When beginning work on a chapter about geotechnologies for an upcoming book entitled Practical Sports Coaching, I began testing smartphone fitness apps. Upon the recommendation of my co-author Jill Clark, I started using Runkeeper. Now two years later, I have walked the distance across the North American continent. While this distance is nothing to what my lifelong walking and running colleagues have accomplished, it touches on several aspects of geotechnology that we frequently write about here and elsewhere.
First, this provides a good illustration of the added value that mapping lends to understanding something. Like other fitness apps, Runkeeper keeps track of your activities in a variety of graphs and maps, as shown below.
However, mapping brings added value and understanding. I loaded a week’s worth of walks into ArcGIS Online by loading the routes from Runkeeper as GPX files, and symbolized each by the day the walks were taken, shown in the above link and in the image below. Using the same technique, you and your students could map the locations of your fieldwork, and so much more.
Second, how are these reports and maps possible? Runkeeper, like so many other apps nowadays, make use of location based services and GPS, and are part of the “Internet of Things” – the geoenabling and monitoring of everyday devices. My colleague Jill Clark and I frequently write about this on Spatial Reserves, our blog about geospatial data and the implications surrounding that data.
Third, the videos I have made from these walks reflect a great variety of climate, landforms, landscapes, ecoregions, “walkability” of cities (or the difficulty thereof!), weather, seasons, and much more, which might be useful in physical and cultural geography courses. These include walking in the desert to a saguaro to the rainforests of Costa Rica, through leaves and on land that had been burned, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through a snowy field in Kansas, the forest in Oregon, on a ridge in the chaparral biome, on cobblestones in Belgium, through a cornfield in Wisconsin, on the busy streets of Taipei, and elsewhere. I also have walked in what may be the strangest place of all, near the rental car complex at DFW airport. As long as my knees hold out, I intend to keep walking! It is a great form of fieldwork that allows geographers, and others, to really observe what is below, around, and above us.
What privacy implications do the geoenabling of everyday devices have? What societal benefits does the geoenabling of devices and cloud-based GIS bring to society?