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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Upon the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI resignation, The New York Times published this cartogram of how the population of Catholics has shifted toward the Southern Hemisphere providing further speculation that the next pontiff might be chosen from either Latin America or Africa.

by Joe Francica on 02/12 at 03:23 PM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Texas House Bill 912--and similar laws under debate right now in Oregon and elsewhere--are driving a burgeoning debate about how to use and control unmanned air systems, from anAR.Drone to a quadcopter. The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of drafting new rules governing unmanned aircraft in civilian airspace, including military-style aircraft. But in the meantime, plenty of cheap, easy-to-use aircraft are already popular among hobbyists and, increasingly, activists and law enforcement. ...

Texas state Rep. Lance Gooden, a Republican, is the sponsor of the latest bill, which would make it a misdemeanor to take photos with an unmanned aircraft. It’s unique because it criminalizes taking any data--photos, sound, temperature, even odor--of private property using an unmanned aircraft without the permission of the property owner. Law enforcement officers could only use drones while executing a search warrant or if they had probable cause to believe someone is committing a felony, and firefighters can only use drones for fighting fire or to rescue a person whose life is “in imminent danger.” Texas’ border-patrolling Predator drones are exempt within 25 miles of the Mexican border. There are additional penalties for possession, display or distribution of data captured by an illegally flown drone. Gooden said the goal is to protect Texans’ privacy.

Interestingly, it was in Texas that a hobbyist taking test photos found a meat packing plant dumping animal blood into a local stream, resulting in significant fines. The other issue this article raises is about the difference between capturing remotely sensed from an unmanned vs a manned vehicle. Why is it different?

- PopSci via ultrarunner Larry 

Image courtesy USGS

by Adena Schutzberg on 02/12 at 10:39 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

The map is still offline as I write this Tuesday morning, but during the height of the recent storm this past weekend, Boston's GPS-fueld map of city plows was pretty slow. Why?

Within a couple of hours of snowfall the site had over a million requests from users. Boston’s total population is 625,000. ...

The blizzard this past weekend that hit Boston hardest, brought with nearly three feet of snow and the first real test (that we are aware of) of a GPS-managed snow plow fleet in a major snowstorm.

Boston has had a private GPS tracking system in place for smaller storms since. This was the first time the public was able to watch the plows move in real-time along with city officials.

The catch is that the same GPS system that populated the dots on the public website map also powered the Department of Public Works operational maps at its command center. The flood of interest from the public was clogging the servers and preventing plow fleet managers from doing their jobs. 

There's clearly some work to do before the next blizzard!

- Transportation Nation

by Adena Schutzberg on 02/12 at 04:40 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

WebMD Health Corp. (Nasdaq: WBMD), the leading source of health information, announced today its new WebMD Allergy app for the iPhone,  an innovative new mobile resource that empowers consumers to take control of their allergies. It is the first free app to provide allergy sufferers with personalized location-based allergy condition forecasts in combination with WebMD's trusted information and insights.

Research from a team published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Biology recaps the state of global infectious disease mapping:

The primary aim of this review was to evaluate the state of knowledge of the geographical distribution of all infectious diseases of clinical significance to humans. A systematic review was conducted to enumerate cartographic progress, with respect to the data available for mapping and the methods currently applied. The results helped define the minimum information requirements for mapping infectious disease occurrence, and a quantitative framework for assessing the mapping opportunities for all infectious diseases. This revealed that of 355 infectious diseases identified, 174 (49%) have a strong rationale for mapping and of these only 7 (4%) had been comprehensively mapped. A variety of ambitions, such as the quantification of the global burden of infectious disease, international biosurveillance, assessing the like- lihood of infectious disease outbreaks and exploring the propensity for infectious disease evolution and emergence, are limited by these omissions. An overview of the factors hindering progress in disease cartography is pro- vided. It is argued that rapid improvement in the landscape of infectious diseases mapping can be made by embracing non-conventional data sources, automation of geo-positioning and mapping procedures enabled by machine learning and information technology, respectively, in addition to harnessing labour of the volunteer ‘cognitive surplus’ through crowdsourcing.

- original article (under CC) via @re_sieber

Resarchers in New Zealand have mapped countrywide "dooring" accidents between cars and bikes. Dooring is when a car door opens into the path of a cyclist. I happened to me once. It totalled my bike. The driver asked "Why don't you ride your bike on the sidewalk?" "It's illegal," I noted. The good news? Such mapping helps identify areas of concentration and because the groups used Google Maps they could drill down using StreetView to see what factors might be in play.

Using Google Maps™ to map and display locations of dooring incidents can be a useful tool for looking at specific crash patterns with reasonable spatial precision and added capabilities. Streets with higher dooring risks can be readily identified in several specific urban settings with New Zealand’s small population and five years of data. To our knowledge, this is the first national interactive dooring map, while some cities are using similar tools.

- University of Otago Blog

by Adena Schutzberg on 02/12 at 04:29 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

When a dense document related to geospatial technology gets retweeted enough times, by enough smart people, I take notice. And, I also wonder how many people will "take a pass" on reading that dense document. That happened today. Several tweets in my feed pointed me to a document on the OGC discussion list "requests" titled GeoPackage comments from OpenGeo. In it OpenGeo's Chris Holmes shares his response to a call for comments from OGC (press release) about the candidate GeoPackage specification (download Word doc) and mixes it with concerns about OGC specs and the OGC process. It's worth reading in full, but I want to summarize some of Holmes' key points that I think provide a valuable "state of the art" observation of how standards of various kinds are made these days.

1) Suggested changes to OGC specs and its spec process

There are two main things to change. The first is easier, which is just making the specifications more accessible and relevant, easier to implement a valuable core. The second will be more challenging, and will likely require some deep shifts in how the OGC approaches creation of standards.

I understand the second suggest to refer to integrating some of the processes and collaboration techniques used in open source software.

2) OGC specs (including the GeoPackage candidate) are not accessible, relevant, easy to implement, nor a valuable core. Holmes compares the MapBox mbtiles tiles spec to the the GeoPacakge Spec, prompted by comments from Justin Deoliveira. Deoliveira noted:

Yup. Reading this makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside:
While reading the geopackage spec makes me want to run for the hills.

Holmes explains why he feels Deoliveira feels that way in five six points:

  • The former is an immediately readable URL, the latter a Word document.
  • The former has no boiler plate, it just jumps in, while the latter has pages of text to scroll past to get to the point.
  • The former has no marketing promise nor does it discuss the spec's future as a standard and tells of the single problem it will solve, while the latter includes such marketing topics and tries to solve many problems.
  • The former takes three pages to explain how to implement the spec while the latter includes far more detail (in 97 pages).
  • The former is modular (can stand on its own), while the latter depends on many other specifications.
  • The former is easy to contribute to (via commonly used open source platforms and processes), while the latter has a very formal process.

3) GeoPackage spec has lots of potential in individual areas, but it's too big to be immediately implementable useful.

I believe it should be split up in to 5 succinct specifications, that only contain the core conformance classes. Additional extensions / non-core conformance ideas should be in extended specifications. ...The five specifications would be vectors, tiles, rasters, metadata and manifest.
It's interesting to me that so much of what Holmes suggests has more to do with communincations, collaboration and "packaging" than deep technical topics. Could making content more accessible and useful, finding new and better ways to collaborate and communicate and splitting content into smaller bits help in your line of work? I suggest all of those are currently at play as many individuals and groups try to tackle issues in education.
by Adena Schutzberg on 02/12 at 04:04 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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