Where 2.0 Keynotes: EveryBlock, Nokia, FortiusOne

Highlights from today’s keynotes:

  • Everyblock (Adrian Holovaty): EveryBlock is an “experiment” that attempts to redefine the boundaries of journalism. Adrian devoted his talk to sharing some of the lessons they learned while building the EveryBlock site:
    1. Instead of depending solely on user-generated data, take advantage of existing data: In EveryBlock’s case, they rely heavily on data published by local municipalities.
    2. The more local you get, the more effort it takes, but your application becomes more valuable: Privacy is a concern, but they get around that by geocoding only down to the block level.
    3. Move beyond points: News and events impact neighborhoods, blocks, streets, etc. Highlight polygons and lines, not just single points.
    4. Roll your own maps: Web designers resist having to use templates from software providers (e.g. blogging templates from WordPress), why should maps be treated differently? Adrian regards their ability to customize the various details (font, texture, colors, data) that control the appearance of maps on their site, as one of their competitive advantages. The good news is that their code will be open source at some point.
  • PC and Mobile Maps Coming Together (Michael Halbherr): Nokia’s Ovi is a site that extends their maps from devices to PC’s, complementing existing mobile services. By installing a plug-in, users can do 2D and 3D rendering on either their mobile device or desktop, essentially unifying Google Maps and Google Earth. Tim frequently talks about Software Above the Level of a Single Device – Nokia may have a product that fulfills that vision.
  • FortiusOne (Sean Gorman): In-Q-Tel funded FortiusOne’s platform allows non-technical users to easily create data-rich maps. Users upload their lat/long encoded data, merge it with FortiusOne’s geocoded data, and visually display correlations that would otherwise require programming skills. Their secret sauce is a set of tools called the GeoCommons suite of products that our resident geo expert Brady Forrest wrote about last year.

Geocommons launched at last year’s Where 2.0 conference and quickly grew to a database with over 1.6B features. Sean and his team struggled to get their applications to run efficiently on traditional databases, before they decided to build a lightweight object database on their own.

Moving forward, FortiusOne hopes to build algorithms to help users overcome the growing federation of mapping and geodata. Mashups of geodata require semantic intelligence that go beyond tags. They hope that by observing how users combine data from various sources, they can build tools that intelligently bring the various datasets together.

And yes, his famous dissertation did get published.

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