Watch out for the IoT and the Return of Vinyl - 04/08/2016

Writing in The Observer newspaper, John Naughton sounded a prophetic warning about the Internet of Things, the latest technology buzz to assail us. He cites one of those security systems that enables you to control all sorts of sensors in your home remotely from your smartphone. With a control centre in China, it was about as secure as a chicken coop with a dodgy door and a pack of foxes on the prowl.

Naughton is one of my techy heroes. I’ve followed his regular Sunday Networker columns for years. They always offer concise informative insight into some topical aspect of technology and the world of the silicone geeks. He is also the author of a couple of outstanding books on digital communications: A Brief History of the Future: the origins of the Internet and From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know About the Internet. They’re both an easy and engaging read.

As we rush headlong into the IoT and other over-hyped techy things more of us need to pause and take stock. I was reminded of this with a story on Wired recently where the writer was singing the praises of the sound quality from music CDs. Remember those handy little disks before Apple and a billion downloads? The Apple iPod is a brilliant little piece of technology (launched unbelievably almost 15 years ago!). But I’ve never gone for music downloads. Instead, I rip/copy my CDs via Apple’s awful iTunes software (if you doubt my criticism talk to a classical music enthusiast) so I can enjoy music on the move. The key point is that Apple encourages a canapé approach to music instead of a fulfilling meal. Songs versus a body of work. In vinyl times: 45s versus LPs (ask your Mum or Dad!)

I’m also not so sure about the fidelity of CDs as there’s been a revival of their predecessor, the vinyl long-player disk, which some aficionados including me believe offers even better sound reproduction, provided the disk is in pristine condition and free of scratches that replicate as those annoying pops and crackles so reminiscent of the pre-digital era. We call it noise today and rightly.

Hopefully, there are no pops in this issue of GiSPro although I hope there are one or two items that will set ideas crackling. I must thank GeoPlace for allowing us to see the full version of ConsultingWhere’s report on the value and cost savings local authorities gain from having up-to-date addressing. It deserves wider circulation and appreciation.

GIS has brought order where previously there was often chaos from undocumented files without metadata. But that is only the beginning. GIS allows analysis to reveal the best routes, the ideal location, where efficiencies and savings can be made and importantly, the tracking of assets. I commend the first of two articles from Dr David Green and colleagues about how GIS has provided useful insight for the medical professionals. Disease and infections can be tracked, treatment facilities best located and the impact of inappropriate positioning of schools identified.

Another area where GIS is helping to widen interests for the general public is the heritage sector. Diana Murray reflects on the changes during her career in Scotland’s heritage sector.

Finally, I must draw readers attention to our article on the new geoid transformations that affect mapping in the UK and Ireland. This is a complex topic but one which GIS professionals should understand, even if their current job is unlikely to be affected. While height differences of a few millimetres are unlikely to affect many applications, changes in 2D mapping do need recording. Enjoy the summer; we shall return in October.

This article was published in GIS Professional August 2016

Last updated: 20/11/2019