Carla Johnson


NATASHA What does location intelligence/geo mean to you?

CARLA Everything on the planet has a place. Because we live, think, and navigate in a 3D world, it is also an intuitive way to navigate the world online. Geospatial interfaces integrated with location-based data are a perfect marriage; it’s how our mind and world works. It’s a completely natural way to explore, search, connect, and learn.

NATASHA  How did you get into location?

CARLA My first degrees were in Geology and Biology. For a time I also studied Astronomy. I then got a Master’s Degree in Structural Geology and did doctorate coursework in Environmental Hydrology and Engineering. All these sciences operate by describing the physical world mathematically. But being able to see in my mind these concepts and data in 3D space and time was really how I learned.

I started an environmental engineering firm in 1994 called Waterstone, and one of our big projects was a highly publicized, billion-dollar toxic-tort litigation. I was the hydrology expert witness trying to explain the flow and transport history of a certain company’s toxic chemicals that were dumped over time into a community’s groundwater drinking supply causing a cancer cluster.

Day after day everyone in the court room—the lawyers, press, and judge were looking confused, sometimes
bored and overwhelmed trying to understand both sides’ technical experts. All we had were maps, graphs, and tables and tables of data. So one night I went back to my office and my team created a movie in 3D that showed exactly how the contaminants were migrating in the subsurface aquifers through time. And Boom! Once they saw the movie, the dry flat information came to life. The courtroom lit up, everyone understood what was happening, and we won the case. It proved to me that data in context with location, and even better—in a 3D interface—equals instant knowledge. That’s when I started EarthvisionZ.


NATASHA How does location inspire?

CARLA It inspires us when we make new connections and relationships between disparate things. It creates AhHa! moments when new and unpredictable patterns emerge. It encourages us to see, understand, and explore the world in ways we want to, rather than in pre-programmed at, wordy, web experiences. It’s why gamers are addicted to games. They navigate in these virtual 3D worlds easily because we live in a 3D world, and when left to explore and interact at their own speed, their brains release happy endorphins, which makes them want to come back for more.

Location-based information results in automatic understanding and the brain responds by making chemicals that inspires us to do it again. That’s why the speed of learning, decision making, and connecting with others is accelerated 100-fold in a geospatial environment. It’s chemically and emotionally engag- ing. And what is more inspiring than knowing that location technologies accelerate learning and make you feel good?

NATASHA How does location-based thinking improve business, the world and society, the economy?

CARLA The human mind can only hold three thoughts at the same time and we have used that limitation to make both good and bad decisions. With geospatial data-aggregating platforms and visual interfaces, you can layer an immense amount of information in one place, which means that new relationships, trends, data points etc. are exposed that would not otherwise be available to you. It allows you to find hidden gems of information and otherwise invisible relationships between events, data, and people in time and space. From a business perspective these new pieces of information can change major assumptions, reveal outstanding opportunities or uncover deadly risks.

The most interesting thing about location is that it reflects real life; location-based products and services can impact real life experiences, so that you can see, for example where your food is sourced, where and how bad the water or air pollution is, and areas that are not safe to be in. You couldn’t do that in a thoughtful way before. A location lens creates instant knowledge—increases the speed of cognition. By that I mean you have the ability to easily and instantly understand the data when it is in the context of location.

There are billions of dollars worth of stunningly rich data being collected by corporations, governments and people on the street every moment. Some of it is in dead storage or data silos hungry to come to life by interacting with other data. And some lives on the web ripe for consumption. I believe geotagging the data and making it visible through a variety of visualization interfaces can dramatically leverage it for all sorts of things: healthcare, investing, politics, social issues, climate change and so much more.

Location-based information results in automatic understanding and the brain responds by making chemicals that inspires us to do it again. That’s why the speed of learning, decision making, and connecting with others is accelerated 100+ fold in a geospatial environment. It’s chemically and emotionally engaging.

NATASHA What is your role relative to location in your position?

CARLA Everything we do every day at EarthvisionZ is about building the next awesome web-based application or mobile app based on location data around a particular vertical, such as sports, telecomm, renewable energy, nancial markets, etc. Earthvisionz is a geospatial data management software company that uses visually stunning 3D virtual earth and map interfaces to drive engagement. I focus on the ease and beauty of presenting data and using the virtual earth and zooming as a new way to search. And it’s super fun to use!

NATASHA What is the future of location?

CARLA  There are a lot of elegant solutions coming that will deliver a beautiful 3D platform through which to navigate. Visual location-driven interfaces are how we will interact on the Internet and mobile devices in the next year or two. The best browsers will have location seamlessly embedded in your experience. All the hardware being developed today is being aligned with location awareness.

However, I do worry about the ability of the infrastructure—both hardware and software, data centers and communications networks in particular—to handle the richness of the data that is available. I am also concerned that we may not be able to develop the very specific blend of coding skillsets needed fast enough to design, code, and deliver all the potential. It’s one thing to tag geo data; it’s another thing to display any type of dataset in a meaningful way.

NATASHA  How does location benefit women in the world?

CARLA  I’m not sure this is the right question. Women make buying decisions that impact everyone—men, women, kids, animals, the environment. Location has the power to a ect con- sumption patterns because it provides transparency into how and where things are produced: how food is grown, whether the process destroys the environment, abuses the labor force, damages human health, or incites wars. Location can expose these company and government practices on a map or virtual earth, and women may make decisions di erently as a result.

It is so intuitive and natural for women to think in 3D that it would be easy for them to migrate to location-based software development. This is a relatively new field in terms of how we have so many things to develop to the earth, to a map, to imagery. It is really hard to find that skillset today. There is a HUGE opportunity for women to get into the IT world here and help fuel this exciting and game-changing new field.