Friday, February 18, 2011


The topic of location-aware mobile applications are certainly a growing area. Whether an application used more for fun and reviews such as Foursquare or to find nearby businesses such as the Yellow Pages app, I believe this type of technology will become increasingly ubiquitous and embedded in an increasing number of applications and online services.

My research has been examine how these applications function and are constructed. I've encountered a lot of jargon and key terms to the area that I find it useful to clear up. So I spent some time on Wikipedia (an invaluable source).

So here are a few terms that comprise or are a form of a mobile location-aware application. All definitions are for the most part from Wikipedia, unless otherwise noted. My comments are in curly parentheses {}.

Device Level

- Context awareness - "computers can both sense, and react based on their environment" {e.g. time of day, light level, noise level, location hence "location awareness}

- Geolocation - "identification of the real-world geographic location of an object, such as a cell phone or an Internet-connected computer terminal. Geolocation may refer to the practice of assessing the location, or to the actual assessed location"

Application Level

- Location-based service (LBS) - "information or entertainment service, accessible with mobile devices through the mobile network and utilizing the ability to make use of the geographical position of the mobile device"

- Locative media - "media of communication functionally bound to a location. Locative media are digital media applied to real places and thus triggering real social interactions.... Many locative media projects have a social, critical or personal (memory) background"

- Local search - " specialized Internet search engines that allow users to submit geographically constrained searches against a structured database of local business listings. Typical local search queries include not only information about 'what' the site visitor is searching for (such as keywords, a business category, or the name of a consumer product) but also 'where' information, such as a street address, city name, postal code, or geographic coordinates"

- Geotargeting - "delivering different content {e.g. advertising} to that visitor based on his or her location"

- Augmented reality (AR) - "live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound or graphics" {and increasingly text-based data are being considered AR too}

User Level

- Geosocial networking - "social networking in which geographic services and capabilities such as geocoding and geotagging are used to enable additional social dynamics" {e.g. Foursquare}

- Geographic information retrieval (GIR) - "augmentation of information retrieval with geographic metadata. Information retrieval generally views documents as a collection or `bag' of words. In contrast Geographic Information Retrieval requires a small amount of semantic data to be present (namely a location or geographic feature associated with a document)"

- Geographic relevance - "relevance denotes how well a retrieved document or set of documents meets the information need of the user" {in geographic terms, relevance most often would relate to proximity of the document/object to the user, but other forms would be temporal proximity (travel time) and the visibility of desired resource}

- Geofence - "virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area. A geo-fence could be dynamically generated - as in a radius around a store or point location.... When the location-aware device of a location-based service (LBS) user enters or exits a geo-fence, the device receives a generated notification" {this could be used to block users from accessing user-generated or non-sanctioned georeferenced information about that location/business}

- Geomessaging - not in Wikipedia but here's my take - user messages (either delivered via email, SMS, or application-based) to friends or themselves georeferenced to a specific space that can only be received when at that designated space

Data Level

- Hyperlocal - "Oriented around a well defined, community scale area with primary focus being directed towards the concerns of its residents.... Hyperlocal content, often referred to as hyperlocal news, is characterized by three major elements. First, it refers to entities and events that are located within a well defined, community scale area. Secondly, it is intended primarily for consumption by residents of that area. Thirdly, it is created by a resident of the location"

- Georeferencing - "establishing {an object or document} location in terms of map projections or coordinate systems"

- Geospatial metadata - "metadata that is applicable to objects that have an explicit or implicit geographic extent, in other words, are associated with some position on the surface of the globe"

- Geocoding - "finding associated geographic coordinates (often expressed as latitude and longitude) from other geographic data, such as street addresses, or zip codes (postal codes)"

- Geotagging - "adding geographical identification metadata to various media" {implies user-generated tags & folksonomies, per Flickr}

- Geoparsing - "assigning geographic identifiers (e.g., codes or geographic coordinates expressed as latitude-longitude) to textual words and phrases that occur in unstructured content, such as "twenty miles north east of Jalalabad".... Two primary uses of the geographic coordinates derived from unstructured content are to plot portions of the content on maps and to search the content using a map as a filter. Geoparsing goes beyond geocoding. Geocoding analyzes unambiguous structured location references, such as postal addresses and rigorously formatted numerical coordinates. Geoparsing handles ambiguous references in unstructured discourse"

- ISO 19115 - "standards for Geospatial metadata. ISO 19115 defines how to describe geographical information and associated services, including contents, spatial-temporal purchases, data quality, access and rights to use."

- GeoRSS - Wikipedia's definition was lacking, so I went to the GeoRSS website for this: "As RSS and Atom become more prevalent as a way to publish and share information, it becomes increasingly important that location is described in an interoperable manner so that applications can request, aggregate, share and map geographically tagged feeds."

- Keyhole Markup Language (KML) - "XML schema for expressing geographic annotation and visualization within Internet-based, two-dimensional maps and three-dimensional Earth browsers"

System Level

- Geographic information system (GIS) - "any system that captures, stores, analyzes, manages, and presents data that are linked to location(s)"

- Global positioning system (GPS) - "space-based global navigation satellite system that provides reliable location and time information in all weather and at all times and anywhere on or near the Earth when and where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites"

- Local positioning system - "Unlike GPS or other global navigation satellite systems, which are positioning systems with a global coverage, local positioning systems don't use technology that has global coverage; they use local technology or technology that has local coverage. Examples of this local technology include cellular base stations, Wi-Fi access points, and broadcast towers"

- Gazetteer - "geographical dictionary or directory, an important reference for information about places and place names, used in conjunction with a map or a full atlas"

- Geo-block - Wikipedia doesn't have this term, but Michael Geist covers the topic well in his article Geo-Blocking Sites a Business Rather Than Legal Issue. Essentially, as it applies to the Internet, a geo-block identifies a user's IP address and restricts access to content if the user is not in a pre-approved zone. In contrast, geo-authentication can allow a user entry into an online system or site based on their IP location.

- Location-based advertising {similar to proximity marketing} - "advertising that uses location-tracking technology in mobile networks to target consumers with location-specific advertising on their mobile devices.

Finally two good parting concepts:

- Space vs. place - "Geographic space is the space that encircles the planet, through which biological life moves. It is differentiated from 'outer space" and 'inner space' (inside the mind). One definition of place, proposed by Tuan, is that a place comes into existence when humans give meaning to a part of the larger, undifferentiated space. Any time a location is identified or given a name, it is separated from the undefined space that surrounds it. Some places, however, have been given stronger meanings, names or definitions by society than others. These are the places that are said to have a strong 'Sense of Place'"

Geospatial Web or Geoweb - "merging of geographical (location-based) information with the abstract information that currently dominates the Internet. This would create an environment where one could search for things based on location instead of by keyword only – e.g. 'What is Here?...The geoweb also promises to make geographical information much more ubiquitous, opening geoinformation up to the mass market."


Ivan Tasev said...

I would like to share with you this simple google geocoding and reverse geocoding tool

Glen Farrelly said...

Hi Ivan:

Thanks so much for posting that. Your tool is really useful - thanks for sharing this. It is not opensource by chance?

Ivan Tasev said...

What do you mean, Glen?
It is shared...

Glen Farrelly said...

I was wondering if the source code is available to be copied and used in other (not-for profit) applications?

Glen Farrelly said...

Here's a new geo term I saw today "geopersonalised" in reference to Arcade Fire's incredible online video The Wilderness Downtown

Geopersonalizing allows a user to enter data about their location and the content is that customized to that location & individual

(Best online music video ever, BTW)