Tag Archives: OSM

Open Steet Map team working hard to update Gaza map

I just heard from Mikel Maron that the OpenStreetMap team is working hard to update routes within Gaza in an effort to provide better data sets for humanitarian groups.  I love this type of on-the-fly work and I have a lot of respect for the OSM team and their willingness to drop what they are doing and start working on a critical map feature.  The flexibility OSM has shows it’s value as a quickly adaptable humanitarian tool.  I believe Deir al-Balah camp was just added a short while ago:

OSMOSM is looking at ways to quickly purchase satellite imagery to support their emergency mapping efforts.  If you are interested in helping raise funds for their efforts or IF YOU HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF GAZA STREET NAMES AND FEATURES add your name to their Wiki or drop me a line at aidworkerdaily@gmail.com.  I should have more information shortly on how they’re planning on handling offers of assistance.  In the mean time, you can follow developments over at their OpenStreetMap Gaza Wiki.

UPDATE: Reuters AlertNet has a write-up on the OpenStreetMap Gaza intiative which you can link to here.

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Tit for tat – Google’s Map Maker gives it back in the Congo

In my haste I completely missed Google’s massive efforts with Map MakerBrady Forrest‘s excellent GeoData Explorations write-up over at O’Reilly Radar reminded me to dig deeper and give credit where credit is due.  Part 1 covers Google’s Map Maker efforts while Part 2 covers Open Street Map and all that they have accomplished.

This morning Alanna Twittered about Ethan Zuckerman’s post concerning MSF’s Top Ten Humanitarian Crises of 2008.  That got me thinking about Goma and what kind of map data is available to those folks now in the field.  Rather than review the existing Google Map for that location (which is woefully pathetic) I tried out Map Maker and was amazed by the incredibly detailed map currently available:

GomaCompare that to Open Street Map and the difference is clear:

GomaI may have been overly critical of Google and their efforts in my previous posts but it is still true that Map Maker does not cover Afghanistan, Iraq and Georgia.  I don’t have to plow through the other top ten but maybe some of you can let me know if you see major differences.  Nice job, Google.

‘OpenStreetMap grows, spawns ecosystem’

A guest author over at TechCrunch UK has written a great article about the rise of OpenStreetMap and businesses like CloudMade and Geofabrik that are sprouting up around it.  From the post:

OpenStreetMap and the tools around it still have a very geeky feel, making it
easy to be dismissive. Nevertheless, there is no disputing the rapid growth,
improvement, and emergence of a surrounding ecosystem of ventures make this a
project likely to a have global impact for both internet users and businesses.

Read on…

The African Cloud

While writing about the new Google iPhone App and it’s voice recognition feature Tim O’Reilly made a comment on his blog, O’Reilly Radar, that I just can’t stop thinking about:

Cloud integration. It’s easy to forget that the speech recognition isn’t happening on your phone. It’s happening on Google’s servers. It’s Google’s vast database of speech data that makes the speech recognition work so well. It would be hard to pack all that into a local device. And that of course is the future of mobile as well. A mobile phone is inherently a connected device with local memory and processing. But it’s time we realized that the local compute power is a fraction of what’s available in the cloud. Web applications take this for granted — for example, when we request a map tile for our phone — but it’s surprising how many native applications settle themselves comfortably in their silos.

Admittedly, I have always been happy with the term ‘Cloud’ being defined as either ‘a mop headed Google geek’ or ‘the place my Gmail lives’ but it occurred to me, after reading Tim’s post, that the cloud has the ability to cause significant positive change in regions where mobile penetration is increasing, i.e. Africa, Asia, the Middle East, etc.  While all the pieces had been floating around in my head for a while I am just now understanding that we really need to drag very little out to Africa for them to have incredibly powerful technology in the palm of their hand (and that such thinking is inherently poisonous) and that we are better off attempting to facilitate the connection of their handsets to The Cloud in order to assist with effecting positive social change.

With massive GSM penetration in places like Uganda it makes you wonder if we haven’t been missing the point for some time now.  While Jeff Allen is slogging through a truckload of work down in Sierra Leone to bring a Health Information System online I sit here and wonder if the Swinfen Charitable Trust, Nokia Data Gathering and OSMTrack aren’t signs of better things to come.  God knows we need guys like Jeff to put real, hard systems in place (that’s why I founded Humanlink) but I also cannot get over how much work I can get done on my iPhone and how little time I now spend at my computer.

