Intrinsic georeference

When we read the different theories that support the communication that cartography entails, both as a science to represent geographical phenomena, and as an art to give this information the necessary aesthetics, we realize that the moment in which we live includes multiple actions in everyday life where we make use of georeference as a daily action.

From the moment we turn on a mobile device, the information we send or receive is associated with the georeference: Weather, the latest news, social networks, the query of a map, GPS activation or image labeling. It is clear that this did not come overnight, it will always be relative the impression we have of living an unprecedented moment, and although we recognize the almost unlimited capacity of the human being for invention, it is impossible to imagine what could be happening 25 years later. Of the same way perhaps nobody imagined this makes 25 years, especially in an epoch in which the technologies of information and the computational sciences have shot of exponential form massification of the innovation for daily consumption.


Although the criterion of georeference has been a natural action of the human being, to consider its identification in a printed device or map, for a long time it was a specialized activity and with access only to a privileged group of people. Thus, analyzing the intrinsic aspect of Georeference is important both for its particular determination and for projecting what could happen in other disciplines in the coming years. Let us see then the implications of this aspect.

How did georeference become intrinsic?

The reason is simple in principle: because geolocation is part of the daily life. Every day we need to move in a three-dimensional environment, where we drive twenty blocks to the right, six to the left, go down two levels to park a car and go up four levels to work in an office. We can do this on a daily basis and when we need to describe it on a sheet of paper or graph it in an advertisement, it is when we are most aware. But that geolocation for a long time was local and of individual interest, so it was done as a daily routine.image

Kanakubo (1) explains in his paper on the Development of Contemporary Cartography, that the evolution of the theory of cartography has been associated with the interests of important entities at specific moments; for example, the conquering empires, the militia teams in wars, or the international economic emporiums. These moments created the need to see the georeference with a scope beyond the local, as to see the neighboring countries, the continent and how is the current wave: globalized thinking.

The moment that we now live, makes the interest of maintaining a connected world, requires the use of georeference in displacement routines. Just that is what has brought the intrinsic aspect: shops need to indicate where their premises are, customers need to arrive, manufacturers of technologies are forced to develop applications, the academy offers new educational alternatives in this area and, this competition brings the Innovation to users. Of course, the end user is not even aware of this, and that is what we call Intrinsic, because it is in the daily life.

Benefits of intrinsic geolocation

There are many reasons to believe that this is beneficial, although we will talk about risks later. From the point of view of those who sustain our economies from the science and technology of geographic information, the greatest benefit is in the ever greater need of our services. Whether we develop applications, training, sell products or services, the fact that georeference is a necessity, benefits us.

But beyond our particular interests, an important benefit is in the availability of applications for the human being, each day with more functionalities based on geolocation. Let's see how easy it is now to travel using a GPS assistant available in the vehicle, and think about the possibilities of not having had it and that the trip was for emergent reasons. We can also see the benefit of a user who can place their products in an Internet geoportal, which are acquired by a customer outside the country, without having to make direct contact.

The disciplines associated with geo-engineering are evidence of the benefits of geolocation. The equipment destined to the capture of data in the field, every day are more prices. But also every day it is difficult to know the boundary between the field and cabinet functions, thanks to the fact that georeferencing is implicit in both the capture, modeling and operation of infrastructures. Standards such as the BIM (2) aim to bring geolocation to dimensions beyond what was thought, such as operation, time and costs.

There is also a great benefit in the production of information every day more efficient and daily. Volunteer collaboration today is interesting in the development of systems such as Open Street Maps, a worldwide catalog with cartography that has been produced by the user community thanks to a dynamic known as Crowdsourcing. This would have been impossible if the geolocation does not become intrinsic, because to produce this information it is not necessary an effort beyond activating the share function in the mobile device and accepting the data upload.

So if we deepened the magnitude of benefits in the geolocation, surely the list would be very broad. Especially focused on economy, better time management, collaboration, safety and the opportunity to innovate for the benefit of the human being.

Risks of intrinsic georeference

Not everything will be colored roses in an environment as uncertain as the democratization of information. There are associated risks, where the only culprit is usually the same human person.

Among these we can mention, the loss of privacy. The fact that we are depending on a device connected to GPS signals, involves the delivery of geolocation information that was once totally private. And while it might be very useful for some to know where their children are, it would also be dangerous for criminals to know that same information. Privacy at the end is a relative situation that has its risks.

Another risk is in the approach of Crampton (3) in his dissertation of the science linked to the maps: it raises that it cost a lot that the maps come to have the quality and scientific support that we now have. But the fact that it becomes an intrinsic action the consultation and generation of maps by non-specialized users, brings the risk of losing quality or standardized criteria. The position is known that the more agile the functionalities of a scientific development, the less the effort of the brain and therefore a risk of regressing in intelligence.

In conclusion, the intrinsic georeference is the inclusion of geolocation in the different routines of human beings, scientific, technical or everyday. This georeference has evolved to the degree that we do it automatically. The benefits are much greater than the risks, therefore it will be necessary to be vigilant of the trends, both to find opportunities and to propose solutions.

(1) Tositomo Kanakubo, The Development of Contemporary Theorical Cartography

(2) Building Information Modeling

(3) How Mapping became Scientific

(4) Taken with permission of the author: The teacher said that it was not the essay he wanted for his class, which expected something less analytical, more linear, more unidicrectional, in the end less georeferenced. Enough reason to recycle it here.

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