Why Location, Location, Location Actually Matters

Kirk Goldsberry, a geographer from Penn State, was interested in finding ways to visually depict data about movement through space and time. He also was a big basketball fan who played all his life.  In 2011, Goldsberry had the idea of mapping the dynamic ebb and flow of the game based on recently developed baseball statistical analytics. Using data scraped from ESPN basketball statistics web pages containing shot statistics, he eventually compiled spatial coordinates for more than 700,000 successful shots taken from 2006 to 2011.  The final results were mapped as color-coded, square-foot pixels across the court (http://www.wired.com/2014/10/faster-higher-stronger/#slide-4):



This work led to a presentation made at 2012 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, an annual gathering of statisticians and coaches at MIT.  NBA coaches saw the value of the spatial patterns generated.  A company called Stats teamed with Goldsberry to build a 3 camera-based system to track players and provided much more detailed information. In September 2013, Stats sold SportVU to the NBA for $100,000 per arena.  With the spatial patterns generated by this system, spatial data analytics at the basketball court (micro) scale is now possible.

Now the NBA has the statistics available at http://stats.nba.com with their own version of shot maps, plus many detailed tables of every aspect of the game by player and team:


While there isn’t a public API provided by the NBA to access the statistics, there are web-scraping APIs available to retrieve the data programmatically, a much better alternative to the manual method Kirk Goldsberry used with ESPN.com.  Micro-mapping articles and code samples are now available using the NBA statistics: The following map shows a Python language mapping utility written by Savvas Tjortjoglou (http://savvastjortjoglou.com/nba-shot-sharts.html):


This application takes mapping to a micro scale measured in feet, within a room, and not miles across counties, states, or countries.  As a result, new mapping applications are feasible to show spatial patterns as long as the data is available!



Greg Bacon Presentation

On Wednesday, November 11th, Greg gave an excellent presentation about the Fairfax County GIS office where he works as an analyst, that supports both county GIS users and the public.  He mentioned the specialized, web-based maps his office produces available online at the Fairfax Geo-Portal Page:(http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/maps/geoportal.htm).


I enjoyed reviewing the maps, especially the Comprehensive Map Plan, Walkway Maintenance (Greg specifically mentioned this map) and the Historic Imagery Viewer.  One area of Fairfax County I’m interested in is Tyson’s Corner, having worked there for almost 20 years.  The area is undergoing a significant transformation with the metro arrival and more residential housing being built. Tyson’s Corner is changing from a car-oriented, office and shopping center to a high-density, mixed-use area that hopefully will be increasingly pedestrian friendly.

The following screen shot from the Comprehensive Map Plan shows Tyson’s Corner zoning plan:


The following screen shots from the Geo-Portal Historic Imagery Viewer show the Tyson’s Corner intersection of Routes 123 and 7 in 1937, 153, and 1997:


Tysons1953HIV Tysons1997HIV

Tyson’s Corner redevelopment plans are ambitious, and a detailed description was written in the Washingtonian Magazine, April 2015 cover story issue, Capital of The Future. The following image shows a future high density, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly scene:


It still is a challenge to walk around Tyson’s Corner. I used to use the only cross walk on Route 7 at West Park Drive when leaving my Forester at the Stohlman Subaru dealership for repair.  Walking safely is still limited to specific sections where sidewalks were present, but there were, and still are, many obstacles present.  The Geo-Portal Walkway Maintenance map shows the organizations responsible for sidewalks in Fairfax County and the following screenshot shows the pedestrian walkways in Tyson’s Corner:


On November 8, The Washington Post published an article about a group of UVA School of Architecture students assessing Tyson’s walkability: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/u-va-professors-outing-aims-to-measure-tysons-walkability/2015/11/07/7db95e24-83fe-11e5-9afb-0c971f713d0c_story.html.  They encountered many obstacles and plan to monitor pedestrian accessibility as redevelopment progresses.  The following map shows the temperature measured along the route they took in 2014:


Using Smart Phones for Data Collection

Because of their ubiquity, GPS-equipped smart phones are more often being used to collect all types of data as part of business-oriented workflows. When the location accuracy from smart phones is “good enough”, using the native location service, no special hardware is required to conduct asset and service tracking, inventory control, installations, repairs, and geotagging. These are a few of the possible uses that location-aware smart phones can be applied. The following graphic shows native data ingest methods, which can add data value to any business process:


If better location accuracy is required from high-precision sensors such as survey/commercial class GPS receivers, laser scopes/meters, and RFID tags, if equipped with Bluetooth communications link, they can transfer data to any Android or Apple smart phone.

