Mapping Goes Personal, Creating Job Opportunities

    Google Maps, though widely used, has its flaws – it has the location of my house wrong, for one thing, and on a recent trip to eastern Kentucky, it sent me over the shortest distance, but by far not the most expedient way to go.

    When I commented on all those little curvy roads, the person I went to meet said, “You must have been listening to your GPS.”

    “Nope,” I replied, “just following Google Maps.”

    You’ve got to admit, though, it’s a major improvement over those days when you couldn’t fold that giant piece of paper back up.

    In an article at The Atlantic, Google’s Michael Jones talks about what’s happening with mapping. He says it has become personal:

    The new map is different for everyone who uses it. You can drag it where you want to go, you can zoom in as you wish, you can switch modes—traffic, satellite—you can fly across your town, even ask questions about restaurants and directions. So a map has gone from a static, stylized portrait of the Earth to a dynamic, interactive conversation about your use of the Earth.

    He says it will become even more personal, pointing you toward things that interest you:

    … you might be walking down the street and it will beep and say, ‘The rowhouse one block to the left is the No. 1–rated Greek restaurant within 500 miles,’ or maybe: ‘Around the corner behind you is where a scene from your favorite movie was filmed.’ It is using your location to search in a database of ‘interesting things,’ and it learns what kinds of things you care about. It means having your life enlightened by travel knowledge, everywhere, or getting to walk around with local experts who know your tastes, wherever in the world you go.

    Beyond the many uses in consumer gadgets, though, mapping is becoming vital to business, too. In a press release touting its online geographic information systems program, Dr. Stephen McElroy, GIS program chair at American Sentinel University, notes that mapping is becoming crucial to many industries.

    “2012 has been the year of GIS and has been fueled by the current trend in location-based services. GIS has become the framework for analysis and decision-making in most industries and economic sectors. Many companies are incorporating location-based data into their strategic planning, business decision-making and competitive position,” he’s quoted as saying.

    Beyond the wide use in the military and in health care — Google has an app for that, too — a district manager in a fast-food chain might now be called upon to create theoretical customer model using GIS for purchasing real estate. Within the past two years, GIS technology helped survivors in more than two-dozen natural disasters, including the Japan tsunami, Joplin tornadoes and most recently, Hurricane Sandy. I’ve written before about how GIS is used in fighting massive wildfires.

    It’s a pretty fascinating area overall.

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