Wp7 Photosynth

Michael King, the Gartner keynote presenter at the Dev Summit this morning, mentioned a good use case for a mobile augmented reality app. He described a worker using a mobile device to retrieve annotated virtual reality images indicating what steam fitting to mark up.

That brought to mind the photosynth of GasWorks park in Seattle. It seems like the photos in this synth could be streamed to a user who walks around the park with annotations. Think of how first responders to a refinery could use such an application.

This will require microsoft to expose position and orientation of the camera so that a silverlight app, similar to the silverlight photosynth viewer, could retrieve and orient the photo as the camera is moved.

The app would also need to support annotation markup that could be attached to individual synth images.

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Crowdsourcing the Certification process

Even though Clay Shirky is making money off his book Cognitive Surplus – Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, it is still a good read. He describes how Television in the 90’s did the job that gin performed in London in the 1740’s. He then describes how online communities collaborate to do jobs once performed solely by other institutions.

Those Stinkin’ Badges: Who does the certifying?
Lately there has been discussion about the job of certifying people. Esri recently began its certification program. It appears to have more in common with Microsoft’s certification program, than with the GISCI’s GISP certification.

What if we crowdsourced the certification process? Take Gis.Stackexchange.com for example. This site is modeled after the highly successful StackOverflow.com. Like any good Q&A site, users are allowed to post questions and indicate acceptance of an answer. What makes it different though is the way “reputation” points are earned. You can earn reputation by posting a good question. As the community upvotes questions, a virtuous cycle is created. More experts with limited amount of time can quickly find and focus on good questions. Having experts quickly answer questions attracts more members.

The virtue of reputation has its limits though, as Shirky points out:

adding a price to a previously non-market transaction can reduce our willingness to treat each other as people we might have long-term relationships with.

Or, in the parlance of stackoverflow.com, you risk being a reputation whore.

Put the Lime in the Coconut*
This reminds me of the three tiered social architecture in a doctors office. The doctor occupies a sanctified tier, isolated from the desk where you pay. This allows the doctor to preserve the illusion that he is freely performing some act of compassion. The second tier is occupied by women who sit at the front desk and present you with the bill. The third tier is a remoting layer – a proxy for the drug industry. A man with shiny shoes stops in, flirts briefly with the women at the front desk then drops off free drug samples for the doctor. The patient may never see the drug salesman, but certainly appreciates samples that would otherwise cost a lot of money.

The challenge for stackexchange (which sounds a lot like stock exchange) is to build an architecture so that a community member can participate with the appearance that he is performing an act of love instead of for economic gain. If they figure that out, the stakes are large. Now that Facebook has assumed the role of social networking, certifying knowledge is now one of the few remaining jobs of university. As tuition skyrockets, students will be looking for some other institution that can do that job. With that in mind I recommend that the domain name for the GIS stackexchange site end with .edu .

* according to wikipedia, Harry Nilsson:

applied for a job at a bank, falsely stating he was a high school graduate on his application (he only completed ninth grade). He had an aptitude for computers, which were beginning to be employed by banks at the time. He performed so well that the bank retained him after discovering the lie about his education. He worked on bank computers at night, and in the daytime pursued his songwriting and singing career.

RFID+Geospatial Relief for Haiti

I recommend FRONTLINE’s Quake documentary which aired last night. They examined a lot of the issues surrounding distribution of supplies following the earthquake in Haiti.

They showed supplies piling up at the airport, without any system in place to distribute it. They showed a doctor rushing all over town searching for blood, only to find it was available at a nearby clinic. They showed supply trucks being looted by mobs.

It seems like RFID could be leveraged to resolve this situation. Sure enough, after a bit of searching, I see this UN worker quoted in RFID Journal Blog:

The problem we have is that when a natural disaster strikes, you usually have no electrical power and little cell phone coverage in the affected area. Relief supplies come pouring in from around the world, but when you are on the ground, you don’t know what is arriving and you can’t call anyone. I’ve seen millions of dollars worth of life-saving drugs spoil on the tarmac of an airport, because no one knew what was in the cartons and didn’t distribute it.

It seems like it would be possible to create a mobile network for tracking relief materials. At the airport, scan supplies as they arrive. In the field, request supplies as patients are presented. Between the airport and the field, track the vehicles. Geospatial tools would allow routes to be geodesigned transparently to optimally allocate supplies to areas of demand.

The Government of Haiti presented an Action Plan for rebuilding the nation at a donors conference today. Maybe the infrastructure needed to support RFID should be part of the plan. I expect more aid will be rushed to Haiti once the rainy season begins.