The crowd is teeming with cartographers. At least according to a (very pretty) new data report from MapBox. The report details the explosive growth of OpenStreetMap, a free global, crowdsourced map, started in 2004, which OpenStreetMap’s annual international conference, State of the Map is returning to the UK, the first time it has come to the UK since the very first State of the Map in 2007.
Since its start in the UK in 2004, OpenStreetMap’s volunteer Vespuccis have now mapped 21 million miles of road data and 78 million buildings. The map can contain fine-grain details covering specific trees, alleys, and the interior of some buildings.
Like Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap is a non profit that depends on a small proportion of its total user base to handle most of the heavy lifting. According to the report, 90 percent of changes to the map are submitted by less than 4 percent of its users. Fortunately for OpenStreetMap, it has over one million users. It has added 500,000 of them in the last six months, doubled its total in the last year and a half, and adds one thousand every day.
Being open doesn’t mean being perfect. OpenStreetMap took some flack for being one of Apple’s data sources for the company’s disastrous iOS6 map rollout, but the OSM Foundation insists problems with the maps originated elsewhere.
OSM is not only a dataset, but also a community. The quality of the map differs place to place, the growth of OSM reflected in the report shows people need not rely on for profit companies to tell them where they are.
This vision is being driven by the transformation of GIS into web GIS. This evolution means that GIS can fully leverage and take advantage of the web and the cloud, big data, faster machines, and other big technology trends. GIS is also advancing by integrating all of the new measurement types–remote sensing, GPS, the sensor web, citizen science, crowdsourcing, and pervasive information –and it’s all very visual because it’s in 3D. What is emerging is a new pattern: a pattern of apps that make cool maps, do analytics, allow pervasive access to your work, support better content management, and increase collaboration.
So what does this mean?
It means that GIS is getting easier to use. It’s getting dramatically more accessible. And it’s becoming much more social.
It means that the evolution of GIS into web GIS transforms the technology from a valuable tool for projects into an essential tool for society.
Web GIS also provides a new pattern for integration. Traditionally, GIS was all about the geodatabase; we very carefully integrated all of our data into the geodatabase. That’s really important work, and most of you have done that kind of work. But web GIS represents a fundamentally different pattern. It means that we can integrate things dynamically from distributed services, using web services and web maps. And this enables a more flexible and more agile approach.
Web GIS integrates organizations and people, breaking down barriers, creating
new relationships, sharing resources, and supporting collaborative approaches.
Another intriguing aspect of web GIS is that it breaks down the fundamental barriers that separate organizations. Whether the silos are departmental or organizational, the ability of the web GIS environment to fluidly integrate different disciplines and different activities gives us a new framework for collaboration.
Web GIS has one other interesting ingredient: it can help us organize our work. It provides content management capabilities for all of your maps, apps, and models, and also it simplifies the sharing these within a group or across departments and organizations.
Driving the Transformation
Web GIS is a very attractive framework that can help us to scale up our work, our knowledge, and our understanding. From what I am seeing today out there in the GIS community, web GIS has already started to fundamentally transform how people and organizations work. And who’s leading this transformation?
You understand the technology. You are embracing these patterns. You are sharing your work and your knowledge. You are driving this transformation of the way we work, and in the process you are transforming our understanding of the world around us.
When you put all of this together, you begin to realize that we suddenly have a totally different kind of GIS. But this isn’t just a more simplified approach to mapping–it’s a change in how we leverage geographic information. This change isn’t happening from some outside influence–it’s being driven from within organizations like yours. Because of this, GIS professionals are essential to making this happen. In my mind, there has never been a more exciting time to be a GIS professional.
– See more at: http://blogs.esri.com
Today our world is facing serious challenges, and it’s clear that we need to work together to collectively create a better future. We don’t really have a lot of choice in this matter. We need to leverage our very best brains, our best creative talent, our best design talent, our technology, and our science, and use it to create a more sustainable future.
It’s a big challenge–by its very nature, a geographic challenge–that will require a lot of GIS talent.
GIS changes how we think and how we act. It’s transformational. It also integrates geographic science into everything we do–what we measure, how we analyze things, what predictions we make, how we plan, how we design, how we evaluate, and ultimately how we manage it over time.
GIS is already helping us to understand things. It provides a framework for transforming the world through all kinds of activities. But to meet the geographic challenges we face, we need to also fundamentally transform GIS itself. We need to scale up GIS.
