Posts Tagged geospatial

Personalised time/place knowledge goal of ThunderMaps Peter Kerr Nov 16

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ThunderMaps co-founders (L-R), Lachlan Priest, Mickael Foucaux, Clint Van Marrewijk, Shannon Smith and Lewis Gyson; aiming to make geospatial information usable in real time

Location-based intelligence is one of the up-and-coming applications of all things mobile.

Wellington-based startup ThunderMaps reckons it has a solution to a problem – individuals and organisations having geo-knowledge that is valuable to others, but having no practical way of sharing their information.

ThunderMaps co-founder Clint Van Marrewijk says the five person team’s goal, is to reduce the barriers to the adoption and use of spatial information by the public.

“There is so much valuable data going to waste. We take data available from separate organisations, and data inputted from the public, and give users, usually smart-phone owners, the ability to filter that for themselves,” he says.

“Users can subscribe to receive alerts when things happen in places they care about. People can also report events or hazards that they witness, while they are on the move.”

Van Marrewijk says a good example of the problem that ThunderMaps is looking to solve is an individual knowing the location of missing manhole covers, graffiti, environmental breaches, or road hazards for example.

At the same time government and local government agencies also possess highly valuable geo-data from an individual’s perspective, but it isn’t released in a way that’s usable for normal people.

“ThunderMaps provides a platform where any organisation can distribute data, and control the types of data that is received from and shared by the public,” he says.

ThunderMaps has tapped into the NZTA’s Traffic Road Event Information System, so that road users can receive the same alerts that government officials receive when roads are icy, there’s a crash, hazard or major blockage of traffic. Anyone can sign up for free now, to receive alerts in their location of interest.

“Isn’t it wrong that this data isn’t easy to access? It’s almost criminal that this information isn’t accessible; the government simply must continue to release this data so that we can get it into the hands of people that can get the most use out of it – the public”

“We will enable efficient decision making, reduced costs, faster response times and increased community engagement in the role of government.”

The spatial dividend gap, defined as a failure to reap the benefits of spatial information, has been estimated as having a cost of $480 million a year in New Zealand (2009 ACIL Tasman study).

Van Marrewijk says ThunderMaps will help bridge this gap by providing an easy to use platform for both individual users, sharing their geo-data with others, and an easy way for government agencies that collect information, to distribute it to the public.

With development being carried out since June, ThunderMaps aims to eliminate the need for a business, organisation or cause to build an expensive individual app to report the location of incidents, in their particular field of interest.

ThunderMaps have been taking their platform to first mover organisations, and they are beta testing it with them now.

Among those showing positive interest are neighbourhood watch groups, graffiti response trusts and government agencies concerned with hazard reduction and awareness.

Watch this space – literally!

Since yarning to Van Marriwijk, they’ve scored a couple of forward-moving successes:

• It has recently been accepted in the ‘Dragon’s den style’ presentation round of the government’s Open Door to Innovation – a bureaucrat attempt to harness market innovation
• It has trials pending with two Wellington schools for truancy reporting

Location-based intelligence industry a hidden NZ gem Peter Kerr Aug 30

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It’s one of those ‘hidden’ industries, ripe for an explosion in growth with the increasing use of smart phones and tablets, of which Joe Public is mostly unaware.

One of its (self-aware) challenges is its name – geospatial – which while accurate doesn’t lend itself to an ‘oh yes, I know that that means’ moment for users.

But, when you consider that location-based intelligence, or maps with information, is ubiquitous across so much of what we do, then the opportunities to do more from an NZ Inc point of view are extremely strong.

Spatial Industries Business Association is the umbrella organisation for about 100 organisations that play in this territory, and its chair, Mike Donald reckons a bit more of a NZ Inc collective approach could see major gains both in New Zealand and for sales of products and services overseas.

Location-based intelligence industry could contribute much more to New Zealand says SIBA chairman Mike Donald

Donald quotes a 2009 ACIL Tasman NZ Geospatial Strategy which estimated that the ‘spatial dividend’ could increase to $4 billion from $1.2b (at the time of the report). This hasn’t happened, not the least because central government are not prepared to invest, but also the capital investment scene is not strong in this country for untried ideas.

Spatial dividends are efficiencies able to be gained by the accessing and integration of spatial and aspatial information and visualisation of that information to aid decision making. This for example allows organisations such as Fonterra to be able to assist and monitor their shareholders’ fencing of waterways; insurance companies being able to make better risk assessments, or determining where a hospital should best be located (which, given traffic vagaries mightn’t necessarily be where a human-judgement would think is ideal).

“Overseas, because of the investment climate and the larger marketplace, investors are prepared will put up say $5 million before there’s any revenue been created, if they can see a good idea developed around location-based intelligence,” Donald says.

In common with many other good ideas in New Zealand, it simply doesn’t happen.

Another challenge for the industry Donald says, is that the government’s Geospatial Office is part of one small agency – Land Information NZ. Donald argues that there is a need to have a more centralised office as the spatial outcomes are so huge that it needs to be funded better and have more autonomy. The emergence and acceleration of the spatial industry and location based intelligence is so rapid and changing so quickly, that the fast pace means that in order to take advantage of it and not to miss the boat, The expertise and funding needs to be picked up- it cant be done under the current structure.

There is also concern about the NZGO looking offshore for ‘experts’ to do spatial work in NZ.
One thing that’s become clear, especially with the ‘forced’ group hug of different maps + data entities as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes, is that New Zealand and Australian skills and expertise in these areas are world class.

If anything, other countries should be coming to us.

For this reason Donald’s extremely keen on pushing the advocacy role of SIBA, and encouraging what (especially before the earthquakes) would’ve been competing companies who never would’ve talked to each other, to see how they can work together.

Of course another of the geospatial industry’s challenges is attracting new, clever people to the field. While it is part of the IT space, bright young things are these days often more attracted to app and other developments.

As Donald is well aware, and why his own company Terralink calls it location-based intelligence, that maybe the first thing geospatial people should change is its name.

Happy to consult to you guys – though location-based intelligence is a much better description.

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