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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Geofeedia offers geo search of social media

July 3rd, 2012 by Susan Smith

The young company Geofeedia offers aggregating capabilities of a new kind – assembling data from various social media sources such as Instagram, Twitter, Picassa and others – representing that data on a nice visual map with pins. Each source has a specific pin so that users can see the source and location of the data.

Geofeedia aggregates data from various social media sources such as Instagram, Twitter, Picassa and others - representing that data on a nice visual map with pins. Each source has a specific pin so that users can see the source and location of the data.

That visual map is just one way users can view the map, called the “map view.” But Geofeedia also has a collage view that displays the images and tweets in a format like Pinterest, where images and tweets are viewed with one glance as you page down, and more images and tweets load onto the page.

Large volumes of data can be accessed this way. If you then go to the map view all those things you loaded will be represented as pins on the map, so you can build up more and more data of the display by executing more searches.

“We start with most recent chronology that being things posted in the last 30 seconds,” said CEO Phil Harris.  “We will post and then it will go back and repost in chronological order.  We allow users to search by date range so our default is most recent, for historical time you can search different date ranges. You can filter by different words so we are allowing users to grab the data however they want to slice it — whether by time or by maybe some other attribute like keyword. We always start with geography and always the filter, so we’re definitely a location-based system as that’s the first filter, we always apply that.”

Social media is a relatively new phenomenon, Harris points out, and Geofeedia is tapping into that data with this unique technology platform that’s been launched over the past couple of years.

The question arises – is Geofeedia used as a do-it-yourself service or does it service customers by running searches for them?

“The conversation usually starts with, can we just license it?” says Harris. “And then we say sure, we sell you a license, and then a client will get into it, and then say the number of apps they have is pretty broad. The searches are called ‘geofeeds’ – customers get into it and say we want to set up a hundred geofeeds, will you do this for us? So we’ll do that for companies but we typically like to work with a partner who can help provide that client service and that staffing or manpower, whether it be an agency or other source. We’ll do it but will rather build features and technology to take to the next level.”

Harris predicts they will have two kinds of users – ‘walkup users’ and ‘enterprise users.’ Walkup users will be those small companies who will buy the service and be able to implement the geofeeds themselves. Larger companies with the money but not the time will ask that Geofeedia do it for them.

Geofeedia shows promise for use by the government, although they have not done business directly with government agencies. They have however, received a lot of interest from trial users and government agencies but are not set up as a prime contractor to go after this business. They are hoping to partner in some way in the future.

The potential is definitely there for use in the military, emergency response, situational awareness, detective work, federal, state and local government agencies. An example is an American backpacking in Egypt took photos of roadblocks in certain areas. These photos were uploaded to a social media site and were publicly available. The U.S. government had no idea the Egyptian government was setting up roadblocks which were in response to riots. Geofeedia makes it possible to render this information so that is it useful and is targeted geographically.

“On the retail side we’re entering into a pilot with a couple of large department store chains of about thousand stores nationwide, a hamburger chain that has several thousand locations,” says Harris. “They want to create a geofeed around all their locations and monitor and hear not only what their customers are saying but what employees are doing while they’re on the clock. The store manager gets a chance to look at what’s happening while the customers are in the store but then also at the regional level the regional manager can roll up that data and at the national level the brand managers can look at that data, and can monitor it.”

Other applications include big events such as concerts, baseball and football stadium events, and different promotional venues. News organizations are interested in geofeeds for breaking news as well as day-to-day reporting.

Monitoring and surveillance is another area that has wide interest to security companies who provide electronic monitoring services. “One large agency provides personal body guards for rock stars, and they want to create a geofeed around 10 houses,” explains Harris. “The reason – there are about 10 different vendors that come in and out of the house and they tell these vendors they are not allowed to bring their cell phones in the house. What we’re finding is they get in and take pics and post on Facebook and Twitter and the photos get shared around. We need to track back who took the pic and stop it and fire the vendor. With geofeeds, we can tell you who that person is.”

Because there is so much “signal to noise” – so much junk – on social media, Harris said they will create a geofeed around an event, so a protest around the White House. This is a broad geofeed to find out where something happened and hone in, then filter out the 99.9% of garbage on the social media sites to get to that 1 % that is actionable and relevant.

Typically the information in a geofeed comes back in a matter of seconds. “Geofeedia has a feature called Infinite Scrolling so you render a search – our default number of items that comes back is like 50 items but then as you page down you get another 50,” says Harris. “We’re performing another search. We count the number of items that come back on each individual search but you can just re-rendering more searches and it’s just a second or two between those as they load and you page down on the screen.”

“Our core capability is working with social media firms – each one is unique animal and requires a lot of thought,” Harris concludes. “We will add more data and enhance the service as social media evolves.”

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Categories: LBS, location based services

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