As children, we were all told at one time or another that “we are what we eat,” as a reminder that our diet is integral to our health and quality of life. In the modern world, with location-aware smartphones in our pockets, GPS units in our vehicles, and the internet addresses of our computers geocoded, it has also become true that “who we are is where we are”—every individual is now a mobile sensor, generating a ceaseless flow of location-encoded data as they move about the planet.

To manage and tame that flow of data, and the parallel flow of data opened up by economical satellite imaging and crowd-sourced mapping, we need tools equal to the task—tools that can persistently store the data, efficiently access it, and powerfully analyze ...

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