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As we continue to review the highlights from 1Spatial’s Smarter Data Smarter World conference, in this blog we cover visual positioning systems by Ed Parsons, Geospatial Technologist at Google.

“There are probably around one-and-a-half to two billion people using Google maps on any particular day,” Ed said. A lot of time and effort is being invested into mobility.

Fused location, something that is intrinsic in most modern smartphones, will be an important component of future products and services at Google. Fused location uses a combination of GNSS or GPS, cell towers, Wi-Fi technology and the magnetic compass in your phone. When these are combined, they can identify not only where you are at a particular point in time, but also how you're moving. This kind of next generation Wi-Fi technology will provide more accurate location data in future, that will be used in maps, providing directions and identifying user location inside buildings like railway stations and shopping centres.

Advancements in Google maps also include visual positioning systems that will use a phone’s camera to identify the exact direction a user is facing when using Google maps. It will then attach labels to buildings and ensure that directions and signposts are as obvious as possible to enable a user to know exactly in which direction to proceed.

Plus Codes: two billion people have no address

He argued that a global mapping solution doesn't work for the two billion people around the world who don’t have an address. Without an address infrastructure, they have no way of sharing information about where they live which makes it very hard for them to take part in civil society.

The answer, Ed believes, lies in Plus Codes: an open-source address infrastructure that works around the world, which can be shared with other people. Instead of addresses with street names and numbers, Plus Codes are based on latitude and longitude, and displayed as numbers and letters. With a Plus Code, people can receive deliveries, access emergency and social services, or just help other people find them.

He also discussed the use of mobile phone data in seismic monitoring. The impact of an earthquake travels away from the epicentre at the speed of sound, while information travels at the speed of light, Ed explained. Accelerometers in mobile phones can provide timely information about seismic activity, enabling civil defence agencies to inform the public via their mobile phones about impending earthquakes.

“It's about being prepared… that's why we're using this data, and that's why we spend all this time collecting it, analysing it and building these models … to provide tools like this that actually make a difference to people.”

If you are interested in listening to Ed’s presentation, watch the video here.

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Watch Ed Parson's presentation here

Watch Ed's presentation at 1Spatial's Smarter Data Smarter World conference 2021.

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