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Linux Foundation creates open geospatial forum to develop smart city tools

Urban Computing Foundation

The Linux Foundation, a non-profit consortium promoting innovations in open source ecosystem, has created a new forum that would use geospatial tools and machine learning technologies to solve the challenges faced by connected cities.

Called Urban Computing Foundation (UCF), the forum will provide a neutral platform to developers, data scientists, visualization specialists, and engineers to develop open source software which would improve mobility, safety, road infrastructure, traffic congestion, and energy consumption in the ‘cities of tomorrow’.

Some of the industry bigwigs which have already committed to lending their support to the effort include Uber, Facebook, Google, HERE Technologies, IBM, Interline Technologies, and StreetCred Labs. Several of these contributors also serve on UCF’s Technical Advisory Council – the governing body which will decide which projects to include on the forum.

The first project being hosted at UCF is Uber’s geospatial data visualization tool Kepler.gl. You may recall that Uber made this amazing visualization resource open source last year.

Uber’s Data Visualization Lead Travis Gorkin is positive that by generating insights about mobility and transportation trends, tools like Kepler.gl will help cities to make smarter, more data-driven planning decisions. “Technologies like Kepler.gl have the capacity to advance urban planning by helping policymakers and local governments gain critical insights and better understand data about their cities,” Travis points out.

By facilitating open access to tools and platforms for developers in both public and private organizations, UCF promises to bring together:

  • Ubiquitous sensing technologies
  • Advanced data management and analytics models
  • Novel data visualization methods
  • Spaciotemporal machine learning techniques
  • City-wide simulation of urban systems

Stressing the importance of the development of open source tools and sensors, Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, concludes, “During moments of both technology disruption and opportunity, open development is critical for enabling interoperability and speeding adoption. The Urban Computing Foundation is poised to provide the compatibility tools and resources for developers to create software that can map out and operate technology services in any given urban area.”

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How To Use Apple Indoor Maps For Malls And Airports

It seems that Apple Maps is finally set to rival its more illustrious rival, Google Maps, in the provision of geographical directions thanks to a host of new features recently added by the tech giant, including a revolutionary new indoor maps feature. Here we take a look at how to access Apple Indoor Maps, how it works, the benefits it brings, as well as a couple of current downsides to the new technology.

How to access it
Once opening the Apple Maps function, those premises with indoor maps will reveal themselves with the label “look inside”. The places that you would expect to have this feature are big pubic buildings which currently include airports and malls, but looks set to include more as updates are added. So not all are covered as yet, but Apple is consistently adding locations to the list. Once selecting “look inside” the view changes and you will now be able to see a floorplan of the desired building.

How it works
Apple have mapped these indoor areas and have, in collaboration with the relevant authorities, paired wi-fi access points with co-ordinates on the floor plans. The result is a location reading which Apple confidently states is accurate to within 3-5 meters. Incredibly, when you access the building desired, the technology also allows you to scroll between levels, in the cases where the building is multi-level, such as in most malls. The detailed floor plan changes as you scroll through.

What else can it do?
Indoor Maps has a host of other features available to them. For a start, it provides place cards of any business that you hover over in the building, meaning shops and restaurants and other service providers. The information detailed here includes the type of product sold, user ratings, and useful information regarding store contact details and opening times.

There is also an incredibly useful browse function, which allows the user to search for products or services they are particularly interested in. So, for example, if you are in a mall and you are looking to buy electronics, by selecting “browse” at the bottom of the screen it allows you to search though all the options available in the mall, or narrow the search depending on your criteria. “This type of search is something akin to a browse through the mall’s directory, and even negates the need to check that physical reference point when you are actually in the mall,” enthuses Terry Zoikom, a tech blogger at Writemyx and Britstudent.

In airports, the information extends to which airlines are present in which terminal, as well as information about check-in desks, which is incredibly useful when you are tired or anticipating arriving late, so need to navigate the airport quickly. There are also details of other important places such as security checkpoints and gate locations which promise to make the task of navigating a busy airport much easier. Finally there are also shop and eatery directories similar to those in the malls.

Are there any limitations?
There are perhaps two downsides to this function that currently exist. The first is that there are no oral or written directions given to you as to attempt to navigate towards your desired location, as there would be, say, when you are using directions on Google Maps. There is, however, a compass function which does make it relatively easy to ascertain the direction you need to move in.

The other drawback as it currently exists is the limited number of malls and airports that are currently available. As to be expected, most major cities in the US have been added, but not all the country is covered, and internationally there are currently just a limited number of options in the UK, Spain and Australia, among a couple of others countries. Of course, Apple is working hard to improve upon these options, so expect your local mall or airport to be covered soon.

As it stands, this fantastic new feature promises to elevate Apple Maps into the realms of popularity currently enjoyed by Google Maps, and as Sally O’Flaherty, a writer at Nextcoursework and 1day2write rightly predicts, “the future remains exciting with regards to what these tech behemoths will come up with next”.

Emily Marchant is a marketing manager at Academic Brits and Assignment Help renewing and retaining existing subscription-holders. From sponsored content to effective advertising campaigns and well-judged PR events, moving through the dissemination of newsletters and the building of fruitful partnerships. Her skillsets include project management and effective team collaboration. She is also a blogger at PhdKingdom.

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