Location Services for Dummies

by David Scott on September 3, 2013

Today, I received one of the most interesting signature blocks I have ever seen.  Some people just include their name. Some include their full mailing address.  Some include a witty saying that seems to capture their personality.  And a few put it all together in a full social media statement.  I tend to take the middle of the road approach, but this one caught my attention.

It caught my attention because it was so different, yet so pertinent.  It was so obvious, yet so obscure.  We take for granted the power of location.  Social media is trying to capture it for “networking.”  Politicians use it to align voting districts.  Schools use it to logically group students into efficient educational models.  Retail uses to attract customers.  And the USPS, Fedex, and UPS use it to deliver the goods.

So, what is your address?  If I guessed right, you probably just mouthed your home address, or your office address, yet that is so old school.  It is sort of like hanging onto pints, quarts, and gallons when we should be using liters.

So, I will ask again, what is your address?  Mine is:

Latitude = 42.55905

Longitude = -83.61485

Go ahead….put that into Google Maps and see what you get.

42.55905__-83.61485_-_Google_Maps

Boom.

The email came from a person who deals with GIS locations on a daily basis. To him, this standard, globalized GIS coordinate data is as plain as English. To me, it was engaging — a universal language defining locations that virtually every computer processor from my phone to my desktop can find.  Nice. It’s like IP addresses, only for locations.

Oh, also, if you pull up Google Maps and pick a location, once the map is displayed you can right click and get the sub menu and then select “What’s Here” and it will put the coordinates into the search bar.  Try it.

GIS: the location language almost none of us speak, but all of us use in one way or another. There’s probably a metaphor here for our massive consumption of technology without truly understanding the underpinnings, but I’ll save that for another day.

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