Cartographers of the future

Yesterday, I bought a print of an old map: Virginiae Item et Floridae.   This map was drawn in the early 1600s by Jodocus Hondius, an expert cartographer who produced it from several existing maps by experts. In the style of the time, this map was created by an elite cartographer for an elite group of users.  

With the advent of the Web in the mid 1990’s, "cybercartography" has emerged and evolved to enable maps with a wider range of subjects and wider availability through new media  (F. Taylor). In the past ten years, crowdsourcing has become a viable new source of map content (The Guardian).  

However, the most dramatic developments are in the ways maps are created.  "The major change in the past decade is that mapping has become personal" (M. Jones). The entire concept of a "map" seems radically different from even a decade ago. A map used to be something in a book or pinned to a wall. Now a map is something you carry around on your smartphone or tablet.  With location-based services powered by map data expected to reach 1.4 billion users by 2014, you can bet the innovation and competition we witnessed in the last decade will continue (Venture Beat).  What are some of these innovations?

Indoor maps are the next frontier (see my previous blog).  We spend most of our lives indoors and we spend most of our money indoors. Because indoor location aware mobile devices create so many business opportunities, we can anticipate that the already booming availability of indoor maps will open a new frontier of indoor location based services.

Due to technology enhancements that make it possible to quickly collect 3D information, 3D maps are becoming more common. The ability to render 3D maps in web browsers combined with the increased interest in urban living is giving rise to a range of new applications.  3D adds to the need for maps to be more accessible to users and apps. "The future 'living' 3D map must be extensible at every tier by every developer, not just GIS specialists." (S. Lawler).  The success of OGC's 3D Portrayal Interoperability Experiment (3DPIE) is the basis for the OGC 3D Portrayal Standards Working Group.

Augmented Reality (AR) merges the map with the world.  AR is still in the early adopter stage, but it is seen to be so transformative in the way we view the world that one leader in the mobile revolution sees AR as the 8th Mass Media (T. Ahonen).  While Google Glass does not yet support AR, it provides a platform for making handset based AR more usable in the future.  What will AR be used for?  There are many alternate visions -- some creepy -- for the use of AR. These are coming from marketeers, engineers, artists and authors (Cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling is "the prophet of AR").  With leadership from the AR community the OGC SWG for ARML2 it is moving to adoption vote.  N\ow is the time to develop AR content in  ARML2.  Do you remember when you wrote your first html document?  Now is the time to author your first ARML2 content and contribute to this new medium for geographic information.

Making maps personal depends on rapid and real-time interaction of users’ apps with geospatial information. Such computational cartography to create maps for specific user purposes depends upon geospatial information structured to support automated processing (C. Hellmis).  A "real-world trellis and underlying data ontology" provides a framework for augmenting your real-world view, framing spatio-temporal exploration, powering  intelligent agents and analysing the world you live, work and play in (S. Lawler).

Semantic technology can provide an underlying ontology for geospatial computations.  An early challenge identified by the Semantic Web Services Challenge was the difficulty of re-usability: Over a 5-year period of semantic Web development, almost no one could reuse a previously successful ontology without close collaboration with its authors. But success stories are emerging in the areas of mediation and annotations.    OGC has approved the GeoSPARQL standard and has a Best Practice for "Semantic annotations in OGC standards."  These technologies have been applied in the OGC Web Services Testbeds’ Cross-community interoperability thread and externally in Geo-Store: A framework for semantics-enabled LBS.  One possible direction to pursue to meet ontology maintenance needs is to find ways of crowdsourcing geo-ontologies.    

Sharing of personally constructed maps is the reason OGC defined OWS Context.  OWS Context allows a set of identifiers for web accessible information resources to be passed between applications (along with in-line content). The goal is to support the distribution of search results. Another goal is the exchange of a set of resources such as WMS, WMTS, WFS, and WCS and others in a ‘common operating picture’.  Multiple encoding formats (ATOM and JSON, for example) for OWS Context have been developed.

Where maps were once used to organize elite information, now with mobile devices, personal cartography has become a basis of our daily media experience and thereby a framework of our personal lives.  This brings us to the epilogue of Dreamtigers by Jorge Luis Borges:  "A man sets himself the task of portraying the world. Through the years he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bogs, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his face."