December 30, 2015

ACM Spatial Computing CoverMcKnight Distinguished Professor Shashi Shekhar’s article “Spatial Computing” is featured as the cover story for the January 2016 Communications of the ACM. This is a major honor for the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and increases the visibility of the University of Minnesota in the critical area of computing.

The Association for the Computing Machinery (ACM) is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society. Founded at the dawn of the computer age, ACM’s reach extends to every part of the globe. The ACM’s flagship publication, Communications of the ACM, leads the computing and information technology fields with a readership of over 100,000 professionals. It is recognized as the most trusted and knowledgeable source of industry information for today’s computing professional.

Prof. Shekhar’s article presents a perspective on the societal impacts, recent shifts and potentially transformative opportunities in “Spatial Computing” based on the discussions at a recent Computing Community Consortium workshop, “From GPS and Virtual Globes to Spatial Computing – 2020” held at the National Academies Keck Center.

ACM Web editor David Roman lists several insights in this article. Starting with the public availability of Global Positioning System (GPS) in the early 1990s, spatial computing has enriched billions of lives through location-based services (e.g., Google Maps, Uber, geo-tagging, and geo-targeted alerts including Amber alerts). It has also advanced Computer Science through ideas like spatial databases (e.g., R-tree, OGIS simple features library), spatial statistics (e.g., point process theory, Kriging), spatial data mining (e.g., robust hotspot detection), and spatial decision making (e.g., Precision Agriculture). Future potentially transformative opportunities include ubiquitous indoor location-based services, the location-aware Internet of physical things, and continuous global monitoring, visualization, forecast, alerts and warnings to address societal challenges, such as climate change and nexus of food, energy and water security.

Learn more about spatial computing by reading Communications of the ACM’s recent cover feature, “Spatial Computing,” or watch the short accompanying video below. Catch up with Prof. Shekhar and his spatial computing research group by visiting their website.

Spatial Computing at the University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota is a global leader in the area of spatial computing. Its alumnus, Jack Dangermond founded ESRI, a leading spatial computing software company. Its scholars have contributed popular textbooks, encyclopedia, public domain software (e.g., UMN Map Server, SpatialHadoop) and a massive open online course, resources which have been used by tens of thousands. Its scholars have served in leadership roles. For example, M. Mokbel is serving as the President of ACM SIG-Spatial; R. McMaster and William Craig served as President of the University Consortium on Geographic Information Science; and many (e.g., McMaster, Shekhar, Craig) served on national academies committees (e.g., mapping sciences committee) and boards (e.g., board on earth resource and sciences). They also manage prestigious journals (e.g., GeoInformatica, Remote Sensing of Environment). A 2009 MN Future campus Workshop attracted 44 scholars across half a dozen colleges. Currently, its U-Spatial project makes spatial software and dataset available to everyone on campus. 

Professor Shekhar is a Mcknight Distinguished University Professor and a Distinguished University Teaching Professor at the University of Minnesota. For contributions to geographic information systems (GIS), spatial databases, and spatial data mining, he was elected an IEEE Fellow, as well as an AAAS Fellow, and received the IEEE-Computer Society Technical Achievement Award and the UCGIS Education Award. He co-authored a popular textbook on Spatial Databases (Prentice Hall, 2003) and an authoritative Encyclopedia of GIS (Springer, 2008). Recently, he co-taught a massive open online course titled “From GPS and Google Maps to Spatial Computing,” which attracted over 21,000 students across 182 countries.

In the early 1990s, his research developed core technologies behind in-vehicle navigation devices as well as web-based routing services, which revolutionized outdoor navigation in urban environment. His recent research results played a critical role in evacuation route planning for homeland security and received multiple recognitions including the CTS Partnership Award for significant impact on transportation. He pioneered the research area of spatial data mining via pattern families (e.g. collocation, mixed-drove co-occurrence, cascade), keynote speeches, survey papers and workshop organization. Alumni of his Spatial Computing Group serve in leadership positions in industry, academia and government.