MapWarper at Where2.0, with Layers!

Tomorrow I’m going to be doing an Ignite talk about MapWarper, and will talk about the newest function – Layers!

You can now make a mosaic of your maps.

For example, here’s one I made really quickly from some of  Andrew Chadwicks Oxford scanned maps, and dropped into Google Eartyhi


times atlas, osm and mapmaker

News in brief style post… I really should do these as a podcast….

The Times Atlas, a wonderful coffee table sized book, has a section about OpenStreetMap. Nice!

Google MapMaker is releasing the data made by people using their Map Maker service, only for non-commercial and private use. Could be very useful for humanitarian work.  Currently for Kenya. Mikel does a great comparison of OSM vs Map Maker.

Google StreetView has launched in the UK for a few areas….highlights include half the photo covered with chestnut leaves, and in Bradford, the car being pulled over by the police. Ed writes a funny post about publicity, spectacle and the press, after the story about a village chasing the G car out of their roads.

Nokia Mappers Arrested in India

So, we mocked the UK government when they said that mappers were terrorists, but as Geocarta writes, two people in India, making a map with their GPS device have been arrested for this “reason”! Apparently they were working for the GI company Biond Software, collecting data for Nokia (and Navteq?). As of writing this post, the pair will be in day 7 in police custody.

Biond Softwares director Milind Dalvi, who came here and met the ATS officials, explained: ‘We have been commissioned by Nokia Navigator to do survey of major roads, terrain mapping and tourists destinations in the country using a GPS system. (source)

Citizens alerted the authorities after seeing the GPS devices on the cars. Then, after being arrested, they were futher doomed after the police saw that they were taking pictures of gates and walls, especially around an airport which has an army base next door.

From the India Times:

A police official told TOI that more than the data, the agency is interested in knowing to what end is the data used. “A detailed map can show strategic locations or disclose sensitive information, it can be used by terrorists or people with malafide interests. Thus, we are going through the maps and also questioning them about their clients,” said the official.

More info from India Times


I’ve asked Nokia International for comment, but have yet to hear anything.
Edits: Nokia India’s press office email  at is not working  (user unknown error)!

Hathersage at Barcamp Sheffield

On the Sunday, a cold winters morning after partying, nine barcampers, including a family, headed off to the Peaks in Derbyshire to Hathersage – a pretty town, that was quite unmapped (before we went there!). We split up into groups and wandered around the village – our traces can be seen below:


We took the train from Sheffield to Hathersage, which gave allowed some time to get used to the gps units.

Wandering along quaint, but cold tracks, to mark those points!

Some of our group, being filmed by Bill:

of course, we met up in a pub, The Little John for extremely large plates of food, and beer.

All photos copyright Ian Ibbotson

GeOng 2008 Forum, UNSDIT & Open Data

Few weeks ago I spoke and helped run a workshop on OpenStreetMap and GPS utilization at the GeOng Conference, in Chambéry, France – organised by CartOng, on behalf of Mikel, who wasn’t able to attend. The forum was about the role of geodata and GIS in humanitarian work & crisis response. We also had a “pico” mapping party after the conference.

The conference’s language was in French, although pretty much all of the slides were in English. The conference website’s Agenda contains links to many presentations.

CartOng is an NGO based in Chambéry which “provides information management services through mapping and GIS to humanitarian relief organisations. It also promotes the use of geospatial data for managing displaced populations.” At the moment, they have someone out in the Haiti helping them in the field… more on this later.

The forum saw NGOs, commercial & open source companies, various agencies in the United Nations and universities come together. It was the first of it’s kind, and I think that everyone got a lot out of it. From the opening speech by the co-presidents:

The objective of GeOnG, organized by CartONG, with strong support of UNJLC is
at first and foremost to broaden the network of GIS specialists, information
managers of the Francophone community involved in emergency operations and
development. So that we get to know each other and learn from each other,
thereby facilitating future missions on the ground. We often talk of preparing for
disasters, but we must not forget that the fast provision of geodata is an
important factor for making an operation and rapid deployment successful.

