Trick or Track & the Zombie Apocalypse

Last Halloween  I shared an ESRI map that visualized Halloween spending across the U.S.  Interesting, but nothing of any real practical value. But this year I’ve got links to a couple of maps and apps that could really come in handy on Monday night:

1. First up, a link to an article in the Montreal Gazette with info about four different GPS-enabled mobile apps to help you keep track of your kids while they’re out trick-or-treating. Two of my favorites are highlighted below in an excerpt from the article:

Although it might seem spooky for kids, a handful of applications will allow parents to receive timely data on where their children are, and possibly deter the youngsters from wandering too far away.

GOOGLE LATITUDE: Offered as both a separate app and as an opt-in feature that’s part of the free Google Maps app, Latitude enables users to share their location with friends or family members. After downloading the Maps app, you can choose to “Join Latitude” and invite your children, who must also enable that feature on their own phone, to share their location with you. Once someone accepts, they appear as an icon on Google Maps. But inviting someone means they will be able to view your location. Anyone who has received what is called a “sharing request” can also accept it but choose to hide their own location. That means if you’re not careful, your children will end up tracking you instead of the other way around (possibly leading to lots of awkward inquisitions).

TRICK OR TRACKER: A Halloween-themed app, the Trick or Tracker will send text messages with location data to a preset phone number. To use, a parent must download the app onto both their own phone and their child’s phone, choose one password to sync up the two devices and pick a time interval to get regular text updates (say, every 15 minutes). The app also lets parents create a digital fence to encourage their children to stay within a certain area. If he or she strays outside that “geofence,” the parent’s phone will be notified by text message. There’s also the option to give children a peep at your own location, via the “where’s my parent?” button.

2. Next up, the ever important Zombie hot spot map, courtesy of the Oxford Internet Institute.

Using a keyword search for “zombies”, the following map visualizes the absolute concentrations of references within the Google Maps database.

Data – In order to measure the amount of content about zombies indexed by Google, a dataset was created based on a 0.25 x 0.25 degree grid of all the land mass in the world (roughly 250,000 points). A buffer was then constructed for each point using a sliding variable size based on the great circle distance to neighbouring points in the grid pattern. It was important to adjust this value in order to compensate for decreasing distance between longitudes as the software moves from the equator to the poles. For each point and buffer combination a search was run in Google Maps to measure the total number of hits for user-generated content at each location (as defined by Google)

Findings – the  map reveals two important spatial patterns. First, much of the world lacks any content mentioning “zombies” whatsoever. Second, and related, the highest concentrations of zombies in the Geoweb are located in the Anglophone world, especially in large. The results either provide a rough proxy for the amount of English-language content indexed over our planet, or offer an early warning into the geographies of the impending zombie apocalypse.

Now if they’d just stream the Zombie location info into the Trick or Tracker app you’d have everything you’d need to either stay safe or scare up some trouble this Halloween.