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

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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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I spend quite a bit of time reading news articles on the Web. I visit the local paper at 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 ( 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 Michigan. Aha!

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.


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 location’s importance.

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, 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   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 and Webvan to drive down prices, PeaPod can operate more freely. Companies are learning that traversing geography costs money.

- Hey Geocachers! There’s now an interactive map on 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 Technologies.

- 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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Adena Schutzberg
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