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I celebrate GIS Day every day of the year. How about you?

i-am-a-geogeek

Today GeoGeeks around the world celebrate GIS Day which is held the third Wednesday of November each year. The event has been started by Esri back in 1999 but it has been adopted by almost the whole industry.

It’s a great initiative and I love it but the truth is that for people like you and me GIS Day happens over and over each day of every year. We celebrate it by making great maps and by being amazed by them, by evangelizing other people about great things you can do with spatial information and by using location-based products created by fellow map addicts.

So what makes maps and location so powerful that it makes people from all around the world fall in love with it?

An unidentified person said a few years ago that 80% of data has a location attribute (you must have heard it). I don’t agree with this statement. I claim that 100% of everything has a spatial and temporal context. Every word has been spoken somewhere and every idea, feeling or believe can be directly or indirectly linked to a physical location on our planet or in the universe.

In that sense space-time is one of the most important contexts of every piece and byte of data and therefore of our lives. Where you go, means who you are and who you want to be. This is why the largest advertising company in the world – Google, offers Maps for free at the same time spending over $1 billion a year on improving your user experience and keeping it up to date.

For centuries maps were making people want to explore the world (at the beginning the world beyond the map) and then helping travelers and sailors come back home safely. They’ve played an important, strategic role in the history and they’ve allowed solving problems that were previously unsolvable. In the digital era the importance of spatial information is steadily growing together with the technological development. Maps started to gradually move from an expert area to our everyday lives.

Today maps and spatiotemporal information is more important and more fascinating than ever before. The number of data we generate grows exponentially each year and the ability to understand it (remember what I said about every byte of data having a geographic context) starts to be a skill that makes a difference and you and me, we have it.

We can be called in many different ways: map addicts, GeoGeeks, geo professionals or people who are spatially aware. What unites all of us is the passion for maps and location information. I celebrate GIS Day every day of the year. How about you?

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How Google is planning to use your location to create the perfect playlist

Spotify has its curated playlists, Apple Music has its exclusives and Google Play Music? Google Play Music has Context awareness.

Google has turned to its biggest strength in a bid to compete better with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. The company has announced the launch of a new version of its Music app that will use machine learning and context awareness to figure out not only what songs you might like (Spotify does it so well) but also include contextual information i.e. your location, the activity you are engaged in and the weather to better personalise the playlist.

googleplaymusic_contextawareness

…Google Play Music uses machine learning to figure out what music you like and then mixes in signals like location, activity, and the weather along with hand-picked playlists to personalize music for wherever you are and whenever you want tunes. Starting this week on AndroidiOS and the web, the new experience will roll out globally (62 countries, to be precise). – Elias Roman, Lead Product Manager, Google Play Music 

Spotify has arguably the best personalised playlists; their Discover Weekly and Release Radar features are two of the many features that I love when using the app. Spotify and other music apps including Apple Music that serve up personalised playlists use machine learning to figure out what music you might like based on your behaviour i.e. if you like listening to Adele, chances are that you will also like Sam Smith (yup, i just looked up my suggestions) but the biggest difference between this and Google’s latest update is – your location and activity.

Location Privacy?

By location, Google isn’t going to provide you songs that are trending in your country,  it plans to use it to “personalize music for wherever you are”. Sitting in an airport? Maybe you would be like to listen to some relaxing songs. Working out in the gym? Okay, lets pump up the beats then!

Remember that this music provider is Google, a company that has been working to increase its stockpiles of data on its users – most recently, by a privacy policy change that allows it to combine your personal info collected by Google services with DoubleClick cookie information for increasingly targeted, highly personalized ads. – TechCrunch

On one hand, its amazing to note that location and context awareness can help create the perfect playlist and is probably one of the most visible apps where Google’s Activity Recognition API is being used (Related:  Google’s Activity Recognition API is awesome but where are the apps? [Nov, 2015]) but naturally all of this raises concerns about data and location privacy. Google lets users opt-out of location tracking, if they wish to and if you are concerned about your location privacy, you must definitely make use of the opt-out.

But its still a pretty cool feature (barring the obvious privacy concerns) and its definitely  worth trying out just to see what music it decides to play when and where.

From parks to airports to bars, whether you’re walking, biking, or driving, the right music makes any moment better. With the new Google Play Music, we’re here to help with the perfect soundtrack for the things you do every day. After all, the only thing better than finding the perfect music is the perfect music finding you. – Elias Roman, Lead Product Manager, Google Play Music 

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