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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 »

Pokémon Go the Geospatial Gamechanger: Six Months Out

February 16th, 2017 by Susan Smith

Six months ago the location-based augmented reality game Pokémon Go was released. Developed in partnership by Niantic and Google, it is really a data mining type of game developed for iOS and Android devices, where players can nab the historic Pokémon in their own local environments. The marriage of geospatial and augmented reality is a gamechanger for the geospatial industry, evidenced by just how many people can be reached with over 100 million Android downloads in the first month of its entry onto the market.

The appeal of this personalized geospatial environment is similar to the appeal many years ago of being able to find your own house on a map in Google Maps.

Pokémon the video game originated over 20 years ago for the Nintendo. To illustrate how far we’ve come in terms of techno-development, now Pokémon Go records a lot of personal geospatial details about the player: where you have been, length of time you have been in that location, and how fast you are traveling.

Players navigate a 3D map to search for imaginary creatures. This Pokemon world uses geo-tagged locations that are familiar and players can battle each other using their smartphones.

A real-world backdrop employing smartphone camera technology and augmented reality create the setting for the imaginary creatures.

While we at home worry about the amount of data our smartphones and other devices send out into the world, a seemingly innocuous virtual reality game is collecting information that can be used for commercial gains, such as location-aware retailing. Advertisements from retailers can be generated pinpointing players in a given area. Some say the original intent of the game was to pique players’ interest in local cultural points of interest, not necessarily retail outlets.

While any map-based app can track the movements of potential customers, and retailers and others can use this information to track spending and shopping patterns, Pokémon Go has built in incentives linked to known landmarks and can lure the player to those locations. It can literally “make” the player travel somewhere such as a fast food chain. McDonald’s sponsored franchised Pokémon Go gyms or PokéStops at its 3,000 outlets in Japan, where enthusiasts can gather and compete.

Elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe Niantic has placed Pokémon gyms in public places where players might like to go.

In the latest version of Pokémon Go 80 new Pokemon are introduced. Rumor has it that Starbucks is teaming up with Niantic to offer PokéStops and offer limited edition perks such as Pokémon Go-themed Frappucino. New Starbucks Pokémon Go-themed characters may emerge from this partnership, who knows.

The Pokémon Go Apple Watch companion app is now available and means players will now be able to leave their iPhone in their pocket and still get notifications about happenings in the game within their geographic area. Over the past six months, we’ve heard of people so obsessed with this game they walk around with eyes glued to their smartphone screens and possibly bump into things.

The soon-to-be-released new version of Pokémon Go is expected to have an updated tracking system, trading or player-vs.-player battling, for those who are interested. Also, some sources say that people are now playing the game in the backwoods and mountains, not necessarily in commercial retail outlets.

While the rapid rise of Pokémon Go is interesting and worth watching, what can it be used for other than entertainment?

For those organizations who develop mapping applications for retail, the model of Pokémon Go may provide valuable insight into how to attract customers, and what types of incentives you can build in to draw people into particular locations. It also offers an enormous amount of personal information about a potential customer and what their preferences are in relation to their location that existing mapping apps do not.

In addition, the value of this technology for facilities’ management and spatial planners seems limitless. Spatial planners have traditionally taken into consideration all kinds of input from policy, community meetings, development plans, restrictions, urban design and planning measures. Perhaps planners could consider the Pokémon Go model for creating new environments or for rebuilding communities and engaging with citizens who may not be a part of the usual community meeting or consultation process.

Public domain data that citizens are familiar with could be used to create a game-like augmented reality into which citizens could plug their interests and preferences, giving them a larger stake in the outcome of potential building and planning projects for their communities.

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Categories: asset management, Building Information Modeling, citizen science, cloud, disaster relief, drones, field GIS, geocoding, geoinformatics, geospatial, GIS, indoor location technology, LBS, location based sensor fusion, location based services, location intelligence, resilient cities, retail

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