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The crowd is our salvation

Encouraging people to flock together seems counter-intuitive these days. But, as last week’s international Geomob gathering learned, really the crowd IS our salvation!

Geomob’s regular monthly video conferences and podcasts are inspirational, topical resources for the thousands involved in Geo tech. How did it become so good? Thankfully the formats lack the staid approach seen in other industry forums. “For fun and for business”, is a strict policy for Ed Freyfogle. It’s one he applies to each carefully harvested feature from the location technology field. Even without a Pub outing afterwards, the Zoom meetings retain their informal approach. We love inspecting people’s kitchens, studies and geo-caves! Join the next one!

Apple & Google Track and Trace the crowd

Ed Parsons (Google) in his Geo Cave, Geobeer provided by Kenneth Field (ESRI)

It appears I trained my old boss well when we were at Ordnance Survey. Now he, Ed Parsons, finds himself Google’s Geospatial technologist! We invited him to talk about ‘responsible use of Geo during the Covid 19 outbreak’.

Personal data leak

I worked on the Next Generation Internet with the European Comission, so, I was keen to see what Google were contributing. Just how much personal data would be surrendered to their corporate files?

Anonymised Track and Trace

Keeping personal data personal

As expected, Parson’s presentation (as always, he was careful to distance his own views from that of his employer) was a perfectly delivered reassurance of the positive approach Google have adopted in this crisis. Collaboration between Apple and Google is rare, and remarkable in itself. Ed explained how their joint offering – core anonymised Track and Trace capability delivered as an API – let’s health authorities around the world alert people to their potential exposure without exposure of their personal data.

Phones emitting their own temporary keys

Google and Apple join forces for Track and Trace core technology

The technology uses regularly updated “keys” transmitted via low powered Bluetooth (the level of that which connects your headset to your phone). Your phone literally monitors its proximity to other phones emitting their own temporary keys. The resulting crowd-sourced data (i.e. which key emitter was close to another), is managed and held centrally and, we are assured, is deleted when the epidemic is over with a promise of no further use by either party and no exposure to others.

Authorities will only get anonymised data

By going for an API (i.e. in this case, code that enables the core technology around proximity) the team cleverly allow Health Authorities to add their own requirements and package the whole thing up as a national App. However, these authorities and associates do not get their hands on the raw personal data and have little to work on for inferred data (normally created by combining data sources) thanks to the use of the ever-changing key. The health authorities will only get anonymised data at a Post Code level (say, 20 000 people).

Fabled for saving lives?

Will the API be fabled for saving lives? For helping restore normality around the world? Or will it be famed for exploiting a crisis for surrendering of our liberties? From what I can see now, every precaution appears to have been taken, but only time will tell.

Monitoring retail

So, The Crowd did win the prize at the event, but it wasn’t Google’s for the taking! In fact the winner was David Nogue from EIXOS, a resource that has used crowd-sourced data to become the world’s definitive Retail observatory. Speaking with David at one of the break-out rooms after the event they exploit largely Geography students who are paid to capture the status of retail rental properties within major cities.

Surprisingly neither New York or Barcelona municipal governments captured this data

Previously uncollected – even by local authorities, this data proves invaluable for multiple users. From big brands deciding upon a new location to municipal bodies looking for an economic health check on thier community.

David was able to bring this to life with a dynamic demonstration of the impact of Covid 19 on the retail spaces of New York and Barcelona. Uniquely captured data, a compelling and successful business model AND money going to Geography students. Of course he won!

Geo going mainstream

Anna Leggett leaves us with some head-scratching questions.

Other presentations included:

  • SAP’s adoption of Open Geospatial Consorium standards in “HANA”, their mapping tool for use with all SAP applications
  • Stripe Partner’s assessment of the commercial prospects for Open Street Map’s data. OSM both adops freely provided commercial data more frequently (17% of road networks in OSM come from commercial sources) and becoming used in more commercial applications. Conclusion; OSM is the only alternative to proprietary data (at SplashMaps we’ve relied upon their excellent data for global mapping for years :-)).
  • Rate your estate agent with Get Agent
  • How Spare Labs enabled on-demand transport for Covid-19 victims in the city of Palma

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