GIS is integrative; it’s visual; it’s quantitative, and it’s analytic. It has the power to organize things systematically. And it’s built on the science of geography, which is comprehe
nsive and cuts across many disciplines. The scientific foundation of geography is the basis for the scaling up of GIS to meet the grand challenges the world faces today.
Watch Esri president and founder Jack Dangermond deliver his opening remarks at the 2013 Esri International User Conference.
I have been requested to urgently collect CVs of 2/3 Potential female candidates who should have Professionalism, Proficiency in English, Computer Literacy, excellent communication skills and should be enterprising, dynamic and energetic. The following are the details of the opening:
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Last Date for sending CV: Tomorrow (15th August, 2013)Instruction: Please send your CV preferably with 01 scanned photograph on, to email@example.com as early as possible.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important heat-trapping (greenhouse) gas, which is released through human activities such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, as well as natural processes such as respiration and volcanic eruptions. The chart on the left shows the CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere during the last three glacial cycles, as reconstructed from ice cores. The chart on the right shows CO2 levels in recent years, corrected for average seasonal cycles.
Thirty-five years ago, a scientist named John H. Mercer issued a warning. By then it was already becoming clear that human emissions would warm the earth, and Dr. Mercer had begun thinking deeply about the consequences.
His paper, in the journal Nature, was titled “West Antarctic Ice Sheet and CO2 Greenhouse Effect: A Threat of Disaster.” In it, Dr. Mercer pointed out the unusual topography of the ice sheet sitting over the western part of Antarctica. Much of it is below sea level, in a sort of bowl, and he said that a climatic warming could cause the whole thing to degrade rapidly on a geologic time scale, leading to a possible rise in sea level of 16 feet.
While it is clear by now that we are in the early stages of what is likely to be a substantial rise in sea level, we still do not know if Dr. Mercer was right about a dangerous instability that could cause that rise to happen rapidly, in geologic time. We may be getting closer to figuring that out.
An intriguing new paper comes from Michael J. O’Leary of Curtin University in Australia and five colleagues scattered around the world. Dr. O’Leary has spent more than a decade exploring the remote western coast of Australia, considered one of the best places in the world to study sea levels of the past.
The paper, published July 28 in Nature Geoscience, focuses on a warm period in the earth’s history that preceded the most recent ice age. In that epoch, sometimes called the Eemian, the planetary temperature was similar to levels we may see in coming decades as a result of human emissions, so it is considered a possible indicator of things to come.
Examining elevated fossil beaches and coral reefs along more than a thousand miles of coast, Dr. O’Leary’s group confirmed something we pretty much already knew. In the warmer world of the Eemian, sea level stabilized for several thousand years at about 10 to 12 feet above modern sea level.
The interesting part is what happened after that. Dr. O’Leary’s group found what they consider to be compelling evidence that near the end of the Eemian, sea level jumped by another 17 feet or so, to settle at close to 30 feet above the modern level, before beginning to fall as the ice age set in.
In an interview, Dr. O’Leary told me he was confident that the 17-foot jump happened in less than a thousand years — how much less, he cannot be sure.
This finding is something of a vindication for one member of the team, a North Carolina field geologist, Paul J. Hearty. He had argued for decades that the rock record suggested a jump of this sort, but only recently have measurement and modeling techniques reached the level of precision needed to nail the case.
We have to see if their results withstand critical scrutiny. A sea-level scientist not involved in the work, Andrea Dutton of the University of Florida, said the paper had failed to disclose enough detailed information about the field sites to allow her to judge the overall conclusion. But if the work does hold up, the implications are profound. The only possible explanation for such a large, rapid jump in sea level is the catastrophic collapse of a polar ice sheet, on either Greenland or Antarctica.
Dr. O’Leary is not prepared to say which; figuring that out is the group’s next project. But a 17-foot rise in less than a thousand years, a geologic instant, has to mean that one or both ice sheets contain some instability that can be set off by a warmer climate.
That, of course, augurs poorly for humans. Scientists at Stanford calculated recently that human emissions are causing the climate to change many times faster than at any point since the dinosaurs died out. We are pushing the climate system so hard that, if the ice sheets do have a threshold of some kind, we stand a good chance of exceeding it.
Another recent paper, by Anders Levermann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and a half-dozen colleagues, implies that even if emissions were to stop tomorrow, we have probably locked in several feet of sea level rise over the long term.
