geo, geomob, mobile, Web 2.0

A bunch of nerds with maps

…I think I can define GeoMob this way and I fit this definition perfectly :-)

Nice London Geo/Mobile Developers Meetup Group meeting yesterday at City University. High level of the talks, providing vision, reporting experiences, and showing technologies and nice uses of them. Here’s a short summary.

Andrew Eland – Mobile Team Lead for Google UK

A very Google-like talk, showing up tech pieces with their vision. Of course, disappointing if you were expecting more in-depth analysis of market, novel ideas, or anything more than current publicly known work. But we’re used to that, and it was not a bad talk at all :-)
Best quote: “Tokyo is a vertical city“. That’s absolutely true, and this fact has a direct impact on geo-apps: being shops, clubs, bars, developed vertically at different levels of the buildings (this is a pic I took of the Keio Sky Garden, for example, and there are hundreds of beer gardens up on the roofs of several skyscrapers!) there’s a real need for accurate altitude information and 3d-mapping, or at least altitude-enabled maps. The interesting question for me here is how we can show multi-floor information on the 2d-maps currently in use.

Julianne Pearce, Blast Theory
An artists’ collective perspective on geo-development. Absolutely intriguing, as not the average techietalk you would expect from a GeoMob. I found this personally interesting, as I played with the Can you see me know? game and even created a modified version of it at the UbiComp Spring School at Mixed Reality Lab, University of Nottingham in April 2009, during a workshop dealing with Locative Game Authoring.

They introduced their concept of a web 2.0 site for creating a personal atlas. Basically it’s about putting photographs and commercial activities of interest on a personal map. They seem to be developing APIs and the possibility of creating widgets, and directly deal with small companies (hotels, b&b, restaurants, bars) to put them in their database. The idea here is that users will be allowed to tell the (possibly intelligent) system what categories of data they’re mostly interested in, leading to some kind of customised Michelin guide.
On monetization, they have a three-fold strategy:
– contextual advertisement, empowered by the fact that users are genuinely interested in what they put in their atlas
– share of profit on direct bookings
– [long-term] user base providing more content, improving quantity and quality of contextual data in a positive feedback loop, possibly making it interesting to other companies

Laurence Penney, SnapMap
My favourite talk of the night. Laurence has been longing for a way of placing precisely photographs on a map for more than 10 years.
I was astonished of seeing him doing many of the things I would have liked to see in web sites like Flickr and that I’ve been discussing for ages with my friends and colleagues! Using gps data, a compass, waypoints, directions, focal length, and all the other data associated with a photograph, Laurence is developing a web site to allow users navigate those pictures, even creating 3d views of them like the guys at University of Washington with Rome wasn’t built in a day. Funnily, he started all of these before gps/compass-enabled devices were available, writing down all of his data on a notebook, and he even had problems with the police inquiring why he was taking picture at the Parliament (unfortunately, I have to say he’s not alone -_-).

Mikel Maron – Haiti Earthquake OpenStreetMap Response
Mikel explained what OpenStreetMap did to help in Haiti. Disaster response relies heavily on updated maps of building, streets, and resources, and OSM quickly managed to get that done. A great thanks to him and to all of OSM guys to show the world that mapping can be helpful to people even leaving out profit considerations.

geo, geomob, mobile, Web 2.0

At the #GeoMob

Hey folks, long time I haven’t blogged – been very busy at work and home! Let me resume my techie stuff by summarising some of my thoughts after the #GeoMob night at the British Computer Society, last 30 July.
The #GeoMob is the London Geo/Mobile Developers Meetup Group, and it organises meeting of developers interested in the geo/social/mobile field, usually with participation from industry leaders (Yahoo!/Google), businesses, startups.

This are my thoughts about the night, grouped by talk:

Wes Biggs, CTO Adfonic

  • AdFonic is a mobile advertisement provider that launched 1/7/09 (their home page doesn’t work, though. You need to go to
  • what about user interaction and privacy? if I don’t get it completely wrong (reading here it seems I haven’t), the actual user experience is to have some kind of advertisement bar on your mobile application. If it’s just this, it’s simply the porting of an old desktop idea to the mobile environment. The problem is that it was not a hugely successful idea. Here the user is rewarded even less compared to the desktop bars (I guess by getting the app for free?). I’m not sure this can be a really successful venture unless the ads are smartly disguised as “useful information” – but, hey, I’m here to be refuted :P
  • getting contextual information is difficult, even if you know the location of the user you don’t know what he/she’s doing. Good motto from the talk “advertisers are not interested in where you are, but in where you’re at“. But how to get and use these contextual information was not really clear from the talk. From their website’s FAQ, I read:
    • You can target by country or region.
    • You can target by mobile operator.
    • You can define the days of the week and the time of day you wish your ad to be displayed in the local market.
    • You can choose to target by demographics by selecting gender and age range profiles.
    • You can choose devices by platform, brand, features and individual models.
    • You can also choose to assign descriptive words for your campaign using tags. We compare these tags to sites and apps in the Adfonic network where your ad could be displayed, improving your ad’s probability of being shown on a contextually relevant site.

    This raises a couple of privacy concerns, as well as technical ones ;-)

  • I would say this talk raised more questions than those answered – nonetheless it was, at least for me, good for brainstorming about mobile targeting
  • some of the issues with this service – which I’m really interested in watching to know where it heads to – are interestingly the same of a paper about leisure mobile recommender systems that I reviewed for MobBlog

Henry Erskine Crum, @henryec, Co-founder of Spoonfed

  • Spoonfed is a London based web startup (Sep. 2008) that focuses on location-based event listings
  • 12 people work there – which makes it interestingly big to be a startup
  • very similar to an old idea of mine (geo-events but in a more social networking fashion) – which prompts me to realize I need to act fast, when I have such ideas :-)
  • I would have liked the talk to dig deeper into details about user base, mobile apps and HCI issues, but it was not a bad talk and it provided a very operational and yet open minded view of how the service works and evolves
  • oh, and Henry was congratulated as the only guy in a suit (:P lolcredits to Christopher Osborne)

Gary Gale, @vicchi, Director of Engineering at Yahoo! Geo Technologies, with a talk about Yahoo! Placemaker

  • get here the slides for this talk
  • Yahoo! Placemaker is a useful service to extract location data from virtually any document – also known as Geoparsing. As the website says: Provided with free-form text, the service identifies places mentioned in text, disambiguates those places, and returns unique identifiers for each, as well as information about how many times the place was found in the text, and where in the text it was found.
  • I see it very interesting especially as it is usable with Tweets and blog posts, and it can help creating very interesting mashups
  • only issue: its granularity is up to the neighbourhood – which is perfectly good for some applications, but I’m not sure it is also for real-time-location-intensive mobile apps

Steve Coast, @SteveC, founder of OpenStreetMap and CloudMade, with a talk about Ubiquitous GeoContext

  • OpenStreetMap can be somewhat considered the community response to Google Maps: free maps, community-created and maintained, freely usable – CloudMade being a company focusing on using map data to let developers go geo
  • the motto from this talk is “map, please get me to the next penguin in this zoo” – that is, extreme geolocation and contextual information
  • success of a geo app – but according to me also applicable to many Internet startups – summarized in 3 points:
    • low cost to start
    • no licensing problems
    • openness / community driven effort
  • it was an absolute delight to listen to this talk, as it was fun but also rich of content – the highly visual presentation was extremely cool, I hope Steve is going to put it online!

Oh, and many thanks to Christopher Osborne, @osbornec, for organising an amazing night!