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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Inaugural GeoNext conference an outstanding success

“Refreshing content and a great window into the future”; “…great to see people from outside the 'traditional' industry”.

These are just two of the many accolades received from attendees of the inaugural GeoNext conference, held on Wednesday 29 February 2012, at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney.

Unless you’ve been living under some massive rock, you would have noticed that in the first decade of the 21st century, the business of location intelligence has been moving well beyond the traditional domains of surveying, remote sensing and spatial analysis. 
Sometimes referred to as ‘neo-geography’, we see the rapid emergence of location technologies in new areas such as Location-based Marketing, Augmented Reality, Crowdsourcing, Crisis Mapping, and Gaming. Most of these implementations are (very successfully) being developed by non-spatial practitioners, who don’t know, nor care, about projections, topology, or CORS networks.

With the tagline “Be informed, be inspired, be connected”, GeoNext brought together all types of practitioners of location-based technology. The audience and speaker line-up comprised experts from the fields of GIS, mapping, mobility, software development and business – anyone with an interest in the next evolution of geo and the opportunities it brings.

Quite surprisingly (or not), most neo-geographers don’t usually mingle with surveyors and spatial analysts. But at GeoNext they showed up: architects, mobile developers, journalists, venture capitalists, and softdrink producers (!) to name a few. 

A new item, at least for the spatial industry, was the “Startup Showcase”, where competing location-based startup companies get to pitch their great new idea to a panel of judges, including potential investors.  The showcase finalists reflected the diversity and innovation in the field:

GeoLocarta (http://geolocarta.com/), a Rockhampton based company, pitched a ‘direct to market’ framework for both public and professional spatial data providers, streamlining the complete data supply chain.

StreetHawk (http://streethawk.com.au/) uses your smartphone to alert you to shopping bargains around you. It automatically scans the inventory of offers of the day, matches these against your preferences and location, and gives you an excitable buzz as you walk past that deal you cannot miss!

Both the jury prize and popular vote went to buildAR (http://buildAR.com), the world’s first Content Management System for Augmented Reality applications. With BuildAR anyone can create their own AR applications without needing to write any code.

In addition to the startup showcase, I saw three standout highlights.

Jennifer Wilson (Photo: Stephen Lead)
The first of two speakers addressing the topic of location-based gaming was Jennifer Wilson, director at digital production company ‘The Project Factory’.  She opened up my eyes to a whole new world where players navigate through a combined virtual and physical world, interacting via smartphones and social media while being part of a spy thriller. Jennifer got some unintended laughs when she presented her game’s ‘Bathurst Problem’, unrelated to the similar situation plaguing the NSW industry.

Darren Osborne (Photo: Stephen Lead)
Darren Osborne, president of the NSW ‘Geocaching’ chapter, introduced us to the joys of another location based game: geocaching. Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt, using your GPS (or increasingly your smartphone) to find hidden treasures, while enjoying the great outdoors.  Started in 2000, there are now more than 1.5 million geocaches worldwide in over 200 countries.

Martin von Wyss, founder of vW Maps, used his talk to bring new life to what some believe to be the dying art of cartography. Though suddenly digital maps are everywhere, most of them look pretty ordinary. With maps moving from paper to the screen, the need for good design is stronger than ever, especially if that map is going to help you sell some good or service. Martin argued that it’s time to relearn and re-appreciate the art of good cartography.

GeoNext 2012 received universal acclaim. Don’t miss out on the next edition on Wednesday 27 February 2013, again in Sydney. http://geonext.com.au

This post also appears (in edited form) in the April 2012 edition of Landmark Magazine

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