Mapping Goes Live

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Today Microsoft awarded some $1.1 million to 21 academic researchers for their work on geographic information visualization techniques and location-based Web searching.

Microsoft’s Virtual Earth team published APIs – Application Programming Interfaces, to overlay location data on their maps. But publishing even a single stream of data requires effort and programming expertise.

One major limitation; a single map can’t overlay two or more maps — for example both housing information ( and crime-rate data ( In addition, existing solutions weren’t capable of querying live sensors based on keywords or location and aggregating the results.

The SenseWeb project at Microsoft Research aims to address these challenges with a common platform and set of tools. Microsoft says SenseWeb will enable data owners to easily publish data and users to easily make queries of live sensor data.

Award winners for the Sensor Map RFP also will have access to Microsoft’s sensor-data publishing platform, to integrate and publish searchable data through a map interface. They also receive some of Microsoft’s Web-based geographic imagery, which can be combined with the Virtual Earth software development kit for location-based Web searches.

In related news, Harvard University and BBN Technologies are developing a city-wide, real-time sensor network. Their CitySense network will monitor urban weather and pollution, and could eventually be adopted to provider better public wireless Internet access.

The plan is to install 100 sensors by 2011, throughout Cambridge, Massachusetts, using a NSF grand. Mounted on streetlamps, each CitySense node includes an embedded single-board computer running the Linux OS with 64MB of RAM and 1GB of flash memory, loaded on a motherboard made by Soekris Engineering and packaged by Metrix Communication.

Microsoft’s Sensor Map enables Browsing the Physical World in Real-Time. Examples include; Seattle’s Traffic Congestion Map, San Francisco Parking Map, LifeUnderYourFeet (soil sensor data), and others. Sensor maps might even be used by Big Science projects, such as Ocean Observing Systems like the MARS Observatory, off the coast of Monterey Bay, California.

Meanwhile, Google launched free map tools yesterday. Google’s “My Maps” will allows users to easily create a Google Maps mashup with a few clicks, right from Google Maps. It’s designed to make it easy for people to share their knowledge about their neighborhoods by creating customized maps that can assemble information from a variety of sources.

Until now, Google’s two-year-old maps had primarily been used for driving directions and finding local businesses. Google’s showed examples of user-created maps focused on U.S. Route 66, the Hawaiian island of Kauai, Major League Baseball stadiums and voting patterns in the 2004 presidential election.

This could be potentially devastating to start-ups like Platial. Their blog says:

This kind of disruption was inevitable. There is a rapidly growing geospatial web and they have in many ways elevated the importance of it. They haven’t (yet) touched the core of our business model, audience or product path. So, here we go onward (but faster and better). :)

Platial has many features that Google doesn’t. Platial’s slider bar will find the best stuff from around the web using terms which have been tagged on Platial, Flickr, YouTube, Yahoo Local, etc.

Platial’s MapKit is available for WordPress and Typepad. It’s easy to create your own maps (complete with linked photos and text) and embed them into a blog. Examples include The FON map, Fly Fishing in Yellowstone, Women Who Changed the World, Multnomah County Libraries, hundreds of others.

Platial’s MapKit is a map with built-in collaboration. Create a Map (free) and let your visitors add Places and leave comments. It also supports Video, Photo and Music files right inside. You can use Platial’s hosting service (free) or use the Map Kit and host it yourself. The feed mapper tool is brand new and is still being perfected.

Panoramio allows you to locate photos exactly over the place they were taken. You can store up to 2 Gb at your personal area in their original size and quality and locate your photos in the place they were taken. It was acquired by Google recently, which will further integrate the software with Google Maps and Earth.

Topoff 4 will gauge how well officials react to the dropping of a “dirty bomb” and is set to hit Portland between Oct. 15 and 24 in the TopOff 4 exercise by Homeland Security.

What IS Portland getting out of this exercise? Not much, it would seem.

For most citizens, map mashups, created by individual bloggers, may be a faster, better source of information than police agencies like FEMA.

Hey, Michael, how about a shared Lidar Mapping database, a vessel monitoring system up the Columbia, a working 700 Mhz system or help with a subduction zone monitoring system. That should save a trillion bucks, right there.

Unwire Oregon, May 1st, brings leaders together to discuss wireless access. And kick some butt.

Related DailyWireless Location Services articles include; Geotagging Photos – Cheap, Mapping Wireless Nodes, WiFi Tracking Tags from AeroScout, PanGo & Ekahau, Geocoding Content & Telemetry, GPS Tracking: In a Shoe, On a Bike and MIT’s SENSEable City.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Friday, April 6th, 2007 at 11:01 am .