This chapter is about geographic information systems (GIS) and its relevance to the location-based services industry. One might initially ask how relevant GIS is to a book that is predominantly about automatic identification and its future trajectory. The answer becomes apparent quickly as the reader is introduced to the importance of geocoding information, i.e., geographically linking data such as personal details using a unique ID number. In the past data matching programs have received a great deal of attention from privacy advocates, especially those used for the administration of government procedures. Till now, automatic identification has facilitated electronic services (e-services), allowing an individual to be matched to a fixed address, usually their place of residence. But it is one thing to tag and another to track. Today, we are moving towards a model of tracking and monitoring people as they go about their daily business, in real time. We are no longer satisfied with knowing where an individual lives but we want to know their every move- so that we can estimate traffic congestion on a busy road, design 3G mobile networks that have enough capacity during busy hours, and to ensure someone’s safety when adequate supervision is not available.
Geographic Information Systems
Geographic information systems (GIS) are playing a crucial role in the success of location-based services (LBS). GIS is defined by Burroughs (1986) as a “set of tools for collecting, storing, retrieving at will, transforming, and displaying spatial data from the real world for a particular set of purposes” (Taylor & Blewitt, 2006, p. 9). Dransch (2005, p. 32) classifies LBS as a subset of mobile geoservices. A location-based service is the ability for an information system to denote the position of a user, based on a device they are carrying or their position in a given context (Gartner & Uhlirz, 2005, p. 159). LBSs have the ability to provide specific, relevant information according to a given “spatial location associated with a physical point or region relative to the surface of the earth (Dawson et al., 2006, p. xv). While a great deal is written about the network technologies that allow for the tracking and monitoring of objects and subjects, GIS is usually considered the add-on feature. However, without GIS, most location-based services would not be plausible as commercial offerings. According to Lopez (2004, p. 171) “LBS consist[s] of a broad range of services that incorporate location information with contextual data to provide a value-added experience to users on the Web or wireless device.” It then follows that GIS is integral to the success of LBS (Brimicombe & Li, 2007). Motivations for using GIS in LBS include: cost-effectiveness, service provisioning, system performance, competitive advantage, and database creation, access, and use (Shiode et al., 2004, p. 363).