september 2008 archives

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crowd sourcing spatio-temporal patterns

Amsterdam At the Picnic 08 event in Amsterdam last week, there were two examples presented of crowd sourcing spatial and temporal patterns using mobile networks: CurrentCity based on the KPN network and TomTom HD Traffic based on the Vodafone network. Furthermore, Tele Atlas announced last Thursday that it will bring to market the speed profile database that underpins TomTom's IQ Routes technology. This is an example of crowd sourcing spatial patterns using GPS technology instead of using mobile networks.

CurrentCity presented Visible Amsterdam, a real-time visualisation of anonymous mobile phone locations in the city of Amsterdam. The locations were derived from triangulation using the base stations of the KPN network. The spatio-temporal patterns of human activities in the urban environment enable all sorts of public good applications. Although Visible Amsterdam uses the mobile network instead of GPS technology to determine locations, it very much reminds of Real-Time Amsterdam!

During the The Future of Mobile interview with Guy Laurence, CEO of Vodafone Netherlands, he showed off the TomTom HD Traffic viewer on the TomTom homepage. Triangulating mobile phones in the Vodafone network, the locations are matched to the road network map. High densities of mobile phone locations can then be translated into traffic jams. Although available in the Netherlands now, TomTom aims to roll out HD Traffic in Germany, France, Switzerland and Great Britain by the end of this year!

Whereas these spatio-temporal patterns using mobile networks are crowd-sourced real-time, the Tele Atlas speed profile database has been created based on almost half a trillion of anonymous GPS locations gathered over the course of the past two years from TomTom customers. With this speed profile database, a routing engine could now calculate different routes for every 5 minute interval during 24 hours a day and 7 days a week across 18 million kilometers of road in Europe (23 countries) and North-America (2 countries) based on real measured speeds instead of posted or legal speed limits. These routes benefit from the local knowledge and will have a much more accurate times or arrival. Now, that's OpenStreetMap taken to the next level!

The interesting thing is, that whereas collaborative mapping typically requires participants to be actively involved, these examples don't require people to do anything else than simply go about their daily lives!  permanent link for this entry

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Beginner's Guide to OSM

Updated map This week, I uploaded my first contribution to OpenStreetMap! The red, dotted lines along the river Vecht now mark the parts of my run that were missing from the map before as I mentioned in my previous post. After the thorough presentation from Martijn van Exel and Gert Gremmen at the OpenStreetMap Users Day, there just wasn't an excuse anymore not to.

Garmin Webupdater Before heading out to capture some traces, I just wanted to make sure I had the latest software version on my Garmin Geko 201 GPS device. I downloaded the Garmin WebUpdater application from the Garmin website. In the Setup menu, I changed the GPS Mode setting to demo and the Interface setting to Garmin. Having connected the device to the serial port of my computer using the PC Interface cable, I downloaded and installed the latest software version 2.70. Finally, in the Tracks menu, I made some adjustments to the settings in the Setup. I set the the Record Interval to time and Value to 00:00:01 (i.e. 1 second). Since the Geko 201 can store 10,000 track points, you can now collect almost 3 hours worth of GPS positions: ready to head outside!

GPSBabel Admittedly, my runs usually don't last longer than 30 minutes, but the accuracy of one track point every second makes for accurate tracing later! So after my run, I connected my GPS device to my computer again and downloaded the track points using the Open Source utility GPSBabel. The actual command line programme gpsbabel.exe also comes with a nice GUI, GPSBabelGUI.exe. With the following command I downloaded all data from the device (connected to the COM1 serial port) into a GPX-formatted file:

gpsbabel.exe -p "" -w -r -t -i garmin -f com1:
  -o gpx -F "C:\gpsdata\dummy.gpx"

Java OSM Editor Next, I opened the GPX file with the track points I collected during my run using JOSM, the Java OpenStreetMap Editor. I then downloaded the map data that's already available from OpenStreetMap to give my track points some context. Now all that was left for me to do was to trace the track points and to add the tag highway=footway. Actually, I still need to add the street name as well! Once satisfied, I uploaded everything back to OpenStreetMap. By the way, make sure to use the correct username/password credentials. These are different from the credentials you use to edit the OSM wiki!

It usually takes upto 54 hours for a change to appear on the Netherlands Tileserver, but within 2 days my changes were added! It then took just another day before the changes also appeared on the international tile server. With the AND donation, I must admit that it seems difficult to make a more substantial contribution to the Dutch map than a simple footpath. But hey, we can't all be like Mikel Maron, mapping the West Bankpermanent link for this entry

Monday, September 15, 2008

OpenStreetMap: Open Data License

Since it has been over a year since the OpenStreetMap Amsterdam Mapping Party, it was about time that I made my way to the lovely village of Baarn last Saturday, where a group of about 30 people had gathered to attend the OpenStreetMap Users Day. The afternoon was kicked off by Henk Hoff, presenting the Open Database Licence (ODL) as an alternative license for the current Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 (CC-BY-SA) license.

OpenStreetMap logo Whereas using OpenStreetMap geographic data in an application currently makes the application itself and all other data in the application fall under the CC-BY-SA license, the ODL license would only apply to the OpenStreetMap geographic data. Hence, the ODL license would make it much more attractive for businesses to use OpenStreetMap geographic data in commercial products. The current CC-BY-SA license actually puts up a barrier for wider adoption of OpenStreetMap geographic data.

Martijn van Exel and Gert Gremmen followed with a workshop introducing the various editors to create and edit maps for OpenStreetMap, such as JOSM and Potlatch. Their presentation was a great opportunity to get to understand the steps to take from gathering GPS tracks to building a map. I can't wait to contribute: a few tracks along the river Vecht where I regularly run are not on the map yet! So stay tuned...

Saturday, I suddenly realised why there are so many location-based social network start-ups such as Nulaz and Bliin in the Netherlands: with the AND donation, the OSM coverage for the Netherlands is at an acceptable level to create location-aware applications for mobile phones! Surely a new license will be lower the barriers for more companies to use OSM's geographic data in their application and build a business case around it.  permanent link for this entry

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Top 25 Blogs in GIS, GeoWeb and Cartography

Top 25 Blogs. On position 33, Webmapper is well outside the Top 25 Blogs in GIS, GeoWeb and Cartography. It's on it, though! The list was compiled by FortiusOne and ranked according to the number of sites/blogs linking to each, as reported by Technorati. All in all, I must admit Webmapper is in fine company among the likes of Google Maps Mania (4th), The Map Room (8th), Ed Parsons (16th) and Mapping Hacks (24th).

Off the map.But let's go back to the FortiusOne blog Off the Map, the blog formerly known as Moving Past Push Pins. Well, they are not the only ones off the map! Also the fine folks at Urban Mapping have a company blog that goes by the name Off the map. Pot, kettle, black? Fair enough, there are more Web sites about Webmapper than yours truly. However, most of these are about particular mapping software products. They are not mapping blogs. That's exactly where it becomes tricky: two mapping blogs with the same name, but by different companies! So, who is off the map?  permanent link for this entry