GIS Monitor Sep 6, 2001
- Lost Vs. The Amazing Race Vs. Reality
- Too Little Geography on the Web
- Mobile Video: The Latest Location-Based Services Fad?
- New Addresses
Departments: Points of Interest, Week in Review, Back Issues, Advertise,
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LOST VS. THE AMAZING RACE VS. REALITY
Last night here in the US, NBC and CBS launched their new reality TV shows
aimed at getting participants to travel from point A to point B. NBC’s
“Lost” took the early time slot at 8 p.m. CBS’s “The Amazing Race”
followed at 9 p.m.
The shows are a bit different. "Lost" tasks three teams of two (a married
couple, a pair of women and a pair of men) to get from where they are
"dropped" to the Statue of Liberty. The winning pair takes home $200,000.
A review noted that with only two people to interact in each team, the
show seemed boring compared to "Survivor" or "Big Brother," reality shows
with large group dynamics. Television critic David Kronke notes that all
that walking around lost was so boring that the production team had to
include footage of the teams at survival camp before the race began! He
also points out that, unlike the "Big Brother" series, there is no climax
at the end of each episode: no one gets kicked out. Interestingly, the
Travel Channel is paying $100,000 an episode to air repeats of "Lost" on
Fridays. And, Globalstar is touting that its satellite phones are keeping
the film crews in touch with each other and headquarters.
In "The Amazing Race," the first of eleven pairs to reach the destination
will win $1 million. The trailing teams will be eliminated from the game
each week, similar to "Survivor." Also like "Survivor," at each location
the teams must perform some task.
Perhaps raising America’s consciousness about being lost will have some
benefits. Last weekend I went hiking up one of the most hiked mountains in
the US: Grand Manadnock in New Hampshire. Many trails of differing lengths
and terrain trace the several-hour walk to the summit. Not only were
several hikers ill-supplied (families with small children in sandals, no
water, food extra clothing) but many adults asked us, about ½ mile in on a
3-mile rocky trail, if they were "nearly there!"
Had the idea of being lost occurred to them, they may have thought to look
at the map, questioned the ranger about the trails, or heeded the "be
prepared" signs at the trailhead.
To my dismay, the day after my hike I heard that Ted O’Brien, veteran
Boston newsman, age 60, was lost in the New Hampshire woods. After failing
to return from a planned ten-mile hike, he was reported missing on Sunday
night. Luckily, he was found by New Hampshire Fish and Game staff on
Tuesday morning. Under state law, O’Brien may well be charged for the
rescue effort. O’Brien said, "It turned out that what I thought was a walk
in the park was one of the toughest trails in these mountains, I should
have known that."
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TOO LITTLE GEOGRAPHY ON THE WEB
I spend quite a bit of time reading news articles on the Web. I visit the
local paper at Boston.com and find the Seattle Intelligencer and San Jose
Mercury great sources for high tech and GIS news. Everybody knows where
their papers are based, right?
On the other hand, there are papers like the Tri County Times
(www.tctimes.com). I found an article there on GIS that has a dateline of
Lake Fenton. I have no indication of where Lake Fenton is. I search for
clues. An ad for John Deere tractors asks me to visit Midstate Equipment
-- still no help. The Web poll does mention cell phone legislation in
I suppose this is one of the geographic challenges of the Web. In the old
print-only days, the Tri County Times may have reached only as far as its
paper carriers could throw it. All its local readers certainly knew where
Tri County was located. My hometown paper, the Winchester Star, was read
in Winchester and maybe as far as neighboring Woburn. But when these local
papers put their local story on the Web, the reach is global -- and we
need a bit of geographic help.
Some local papers have gone to the next level. Kudos to the online version
of the Winchester Star of Winchester, Virginia. The town name and state
are on the online banner. The Winchester Star of Winchester,
Massachusetts, however, requires a bit more attention to determine its
location. A search tool is described this way, giving a hint to the town’s
whereabouts: "Enter zip code or town to connect with another Eastern Mass.
Community." However, pity the reader in New Zealand or India who may not
know what MA or Mass stand for.
MOBILE VIDEO: THE LATEST LOCATION-BASED SERVICES FAD?
I’ve been skeptical of the wireless Web and confess to being even more
skeptical of wireless video. But that has done little to dissuade the
marketing machine touting how snippets of video linked to a phone
carrier’s location will improve our lives.
