Hedda R. Schmidtke

GEOG 496/596: Location-Aware Systems

Location-aware systems are the foundation of today’s easy access to geospatial information for everyone. A smart phone that knows where you are can provide you with an appropriate map of your surroundings without searching. Location-awareness also allows your phone to access location based services, e.g. for finding restaurants or shops in the vicinity. Location based services may also feed advertisements to your phone directing you at shops or special opportunities nearby. Geofencing applications may even reach out to you as you pass by a store or restaurant with targeted offers. Moreover, location-aware social networking apps allow you to connect with people around you or to track your friends’ or children’s locations. The collected geospatial movement information about a growing number of users world-wide poses up to now unknown potential for analysis of massive geospatial data about human behavior. All these are exciting technological developments, but there are also many challenges and caveats, the most obvious being privacy and the potential for abuse of spatial data for criminal purposes, such as burglary when the house owners are on vacation.

This course, on the one hand, introduces the technical fundamentals of location-aware systems including the smart phone technology making location-awareness possible, the spatial models and data structures developed to manage locations as part of a computer network, and the operation and structure of location-based services as supported by GI systems; on the other hand, it discusses ethical challenges of the different technologies, in particular how to protect user privacy both technically and legally.

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