Conferences OpenStreetMap

Vienna: State of the Map EU

So – I was at the State of the Map EU (SotM) conference in Vienna last weekend – a European-focused conference on the OpenStreetMap project. I travelled with my colleague Steven Gray and presented some screenshots from the GEMMA project I am currently working on at UCL CASA – more about that in a later post. The two of us, and London OpenStreetMappers Shaun and Tom, stayed at the shiny new Wombat Nachtmarkt hostel which was convieneintly a few minutes walk from the venue at Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien). I was impressed that, on walking onto the university campus, my phone connected seamlessly to the Eduroam wireless network, based on my UCL credentials – a feat that was not managed in recent trips to more local academic campuses in Manchester and Imperial.

I was impressed with the number of people at the conference – over 200, which was larger than the global SotM conference I was at in Amsterdam two years ago. According to the stats, 2/3rds of people there were from the German-speaking diaspora (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) which demonstrated the clear demand for a SotM conference based here.

I mainly followed the “Tech” track at the conference. I was particularly interested to know about Mapnik Metawriters, which I’m looking to incorporate into some forthcoming Mapnik-based work. You know when you click on Google Map POI icons (not pins) and you get a tooltip with the name of what you’ve clicked on? It’s similar to that. Another highlight included Andy Allan with a tour of custom cartography of OpenStreetMap data. Andy’s cartographic-focused talks are always a visual feast. Unfortunately my own talk clashed, but I managed to make a quick exit after mine and caught the last bit of his.

Another interesting talk was ESRI’s launch of version 2 of their OpenStreetMap editor for ArcGIS – OSMEditor. Of course, you still have to have a copy of ArcGIS in order to be able to use a plugin – so the non-academic, non-commercial audience is unlikely to be using it. I was slightly surprised the presenter didn’t mention the $100 non-commercial licence that is now available for ArcGIS. The $0 price-point for Quantum GIS (which also has an OSM editor plugin) is still going to be unbeatable, but ESRI is certainly going in the right direction. Their engagement with OSM is not something I would have suspected a couple of years ago, it’s great to see them sponsoring and presenting at a conference like this. Of course, having the OSM layer a click away in ArcGIS as a background layer is a good win for them too. And they even let us call them “esri” these days! 🙂

Muki Haklay gave an overview of his team’s completeness analysis for the UK OSM dataset over the years. We used to say we “are good enough”. Now we can say that, subject to qualifications, we are “as good as” some traditional datasets. There was also some similar research presented by Heidelberg University, which used hexagonal cartograms, which was an interesting change from grid squares. I should also mention Steve Coast’s keynote, which was a frank statement of the current state of play of the project – good in many places, but problems with the Australian community feeling disengaged and looking to split from the project were clearly top of his mind.

It was great to meet face-to-face with some major figures in the community – notably Frederick Ramm of GeoFabrik. I managed to sit beside him for half an hour at the conference dinner without twigging who he was. Frederick is one of the authors of the OpenStreetMap book that I reviewed – one of my comments was used as a quotation in the book’s advertising at the conference!

Henk Hoff from the OpenStreetMap Foundation was in fine form, with one of his “poster auctions” at the end of the conference. He also announced the winner of the free trip to the “father” SotM conference in Denver in September being Gregory Marler. Gregory won with his Rebecca Black-esque recording “Fly me to SotM” (I hope he doesn’t mind me saying that!)

The social side of the conference was excellent. Plenty of breaks for networking, and a conference dinner on the Friday night. This involved everyone getting a couple of specially hired 1920s wooden trams (or “Bims” after the sound their bells make) to a suburb of Vienna – via the grand ring-road, past the various palaces and other grand buildings – whereupon we took over most of a restaurant for an Austrian feast of Wiener schnitzel, meat loaf, sauerkraut, picked cucumber, and a dessert of apple strudel. A few resturant-brewery combinations were also visited during the trip – along with some most refreshing lagers, served in proper glasses with handles that make a lovely “clonk”. Vienna was very warm indeed, with a thunderstorm on the first night. It was also eerily quiet – the city is quite grand and spaced out, plus maybe many of the locals were on holiday to the mountains. Certainly the people we met were friendly. I should mention specially the conference organisers, which were flawless and ensured everyone was in the right place at the right time! The organisation of the conference and social events appear to go off without a hitch.

It was a great trip to see what’s going on with the OpenStreetMap development community, present some of our own work at CASA, and explore Vienna.

