4 Jun

Sparkgeo: Geo is “Hot,” Using Web-based Geo-Spatial Analysis to Drive Global Impacts

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Sparkgeo is a geo-spatial web development company whose mission is to drive “global impacts using maps and the Internet.” They focus on making data and map-making accessible to clients through their consultancy, and help them create site-specific maps on a case-by-case basis, catering to each client’s individual wishes in the best and most pragmatic way possible.

The CEO of Sparkgeo William Cadell was kind enough to give us some more insight into his views on the future of web-based geo-spatial analysis, and how sparkgeo fits into this new digital mapping world:

“We are seeing the convergence of devices and technologies. This means we are getting closer to a point where a device can emulate, to some extent what a map has done for society previously. We are also in a time now, where we are blessed with access to some quite amazing technologies (Mapbox, CartoDB, Mapnik, PostGIS) allowing us to build unique, interesting, and interactive cartographic products. 

Visually, we are in a time of great advances on the web. But I feel the real future of ‘geo’ is more intrinsic than what we find presented on a map. I feel the future of geo is more about a sub-surface of information which informs our activities and sculpts our experiences on the web. 
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Presently we see a lot of geolocation technology, ‘do you wish to share your location’ etc. These will typically inform a web enabled presence of where you are, to better position a map or some such experience. I see a change in the not-too-distant future where that simple sharing of location data will be a genuinely 2-way street. It will provide the user with a level of intrinsic data, akin to them being a local in a strange city. It will also allow the receiving web application to determine a much deeper level of understanding of the user and their current situation: Are they close to home? Are they travelling? How fast are they moving? Are they stationary? Are they close to an area of higher crime? Are they a red voter in a blue state? Are they near their favourite store? Are they near their wife’s favourite store within 2 weeks of her birthday? We will see an enabling of more relevant experiences for the user / consumer. As we become better at joining data layers together at speed and at scale we get closer to this reality.
At Sparkgeo we build a lot of “data pipelines”. A pipeline of knowledge from a coordinate location to a piece of valuable information for an end user. We are certainly seeing how location and geography act as an intrinsic relationship. This subject area has, of course been worked on and with throughout history under the guise of geography or GIS, but never at the scale we have have available now, rarely so broadly, and rarely in the private sector. An important term to consider here is “consumer”. Previously (to the web, one supposes?) large scale geographic analysis was the domain of government. MapQuest, Google and now Apple have disrupted that idea. And now Uber, a taxi company with no taxis, has bought one geospatial company (deCarta) and is looking at buying another (HERE).
In web terms geo is ‘hot’, and will likely stay that way for some time to come.”


One example of their most recent work are a large-scale map called Over the Horizon for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which uses several overlaying sets of raster data to show how differing levels of consumption in different countries affect the rest of the world. The initial focus of the project was to represent the effect of consumption on Tiger Conservation Landscapes, but the data has expanded to show influences on other global aspects such as eco-regions and biodiversity hotspots.

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Another one of sparkgeo’s projects was creating an extensive web mapping and framework for the Mammoth Lakes Trail and Public Access foundation to help the public learn about their trail network. The features include an application that links together trails and recommendations for users, an update and alert system, and a series of QR codes along the trail that give hikers the option to link to Mammoth Trail information while on-the-go. The new sparkgeo design has lead to web-traffic activity on the Mammoth Trail website increasing to 8000 visits per week, and is continually growing.

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Sparkgeo is an excellent example of how innovative and creative geo-spatial and geographic technology can make an important contribution to a variety of different fields and issues. Geography is a highly interdisciplinary field and its functions are only expanding in our increasingly connected and globalized world.

Written by: Christopher Ewell, AGS Intern on June 4, 2015



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