New Geospatial Computing Lab Exploring Smart Apps That Sense Locations, Aid in Navigation

May 08, 2014

Chen Ruizhi

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Today’s smartphones are bringing advanced geospatial computing right into our hands. 

An expert in the area of mobile geospatial computing, Dr. Ruizhi Chen, an Endowed Chair and Professor at the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science (CBI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is using this advanced technology to implement what he calls “smart geospatial applications.”

Knowing when you are driving, where your running and what restaurants are nearby when it is dinner time uses smart geospatial technology. Smartphones now come equipped with powerful processors and advanced sensors including, GPS receivers, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a digital compass, such geospatial computing that used to require high-powered computers. Cell phone users may be most familiar with these features when using apps such as Google Maps, Foursquare, Groupon, and Mapmyrun.

“For example, by sensing that we are driving, the smartphone can respond to incoming calls automatically,” said Chen. “The phone can send a voice or text message that lets people know you are busy driving and will call back soon.”

Chen believes this advance in smart geospatial applications has the ability to create a positive impact on daily life. As smart phones become more powerful, we will no longer rely on tools such as in-car navigation systems. Chen believes that the search for an all-in-one tool makes navigation services in smart phones more attractive.

“Cell phones are in our pockets every day,” said Chen. “The smart phone is the new universal data collection device.”

Currently the Island University offers the only combined geomatics and GIS-focused Bachelor of Science degree, in Texas, and as the field continues to grow so does the need for an advanced degree. That’s where Chen’s new Geospatial Computing Laboratory (GCL) comes in.

 “We are excited about the expanding field of geospatial computing,” said Dr. Gary Jeffress, Director of the Conrad Blucher Institute (CBI) at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  “Surveryors trained here are already providing the scientific and mathmematical principals to model and map areas all over the world. With this new lab and the expertise of Dr. Chen, the Island University will only add to the practical uses of GIS data in this new era of smart phone apps.”

The new lab consists of research facilities, equipment and software for supporting research in various areas of geospatial computing. The GCL lab also has seven faculty members with the expertise and capacity to support the new PhD program in Geospatial Computing.

“The GCL is currently supporting undergradute and graduate students and it is ready for hosting new Ph.D. students for the 2015 anticipated doctoral program in Geospatial Computing Science,” Chen said.

Before coming to the Island University in 2013, Chen served as the Head of the Department of Navigation and Positioning from the Finnish Geodetic Institute. He has also worked in engineering, research, and app development, with a on 3D city model apps for Android phones and has appeared in “GPS Worlds”. Chen has more than 140 publications including his most recent “Ubiquitous Positioning and Mobile Location-Based Services in Smart Phones,” which was published in 2012.