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Esri UK Annual Conference 2012

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Yesterday Esri UK called customers and non-customers alike to Wembley Stadium to “inspire or be inspired” at the company’s 2012 annual user conference. The new venue and one-day format was clearly a success as when a grinning Richard Waite opened the conference with ‘Hello Wembley!’ We understand that he was addressing a record number of delegates.

The focus was Esri’s latest technology, namely ArcGIS v10.1, which is expected to be released at the start of June. The company was keen to stress that ArcGIS is ‘a complete system’. Many on-screen  demonstrations showed how the ArcGIS platform can be applied in different ways within an organisation to maximise and extend the use of GIS – delegates were encouraged to ‘be a hero of GIS’ and unlock its benefits for their whole company.

A record number of delegates mingle.


Concerned about locational privacy?

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2011 was a year of privacy scares ranging from phone hacking to phone tracking. During the year it was discovered that several ‘smartphones’, with operating systems or apps from firms such as Apple, Google and Microsoft, have been keeping records of users’ locations and, in some cases, transmitting that data back to the parent company. These revelations prompted hysteria and paranoia around the globe, with several of the firms facing multiple lawsuits from their users. Now that the outcry has simmered down a little, perhaps we can assess the impact of GPS-enabled smartphones on what we will call locational privacy.

The primary concern about smartphones recording and broadcasting their location is that users dislike the idea of a company knowing their movement history, and therefore some of their activities. There is also a concern that the information may be accidentally revealed to the public, other individuals or third parties, and that it might be used for malicious purposes such as blackmail, stalking or worse. If a user’s whereabouts are stored on the phone then its loss would potentially expose a person’s travel information and habits.

Are the concerns valid?

Smartphones that report your whereabouts do, in theory, limit a person’s privacy. However, it can be argued that this has the agreement of the user who has bought the phone, downloaded the app, switched it on, and enabled the GPS functionality. The individual has therefore chosen to limit their own locational privacy. The phone companies and apps suppliers do explicitly state that they may undertake activities that would transmit your position. Apple’s terms and conditions, for example, state that Apple has the right to ‘collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device’. The fact that no-one ever reads the full 15,200 word terms and conditions, means that Apple could legitimately conceal almost anything in there. This practice has led to arguments that applications and phones should prompt users to opt in when position data collection and transfer occur.

However, the dislike of a company being able to track your movements is, in today’s society, unfortunate. Many companies already perform this activity –  without needing to get a user’s permission. Bank and credit cards, Oyster cards, non GPS phones (through cell id or trilateration) and storecards can all be used to build a history of our locations and activities and the patterns that can be deduced. This capability was illustrated in 2008 by Malte Spitz, a German MP. He used the German courts to access his records from Deutsche Telekom. Using this data and other information, such as his tweets, it was possible to reconstruct his movements for six months. Spitz’s revelations led to a political debate over locational data
and the possible government actions that might help to protect it.

(Source: Zeit.de).

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Assessing the size of the UK location market

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The latest report on the size of the UK market for GI reveals several surprises and builds on previous studies but is it worth buying, asks Stephen Booth.

Predicting the future has become big business. The Economist magazine does it annually and this year decided to look at what the world may be like in 2050. For most business planners knowing what the world will be like over the next 2-3 years will be rather more useful.

Forecasting the future can only be done with any reliability by knowing what your current baseline is, the size of the markets and what the trends are that drive them. In sourcing much statistical information you will need to rely on factors like government statements and plans, emerging technologies (including the potential impact of some that emerged a generation or more ago but still not ubiquitous for want of identifiable demand) and social trends. Fortunately for the geospatial sector a rather useful report has just been published that tells us what the size of the market currently is and where it might be going in the short term, sector by sector.




Review: Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey

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The trials and challenges of those early surveyors are well captured.


By Rachel Hewitt

Published by Granta, h/back £25, ISBN978 1 84708 098 1


Is crowdsourced map data inevitable?

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Many of the industry leaders are offering crowdsourced mapping options. But is this data adequate yet for web mapping and app developers, asks Adena Schutzberg?

To answer the title question, let’s start with a bit of history. OpenStreetMap (OSM) is synonymous with “crowdsourced map of the world.” The goal of the project, founded in 2004, is nothing less than a freely useable map created by the people of the world.

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