That’s it. The last step in my life as a PhD student is now complete. Yesterday I successfully passed my thesis defense at Vienna University of Technology. Which means that the next time you leave a comment on my blog, I would ask you to please start your comment with "Dear Dr. Simon" Alternatively, you may also want to wait until the weekend is over, I have finished all the celebrating and regained my normal, non-megalomanic state of mind again.

Either way: my thesis entitled “Mobilizing the Geospatial Web: A Framework and Conceptual Model for Mobile Geospatial Applications” – which presents an experimental geospatial data exchange format for enabling various types of geospatial interfaces on different mobile devices (plus a proof of concept implementation) – is available for download at my publications page. The abstract is right here:

Over the last years, Web mapping services like Google Maps, Yahoo Maps or Microsoft Live Maps, as well as three-dimensional virtual globes like Google Earth or NASA World Wind have sparked an unprecedented public interest in geospatial information. The early availability of free content authoring toolkits and open programming interfaces to these applications has spawned an avid community of Web mapping enthusiasts: from casual users who produce and share different types of geospatial content as varied as geo-referenced photographs or GPS recordings of cycling routes, to technology-savvy hobbyist developers who create elaborate “map mashups” – interactive map applications that combine existing geospatial data and bring them to new use for a variety of purposes from education, to planning of day-to-day activities, to entertainment.

With the increased use of the Web from mobile devices, the combination of user generated geospatial content and mobile interaction towards user-generated mobile geospatial applications can be viewed as a next logical step. Yet, while sophisticated tools have made the development and distribution of geospatial Web applications for the large screen almost effortless, the development of mobile applications in general – and of mobile geospatial applications and location based services in particular – remains the domain of a few trained specialists.

This thesis is concerned with the integration of geospatial data in mobile Web applications. The goal of this work is to identify the technical requirements and architectural components necessary to bridge the gap between existing end user Web mapping tools, and the current complexity of mobile application development: an approach is proposed that simplifies the creation of location aware geospatial applications, thus allowing end users and hobbyist developers to experiment with this new form of mobile interaction. The thesis thereby builds on existing standards and methods throughout. The established Web application architecture is extended with software components that allow existing geospatial Web content to be re-used as a mobile, location aware application, without additional effort or the need for modifications.

The verification of the system is achieved through several experiments and tests. It is illustrated how the new architecture can be applied to a wide range of mobile devices with varying characteristics and capabilities, and how external influences such as GPS error affect the system’s operation. In particular, the verification takes into account recent trends on the mobile handset market: novel ways of spatial interaction and user interfaces made possible by orientation aware mobile phones which feature integrated GPS, compass and tilt sensors are discussed, and exemplified in a separate experiment.

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