Business is typically the first to embrace technology in the US, and
Cahners In-Stat Group analyst Gerry Kaufhold puts the type of apps in
context: "Two things drive the business market: You're either saving
somebody some money, or you're helping them make more money through
enhanced applications." Telemedicine and onsite training are two apps that
come to mind that might fit the bill. Analyst calls or technology
presentations for the business community are suggested possibilities from
Ian Freed of Real Networks. Freed goes on to note that one-way video (such
as broadcasting Web seminars or using security cameras) has been wildly
successful, unlike two-way attempts such as the videophone.
Still, the big payoff in this arena is expected to depend on consumer use.
Matt Saparo, director of strategy for HIPnTasty (what were they thinking?)
suggests that old documentary footage, rarely shown on TV, could be a
great resource to tourists. The vision is that a phone carrier would
subscribe to a "topic" so that when they reached a historic site in New
York, for example, an appropriate clip would highlight that particular
PacketVideo's Rob Tercek sees live-feed video as a growing market. Mom and
Dad could hang a camera over baby’s crib and keep an eye on her at home
with the baby sitter, while they’re out. Saparo describes "lifestyle
applications" such as carrying fifteen-second clips of your yoga teacher
or favorite video chef along on a cell phone.
Timing is everything. Long videos will be prohibitively expensive. Short
clips no longer than 5 minutes are the expected maximum in the coming
years, according to Ian Freed, of Realnetworks.
For me, mobile video, for now at least, lacks the compelling quality
mobile voice communication possesses. And, since we’re still figuring
location-based services for their supposed primary function, public
safety, I’ll venture that these "frills" are some years away.
One of the big challenges of accessing the Internet on wireless phones is
keying in long URLs. To alleviate the pain of keying in letters via the
number pad, Bango.net introduces Bango Numbers. The idea is that instead
of letter-based URLs, phone users will key in numbers for their favorite
WAP (wireless application protocol) content. For example, British Airways
becomes 35922 rather than www.ba.com.
The company also encourages individuals to register for Bango numbers
equivalent to their cell phone numbers. A personal Bango number can point
to a website or display a text message. Bango argues this is a cheaper way
to communicate than SMS (short messaging system). The service starts at
$29 per year.
I don’t think I’ll rush out to buy this service. After all, how many cell
phone numbers do people actually know? I know exactly none – I have them
stored in my cell phone. So, if I can store text to go along with my
stored phone numbers (like "Mom") why can’t I store URLs, too?
POINTS OF INTEREST
- General Mills has withdrawn a trial advertising campaign that paid
Minneapolis elementary school teachers $250 a month to drive cars wrapped
with ads for the company’s breakfast cereal. There are suggestions the
plan was pulled just before school started since it might anger parents
and school officials.
Wouldn’t it be weird for a whole town to know where you ate, shopped and
slept by where your Cocoa Puffs mobile was parked?
Nevertheless, I do think our local buses that are made up to look like a
box of Dunkin’ Donuts are cute.
- ESRI has set the date for their 22nd Annual ESRI International User
Conference for July 8–12, 2002 in San Diego. As always, the conference is
open only to ESRI software users.
- GeoConcept announced the appointment of Jérôme Vialar as partnerships
manager. The interesting fact in their release: the French GIS developer
exports more than 50% of its licenses. Another well-exported GIS software
package, UK-based Cadcorp’s SIS, is the subject of an Australia-based
website and newsgroup.
- There’ll be no more free delivery in Boston or Chicago for Peapod
customers. Without Homeruns.com and Webvan to drive down prices, PeaPod
can operate more freely. Companies are learning that traversing geography
- Hey Geocachers! There’s now an interactive map on geocaching.com
complete with pan, zoom, and identify. And, if you’re registered, the site
provides thematic maps including symbolizing the caches you have found.
The underlying technology? It’s the very affordable AspMap from VDS
- Trade stocks in your car? You can if you are in a Ford with OnStar. Gary
Wallace, spokesperson for competitor ATX Technologies (who doesn’t offer
stock trades) says he’d rather just call his broker. It seems to me that
stock trading would require quite a bit of attention and is not the safest
thing to do while driving. Overall, I am skeptical of these
non-location-based services; the best thing telematics does is take
advantage of location.
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