Benjamin Strauss and his colleagues at Climate Central, an independent group of scientists and journalists in Princeton that reports climate research, translated the Levermann results into graphical form, and showed the difference it could make if we launched an aggressive program to control emissions. By 2100, their calculations suggest, continuing on our current path would mean locking in a long-term sea level rise of 23 feet, but aggressive emission cuts could limit that to seven feet.
If you are the mayor of Miami or of a beach town in New Jersey, you may be asking yourself: Exactly how long is all this going to take to play out?
On that crucial point, alas, our science is still nearly blind. Scientists can look at the rocks and see indisputable evidence of jumps in sea level, and they can associate those with relatively modest increases in global temperature. But the nature of the evidence is such that it is hard to tell the difference between something that happened in a thousand years and something that happened in a hundred.
On the human time scale, of course, that is all the difference in the world. If sea level is going to rise by, say, 30 feet over several thousand years, that is quite a lot of time to adjust — to pull back from the beaches, to reinforce major cities, and to develop technologies to help us cope.
But if sea level is capable of rising several feet per century, as Dr. O’Leary’s paper would seem to imply and as many other scientists believe, then babies being born now could live to see the early stages of a global calamity.
Implementing the first pieces of a redesigned site
At State of the Map US, Saman Bemel Benrud presented a vision for a ground-up redesign of the OpenStreetMap website. His proposal introduced concepts for strengthening community aspects of the site, improved the on-boarding experience for new users, and defined a more logical information architecture, making the relationship between the community, data, and map layers of the site clearer.
At the sprint days following the conference, OSM contributors began to work on parts of this vision. A desire to strengthen the collaborative features of the site had emerged as a theme of the conference, and several contributors began to implement features to allow communities to form around specific regions, features, or interests. Meanwhile, Tom, Saman, and I began to work on reworking the existing map UI on OpenStreetMap.org’s main page, with an eye toward paving the way for bigger changes.
Mockup of Saman’s design presentation, recently deployed map UI
Having heads down
Our focus right now is on incremental, clearly actionable improvements. Our goals are to improve the overall impression of the website and project for people arriving on OpenStreetMap.org for the first time, make it easier for new users to sign up, and provide better guidance for beginning contributors:
Clean up forms
A new map UI
Improve sign up experience
A cleaner organization of the front page
Update attribution page
In the last couple of weeks, working with other contributors and the maintainer of OpenStreetMap.org, Tom Hughes, we have made great progress.
First, we helped do a ground up clean up of all form elements on OpenStreetMap.org, creating a sensible styling for all form elements, revisiting button positioning across the board resulting in a much cleaner look and feel. These improvements are now deployed to OpenStreetMap.org.
Second, we refactored and consolidated the map user interface. This pull request, was deployed just last Friday, and discussion is underway on followup changes. These changes consolidate interaction with the map into a tool box on the right hand side. Where before the map key, map navigation UI elements, layer switcher and sharing controls were spread out in all four corners of the map, they are now consolidated in the top right. This change results in a cleaner look and feel and frees up space for other uses.
The new map UI toolbar unites map navigation, map sharing, map key, creating notes and layer switching.
The layer selector of the new map UI.
Right now work are going on a welcome landing page for new users. This is part of improving the sign up experience on OpenStreetMap, designed to help anyone get started mapping. It’s not intended as a comprehensive guide, but more like the page you’d want to send someone to before they crack open an editor.
The proposed welcome page to help newcomers start mapping.
Further priorities include:
- A cleaner organization of the front page
- A better jumping off point for help
The magical Marauder’s Map that can reveal people’s locations, imagined by JK Rowling in her Harry Potter novels, is fast becoming reality as cartography undergoes radical changes that are altering people’s sense of time and place. The explosion in smartphones means Google Maps, which comes pre-installed on Android devices (and is favoured by many Apple iOS users), has nearly replaced the trusty Ordnance Survey as the go-to map.
People are now glued to the screen in the palm of their hand, guided around their urban environment by a GPS cursor. And with individuals increasingly using these devices to share their locations, a new social layer is forming over maps.
It may seem as though the digital generation is at risk of growing up devoid of map-reading skills, and instances of spontaneity, serendipity or just getting lost are disappearing. But this technology means people are engaging with maps in new ways that enthusiasts say strengthens their sense of place and aids discovery.
