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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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The Z Axis

Comments (10)

As I was hiking up Quandary Peak on Saturday, I regularly looked at my Garmin 305.  I had four data fields displaying – distance, total time, heart rate, and lap time.  After about two miles, I asked Dave how high he thought we were.  He pulled out a topo map, looked at it for about 15 seconds, and said "around 12,500 feet." 

Up to this point, I was doing a simple calculation between distance and elevation based on the assumption that there was approximately a straight line between the start of the climb at 10,750 feet and the peak 3.3 miles later at 14,270 feet.  While I was doing this calculation in my head at the two mile mark, I looked at my watch and realized it had a data setting for elevation.  Doh.  And yes, we were at about 12,500 feet.

As I climbed the rest of the way to 14,270, I checked my watch on a periodic basis.  My rough guess is that the elevation accuracy was +/- 30 feet at any particular moment.  Pretty cool.

I’ve been intrigued with mapping and geolocation for a long time – one of our investments is Quova, the market leading geolocation data provider.  I run into lat and long all the time in geotagged data but I rarely run into altitude (aka elevation).

Anyone that flies an airplane knows how critically important altitude is.  As airplanes start to have Internet access, the jetpack that NASA promised me as a kid arrives, and IP-based flying robots start to appear, altitude will emerge as an important part of geolocation.  Today, geolocation is still mostly just x and y data.  Our friend the z axis is starting to make an appearance.

  • http://petercranstone.blogspot.com Peter Cranstone

    You can also use your blackberry or other mobile device to know about the Z axis. We have a browser plugin that allows you to access the mobile GPS and then send that data to any web service you want. You can now do GPS enabled search and even know where your friends are via a simple search request such as http://www.5o9mm.com/fireturkey?whereare=Peter,Ke…- note you get location information, GPS information, speed information, and you can see mobile maps of everybody's location (mash out to yahoo). Heck you can even use it to check the traffic – http://www.5o9mm.com/traffic/Denver,CO (of course not much use for that when climbing a mountain)

    Cheers,

    Peter

  • Phil Sugar

    Brad I think you would have a fun time learning how to fly. The ultimate geopositioning with GPS has been on the inside of small planes (which ironically because they can retrofit easier/cheaper have some of the best GPS equipment) for ten years.

    Geo-positioning is kind of critical when you are in the klag and want to make sure that next cloud you go through on approach isn't cumulo granite.

  • Ed_Daniels

    My favorite commentary on “thinking out of the box with the z axis” is an old Star Trek episode: “Kirk knew that Khan would be back, and asked Spock the most likely direction the attack would come from. Spock had deduced by then that Khan was intelligent but not experienced in space combat – that Khan was thinking in two dimensional terms. Realizing this Kirk had Sulu bring the ship to a full stop, and take the ship down along its Z-axis for 10,000 meters. Kirk also ordered the crew to stand by on photon torpedoes.” etc. etc. The point being that we normally think in two dimensions. Ed

  • Tom Brickley

    Thought you might be interested in this site:

    http://www.motionbased.com/

  • http://www.mccuegroup.com Leslie McCue

    Brad -
    You also might like geocaching….Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.

    http://www.geocaching.com is the site – can search for caches near you.

    my best,

    Leslie
    Leslie@mccuegroup.com

  • http://www.johnives.com John Ives

    Brad – the 305's Z-axis accuracy is suspect. I took my 305 on a 3 hour kayak trip around Lake Dillon. My track showed a 450' positive elevation change. I must have missed the uphill portion of the paddle :-)

  • Esley Gustafson

    Brad,
    Intermap Technologies in the Denver Tech Center has built a business around providing other geospatial companies the Z-axis data. A good company and good people. They have a very cool product called EyeTour.

  • http://www.gothamtechminute.blogspot.com Ryan Mettee

    I think geo-locationing will be specifically important valuable for extreme social networking. Imagine you are hiking up a mountain trail and people can reccomend sites, and you will see them, when you pass a certain spot on the trail. This will all appear in your digital handheld gps device. Some sort of formation you may of missed before will now be available to you immediately. It will be used as a discovery tool. Some other great ideas to innovate an Brad did with the Z axis… http://www.readtheanswer.com/index.php?RTA=web2

  • Jack

    This is a great post.

  • http://www.electricitycycles.com kip

    Hey Brad,
    Good idea for a post: Being a VC and knowing when to say NO to a jet paclk idea.

  • Peter Cranstone

    You can also use your blackberry or other mobile device to know about the Z axis. We have a browser plugin that allows you to access the mobile GPS and then send that data to any web service you want. You can now do GPS enabled search and even know where your friends are via a simple search request such as http://www.5o9mm.com/fireturkey?whereare=Peter,Ke…- note you get location information, GPS information, speed information, and you can see mobile maps of everybody's location (mash out to yahoo). Heck you can even use it to check the traffic – http://www.5o9mm.com/traffic/Denver,CO (of course not much use for that when climbing a mountain)

    Cheers,

    Peter

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ed_Daniels Ed_Daniels

    My favorite commentary on "thinking out of the box with the z axis" is an old Star Trek episode: "Kirk knew that Khan would be back, and asked Spock the most likely direction the attack would come from. Spock had deduced by then that Khan was intelligent but not experienced in space combat – that Khan was thinking in two dimensional terms. Realizing this Kirk had Sulu bring the ship to a full stop, and take the ship down along its Z-axis for 10,000 meters. Kirk also ordered the crew to stand by on photon torpedoes." etc. etc. The point being that we normally think in two dimensions. Ed

  • Esley Gustafson

    Brad,
    Intermap Technologies in the Denver Tech Center has built a business around providing other geospatial companies the Z-axis data. A good company and good people. They have a very cool product called EyeTour.

  • Leslie McCue

    Brad –
    You also might like geocaching….Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.

    http://www.geocaching.com is the site – can search for caches near you.

    my best,

    Leslie
    Leslie@mccuegroup.com

  • kip

    Hey Brad,
    Good idea for a post: Being a VC and knowing when to say NO to a jet paclk idea.

  • Phil Sugar

    Brad I think you would have a fun time learning how to fly. The ultimate geopositioning with GPS has been on the inside of small planes (which ironically because they can retrofit easier/cheaper have some of the best GPS equipment) for ten years.

    Geo-positioning is kind of critical when you are in the klag and want to make sure that next cloud you go through on approach isn't cumulo granite.

  • John Ives

    Brad – the 305's Z-axis accuracy is suspect. I took my 305 on a 3 hour kayak trip around Lake Dillon. My track showed a 450' positive elevation change. I must have missed the uphill portion of the paddle :-)

  • Jack

    This is a great post.

  • Tom Brickley

    Thought you might be interested in this site:

    http://www.motionbased.com/

  • Ryan Mettee

    I think geo-locationing will be specifically important valuable for extreme social networking. Imagine you are hiking up a mountain trail and people can reccomend sites, and you will see them, when you pass a certain spot on the trail. This will all appear in your digital handheld gps device. Some sort of formation you may of missed before will now be available to you immediately. It will be used as a discovery tool. Some other great ideas to innovate an Brad did with the Z axis… http://www.readtheanswer.com/index.php?RTA=web2

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