Posted: October 26th, 2012 | Author: steven | Filed under: Crowd, Open Data, OSM, Post code | Tags: #ehs2012, #w3g | 3 Comments »
No expense spared on graphic design at these unconferences
An eventful week with both W3G “the unconference” and Everything Happens Somewhere (the National Land and Property Gazetteer Awards).
W3G at the newish Google Campus near Silicon Roundabout, was loosely themed around the question “Is Open the New Black” and a lot of the talks (including mine) were about open data. The presentation of the day for me was Lawrence Penney (@lorp) talking about 1 dimensional maps (or strip maps) with an enormous, amazing collection of ancient and modern map images to illustrate his point that these simple representations (sometimes without any map graphics) were a highly effective way of communicating. With something like 280 slides in his deck, he had to break for lunch and then resume in an unscheduled after lunch session (the flexibility of an unconference). The attendees were a cross section of the geocommunity, a while ago they might have been described as paleo and neo, but now I think we would just call them geogeeks.
At the end of the afternoon there was a panel discussion or as Gary calls them a fireside geochat. The topic that most interested me was around the long term sustainability of crowd sourced data particularly OSM. Several panellists suggested that even if there was a decline in the level of activity of individual contributors that passive crowdsourcing (contributions when you use services that sit on top of OSM such as navigation applications or checkins would continue to add to the map). I’m not sure, I wonder if it will take a more managed approach to process this kind of ambient information into useful map data or to target mappers to respond to change intelligence from passive sources. There is a discussion just starting to evolve within the OSM community (well at least the Foundation) about the role of companies within OSM, should they be members, can they have influence etc? I think that businesses who have a commercial interest in the ongoing success of OSM need to play a more active role in contributing to the infrastructure and also have a way of expressing their needs in terms of the scope and spec of the data. The OSM-GB project that we started at Nottingham University was prompted by some similar thoughts.This is a topic that you will hear a lot more about in the next year if you follow OSM developments.
If you haven’t been to one of these free AGI events before then you have missed out on some stimulating talks, some first sight of some new tech like the fabulous Recce app from eeGeo which renders detailed 3D mapping in a compelling games style environment and some crazy moments when Mark Iliffe talking about his Taarifa mapping project launches a helicopter aerial photography drone and flies it around the room. Big thanks to Gary Gale, Rollo Home, Ed Parsons and Ed Freyfogle for putting the event together.
Next day another event but very very different. Everything Happens Somewhere is GeoPlace’s annual gathering of local authority gazetteer managers at the Quaker Friends Meeting House in Euston (a weird venue for a conference). Pretty dry stuff you might think and there were a lot more ties in evidence than at W3G and the slides had more bullet points but gazetteers can engender quite a lot of passion amongst people whose job is to maintain them to exceptional degrees of accuracy and currency. There were a good number of common faces from the previous day’s unconference now getting down and dirty in the detail of addressing. When the open discussion kicked off, the hot topic was Royal Mail’s proposed PinPoint product, it seems that GeoPlace management and local government reps were as perplexed as I am at this needless competition in the addressing space.
I hadn’t thought that I was attending a crowdsourcing event until I listened to a session where the local government reps were calling out the quality achievements region by region. There are over 300 local authorities compiling a national gazetteer using a single data model, common data entry conventions and signing up to some highly challenging data quality standards for accuracy, completeness and currency. The national data set is being used by a lot of central government departments including DWP, Tell us Once, DEC, DfE, Electoral Registration etc. I know the circumstances are different and this is centrally managed by GeoPlace but I would have to describe this as Professional Crowdsourcing and very successful too. Of course there are issues regarding the openness of the data and relations with Royal Mail but I am sure they will eventually be resolved anyway those are for another day/post.
At W3G I may have coined a couple of new labels
To which I replied
Maybe the OSM discussions in the “hippy geo world” could learn something from the LPG Custodians in the “straight geo world” and long may the two continue to interact, I’m happy to have a foot in both camps.
Posted: September 21st, 2012 | Author: steven | Filed under: Google, Usability, Value | Comments Off
Steve Jobs pic thanks to CogLogLab http://www.flickr.com/photos/cogloglab/
If they have a web connection in the afterlife Steve Jobs must be fuming about the gaffes in Apple Maps and thinking “This would never have happened on my watch”
By now you have probably read about the catalogue of errors, incorrect data, wrong routes etc in the new Apple Maps app released with iOS 6, if not you can see some of the funniest here or here for some UK specifics, oh and here for some interesting geopolitical stuff. There have been so many people wanting to share their favourites that a dedicated site has sprung up called The Amazing iOS6 Maps.
