Friday, December 22, 2006

Trying to have some fun with Google Maps

Back in the day, in the B.C. (before children) era, I used to code for fun. To some of you the very notion of coding in general sounds bizarre in and of itself, yet alone as something that someone might enjoy.

On Thanksgiving, something cool happened - I was showing some family members aerial photos of my in-laws new place down in Florida using Google Maps. Everyone was impressed with the levels of detail, down to the pictures of my in-laws backyard. Upon seeing all of this, my Grandma asked if they had the same maps and pictures for Europe. I wasn't sure, but we put in the address of her childhood home in the Alsatian city of Saarbrucken. Sure enough, she was able to zoom in down into her old neighborhood, and all of the childhood memories of street names came echoing back.

It was than and there that I started thinking that there was a lot more to maps than simple driving directions and traffic reports. People are developing mash-ups with Google maps of all kinds, but those mash-ups, for the most part, so far, seem to be primarily 'kick the tires' products. i.e. Flickr photos on the map, or a topographical view of our contacts. But GIS (Geographic Information Systems) have hundreds of other purposes that have yet to be invented. One good example, law enforcement. The NYPD and other law enforcement agencies have use GIS for years now to help map geographic crime patterns and help solve crimes as well as investigate and discover environmental factors that lead to more crime.

I have started reading the maps API docs from Google, and I am thinking about ways to create a fun, but practical GIS tool. Any suggestions?

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