Telematics Update talks to Gary Gale, Director of Engineering, Yahoo! Geo Technologies

Telematics Update talks to Gary Gale, Director of Engineering, Yahoo! Geo Technologies

The Geo Technologies group provides the tools and technologies that drive user location, geocoding, location identification and disambiguation within Yahoo!, both internally and via public services such as GeoPlanet, Placemaker, Fire Eagle and Flickr.

With over 20 years experience in a wide range of industry sectors, Gale has worked within the geo domain for companies such as his Digicon, developing geophysical technologies to aid in the search for natural resources, and the European Space Agency Research Institute in Rome, participating in the development and launch of ERS-1, Europe's first remote sensing satellite. Outside of the geo field, his career takes in companies including the BBC World Service, Reuters, Factiva.com and Network Associates. Passionate about location, place, privacy and digital identity, he blogs and tweets on matters geo for Yahoo! at www.ygeoblog.com and as@yahoogeo, personally at www.vicchi.org and as @vicchi.

What does your company do?

The Geo Technologies group at Yahoo! provides the "heavy lifting" of geographic identification for the company and for our users. This takes many forms but can be summarized as knowing about people, places and things. People: knowing where our users are to provide relevant services. Places: knowing how people talk about place, formally and informally. Things: knowing the geographic context of content, blogs, articles, feeds, status updates.

How do you differentiate your offerings from your competitors?

Location is personal, colloquial and sometimes bizarre and utterly capricious. We've built toolsets and platforms that allow this rich colloquial set of references to be mined effectively, naming the world the way in which it's named by the world's people and not just the formal or official designations.

What partnerships are you currently forging?

We're actively working towards a free, open and unencumbered geographic data set, taking in community mapping projects such as OpenStreetMap.org as well as those produced by formal sources such as the City of Vancouver, which is actively promoting a free and open data program.

Which trends will impact the industry the most in the coming years and why?

Convergence, convergence, convergence. Mobile phones with cameras, mobile phones with GPS, cameras with GPS, netbooks with 3G data connections… With location aware devices relentlessly converging, location is becoming ever more ubiquitous and is taking its rightful place as a key context for finally mining the elusive Long Tail.

Yahoo! are an integral part of our upcoming flagship show Telematics Detroit 2010. Could you tell us what key issues Yahoo! will be discussing with the industry at the show?

For those of us with a smartphone, netbook or other nomadic device, the mobile Web no longer exists. We merely consume and experience the Internet through our device of choice. Like it or not, the Internet is coming to the car and it's coming in your back pocket and not through a dedicated onboard connection. The challenge is to deliver a hyperlocal, relevant experience for customers, one where they are happy to share their location in exchange for tangible benefits.

Which gadgets/gizmos/cars are on your 2010 wish list?

I'm really tempted to try one of the new generations of Android-based handsets, such as the new Nexus One GooglePhone, but I'll probably stay with my iPhone and maybe, just maybe, go for a 3Gs model. Staying with an Apple theme, I crave a MacBook Air. Yes, there's no removable battery; yes, there's only one USB port. But the size and lack of weight makes it so very attractive for lugging on and off planes and in and out of meetings and conferences. As to a car, it's got to be an Aston Martin DB9, but that's on the dream list rather than the wish list.


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