Conferences Geodemographics

The Census for the Google Generation

I presented a talk on web visualisation of Census data at a couple of of conferences last week – a seminar at the Market Research Society (MRS) in London on Monday, and an extended version at the Census 2011 Impact and Potential conference on Friday at the University of Manchester. The talk is a look at various visualisations on the web, mainly of the 2001 UK and 2010 US census datasets. It also mentions the CensusProfiler project I worked on last year. I used several examples of work from Chris Gale at UCL Geography, who is working on potential geodemographics of the 2011 census.

I certainly hope to see some of these ideas implemented when the 2011 census aggregate data starts to be released – the “second stage” release, of univariate table at quite detailed (output area) level, is likely to be the most interesting, and is scheduled to happen in late 2012 or 2013, following the first stage release of the core metrics next summer. Having Stamen’s ThisTract webpages, and CUNY’s ethnicity change swipe maps for the UK data, for example, would be excellent.

You can download the talk in PDF form from here.

Bike Share Conferences

Wherecamp and Bikes in Berlin

I was in Berlin last weekend for Wherecamp EU – the European neogeo unconference, which was previously in London. The unconference took place in the pleasant campus of a language school in the north-east of the city. As well as the session rooms, there was an outdoor area for snacking – with giant salted pretzels! – and informal discussions. A wide range of spatial developers and technologists were present, from the UK, Germany and around Europe, although all sessions were in English.

There were some very interesting sessions – I particularly enjoyed Chris Osborne‘s closing talk showcasing the latest ITO visualisations of travel, including a “coloured lasers” animation of John McKerrell‘s movements over several years, and Peter Batty‘s look behind the work of his company – Ubisense – indoor navigation, including tracking cows!

My own presentation was a summary of CASA‘s current research, with a focus on some of our recent visualisations, particularly of transport and social network data. I also touched on my bike share work. Steve, my co-worker who was also at the conference, presented in more depth on visualising georeferenced social network data, such as Twitter and Foursquare, and also mentioned GEMMA, the JISC project that we are both working on at the moment. We’ll be going into GEMMA in more depth at State of the Map EU, in Vienna next month.

I also took the time to have a look at the bike share scheme in the city, which is called Call-a-Bike:

It has been around for a few years, as a fully distributed system, where users, on finding a locked bike anywhere in the city, call a number on the bike to receive an unlock code, then do their journey and leave it locked. Last week, it relaunched as a dock-based system, with bikes grouped at docking stations, and terminal screens:

Interestingly the bike docks are just concrete blocks with simple holding gates – so the bike itself knows if its locked (and presumably via RFID in the dock where it is) rather than the data being transmitted through the dock itself. There is also no power attached to the stands. In London, the information presumably gets passed through the docks to the terminal which then broadcasts it to the scheme operation system – and the dock recharges the lights on the bike [Update – the lights are charged by dynamo]. In Berlin, each bike itself does the broadcasting, and the bikes have a long-life battery. Having the simple, unfixed concrete blocks allows docks to expand much more easily. In London, it’s a big deal to get the planning permission, install the underground connectivity in the pavement and hatches for the docks, and finally put the docks in themselves.

I was excited to see that the terminal screens have maps showing the empty/full status of the surrounding docking stations. The terminal screen maps appear to be using a custom map, similar to Google Maps, as their background, with the statuses superimposed on top:

Interestingly, the empty/full information displayed on these screens is not available on the scheme’s public website, so I have not been able so far to include it in my bike share map which now covers 32 (non-German) cities. I would love to know the source of the data for the maps in the terminals…

The map in the terminal has some obvious flaws, such as if you zoom out:

The scheme is quite expensive – 15 EUR for a 24 hour hire (compared to £1 in London) and, like London, you get charged additionally for journeys that last longer than 30 minutes. There is also a pay-per-minute option of 8 cents per minute, which works out quite well for shorter journeys but is still quite an expensive option (half an hour would be 3 EUR). [Update – I got this slightly wrong – it’s 12 EUR to register, which gives you 7.50 EUR of credits, then it’s 8 cents per minute up to a ceiling of 15 EUR for 24 hours. Still quite a lot more than London’s pricing.] The scheme has only just been relaunched, but I noticed only one person using a bike share bike in the several hours I spent wandering about the area, whereas in London you can’t move for Boris Bikes in certain areas…

The bikes themselves seem to be in good condition, and have a generous area for stowing bags, on the back. I hope the scheme does continue to grow.

