Where 2.0 Launchpad: The best of a dozen geo start-ups

Rafe's picks from the Demo of Where: Launchpad.

Twelve companies pitched to the crowd at the Where 2.0 conference here Monday night. Each had only five minutes to make their case. A full rundown of the companies is on the official Launchpad page, but here's the Webware takeaway on the most interesting of the dozen apps (not counting Whrrl, which we covered last week):

Orbster makes location-based games for mobile phones. The company was showing off GPS Mission. The cool thing is a Web-based mission designer lets individuals or communities create games based on their own knowledge of their locales. Game players have to collect virtual "gold" by going to the locations in the game and, I think, answering questions based on them. It's like geo-caching, but without that bothersome digging up of plastic bins. GPS-capable phone required.

Rhiza Labs is launching Community Insights, which is a Web-based platform for mapping data sets. It lets users compare data sets on a map, annotate existing maps, and also lets the users who upload data see what other maps use their data. Not quite as straightforward as a "Flickr for data," as the presenter said, but it looks like a very useful tool for any organization trying to make sense of its map-based data.

GreenMap is more a political initiative than a technology: the company makes it easy to create maps of items relevant to sustainable living. Also coming soon: A global, open map of green resources.

Pushpin is a map-making service that "looks and acts" like the maps you get from Google and Microsoft, except you get a lot more control over how the map looks and what data it displays. The news at the conference is that the company is releasing a free version of the API. Also, in the geeky-cool category, each location on the map has a human-understandable URL.

Concharto is a Wikipedia of mapping. On the base map (from Google), anyone can add their markups. But what's really interesting is that all markups on the map are time-coded, so it works better for plotting the course of history than static maps. Might even work for complex battle maps or for sports. Needs a better way to control the timeline aspect of the map display, though. Hopefully that will be added.

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