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                              News and Views

Standard Geo-Coordinates?
August 3, 2003
/Mike Liebhold

Hypothesis: On a geospatial web, location coordinates, rather than a URL are the natural network address for data, documents, objects, programs, media.  Let's set aside the semantics of the attributes of place, for a moment,  and consider a simpler question:

Which coordinates will popularly prevail for ordinary users geocoding their data?

a)  latitude, longitude - Well known, and used commonly in aircraft and nautical navigation.

b.) UTM (zone,band,easting,northing) - Dificult to understand,  but more accurate, and already widely used with GPS, and by governments and businesses worldwide.

c.) both
d.) neither

I vote for c.) both. or d.) neither... Why? Coordinates are funky, and should be invisible to end users, invoked by a mouse-click on a graphical user interface. Latitude and longitude are inherently inaccurate geometrically, but  will continue to be popular since they're is already used commonly, especially  in aircraft and nautical navigation.

And, while the UTM (zone,band,easting,northing) system -  is certainly dificult to understand,   it's definitely more accurate,  it's measured in meters ( real distance), it's easily digitalized, and already widely used for many GPS applications, and on governments and business maps worldwide.

Here's a  background note  from excerpted from a gpsworld overview of UTM

" The UTM grid is of particular interest to anyone using a GPS receiver because most models offer UTM as a coordinate system option. UTM coordinates simply measure in meters east and north from two perpendicular reference baselines. All USGS 1:250,000 and 1:100,000 topographic maps carry a full UTM grid. ...On large-scale maps such as U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 1:24,000, 7.5 minute quadrangles, the simple numbers of the UTM grid make plotting precise locations easier than with the complex degrees, minutes, and seconds of latitude and longitude."

And this, an explanation of  "Why Use UTM coordinates" from Maptools, another GPS site:

" UTM Provides a constant distance relationship anywhere on the map. In angular coordinate systems like latitude and longitude, the distance covered by a degree of longitude differs as you move towards the poles and only equals the distance covered by a degree of latitude at the equator. Since land navigation is done in a very small part of the world at any one time using large scale maps. The UTM system allows the coordinate numbering system to be tied directly to a distance measuring system." 

comments? votes? mailto:mnl@starhill.us


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