Hello, I'm Gary and this is my 4th. LocBiz. For those of you who know me, feel free to take the next few slides as an opportunity to check your email, but for those of you who don’t … I'm the Director of the Places Registry for Nokia, which is part of the company's Location and Commerce group.
Those of you in the audience who do know me will, I hope, understand what I mean when I say I consider myself a fully unreconstructed map, geo and location nerd.
I blog a bit, I Tweet even more and I check-in on a well known location based service even more.
Ever since I discovered this map on the back of my father’s well worn and dog eared London A-Z street atlas I’ve loved maps and I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to work in an industry which I love.
Prior to being at Nokia I lead Yahoo’s Geo Technologies group in London and during this time we released a number of location and geographic data APIs which some of you might be familiar with as well as providing the underlying geotechnology that powered Yahoo! properties such as Flickr’s photo geotagging and the Fire Eagle location sharing platform.
And now at Nokia, together with my colleagues from NAVTEQ, we’re building a geographic and location platform, building developer APIs as well as the maps and information that power maps.nokia.com and Nokia Maps on mobile devices. If you’re going to be at Nokia World in London next week, I’ll be talking about the Nokia Location Platform in much more detail …
But today, the focus of what I’m going to talk about is very much from a B2C, end-user, customer facing perspective, which I hope will provide a counterpart to some of the B2B focus that we’ve heard from other speakers here in San Jose but which very much echoes Philippe Kahn’s “location is everywhere” comment from his opening session this morning.
So I want to look at and talk about digital maps and location based services …
… about the data that drives our maps and LBS
… about the APIs which expose that data and about where I think the next generation of maps and location services are heading.
But most of all I want to talk about how there must be more to LBS, now and in the future, rather than using the exemplar of a well known coffee company’s non existent location based coupon campaign ….
As is often the case, this talk bears only a passing resemblance to what appears in the conference program and originally I was going to call this talk “The Next Generation Of Location Based Services, Contextual Relevance and The Rise Of The Implicit Query” but that’s a bit of a mouthful and so instead …
… it’s called “Turn Left For Coffee” … for reasons which I hope will be apparent later
But let's start with a map. This is a map from sometime in very early 1900's. If you're from the UK it's probably recognizable as an Ordnance Survey map. It's a map of where I grew up and there's something innately familiar and comforting about this map even though this town had changed beyond recognition in the 60 or so years between when this map was made and when I came to know the town.
On a recent map of the area I can see the street I grew up in, where I went to school and all of the familiar landmarks. I know all of this because I learnt to read the map at an early age. I didn't know it then, but the reason I learnt what all of the symbols on the map meant was that on a printed, static map, there's only so much information that can be conveyed. If you consider just how much information this map actually imparts, it's a work of nothing short of cartographical genius to convey so much richness in such a compact form
This is also a map. It's not a printed map nor is it a static map. I can see it on my laptop and on my mobile devices and it's capable of showing me so much more information that a printed map is capable of. I can ask for multiple layers, such as Places, to be shown on the map, I can see real-time traffic information and all of this information, and more, is updated in what our end –users now think of as “internet time”, not quite real time but certainly not thetraditional “publishers time” that printed media works to.
This map is searchable, I can ask to see specific areas of the map for almost anywhere in the world and it will show me information which is personally relevant to my search needs …
… in this particular example, it’s guiding me to a rather fine cup of Espresso in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district.
But it wasn’t always like this. Just over 10 years ago, if you lived in a major metropolitan area you probably went around with a city street atlas, such as this one from London, with you.
I lugged one of these around for the best part of two decades, getting ever more battered and worn and filled with hand written navigation notes on how to get from A to B.
Then rather than carry around a local street atlas, people started instead to carry round a laser printed copy of the web map for where they wanted to go.
We now take rich, searchable, digital maps on our computers or in our pockets almost for granted and for many of us these maps, and the location based services which the underlying maps and map data power, have become a regular staple of our daily lives.
And yet, the way in which we interact with the map and with the app are still very much rooted in the behavior we learnt in the early days of the World Wide Web. For those of you with as many years in the tech industry as I now have may recognize this as Tim Berners-Lee’s desktop at CERN where the today’s web was born …
And while the web has grown and matured so much since those early days, the vast majority of our online interactions are still very much based on the explicit query.
From the original searches, or two box search as they're called, where we said what it was we were looking for and where we wanted to find it …
… through two box search's successor, one box search, where we typed what we wanted to find (maybe) and possibly where we wanted to find it (maybe), we're still conditioned to explicitly ask for what information or online experience we're looking for.
As anyone who has worked in the field of search will probably tell you, the prime focus is one of relevance; as users of search services, be they location based or otherwise, we're not just looking for the answer but we're looking for a relevant answer, one which is precisely what we're looking for and search technologies have gotten very good at this. But it's still explicit, we still need to ask for something and the search algorithm will attempt to give us what we're looking for in the most relevant way that it can.
