Spatial computing

Shashi Shekhar, Steven K. Feiner, Walid G. Aref

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Spatial Computing Encompasses the ideas, solutions, tools, technologies, and systems that transform our lives by creating a new understanding of locations- how we know, communicate, and visualize our relationship to locations and how we navigate through them. Pervasive GPS allows hikers in national parks, boaters on lakes, children visiting new places, and taxis (or Uber drivers or self-driving cars) and unmanned aerial vehicles to know their locations, nearby facilities, and routes to reach places of interest.a Large organizations use spatial computing for site selection, asset tracking, facility management, navigation, and logistics. Scientists use Global Navigation Satellite Systems, or GNSS24 (such as the global positioning system, or GPS), to track endangered species and better understand animal behavior, while farmers use these technologies to support precision agriculture to increase crop yields and reduce costs. Virtual globes14 (such as Google Earth and NASA World Wind) help teach schoolchildren about their local neighborhoods and the world beyond (such as the Wini Seamount near Hawaii, extraterrestrial landscapes on Mars and the Moon, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey) in an engaging and interactive way. In the wake of recent natural disasters (such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012), Google Earth has allowed millions of people to access imagery to help disaster-response-and recovery services.26 Within days of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, post-disaster roadmaps had been created thanks to citizen volunteers submitting timely local information to the popular volunteered geographic information13 website OpenStreetMaps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-81
Number of pages10
JournalCommunications of the ACM
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the participants of the Computing Community Consortium''s 2012 Spatial Computing Visioning Workshop, with support from the National Science Foundation, especially the organizing committee members: Peggy Agouris, Michael F. Goodchild (member of the National Academy of Sciences), Erik Hoel, John Jensen (ASPRS, AACI), Craig A. Knoblock, Richard Langley (Institute of Navigation), Edward Mikhail (ASPRS), Ouri Wolfson, and May Yuan (former president of UCGIS). We thank the overall Computing Community Consortium, including Erwin Gianchandani, Kenneth Hines, Hank Korth, and Eric Horvitz for guidance and valuable feedback. We thank Michael Evans, Dev Oliver, Venkata Gunturi, and Reem Ali at the University of Minnesota for their help in Spatial Computing 2020 visioning activities. We also thank contributors to the Vision and Challenge paper track at the 12th International Symposium on Spatial and Temporal Databases. 40 And we thank Kim Koffolt for improving the readability of this article. Shashi Shekhar''s research is supported by the National Science Foundation through grants 1029711, IIS-1320580, 0940818, and IIS-1218168, the U.S. Department of Defense through grants HM1582-08-1-0017 and HM0210-13-1-0005, and the University of Minnesota under OVPR U-Spatial. Steven K. Feiner''s research is supported in part by the National Science Foundation through grant IIS-1514429. And Walid G. Aref''s research is supported in part by the National Science Foundation through grant IIS 1117766.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 ACM.


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