Category Archives: Content

Geolocating poultry farms with Google Earth

Time Magazine reporter Christine Gorman reports on her global health blog that Google Earth is being used by US poultry veterinarians to double-check the accuracy of coordinates for hen houses, in case an outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu virus requires quarantining decisions for poultry farms.

(Yes, she writes “double-check”, not “check”. If Google Earth were the only geospatial tool used for finding poultry farms in something as important as the defence against H5N1, I’d somehow be a little worried, as the geolocation and map data isn’t flawless, and isn’t expected to be, for a free product.)

News flow

> RoboGeo, a geocoder for photos, sees an upgrade to v3.2, adding the ability to write location data to the EXIF headers of Adobe’s DNG digital negative format.

> One way for smaller linguistic groups to even the playing field is to release their own toponomies for Google Earth. Case in point: Irish and English place names, separated, for Ireland. (qv. the tactics of a Catalan a few weeks ago.) (Via)

> Londonist discovers Digitally Distributed Environments, calls it their “new favourite blog”.

> Film buff Mark Allen locates 11 of his favorite film locations in Google Earth, and meticulously details where each shot was filmed. Absolutely fascinating — I had no idea Blow Up was filmed in London’s Maryon Park, for example, I only wish he’d given us the KML files instead of the coordinates. Another reason to adopt the gref attribute for anchor tags.

> HSA shows off screenshots (alas no actual KML files) of a product that manages boat traffic in the Great Barrier Reef using Google Earth. (Via Connotea’s GIS bookmarks)

> All Points Blog catches a description of the Google Earth team in action in Time Magazine, and also calls Wired magazine on a GIS rookie error.

> adds “emotion” maps from areas outside London — Siena, Rotterdam, and a spot in Finland. If only this project used input that looked less like random numbers and more like real data.

Swedish archeological database experiments with Google Earth

Responding to yesterday’s archeology link, David Haskiya of Sweden’s Office of Antiquities writes that they too have been been experimenting with Google Earth.

His office uses an Oracle spatial database to keep tabs on all of the country’s historical monuments, from the Stone Age on, and they’ve now written up some java that converts all this geodata into KML. David’s made a sample available, of Stockholm’s historical monuments: I’ve wrapped it into a KMZ network link ready for download (KMZ).

Each placemark links to the corresponding record’s webpage, and while the info is in Swedish, it’s worth taking a look, as at the bottom of these pages are links to scanned primary sources. It really feels like there is some amazing potential for data mining here, with this sample just scratching the surface.

The transformative power of geobrowsing the database is unfortunately proving to be something a problem, says David (translated from Swedish):

The theft of church objects and the plundering of historical remains means public authorities are a little nervous about making the data public in this fashion. We continue to discuss internally about what kind of restrictions should be implemented.

(If you speak Swedish, here is more context.)

Currently, searching the database is possible only by userid/password, but available to all at museum libraries around the country. Making this data available in Google Earth is thus less of an issue than whether the data should be publicly available at all. Sweden is a large country with few people and thousands of remote archeological sites. Making the location of each site public would make the task of would-be robbers too easy, goes the argument.

On a technical note: The database looks accurate to 1/1000 of a degree. In the center of Stockholm, this causes the placemarks to stick to a grid; Google Earth can clearly support much more precise positioning.

Given access to such a database, I could imagine researchers truly benefiting from being able to map search results dynamically, such as, for example, Viking settlements by decade. i can’t wait for Google Earth to add that time browser:-)

Monday linkage

> A weird PR press release: An internet photo printing service announces that it can print screenshots of views that you’ve taken with Google Earth and sent to them. But why not just use the built in Save Image command? And send them to any photo printing service? We’ll never know.

> ArchAtlas uses satellite imagery to illustrate ancient history. They’ve now started putting some of their locations onto Google Earth and NASA World Wind. Worth watching, as they have some other animations (the spread of farming, trade routes) that would work great as time-delimited layers for Google Earth. (Via Archeoastronomy)

> Over at Toolness, Atul has a post with a slew of detailed historical overlays covering Chicago. My favorite is the 1893 Rand McNally map of the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Google eArt

Google Earth files become part of the performance in Surreal Scania, a multimedia art installation that explores how we come to imagine spaces, and how place branding can influence our perceptions of places we’ve never been to. The artists, Swedes Anders Weberg and Robert Willim, explain:

By using Google Earth it is possible to view aerial photos of the points represented in the different films. Using a GPS-unit it is also possible to visit the locations where the visual raw material was shot. And as the films are provided in various file formats optimized for most mobile video players, it is possible to enjoy the filmic representations on the very spots where the material was filmed.



In this way the imaginary can be compared to the real. But what is real or imaginary? With Surreal Scania we want to explore different visual representation techniques, and we also want to recognise the fact that our imagination has an important role in forming the experiences of these locations.


And thus Google Earth further penetrates the cultural zeitgeist of our time. Surreal Scania gets a write-up by We-make-money-not-art, Space and Culture and Erik Stattin (the last one in Swedish).

[Downloading the KML is a bit funky right now. It’s being fixed. In the meantime right-click and Save as.]

[Update 22:07 UCT: Even more Google eArt today:


The Angel of the North, courtesy of ZNO:]

Cycling with Google

Drug company Amgen is sponsoring a new big-budget bike race, the Tour of California, bravely taking place during the Olympics, Feb 19-26. Today’s press release plays up the use of Google’s mapping technologies to bring the race to viewers:

The nightly television broadcast [on ESPN2] will feature 3D satellite views of the stages using Google Earth. Those following the race on their personal computer will be able to watch live streaming Google Video and follow the race using Google Maps. Google Local for mobile will be available for spectators at the race who want to easily find the closest coffee shop…

Because it’s 2006, it’s fair to ask, “What, no live network links of the race in Google Earth?”


After an excellent read on virtual globes in the current issue of Nature, I chanced upon some very interesting comments appended to Declan’s blog post. One of them points to GeoMapApp, a cross-platform Java geobrowser linked to reams of detailed seafloor height data, but also historical seismicity, and more.

What’s immensely useful is that any view at any resolution is exportable as a KMZ layer ready for opening in Google Earth, letting you see far more detailed bathymetry data than Google Earth currently displays by default.


Google Earth CTO Michael Jones has hinted that 3D ocean mapping is on a to-do list of possible future enhancements, so consider this to be a (2D) sneak preview of things to come. But GeoMapApp is an impressive application in its own right, especially if you look at some of the focus areas and the analytical tools you get play with there.