But this explicit-ness isn't just part of the way in which we search for relevant information, it's in the way we interact with maps, with location based services and with the apps that expose the map and these services. Individual apps are highly tailored to provide either one service or a very narrow set of services. Every time we click on an app on our mobile device, our intentions are explicitly stated. We explicitly perform some action in order to get the end result (that we hope) we're looking for.
Let's look at what I mean by using two journeys I make on a relatively regular basis; I travel a lot these days and there's much scope for use of maps, navigation and all manner of location based services.The first journey is from my house in the suburbs of West London into the centre of London; to Leicester Square Tube station to be precise.
I’m a big Foursquare user so naturally the first LBS action for me is to check-in …
Driving into Central London is prohibitively expensive these days so I’ll be taking the train. But are my local train services running on time or do I need to go to another station for another train line? So I check online on my local train operator’s mobile site … and get a rather nice rendition of the WAP code that’s supposed to be shown to me, which is nice if I’m interested in what WAP HTML code looks like but is fundamentally useless for showing me the information I need. But luckily their normal version of the web site is running and I can see that, for a pleasant change, my local trains are actually running on schedule.
So I get to the train station and I check in. Again.
I’m under way and getting closer to Central London, but is the Tube line that runs from the suburban terminus into the center of the city running … ? Today is obviously a good day for me as the Tube is running fine today. For a change.
London Waterloo; the end of the line. I’ll check-in again.
And around 50 minutes after I left home, I emerge from the London Underground and want to find some coffee. London doesn’t have cellular service on the Tube so I need to get back to surface level and then I can use maps on my phone to find me an espresso vendor that’s close to me.
Now let's go a little further afield; from my house to my home from home when I'm in The Valley.
Let’s check-in. For a change.
I’ve already checked in for my flight to SFO so I want to get my boarding pass on my mobile, which should look something like this. Now when I wrote this deck a few weeks back, I couldn’t use a mobile boarding pass to SFO, but thankfully I can now.
I get to Heathrow. I’ll check-in.
Take advantage of my frequent flier status and decant to the lounge. Maybe I can find some coffee there. But what I really want is to check my email before I board the flight.
Thankfully, BA provides free Wi-Fi, if you know the password, and there’s an app on my phone that will tell me that.
Fast forward ten and a half hours later and I arrive at SFO.
I’ve got a rental car waiting for me so I hop on the AirTrain to the rental garage …
When I get to Avis, I want to know what parking bay my car is in. Avis have a mobile app, but it only works for rentals booked direct with Avis, not for rentals booked through my corporate travel agent. I fall back on the decidedly old-tech approach of putting my name and parking lot bay on a screen on the wall.
Finally, I’m on my way down to the Bay Area. I can take the 101 or the 280 south, but I want to know whether there’s congestion on the freeway and maps on my phone will help me there.
That wasn't too bad a location experience was it? I got almost all of the information I needed. But it took some getting to and in the process I needed to use a lot of location based services and a lot of jumping backwards and forwards between apps. Too many apps you might argue, giving me a dose of the well named "app fatigue" along the way.
There's got to be a better way and I think there can be. Just as location based services have come a long way since GPS became almost standard in medium to high end mobile phones, so have the computers we use on a daily basis.
This is the first computer I used, in anger, on a daily basis; introduced in 1978, it's a VAX 11/780, which came with a 5 MHz CPU, 8 MB of memory and 50 MB of removable disk storage. It also needed its own dedicated power supply and an air conditioned computer room. It had absolutely no sensors, communication between machines such as this were via magnetic tape, it wasn't exactly portable and certainly didn't fit into my pocket.
Now look at the two computers I use on a daily basis. My work computer comes with a 772 MHz CPU, 256 MB of memory and 32 GB of storage.
While my personal computer comes with a 1 GHz CPU, 512 MB of memory and 16 GB of storage. You've probably noticed I described both these devices as computers not mobile phones. They both may look like mobile phones but they're really just computers with mobile phone technology inside;
they both have GPS
proximity and orientation sensors and a magnetometer
and can talk to mobile phone networks and wifi networks and most importantly of all, they can link all of the outputs of these sensors with the Internet, either over a wifi connection
or over a 3G data connection.
Combine these sensors and this connectivity and we can move from the realm of the explicit query and of solely search relevance to the realm of the implicit query and of both search relevance and geographical contextual relevance. Or to put it another way ….
“you know where I am and where I've been, just tell me what I need to know”
Now let’s go back to those two journeys and see how they could be with a little bit of geo-fencing, geographic context, search relevance and implicit queries
At first glance, all of this may seem overly trite and merely a repackaging of check-ins, navigation and my never ending quest for coffee but there's another side to this. All of the maps and location services rely on a never ending supply of data and that data needs to be up-to-date, fresh, current and relevant. Our interactions with these services are a rich and valuable source of data.
We don't need complex APIs to make our data smart; our end-users are more than capable of helping out with this and in their use of location services not only add veracity to existing data (for example, the more people check into a place, the more likely that place really exists) but there's also the opportunity to discover new geographical information and places, especially those which are emerging, highly localised or colloquial.
