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Researchers explore innovative use of geocomputation

Ireland: Researchers at National University of Maynooth, Ireland, are finding ways in which everyone could be a travel guide or health advisor by sharing knowledge through ‘geocomputation.’

Prof Stewart Fotheringham is director of the Science Foundation Ireland funded National Centre for Geocomputation at Maynooth and has joined with colleagues in Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and Greece in a project called “Geocrowd”. This four-year, EUR 6 million project, aims to open up the “next generation” of internet-based data access.

The main difference to earlier technologies is that in this case the recipient of the information will also be a participant in producing it, said Prof Fotheringham. It represents a blend of data with your position on the planet identified by a GPS signature and the supplementary information delivered – or sent by you – as needed. The introductory example describes finding a good nearby restaurant but such a system could provide other useful information.

Maynooth’s role will be in providing spatial data to this new type of internet service, the geocomputation. “Geocomputation is anything to do with storing, managing, accessing and displaying of spatial data, data that has coordinates attached to them,” he explained. He referred a report that described an effort by China to track, using GPS data, the whereabouts of all 17 million residents of Beijing. The suggestion was this would be used for traffic management, but it could also warn of unusual numbers of people assembling, for example, to protest, he said.

Prof Fotheringham added that much of the data is already moving through the ether, so it is a matter of finding how to capture it and then how to make it of value to a user. “That is a research question: how do you get useful information out of it. There seems little doubt that this new spatial data source will add to existing information resources.”

Source: The Irish Times