This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anthony Quartararo who has been an AGS Councilor since 2014. Mr. Quartararo (or Tony Q as most people refer to him) dedicates his efforts with the AGS’s “mandate of reclaiming the mantle for K-12 geographic education to create stronger geographic literacy for the next 50 years than we did in the past 50 years”.
AGS Councilor Anthony Quartararo is the Founder & CEO of Spatial Networks, Inc., and the recently formed Fulcrum Mobile Solutions, LLC, both headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida. Spatial Networks’ main mission is “solving problems with geospatial technology”. By building technology to better collect spatial data, Spatial Networks is helping governments and industry “make better decisions by thinking spatially”. Fulcrum is the mobile platform application that enables high-performance data collection activities. The platform also lets users create forms for the public to fill out about an area, effectively increasing the amount of reliable real-time data collection both on and offline. Since its creation in 2000, Spatial Networks and Fulcrum have been dedicated to solving their customer’s hardest problems through the premise that “geography is the science of everything”.
Before Spatial Networks and Fulcrum, Tony Q worked professionally in the field of GIS but did not always know he would pursue geography and geospatial sciences. As a junior in college, Tony Q was an undeclared liberal arts student. It was his guidance counselor who said “you look like you are a geography major” because of the amount of earth science and geospatial courses he had taken. From there he graduated with a BA in Geography/GIS at the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
Tony Q identifies the major lack of geography education in US public school curricula as a sore spot that contributes to an underperforming workforce. This aligns greatly with the general lack of geography as a study and academic pursuit in higher education as well. Personally, I am always met with strange glances when I tell someone I am majoring in geography solely because many do not grasp the importance of geography or are unaware of it as a concept completely. Mr Quartararo states that “in the workforce, if a better qualified candidate gets the job, perhaps they have a better grasp of the world around them”. Both Mr Quartararo and I see the impact geography education has on our academic and occupational lives but the K-12 education cohort in America has yet to fully catch up. “The US education system is dramatically failing its society in geographic education. Most schools do not have a topic called ‘geography’, as it is usually some sort of social science, social studies, or civics. Geography does not nearly get the credit it deserves as a central hub in social sciences” says Tony Q. In the business perspective of the world, “The lack of geographic K-12 education can be measured economically in underperforming sectors of the economy, particularly as we compete against countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, and newer economies like Africa and the Middle East, UAE. We (the U.S) are falling farther and farther behind rather than closing the gap”.
When asked with what importance does geography have in our globalized age, Mr Quartararo responded “Geography is the science of everything. There is nothing about the human condition and experience that doesn’t involve geography and there had never been a time in modern history where geography did not play a central role in everything that happens at the geopolitical, economic, local realms at the local, regional, and international [realms]. The more emphasis we as a country and we as a globe spend on understanding the many facets of geography, the better off we will all be”. In essence, our modernized, technology-rooted age functions in a way that can be advantageous in bolstering human and physical geography objectives. Geographic principles remain essential as a basis for all human activity and the interconnectivity of our world opens us up to new routes of problem solving that is better understood and tackled through the scope of geography.
With over ten thousand downloads,, the Fulcrum application has proven useful for users interested in an innovatively simple means of data capture from their mobile phones. Beyond these capabilities, Fulcrum’s efforts reflect the impact data collection (often associated with Big Data) has on the relationship between geography and business. According to Mr Quartararo, “Fulcrum is used globally to help companies better understand their own physical and cultural geography. Think of telephone poles and fire hydrant locations or environmental features like sea turtle nests and anti-poaching campaigns. With human geography, Fulcrum allows companies to map behaviors, like sentiment analysis, and monitor change over time based on inputs like marketing communications. Say if the foreign policy of a government has an impact on the ground of a different country, Fulcrum can be used to measure local residents’ perception of the foreign government policies’, like aid and assistance, impact on their country over time”.
Similarly, Spatial Networks utilizes geospatial intelligence for industry and governments to provide geospatial solutions. Mr Quartararo further elaborated on the how their solid understanding of place forms their business strategy. “Spatial Networks is in the market of competitive business intelligence, helping primarily Fortune 1,000 companies understand their place in a constantly shifting, competitive landscape around the world, especially in new and emerging markets. For example the normalized political relationship between Cuba and the US opens up new markets for tourism, agriculture, and industry. Spatial Networks helps companies with these interests understand market entry requirements and competitive landscapes when they want to market and sell products around the world.”
In a couple month’s time, AGS will be hosting it’s 4th Geography 2050 Symposium. As an annual key sponsor to the event, I asked Mr. Quartararo to think back to a claim he made during a past Geography 2050 Symposium. He had predicted that geography would be capable of “continuous digital footprint of human behavior, in real time” and I wondered if he already sees examples of this prediction coming true. Mr Quartararo responded with the ever growing transportation network company, Uber. The amount of data Uber is collecting on a daily basis is accelerating as increased user input allows the company to monitor patterns in consumer transportation behavior. By analyzing data of when and where users travel, Uber can respond to transportation needs, which is “truly revolutionary [considering the demand] has not been understood well globally in the past”. Collecting data and mapping transportation to understand mobility in our daily lives proves to be an excellent example of continuous digital footprinting of human behavior. Mr Quartararo also listed Mapbox and OpenStreetMap as further examples, stating that they “help us understand a wide variety of aspects of our lives through data collection. When you look at things from an abstract or big data standpoint, all the dots on the map of places that we go to and the things we interact with, like smart phones, smart car, drones, smart streetlights, create an unbroken pervasive digital footprint. This is also known as the internet of things that are inherently tied to activity and location”.
This year’s Geography 2050 Symposium will revolve around the theme of mobility. When asked how geospatial sciences influence the future of mobility, Mr Quartararo said, “Mobility is a contemporary term given to our transportation choices but it is also a very fundamental geographic problem. People need the ability to get to work, food, and water and to bring it back home. The internet allows one to circumvent many mobility issues like delivery service and also education issues like gaining a degree online.” In a sense, the internet has become a means of mobility. Generally Mr Quartararo believes that the definition of mobility must include the internet “because it already serves as such a game changing addition to modern mobility”. It comes to no surprise that the omnipotence of the internet would come to affect the way we perceive modern mobility. I fully agree that bridging our novel knowledge of how space interacts with the world wide web along with how we work to address our transportation needs is a feat that needs tackling and I look forward to hearing more at this year’s symposium.
When asked about his future prospects, Mr Quartararo said, “Professionally in a couple of years, I plan to continue to grow additional management around me with Fulcrum and Spatial Networks so that at some point in 2020 I can step back or out completely. I have some ideas for what I will be doing afterwards and I am 99% sure that it will involve some aspect of geography, whether it will be in education, training, being in a new company, working with AGS, or all the above”. I wish Mr Quartararo the best of luck in his future endeavors and commend his dedication to geography and geospatial sciences both in the fields of education and business.
Written by Iman Lynn Mamdouh