Here's an example; a few years back I started looking at search queries and at entity extraction of content, trying to determine and predict the semantics of how people looked for geographical information. This technique worked well but every so often threw a curve ball. We started noticing references to Yoda cropping up in the same way as people referred to a location ... "I'll meet you at Yoda". A bit of investigation revealed that that all of these references, in search, in photo tags, in content, were centred on the Presidio area of San Francisco. And so, on a trip to the Bay Area, myself and several friends decided to see what "Yoda" was.
And we found him, on Letterman Drive, which is part of the Industrial Light & Magic complex, the offshoot of Lucas Film which does movie special effects, including those for Star Wars. There is a statue of Yoda. A new, colloquial, emerging Point Of Interest. It's a cute story but it does serve as a valuable illustration about how the data which is our industry's life blood, can be augmented and made smarter, just by the simple act of our users actually using the services and by a company actually looking at that data to see what insights it has to offer.
All of what I’ve just talked about is, I believe, eminently achievable but it is not without its challenges of which the two main ones are the missing APIs which can, but which don't yet exist and of course that of the privacy of the user of such services. As we slowly and gradually move towards an "internet of things", more discreet APIs and connecting or enabling APIs are released each year. But the way in which people understand the value and benefits of location services, aside from the traditional navigation and POI search services, continues to be one of our biggest hurdles.
The average end-user of location services is different, they're not like the people in this room right now; they don't understand how the underlying technology in today's location services work and nor should they have to. Despite the meteoric rise of the "check in economy", if you believe recent tech-savvy media coverage, a lot of people are still very uncertain or uncomfortable with the overall concept of sharing their location. There's a very fine line that we as an industry walk, between a reaction of "that's really neat and very useful" and "that's very scary, how does my phone know that about me".
As recent media coverage has shown, whether it's over photos of the street you live in …
or whether or not your phone is actually tracking you (it isn't but that's a topic for another talk entirely), nothing travels faster into the mainstream media that a whiff of scandal or a hint of controversy. There’s as much of a challenge to make relevant location services as there is to be able to communicate the value and benefit of these services and to make let our users know clearly and unambiguously what happens to their interactions with these services. We’re not there yet, but we need to be in order to succeed.
Location Based Services, mobile or otherwise and the whole field of geolocation is poised to make the next major leap in acceptance and use as happened when GPS became mainstream and started appearing in a critical mass of consumer products. As an industry we are eminently poised to play an increasingly vital role in the post credit crunch economy; the technology is taking us into this role with or without our participation and we need to ensure that we accept and embrace this role. We can place ourselves slap bang in the middle of this new economy and the one which will come after.
… thank you all for listening
Turn Left For Coffee
Turn Left For CoffeeGary Gale, Director, Places Registrygary.firstname.lastname@example.org/vicchiThe Location Business Summit USA 2011San Jose, October 201137.3301, -121.89161
Turn Left For CoffeeGary Gale, Director, Places Registrygary.email@example.com/vicchiAGI GeoCommunity 2011Nottingham, September 201152.9389, -1.20322
About Me … Director, Places Registry, Nokia Previously Director, Yahoo! Geo Technologies Blogger: http://www.vicchi.org Tweeter: http://twitter.com/vicchiTom Coates on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/plasticbag/4475788424/
Infidelic on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/infidelic/3145212317
Tom Coates on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/plasticbag/4475788424/
“you know where I am and where Ive been, just tell me what I need to know”58
Cyanocorax on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/cyanocorax/288232991
Takuya Oikawa on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/takuyaoikawa/313530644
Hello Gary It looks like you’re currently at homeCheck-in at home.Are my local trainservices running? You’re checked in at “Castello Vicchi” There’s a good service running from Fulwell and Twickenham
Hello Gary It looks like you’re currently at ClaphamMid journey; is the Junction StationNorthern LineRunning? You’re not checked in at “Clapham Junction”. Add this place? There’s a good service running on the Northern Line.
Hello Gary It looks like you’re currently at LondonMid journey; is the Waterloo StationNorthern LineRunning? You’re checked in at “London Waterloo Station” There’s a good service running on all lines.
Hello Gary It looks like you’re currently in Covent GardenSeek out somerefreshment. Turn There’s one of your favourite coffeeleft for coffee. shops nearby.
Takuya Oikawa on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/takuyaoikawa/313530644
Hello Gary It looks like you’re currently at homeCheck-in at home You’re checked in at “Castello Vicchi” You’re checked into BA285 to SFO.
Hello Gary It looks like you’re currently at LHR T5Arrive atHeathrow; takeadvantage of myfrequent flier You’re checked in atstatus “LHR T5” The lounge wifi password is “onlinebp”. BA285 to SFO boards at gate B27
Hello Gary It looks like you’re currently at SFO.Arrive; find myrental car You’re checked in at “SFO” Your car is in bay A28 There’s congestion on US-101 southbound
Tom Woodward on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/bionicteaching/2920562020
Huw Davies on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/happymrlocust/2034912748/
Huw Davies on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/happymrlocust/2034912748/
Itchys on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/itchys/4017230546
Whole Wheat Toast on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/executionsinfo/2676374042