This was what I found most upsetting about the trip, as a London cyclist:

Notice the dedicated cycleway, which is using coloured bricks (rather than paint), is raised to the level of the pavement, and has priority over side-streets that it crosses. But the thing which made me wish I was a Berlin cyclist and not a London cyclist, was the deliveryman. Notice how he is carefully unloading the boxes from the lorry and stacking them up on the narrow space between the road and the cycleway. If this was London, the lorry would first be parked across the cycleway, or failing that the boxes would be piled up on the cycleway. Non-cyclists in London just don’t respect cycle facilities.

Anyway I enjoyed my Berlin trip, it was a good unconference, both interesting and informal, and I look forward to future Wherecamps!

Conferences Data Graphics

Visualising Bike Share

Here’s the presentation that I gave at the #geomob London Geo-mobile developers meetup at UCL last night.

[slideshare id=5528647&doc=visualisingbikeshare-101022061626-phpapp01 width=”590″ height=”480″]

Please note the data presented is preliminary and unreviewed and should therefore not be considered to be definitive or necessarily correct.

Conferences OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap – The Quality Issue

This was the title of a presentation I gave today at the 46th Society of Cartographers Summer School (Lanyrd), which was in Manchester.

The abstract was:

OpenStreetMap is coming of age, but as it starts to be used more in the mainstream, the age-old questions of quality and completeness are coming to the fore. A range of data sources have been used to build up the map in the UK, from GPS traces to aerial imagery, historic mapping, NaPTAN and the OS Open Data release, each with their own benefits and limitations. This talk looks at a number of studies and tools developed to quantify, compare and address accuracy and coverage of the project in the UK, in an attempt to answer the key questions – is it complete yet and just how good is it?

OpenStreetMap – The Quality Issue

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The presentation makes references to two animations, which are the Milton Keynes Mapping Party traces and the US TIGER import sequence.

Conferences OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap 101

I presented this short set of slides to some visiting students from the State University of New York in Buffalo, this morning in UCL CASA, as part of a mini-conference the department organised for them. It’s a simple, visual introduction to the project.

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Additional notes: Slide 6 is a comparison of OSM, Google and Bing (or Yahoo). In Slide 10, the link is to here (20MB MPG). Slide 18 refers to OpenOrienteeringMap which can be found here. Slide 19 relates to two other visualisations I’ve made, see them here and here – OSM is being used for the background. Slide 20’s screenshots of BestOfOSM show Bern, Gaza City and Berlin Zoo.

Conferences OpenStreetMap

UCL – The Story so Far

At the beginning of the July, I transferred from UCL Geography “proper” to CASA (the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis), a research group at UCL allied to Geography department and a number of other areas. I am initially working on the MapTube product, specifically enhancing its coverage with respect to the spatial datasets available in the UK Data Store and London Data Store.

As part of my induction, I was asked to present a summary of my work at UCL so far. Here are the slides for that presentation.

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The presentation includes various screenshots of mapping data, including data from the OpenStreetMap, EDINA UKBORDERS and OS Open Data projects. Attributions can be found on the respective websites.

Conferences OpenStreetMap

GISRUK Navigation Challenge

This is the map GISRUK 2010 attendees are using to get from UCL, where the conference is, to the River Thames, where the boat await for the evening cruise. On the way, some of them are doing the challenge, which is to take the optimum route to visit any 6 of the 12 control points – a blue plaque at each one to prove their visit. The map was made using the OpenOrienteeringMap map builder.

[Download PDF]

(Note: The start point was actually from just east of “B” rather than the triangle.)

I haven’t yet computed the best route, I think it’s probably BAJFED or maybe BMCKED. There is no “trick” best route, as the points were fairly fixed by the locations of the blue plaques. But the solution is apparently not immediately obvious to the human eye.


Spatial Interaction Models for Higher Education

I gave a talk on spatial interaction models, geodemographics, and flows from schools to universities, at the CASA conference on Tuesday. This was on the work I did last year with Dr Alex Singleton.

My slides are here on Slideshare and below:

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Conferences OpenStreetMap

Wherecamp EU – Day 2

Today was the second day of Wherecamp EU, at the very swish Guardian offices in King’s Cross. More interesting talks, I mainly went to the OSM-themed ones this time, although I also spent a very interesting hour watching a simple iPhone map application being created from scratch. RichardF’s Potlatch 2 intro talk was probably my favourite of the day.

I also finally got around to giving my talk, a short description of orienteering and OpenOrienteeringMap. Highlight for me today though, perhaps because I did a 5K race this morning and then arrived at the conference too late for breakfast, was the excellent lunch, street-food wraps from Moolis – yum! Sponsors and unconferences rule.


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