“If I travel to a new city, I can look at maps people have created to see where I can go for a run, or find something to do that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise,” says Eric Gundersen, founder of Mapbox, a start-up that creates maps and data visualisations from data generated collaboratively. In a speech at SXSW Interactive festival this year, Foursquare co-founder and chief executive Dennis Crowley said social maps will mean the end of scraps of paper scribbled with names of bars and restaurants. His vision is to create a real-life Marauder’s Map, where people will be able to locate their friends, based on where they have been “checking in” on the app.
Beyond using maps to enhance their social lives, people are creating their own maps and databases, in a movement called open-source mapping. In a similar way to Wikipedia, open-source maps are online databases built by volunteers, relying on community moderation as quality control. The largest of these is OpenStreetMap, founded in 2004 in the UK, around the same time Google launched its first online map. While most maps have legal or technical restrictions, the aim of OpenStreetMap is to make map data free, so it can be used in more creative, productive ways.
The number of people around the world collaborating on the project has swelled in recent years, with more than 1,000 volunteers updating the map every day, and one million registered users in total. This amounts to 21 million miles of data charted around the world. The growth of open-source mapping has also given rise to an explosion in other map-related online communities, meet-ups and start-ups (both MapBox and Foursquare’s software is powered by OpenStreetMap).
While it has been suggested that OpenStreetMap is a significant disruptive force for proprietary map providers – like Wikipedia was to Encyclopedia Britannica – these priority services are also looking at ways to tap into this movement and explore how geographical data is shared online. After a public campaign three years ago, the Ordnance Survey opened up 11 sets of map data for the public to use for free. Now it is seeing significant uptake, with more than 800 people downloading data sets every week.
Ordnance Survey is also exploring community mapping to serve its database, which needs to be constantly updated as physical landscapes change. For example, the Government-owned agency is trialling a scheme to get local authorities to provide it with location data, since they will be most up-to-date.
Accuracy, however, remains a consideration. “For open-source mapping you are dependent on the goodwill of people and if it is a rainy day, people might not feel like going out. Our surveyors have to go out whenever,” says Peter ter Haar at Ordnance Survey. Google is also looking to capitalise on this trend, with its recent purchase of collaborative traffic map-making app Waze, which it bought for a predicted $1.1bn (although the deal is being probed by the US antitrust regulator).
But the growing popularity of mapping runs deeper than technological advancement, says Andrew Hudson-Smith, director and reader in digital urban systems at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London. “It’s a cultural movement that people want to be part of because it has no central role. There is a realisation that geography ties up all these systems. With location you can pull together everything in one place and that helps us make sense of how the world works.” He explains that in a city, for example, it will be possible to overlay data, such as flight paths, traffic routes and local transportation to give people a view that charts live changes.
As more people turn to map-making to help them connect to their environment, the future of maps will continue to become more complex.
By 2020, it is predicted that 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet, meaning everyday objects will be located and mapped. Alongside this will be the upshot in adoption of wearable technology, such as smartwatches or Google Glass, which puts a voice-activated computer display and high-definition video camera at the user’s eye level.
While maps can be viewed on the glass’s lens, the technology could allow users to record their daily activity using an inbuilt camera, meaning connections and memories to a place will be logged. Google Glass is yet to reach consumers, but as it moves into the mainstream, this reality is not far off. Apps such as Nike+ and Move It! which use GPS to track the user’s running or walking route and speed, are already doing this.
“I love the fact that we can replay time and walk through places with a rich history, such as London, and capture time that in a hundred years people will be able to replay,” says Hudson-Smith.
But location sharing for many is too personal, creepy and, in certain circumstances, dangerous. And the recent news about the National Security Agency’s widespread internet surveillance programme, shines light on concerns that we are blindly walking into a surveillance society. With the huge amount of data being produced by individuals everyday, this is an inescapable fact.
As the physical and digital worlds move ever closer, maps will become live entities. Magical maps may sound creepy, but for aficionados the opportunity to connect with their geographies in new ways will be vast.
How to make a map your own
Uses OpenStreetMap to create map visualisations, with in-house designers and cartographers to improve the data quality.
Allows users to overlay personal stories on maps.
Dubbed an Instagram service for maps, it uses OpenStreetMap data to let users create unique data visualisations
A database where the community can upload different sounds from cities around the world, overlay them on a map and access an online-sound archive.
Google Map Maker
A more basic tool, but allows users to overlay personal details over Google Maps and share them.
This traffic and navigation app, recently purchased by Google, is created by a community that contribute to a live online map showing traffic hotspots.