At the risk of repeating ourselves and re-quoting the CNIG, sharing of information is particularly important to avoid duplication of efforts and minimize costs. To achieve this, political will and efforts of all partners must be in place. Efforts need to be made by working, through financial contributions and through making Geodata available, of course. This furthermore comprises sharing of contents to be made available to all, including tools and methods, while recognizing that some are already used in case of crises/emergencies.

There was a very real concern and interest in data sharing and making data open, which is one of the ways that OpenStreetMap can help with. When a crisis hits, the responders do not care about whether the data is open or not, they care if its useful and available. If necessary, they will “beg forgiveness” later. But whilst this is needed, doing this every time however could be wasteful, as each agency appears to be coming across the same problems: finding the data, managing it, putting it into the correct format, sharing it with others.

Another key theme for the two days was that of standardisation of data in a good useful format. In an emergency, knowing that a particular road is officially designated a “B-Road” is not that useful, what people want to know is “can I drive a truck down it?”. To address these concerns, the United Nation Spatial Data Infrastructure for Transport was devised. Devised by the UNJLC from the bottom up with the help of the actors in the field, it’s been designed to help address this.

The schema is open. I really think that OpenStreetMap can benefit from the work done here. For example, the weight classification and bridge classifications. Using the form shown above (which I also think is an excellent way to help people collect data with openstreetmap) – all forum participants went out for a “parcours” around the town, and were asked to map route condition and any obstacles. It was a useful practical exercise. The next day, we downloaded the data and showed it as kml in google earth, as part of a workshop, although we did have a powercut!

In Haiti, there is work going on to provide OSM with data with the UNSDIT format, which would be excellent. OpenRouteService is planned to be able to use the data from the OSM database to provide routing solutions for Haiti. More on this in the days to come. We are also talking about putting OSM on phones (maybe using GPSMid) to help navigate around in emergency areas – often phones are the only thing that works. Being able to text a message saying “at lat x lon y, the bridge is down” would be very useful – and you wouldn’t even need a GPS. It’s a great example of the ecosystem around open geographic data – these tools did not exist before open data became available, it’s a great feedback loop – more data = more uses = more users = more data (works if you subsitute “more” with “better” too).

The schema also works both ways, OSM contributors could also benefit by having regular use of the data, and benefit from useful classifications of features, should they choose to adopt them.

Interesting presentations included, the work of UNOSAT (pdf) with some very good cartography, and excellent examples of the type of outputs they do. Working with remote sensing to produce accurate and timely maps. Camptocamp showcased (pdf) a range of opensource gis solutions, and their products, including MapFish – which interestingly can use Google Gears to enable offline editing of vector data – very interesting. UNHCR’s geoportal (pdf) – here they touched upon another important issue – many of their users out in the field have slow internet speeds, or no connectivity. I think this is a real challenge for GIS and for OSM – to have offline capabilities with the ability to synchronise these with a central server. Overall a good conference, I think everyone got a lot out of it.

Afterwards, we went up into the mountains and stayed overnight in a “refuge”.

Beautiful views, clear skies, great company, singing and playing Uno in front of the fire, and drinking home made schnapps. I spent the remaining week in Lyon, Avignon and Annecy – doing some mapping and seeing the sights. Avignon’s map is looking a bit fuller now, especially around the Old Pope Place.

Great place to get lost wandering around the narrow streets – and the GPS worked suprisingly well in the narrow alleys.

Have fun at the Bradford Mapping Party! 27-28 September

Bradford, the city in West Yorkshire that is quite undermapped is having an OpenStreetMap Foundation organised mapping party! 27th & 28th September, 2008. Help put this city on the map.

The intention is to help build up a community of local mappers, whilst mapping as many highways, cycleways and footpaths as possible within the A6177 ringroad.

There’s GPS units to borrow, full training given. Come along for a couple of hours or the whole weekend. Everyone welcome! Have fun!

