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GeoWeb conference to address social media, including Twitter

by Marke Andrews

The following was published in the Vancouver Sun on July 26, 2010

“Real-time” use of geographic data is the theme for this year’s annual GeoWeb conference, being held all this week at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

Conference speaker Stephen Piotrowicz, program manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is involved in one of the best examples of such data use, in a project partly occurring off B.C. shores.

The project involves 3,500 information-gathering buoys programmed to sink 610 metres and collect data on temperatures, salinity, density, relaying this information in real time.

Another speaker, Patricia Craighill, will speak about Next Gen, a global project to transform air traffic management throughout the world by making better use of real-time geographic information so airplanes can be routed more effectively. The aim would be to get more planes in the air, move them safely, and — by altering routes — reduce the carbon trail the planes leave.

“GeoWeb is about information sharing about the real world in a whole spectrum of problems, and we need to be able to do that in real time,” said Ron Lake, chairman and CEO of Galdos Systems Inc. and GeoWeb organizer.

Social media are also a big part of the conference, with one session entirely about Twitter.

“A variety of people have wondered how we can use Twitter to update geographic information,” said Lake. “After the Haiti earthquake, Twitter was important in providing information about where things were. I think the next generation of that will see Twitter integrated into a number of geographic information products.”

Like every industry, geographic information providers are wondering how to market their data. It used to be easy to sell this information, but now that Google and Microsoft are embedding mapping into their products for free, companies that rely on retail sales are wondering where they go from here. There will be a panel discussion on this subject, entitled “The Walmartization of Geo Data.”

For information on the conference, go to geoweb.org.

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