So you get the feeling that the initial launch of Apple Maps has run into some problems with interface and whizziness triumphing over quality and coverage of data. Mike Dobson who knows a heck of a lot about spatial data, conflation, VGI and geostuff wrote this very sharp piece yesterday, he summed up the mess
“Apple does not have a core competency in mapping and has not yet assembled the sizable, capable team that they will eventually need if they are determined to produce their own mapping/navigation/local search application.”
And his advice to Apple
“Of course there appears nowhere to go but up for Apple in mapping. I wish them the greatest of success and …
.. I urge Apple to keep a sense of humor about these problems, as have some of its users. I had a great laugh at a comment about Apple’s mistaking a farm in Ireland as an airport. The comment was “Not only did #Apple give us #iOS6… They also gave us a new airport off the Upper Kilmacud Road! Yay!”
Of course things have been made worse for iOS6 users because the Google Maps app that they had up to iOS5 has disappeared and there is no replacement in the App Store yet. There are rumours that Google has an app built but whether it is waiting for approval by Apple or has not been submitted yet is pure speculation. Ed Parsons declined to comment on twitter but was believed to have a slight grin on his face. I suspect the folk at Google must be trying not to overdose on schadenfreude today. If Google really wanted to step up the Android vs iOS wars then it might just suit them not to release a Maps app for iOS6. If you have downloaded iOS6 and want your Google Maps back then browse to it in your mobile browser and save the bookmark as a shortcut on your home page (instructions and pros and cons here).
Apple have acknowledged that this first release of Apple Maps has a few problems
“Customers around the world are upgrading to iOS 6 with over 200 new features including Apple Maps, our first map service.
We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover, turn by turn navigation, and Siri integration.
We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it.
Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get.
We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.”
I particularly like “Maps is a cloud based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get” Oh yeah! How is that going to happen, being in the cloud has no bearing on the data problems they have. It doesn’t appear that there is a feedback loop or error connection process in place for users to help Apple fix their problems and after you have paid ca £600 for an unlocked phone are you going to want to help Apple sort out their problems? This could be a long, hard and expensive grind for Apple to fix on a global scale, Google do massive data as their day to day (Apple do design, engineering and user experience) and it’s taken Google 8 years and tons of investment to get to where they are today. Someone at Apple may yet regret the day they decided to throw down the Maps gauntlet particularly as we can be certain that Google are not going to sit back and wait for them to sort their maps act out.
You have to think that Apple Maps would not have been released without a lot more test and QA if Steve had still been running the shop or was Maps a piece of Steve hubris that once started couldn’t be stopped?
Lot’s of us (Apple fans like me included) have been wondering when the halo was going to slip, could just be that we now know. September 20th 2012 was a “Bad Maps Day” for Apple.
Posted: September 19th, 2012 | Author: steven | Filed under: Geocom, Value | 1 Comment »
Last night was the warm up night for GeoCommunity with the first couple of hundred delegates arriving for an evening of impossible quizzes, engineering with spaghetti and marshmallows (see result below), meeting up with old friends and making some new ones.
An infinitely scalable architecture?
I found myself in a thought provoking conversation with a couple of long term proponents of GI about whether we make too many claims for the power of geo/location/spatial/place. It seems like a good question to be considering as we start 2 days of keynotes and case studies at this conference. As an irrepressible sales person I cannot stop myself from always looking for the place to insert geo into a workflow or problem but thinking back I wonder if there have been some occasions where the enthusiasm exceeded the real value delivered.
Geo needs to do more than just display a pretty pattern, it needs to provide an understanding of an underlying relationship that can be the basis of some action for improvement. That means understanding why something happens not just where it happens and what to do about it.
Posted: September 9th, 2012 | Author: steven | Filed under: FOSS4G, Open Source | Comments Off
Free – thanks to Brad Stabler http://www.flickr.com/photos/bstabler/
This week I spent 2 days at the OSGeo UK Chapter event in Nottingham. OSGIS 2012 was a fun combination of workshops and presentations.