One necessary consideration of relying on a smart phone-based data collection system is choosing the apps that support the workflow. Factors to consider include the initial cost of the app (many are free) and the web-based storage infrastructure required.  For many commercial data collection systems, the app is free, but the server access has a cost, often based on the amount of storage required.  To enable mobile handheld access to GIS Servers, middleware is required to provide the link.  Known as a gateway service, the middleware translates user requests from mobile devices to GIS servers and formats the output back to the devices.  The following screenshot shows how data is often displayed for a specific location that originates from a GIS Server and formatted by the gateway service middleware:


With these hardware and software components working together, mobile GIS enables mobility, real-time connectivity, and broadened usage. Traditional GIS assumes a fixed location for the workstation performing GIS functions and the user’s current location doesn’t factor into geographic data. Mobile GIS allows data to be captured, stored, and managed in remote locations. Information can be uploaded and downloaded between mobile devices and central servers via wireless link. This cellular or Wi-Fi communications allows for real-time connectivity, which makes interactive services possible with dynamic updates.  Mobile GIS provide functionalities to a wider public with no GIS professional knowledge.  Viewing maps, finding nearest facilities, way-finding, delivering location-related messages, and mobile games are just some of the applications possible.

GIS Day – It’s Kind of a Big Deal!

This year’s GIS Day is Wednesday, November 18, 2015.  In addition to the activities taking place at GMU on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (https://cos.gmu.edu/ggs/), there are 21 additional events scheduled in the DC-Northern Virginia-Suburban Maryland region according to www.GISDay.com.  On the main page, an interactive map allows you to pan around the world to see all the events that have been registered.  It’s interesting to read the event descriptions taking place!  Within the US, the most GIS Day events are located in the mid-Atlantic area and southern California (home of ESRI) is third.


There is an event registered at the ESRI headquarters in Redlands, California, but it may be a mistake, as it is listed as “adkdj” (see below). I sent a note to the email link listed in the dialog alerting them to the issue.


There is only one GIS Day event registered in China, hosted by the Hong Kong Geographic Information System Association.. The Mongolian Geospatial Association is also hosting an event and has done so for the last six years!  Both Alaska and Hawaii each have three events registered.

NOVA has hosted GIS Day activities starting when the Geospatial Studies Department was organized by Dr. Krimmer with speakers from NGA, ESRI, Spot Image, and many other companies. Pictures hang in the Reston Center of local politicians who visited during previous GIS Days.  Attended by both college and high school students, it has been a great opportunity to interact with GIS subject matter experts and eat some “interesting” cake!  I believe the following picture is from the 2012 GIS Day.


Over the years, I brought my two sons when they were young to NOVA GIS Day events. My older son now does mapping for an environmental engineering company and my younger son is a senior geography major at University of Mary Washington.  I believe GIS Day events at NOVA played a small role by allowing them to “hang out” with GIS people and learn about the field. I encourage everyone to bring a guest to this year’s GIS Day, especially a young person, who is considering career choices and might consider the geospatial sciences!

Week 6: Blog Post #4

Nick’s initial map version was of Reston centered on the NVCC-Reston Center with the silver line and tree cover layer enabled with the World Topographical map as a base map. Called “Area around NVCC Reston campus”, I added features that might be of interest to students, such as local fast food restaurants and cafes in Reston retrieved from the ArcGIS Online server.  To emphasize the local roads, the tree cover and non-county trails features were removed.  I also added the campus location as a reference point and renamed the map “Area around NVCC Reston campus Version 2”.

The local Chipotle, Panera Bread, McDonald’s, and Starbucks locations were added to the map. To filter all the non-Reston locations, each restaurant location filter was set to “city is Reston”. If the restaurant layers (Panera Bread, McDonald’s) did not come with a predefined logo, unique color points were defined:


The final map, with the original scale, lists restaurants NVCC-Reston Center students may be interested in visiting. The local streets are more easily visible without the tree cover and trail layers.  The NVCC Reston location was created with ArcGIS Desktop as a single point shape file and uploaded to ArcGIS Online. The following screenshot shows the complete map with the data layers listed on the left:


Hiking Upward! [.com]

One of my very favorite web sites is HikingUpward.com, where one can locate and learn about great local day hike venues or more distant, multi-day backpacking trips in the mid-Atlantic region. This free web site contains both Google-based static and interactive trail maps showing the terrain, distance, camping locations, and snapshots along the trails. Even more valuable, each hike includes a link to a PDF file containing a map and trail description in a convenient two-page format. As a result, USGS Topo maps are not necessary, especially for day hikes. Key indicators summarize each hike listing, in a 1-to-5 scale for difficulty, streams, views, solitude, and camping.  User reviews also provide feedback about each hike in a 1-to-5 scale, which may influence your decision to take a hike.  The following screenshot shows the main page highlighting a specific hike in North Carolina:


If you click on the left side map on the main page, the following interactive map appears showing the location of all hikes available. Based on your location, you can quickly find a map that suits your ability and schedule:


Another way to view the hikes is by name, distance, difficulty, streams, views, solitude, and user feedback. These qualities can filter the list using slider controls.


One of my favorite local day hikes is Sugarloaf Mountain. The following page lists many details about the area, with both static and interactive map components. Like many parks, there is more than one trail than the one highlighted in the map and trail description and you can easily length or shorten the hike.


A detailed, interactive Google-based topo map plus user review are displayed at the bottom of the page:


Every hike includes links to printable a PDF trail guide, local weather, and summary of the key hike metadata for length, difficulty, streams, views, solitude, and camping:


Some trail maps are created by Hikingupward.com and some by other land management organizations. Sugarloaf Mountain is owned and managed by Stronghold Inc., and their complete trail map is available fro download from the hike description page: