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Perspectives Header

With our increasing use of the mobile Internet, and an increasing awareness of geospatial data privacy issues, the thought of being able to blend in or even cloak our locations seems appealing. In our hyper-connected world, there are still times when we’d rather stay low-key, and other times when we’d like to be surrounded by like-minded friends, be open to new acquaintances, or be bombarded by offers. With our locations known, often without our understanding that we’re sharing, there has to be a way to tune our findability.

With our increasing use of the mobile Internet, and an increasing awareness of geospatial data privacy issues, the thought of being able to blend in or even cloak our locations seems appealing. In our hyper-connected world, there are still times when we’d rather stay low-key, and other times when we’d like to be surrounded by like-minded friends, be open to new acquaintances, or be bombarded by offers. With our locations known, often without our understanding that we’re sharing, there has to be a way to tune our findability.

Tools that would maximize our locative mood could be tuned to help enhance our interactions with the things and people around us. It’s interesting to think of the types of features, sensor integration, and computer-aided intelligence that might accompany our different modes.  Technology could easily morph to our different modes of social, observational or immersed in nature, with different settings and capabilities. The ability to change modes would provide for a larger participation in location-based applications that could bridge both generational and personality divides.

Connecting Mode

When out on the town, or at a conference or networking event, we’re open and eager for connections that enhance our understanding and broaden our perspectives. While in these ice breaker situations, opportunities are often lost, because we’re in the wrong corner of the room or perhaps across the street from a gathering of interest. A connecting mode might broker connections for us by broadcasting our interests and screening those around us for like minds.

The location filter in such a setting could be set to scan the room or a broader proximity depending on our available time frame, our variable desire to gather new experiences, and even our interest to exclude or include previous acquaintances. The tools and sensors of the connected mode might allow you to scan the crowd for the buzz of hot topics, particularly after a shared experience such as a talk or exhibition. The idea would be to maximize community building and conversations for times when we’re most eager to connect.

Observation Mode

When new to an area or a group dynamic, an observation mode might allow for the quickest means of intelligence gathering for the full context and content of place. Such a mode might have both a scouting and people-watching component to allow a scan of conversation for keywords without disclosing or engaging, and a means to open oneself to the full information about the location that natives would have no interest in.

One can think of this location exploration mode as an opportunity for additional services as well, since it’s a mode designed for exploration. While in such a mode, we might want to know about history, design, activities, stores and restaurants all geared toward where we are. As with the connected mode, there might be a slider of periphery to our wandering, or a delivery of data based on our profile, and even a fading delivery of details as our familiarity with a place increases.

Cloaked Exploration

The idea of cloaking ones location and even presence in an urban setting has an element of disturbing voyeurism to it that is likely illegal. While it wouldn’t do to allow snooping about while hidden from observation in our built environments, a cloaking in nature might provide for whole new levels of understanding of nature and natural systems. Considering the highly sensitive environments of our natural spaces, where our presence is quickly detected and avoided by the animals around us, what might we gain if we could visit as an unknown to observe and immerse ourselves in nature’s perspectives?

Imagine if you could map the sound you make, the scent you send, and even the extent of the sensory reach of creatures around you that give your presence away. The thought is that such sensors and filters could be tuned to topography, wind speed and direction, and other factors that affect the movement of sound and scent through the air. While this capability might be the hunter’s dream, it’s also inline with the interests of the naturalist and even the casual observer of nature. With the pace of life limiting reflective time, and our proximity to fully natural environments scarce, an enhanced observational mode would provide a more available access to the rhythms of nature.

Over the past ten years, we’ve seen an interesting upswing in the types and amounts of location-based services. The predominant number of these have been focused on the types of data that can be fed to the consumer, and many require an active participation that has only a high setting for interactions. A variable setting on location and inputs, and varying degrees of passive engagement offer whole new opportunities for both applications and interactions.

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