OSM-GB ran a workshop showing how to use their WMS and WFS in QGIS and even though I thought I knew how useful the services could be I was impressed by the simplicity of filtering and querying against the WFS, one of the attendees came up with a neat business use case that they were taking away to test. More on that in another post soon.
On the second day Ian James gave an inspiring talk about Ordnance Survey’s adoption of Open Source Geo in parts of their business. Rather than attempting to summarise, this slide from his deck captures the key reasons.
Why Open Source GI? Why now? – slide from Ian James of OS
One bit that prompted quite a bit of discussion after the session was
- Cost Savings (but it’s not free)
Whenever comparisons of open source and proprietary business models come up it seems that the “It’s not free” line will get in there pretty quickly (you can guess who might raise that one). Well of course open source isn’t free when used in an enterprise environment, it’s just that the commercial model of the businesses providing services around open source is different to that of proprietary vendors. Potential clients have a choice to make and Ian James outlined some of the factors that were influencing Ordnance Survey’s adoption of open source.
In the coffee break I suggested that perhaps the open source geo community should consider dropping the F in FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for Geo) to avoid the potential misrepresentation of the Open Source business model. Although OSS4G doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Arnulf Christl (past chair of OSGeo and now on a temporary assignment at Ordnance Survey) suggested that we might be using the word free in the wrong way as in beer not speech and that perhaps we should be using it as in Freedom. That set the wheels spinning for FOSS4G 2013 and the kick off session that we were holding the following day. You will have to wait for some more info in the next couple of months but I think “The Freedom to ….” might feature in our plans.
Just in case the twitter storm hasn’t reached your corner of the world FOSS4G, the international conference of OSGeo, will be in Nottingham from 17th to 21st of September 2013. If you want to keep track of what we are planning have a look at
- The FOSS4G web site which is a bit thin at the moment but will be flourishing and sparkly within a few weeks
- The FOSS4G pledge site where you can volunteer to help – web stuff, action groups, outreach, academic reviewers, you name it we need it
- The bid that the UK team submitted is here
- The FOSS4G 2013 Wiki which has minutes of our meetings
- For regularish updates and discussion join the FOSS4G 2013 mailing list
- Follow us on twitter at @FOSS4G
A year of planning has started so that you will have “The Freedom to …”
Posted: July 20th, 2012 | Author: steven | Filed under: Open Data, Ordnance Survey, Post code | 1 Comment »
Mad, no stupid. Thanks to Marius Roman http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelimateam/
A few days ago the Royal Mail published some information on their new Pinpoint positional accuracy programme
“Location-based information is used by the emergency services, satellite navigation systems and smartphone applications. We want to help improve the accuracy of this information. So, we are mapping address information which is accurate to the front door of every home and business in your area. This could, for example, help the satellite navigation systems in the cars of friends and families find your address more easily.”
The pilot in East Anglia involves postal delivery staff capturing coordinates of front doors using GPS receivers. It is difficult to imagine a more pointless duplication of effort than this and to what end?
Only a year ago it appeared that government had resolved the address wars by creating GeoPlace, now it appears that Royal Mail have decided to set up in competition with them and revive the address wars. Why one partially tax payer funded service arm should seek to exploit it’s unique position to compete with another government trading fund is beyond me, it’s bonkers. I hope Royal Mail gets a bloody nose out of this and is forced to make PAF freely available as OpenData.
Posted: June 26th, 2012 | Author: steven | Filed under: Open Data, OSM | 2 Comments »
Making waves – thanks to keoshi
I was looking forward to hearing Uri Levene, the CEO of Waze, talking about Redefining Social Networks and Crowd Sourcing at the Innovate Israel event this morning.
Waze provides real time traffic information from user/contributors who have also helped them to build a road network by contributing their GPS traces from their phones as they drive. He showed some very itoWorld like animations of contributions flashing up on the map and suggested that they had good coverage in 60% of the world (which looks a bit overstated based on their wiki) and I was wondering why they had not worked out a way to use OpenStreetMap to get better coverage. Then he made the bold, if not astonishing, statement that 4 companies dominate global mapping – Google, Nokia, TomTom and Waze, somehow he missed out OpenStreetMap which has recently been adopted (at least partially) by Apple, AOL, Bing and Foursquare. Of course to be fair OpenStreetMap is not a company.