GpsMid j2me online midlet utility

Heres a little online utility to help make custom j2me GpsMid midlets for your phone. GpsMid is a vector based tracker and viewer of OpenStreetMap data, I’ve covered it some more here, it’s rather good.

I like how you can search for streets and places, and it adds it as a virtual waypoint to help you navigate to that street. It also has good zooming support.

For my phone Nokia 6023i, I choose the no-obex option, and turn the routing off (it’s not quite working correctly for me).

Code is available on request, written with python, it’s designed to run the java conversion on the server. However, Java is quite memory intensive, and my host (dreamhost) hasn’t enough to run it. Offers glady received 🙂

Tokyo, OSM & Japan

The second of my Japan blog posts: A couple of weeks ago, we had a mini mapping party at Tokyo. My hosts were Hiroshi Miura from and the Kodeo (Little Edo) Linux User Group, a great group of people, professionals and enthusiasts. We met at the IPA (the IT Promotion Agency – a kind of governmental centre for promoting excellence in IT), near Sugamo. Hiroshi Miura, who recently has started invited me to give a talk and demonstration about OpenStreetMap (slides) and then afterwards we walked out to map a local famous garden. Unfortunately, I may have gone on a bit, as by the time we got there, Rikugi-en Garden was closing (4:30), so instead we journeyed out to the more complex streets around probably better for giving a more representative view of osm mapping, if less pretty!

Tokyo LUG Openstreetmap mapping party

Most of the folks had GPS, after Miura-san introduced the OSM project to them earlier in the year. Many different types of GPS were present, a few built into phones, bluetooth, loggers, and one person even had a PSP with GPS unit (he said that the quality was quite poor, plus the only application that it can be used with, only works in Japan). Part of the afternoon was meant to be an exploration of the various quality of GPS receivers.

Tokyo LUG Openstreetmap mapping party

Road signs are different in Japan, many roads are not named – instead, the block that the road goes next to are marked, blocks of houses become the address, rather than the street the house is on. More details can be found on the wiki for mapping in japan (in english), and (in japanese). The ward boundaries are apparently available from the government under a similar to CC-by-A licence, so work could be done to help import this into the osm database.

Tokyo LUG Openstreetmap mapping party, apaman

This is “hatochan” Kentaro Hatori – the organiser of Kodeo LUG, pointing out local landmarks! In this case the very famous Anpanman, outside a childrens creche.

Here are the initial results from that day (click map for big):

results from sugamo mini mapping party

We noted many things, such as a difficult five road junction, with various types of roads. Junctions, parking, amenities, restrictions and buildings were among the things mapped. We also encountered a special form of police box a “Koban” – different from a police station (we came across one of those as well). Japan’s cities, and Tokyo is a good example are very compressed and dense – something that was mentioned a few times by those mapping- which brings certain problems and opportunities, but I’ll talk about these in my next post.

After heading back to the IPA we extracted GPX tracks, and started to do some editing using potlatch and JOSM. Then it was off to the pub. I’m pretty sure we ended up at Akasaka Gorou Hazime, for beer, shochu, dried & fresh fish & other tasty morsels. Much laughs, and cultural understandings were exchanged about the world of otaku, and things geek! I found out about bash-on-rails (apparently it works really well), and some of the activities of the LUG, including selling “attractively covered” linux mags at the huge twice yearly Tokyo Comic Market. We ended up at a famous pig back-fat ramen shop, for a bowl of oishii-delicious noodles. I think we all enjoyed ourselves! Thanks to Hiroshi and the folks at Kodeo LUG!

style editor for mapnik

This is a great application from Martijn (his blog) – it’s a style editor for Mapnik – one of the renderers used to render Openstreetmap data.
style editor for mapnik

It goes a long way to helping differentiate the map from the data, as I discussed in this post “a manifesto?“. OpenStreetMap’s power is the data. It also shows the flexibility of mapnik, and the Freedom in being able to have the map you want.

Have a go by selecting some of the predefined styles.