Eduardo over at InSTEDD is already working in this direction with SMS GeoChat and although he’s currently focused on a very defined sector (diseases surveillance) in SE Asia I know they plan a worldwide roll out.  While such a system has significant potential I see as much more disruptive applications like OSMTrack and Nokia Data Gathering as innovations that allow any user, for sometimes a nominal fee, to generate data and share it at will.  (I should also throw in Nokia Sports Tracker as it also offers a very useful tool for collecting track data.)  The only problem with such applications is that they rely on upper end phone models which are definitely not the norm in the developing world although I am confident that the penetration of smart phones into these markets will continue to increase.

If the general populace can collect data for their locations and post this information to open sites like Open Street Map then aid workers will have a repository of data to work off of if and when there is another emergency.  The UN folks do a great job of pushing maps for humanitarian disasters but, as we saw with Georgia, maps take time to create and update so a much more proactive stance is required.  I have already posted on the impressive amount of work put into creating maps for places like Kabul, Baghdad, and Tbilisi by people like Kevin Toomer.  Compare OSM to Google Maps (or any other online source) in these areas and the results will astound you.  These are the places we work and really the only places we really need maps for.  In an emergency the first thing I always did was to build a dossier for the event location and maps were and integral part of that package.  I didn’t have time to wait for Reliefweb to post updates and satellite imagery from Google Earth can only get you so far.  What is needed is a very proactive approach to mapping by agencies and individuals in unstable regions.

Once that data is collected, whether it be GPS tracks or health data, it can easily pushed to the cloud from a mobile handset bypassing the whole download/upload routine.  This makes me think of the Congolese health officer who Jeff wrote about who had terrible trouble producing reports for MSF from his desktop due to a virus and a shoddy connection which came through his mobile handset via neighboring Uganda.  I wonder if the lion’s share of his data collection could have been done from a high end handset?  Gone are the days of worrying about whether or not the generator is running virus on Windows machines.  Now it is possible to carry your office in your pocket and with a collapsible solar panel you can motor on indefinitely.  You don’t even need a network connection as you can simply upload the data once your are back within reach on your mobile carriers signal.

Dmitri Torpov is making $0.99 per download over at the App store for his OSMTrack and may also be doing a hell of a lot of good for future aid teams.  If only one person takes their iPhone to the field and commits to mapping their tracks while going from health post to health post and then uploading that data via a local network (either while roaming or on a cracked handset) the world might just be a better place.  My guess is that mapping Monrovia, Goma, Juba, etc. now will pay off in the long run.  With the cloud hovering over Africa rapidly growing in size the advantage goes to those folks on the ground who have the power to generate the data and ultimately benefit from it.

Open Street Map mapping party this weekend in San Francisco

While Mikel, Andrew and Schuyler are in Africa for Open Mapping Africa 2008, Steve Coast, the founder of Open Street Map, is back here in SF working tirelessly on OSM, CloudMade and setting up this weekend’s mapping party.  If you have never had the opportunity to hang out with some extremely capable developers, map a route with a GPS unit, or drink libations at the Hotel Utah I strongly recommend you follow this link to the who/what/where/when page and pencil in a couple of hours for this Saturday or Sunday.  Let them know if you plan on attending by heading over to Yahoo’s Upcoming and clicking in.

I had the opportunity to speak with Steve at some length the other day about Open Street Map and mapping in remote regions but will save that for that info for a follow-up post.  In the mean time be sure to clear your schedule and break out the walking shoes.

Read on…

‘Burning Man Earth at Web 2.0 Expo’

Mikel Maron has posted the slideshows from the Web 2.0 Expo presentations he and Andrew Turner gave yesterday in NYC.  Very worthwhile clicking through with some killer pics.  Mikel and Andrew are Open Street Map evangelists and they just sold Mapufacture to Fortius One.

Read on…

Mikel Maron is mapping the West Bank

Mikel Maron is doing an incredible job of mapping the West Bank and has detailed his adventures on his blog, BrainOff.  Please head over and read about what Mikel is up to.  Mikel just sold Mapufacture to Fortius One and is an Open Street Map evangelist.

Read on…