There doesn’t seem to be any route to download contributions from Waze, so I guess they see the collection of crowd sourced data as a one way street. Waze reminds me that all that is crowd sourced may not necessarily be open.
Posted: June 26th, 2012 | Author: steven | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off
I met Yotam, the founder of wibbitz.com at the Innovate Israel event, he was virtually the only person not wearing a suit at a tech conference. His company offers a solution for automatically generating video content from text which looks as if it could have a mass of applications. Here is what happened when I entered the KnowWhere URL in the sample generator on the wibbitz site:
Pretty neat except for the pronunciation of “KnowWhere” but to be fair that would be a toughy. I liked the way it got the intonation of some of my post titles. Give it a try.
Posted: June 20th, 2012 | Author: steven | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off
In case you hadn’t heard a crowd of geogeeks have climbed mountains, written proposals, garnered support, tweeted their hearts out, started a pledge, created campaigning web sites and convinced the nice and very wise people at OSGeo to entrust us with their treasured FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for Geo) conference in 2013 at the East Midlands Conference Centre at Nottingham University.
No, despite some of the hysteria it is not repeat not like hosting the World Cup or even the Euros, let alone winning it. Repeated tweeting of
was completely unjustified as is this video
Let’s be honest it only a geoconference, it’s not as if we have won a cup or something. But it is going to be a wonderful week in September 2013 starting with AGI GeoCommunity (16th and 17th) and following straight through to FOSS4G (17th to 21st) – there will be code sprints and talks and parties and workshops and discussions and hackathons and a massive GeoCamp and Robin Hood might get a look in. And who knows, there are several other geo events looking for a home in 2013 perhaps they may decide to rock up in the UK and sync around our dates? OSM I’m looking at you.
So you want to get involved, of course you do. We will need sponsors, helpers, artists, money, expertise, resources, ideas, papers, t-shirts, beer, more sponsorship, a giant marquee and entertainers for starters. There is room for the all European geocommunity (the people not the event) to participate in making this a success, you can stick your name on the list at the pledge page or if you are a big hitting potential sponsor mail me here
So all together now
“It’s coming home, it’s coming home, FOSS4G is coming home …..” (even though it never lived here)
Get in there!
Posted: June 11th, 2012 | Author: steven | Filed under: Google, Privacy | 2 Comments »
Spies - thanks to Ocular Invasion http://www.flickr.com/photos/ocularinvasion/
This morning I woke up to a piece on Radio 4 mentioning a Daily Mail piece about Google and Apple putting spy planes in the sky that would capture 10cm resolution images and be able to see into our homes. At least this piece was in the Science section and explored or (rehashed) the much discussed issues of privacy – however in the world of technophobes and DM readers this so called news (how long have Google been capturing aerial imagery?) was also top of a preposterous comment piece which starts
“Circling high above us, fleets of military-grade spy planes, hired by Apple and Google, peer through bathroom skylights and photograph every tiny detail of our homes…”
Time for a personal declaration – I dislike the Daily Mail and everything that it and it’s “Trust” owners stand for even more than the Murdoch empire. I know this is the kind of mock journalism that the DM thrives on so I shouldn’t get fired up by it (and to be honest I’m not) but the piece got me musing on why there is such a large audience out there (this was the online version) who are willing to believe the DM and are so keen to distrust Google or Apple?
No doubt several readers will point to walled gardens, masses of personal data accumulated by Google, Facebook et al, failures of security, “accidental” wifi sniffing and more. But government is in general much less competent at managing personal data let alone making good use of the data that it has collected, many lower tech companies also make a hash of these things including our banks, so why pick on Google and Apple?
Was it ignorance or deliberate omission that the DM article failed to mention that Ordnance Survey, Geoinformation Group, Astrium, GetMapping, COWI, Bluesky and Blom have all been capturing high resolution aerial imagery of the UK at regular intervals for the last decade? I hope that my mention of these companies’ “spy in the sky” activities doesn’t bring the wrath of the DM crashing down upon them. I guess none of these British based businesses have the consumer reach of Google or Apple and anyway it is more fun to bash colossal US businesses. Is it a particularly British thing to love to demonise large successful companies (particularly if they are not British)? I couldn’t find similar comment coming out of the US.
I think most people have a touch of the Frankenstein Syndrome, they are afraid of the stuff that they don’t understand (quite possibly with some justification) and they are understandably concerned that those promoting these technology changes have not fully thought through the long term implications – just like the passionate opposition to and fear of GM.
