Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Blue Sky Ideas Conference Track held at ACM SIGSPATIAL 2015

November 19th, 2015 / in Announcements, CCC / by Helen Wright

The following is a special contribution to this blog from Jagan Sankaranarayanan and Shashi Shekhar. Jagan is the Department Head of the Data Management Group at NEC Labs America, Cupertino, CA and Shashi is the McKnight Distinguished University Professor at the University of Minnesota. Jagan served as the program co-chair for the ACM SIGSPATIAL 2015 conference, while Shashi served as the chair of the session on the vision.

We are delighted to report on the success of the Vision paper track from ACM SIGSPATIAL 2015 that was held November 3—6 in Seattle, Washington. The ACM SIGSPATIAL International Conference on Advances in Geographic Information Systems 2015 (SIGSPATIAL 2015) is the twenty-third event in a series of symposia and workshops that began in 1993. This conference provides a forum for original research contributions covering all conceptual, design, and implementation aspects of geospatial data ranging from applications, user interfaces, and visualization to data storage and query processing and indexing. This year, like years past, had significant industry participation from companies such as Microsoft, Apple, ESRI, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Uber, with graduate students representing about 25% of the about 350 attendees.

The 2015 conference included an inaugural session on challenge and vision papers. For this session, the conference invited submissions of short papers in the areas of interest of the main event. The call for papers challenged the community to present ideas that are “open-ended, possibly outrageous or wacky, and present new problems, new application domains, or new methodologies that are likely to stimulate significant new research.” The Computing Research Association‘s Computing Community Consortium (CCC) sponsored awards for the top three papers under their Blue Sky Ideas Conference Tracks.

Of the 18 submitted, 9 vision papers were accepted for presentation at the conference based on a peer-review process. Selected papers included a diversity of perspectives across academia, industry and government laboratories. After the conference presentations, a committee of senior program committee members (with no conflict of interest) chose top three papers based on the quality of the “visionary ideas, long term challenges, and opportunities in research that are outside of the current mainstream topics of the field.” The prizes were given out in the form of travel reimbursement awards totaling $1,000, $750, and $500 for first, second, and third place, respectively.

Yao-Yi Picture Blue Sky WinnerThe first prize was awarded to Prof. Yao-Yi Chiang (University of Southern California) for his paper titled “Querying Historical Maps as a Unified, Structured, and Linked Spatiotemporal Source.” Yao-Yi made a compelling case for developing techniques for automatically analyzing historical maps. One example he showed was a map of a present-day vibrant neighborhood in Bristol. When one looked at a historic map from say a100 years ago, this part of town was a mining site. In another case, a residential district used to be the site of a railway track. In both cases, the current residents are blissfully unaware of the historical environmental contamination in their neighborhood and the possible health risks they are being exposed to every day.

Reem Ali PictureThe second prize was awarded to Ms. Reem Y. Ali (University of Minnesota) and her colleagues for the paper titled “Future Connected Vehicles: Challenges and Opportunities for Spatio-temporal Computing.” Reem made a forceful case for how on-board-diagnostic data stream from smart connected vehicles can result in reduced emissions, fuel savings and accident avoidance, while reducing chronic congestion. Reem also described the currency of her vision in context of recent emission non-compliance investigations affecting major car manufacturers. She also put forth the hard technical challenges that should be solved before her vision can be realized. Reem’s co-authors include Venkata M.V. Gunturi (IIIT Delhi, India), Shashi Shekhar (University of Minnesota), Ahmed Eldawy (University of Minnesota), Mohamed F. Mokbel (University of Minnesota), Andrew J. Kotz (University of Minnesota), and William F. Northrop (University of Minnesota).

Liyue Fan PictureThe third prize went to Dr. Liyue Fan (University of Southern California) and her colleagues for the paper titled “Privacy-Preserving Inference of Social Relationships from Location Data: A Vision Paper.” Liyue discussed the challenges in building useful social networks from location data, while considering location privacy constraints. She described how even a few location records is sufficient to identify individuals, yet privacy taken too far might reduce the utility of the information in tracking criminals or spread of infectious diseases. Liyue’s vision is a framework for providing a balance between the conflicting requirements of privacy and utility. Liyue’s co-authors in this work include Cyrus Shahabi (University of Southern California), Luciano Nocera (University of Southern California), Li Xiong (Emory University), and Ming Li (University of Arizona).

The awards were presented at the conference banquet. A few pictures from the banquet are below. Prof. Yao-Yi, winner of the first prize, was not in attendance.

Reem and some of her co-authors accepting the second prize from the three program co-chairs of SIGSPATIAL 2015.

Reem and her group Blue Sky Ideas

Liyue’s co-author, Cyrus Shahabi, accepting the third prize on her behalf from the three program co-chairs of SIGSPATIAL 2015.

Liyue's Group Picture

For more information about the Blue Sky Ideas Conference Track, please see the website

Blue Sky Ideas Conference Track held at ACM SIGSPATIAL 2015