 16th of June!