I don’t think these fears are justified, but who knows? What I am certain of, is that inaccurate, misinformed, sensationalist journalism is not the format for a reasoned discussion of the benefits and risks of making high quality imagery more widely available through Google and Apple.
UPDATE – the day after I wrote this post the Information Commissioner announced that it had written to Google requesting further information on the Streetview wifi sniffing incident
Posted: May 3rd, 2012 | Author: steven | Filed under: Business | 1 Comment »
There is money in them there maps. Thanks to seriykotik1970 http://www.flickr.com/photos/seriykotik/
How big is the UK geomarket? What does it comprise? A recent report by ConsultingWhere entitled “The UK Location Market Survey 2012” suggests that the market is now valued at £1.2bn per annum. That’s pretty big and certainly more than my informal but informed guess/envelope calculation/hunch which either means that they’ve got it wrong or that I don’t know as much as I thought I knew (probably the latter since their research is largely sourced from publicly available data).
So how did we grow from a geeky niche to be a billion pound plus industry? Well the answer is at least partly down to the broadening of the scope of what CW define as the UK Location Market to include
- Originators of software, data and hardware where location information is a significant component.
- Suppliers of services, data, software and hardware both direct and indirect where location is a significant component.
- Revenues derived as a direct result of the use of location information. Examples include the advertising revenue of web organisations where the service incorporates location information.
- All suppliers of location-based data and services provided within applications on a personal mobile or tablet device.
- Specialist hardware used by organisations active in the location market (but not consumer GPS)
The chart shows the breakdown by business focus with Geospatial representing what I think of as the traditional GI business space. I think there are a couple of very significant shifts identified by this choice of scope. Firstly the inclusion of the Marine sector (massively bigger than I had ever thought) and the Geomatics sector defined as “land-based surveying and related activities’ recognises that the professional market has much broader scope than what we (or maybe that should be I) have typically considered within the traditional GIS world. Additionally the authors have included the growing B2C market including location based applications on mobile devices and location driven advertising although it is not clear how they have been able to split these revenues out from the numbers of some very large players. It would have been great if the authors had exposed a little more detail about the breakdown of their estimates but I guess the confidential conditions of some of their sources precluded that. It appears that most of the growth from the previous CW survey in 2009 when the market was sized at £657m is down to the broadening of the scope of the study. The downside to changing scope is that it makes it more difficult for those interested in tracking the ups and downs of the GI market to identify the key trends in the professional segment, although they do recognize this issue by providing a “like for like” comparison of the turnover of some of the bigger players over the intervening period. The big takeaways for me from this study were how much more there is to location than your MapInfo Pro or ArcGIS and how colossal the data market is.
A peek inside
Apart from the overall size of the market what are the highlights of the study? The data market is well over half of the total market (which seems to match my experience of selling solutions) that said, one has to wonder whether this segment of the market is going to shrink as crowd sourcing and #opendata encroach.
This study has included a very comprehensive review of the vertical markets for the UK Location Business, the authors have gathered contributions from domain specialists, users and solutions vendors which identify the drivers and issues in each market and seek to predict growth or decline over the next 3 years. Understandably a large share of expenditure is in the public sector (Defence, Central & Local Govt and Emergency Services) and with the exception of defence all of these sectors are predicted to decline. Personally I think the authors have substantially understated the likely decline (which they predict at -5% to -10% year on year) as the implementation of the austerity agenda combines with a surge in uptake of Open Source geo. Overall the traditional GI market is going to be pretty flat with at best growth in commercial sectors offsetting the decline in the public sector.
Clearly it is based on a large amount of research – if you work at the user or supplier end of the market these sections are interesting and possibly essential reading (even if you thought you knew the market back to front)
So is the study worth purchasing? Who should be interested in it? The authors say
The overall aim is to provide readers with a view of the UK location market in both quantitative and qualitative terms for the purposes of aiding business planning and in order to underscore the value and importance of the market within the wider UK economy
If you are in the location business or are thinking of developing an application in this space then this study (at less than the cost of a day’s consultancy) is a worthwhile read.
Disclaimer – I am kindly name checked by the authors in their acknowledgements for providing some feedback and suggestions on an early draft of the study. I didn’t write any of the content and I have no financial interest in it.