All posts tagged ‘geodata’

File Under: Databases, Web Services

OpenStreetBlock Gives Geodata the Human Touch

Location-based web services are all the rage right now, but for most of us the actual geographic location isn’t very interesting — do you know where “40.737813,-73.997887″ is off the top of your head? No? How about “West 14th Street bet. 6th Ave. and 7th Ave?”

For the geographic web to become useful geodata has to be converted into something humans actually understand. Enter OpenStreetBlock.

OpenStreetBlock is a new web service that takes geographic coordinates (latitude/longitude pairs) and turns them into an actual city block description. The result is textual information which, in many cases, will be even more meaningful to your users than the ubiquitous pin on a map.

If you’d like to play around with a sampling of data from New York, head over to OpenStreetBlock and try out the New York demos.

If you’ve ever wanted to build your own version of EveryBlock — which pinpoints events, news stories and public data at the city-block level — OpenStreetBlock will go a long way toward getting you there. So long as you can pull geo coordinates out of your source data, OpenStreetBlock can turn that into more meaningful information.

Under the hood OpenStreetBlock relies on OpenStreetMap data and uses PHP in conjunction with a geographic database to turn your coordinates into block descriptions.

As cool as OpenStreetBlock is, getting it up and running on your own site will require a bit of work. Luckily, there are some good tutorials available that will walk you through the process of installing and setting up many of the prerequisites like PostgreSQL and PostGIS (I’ll assume you already have an Apache server with PHP installed).

To get started with OpenStreetBlock, grab the code from GitHub. The next thing you’ll need is a PostgreSQL database with all the PostGIS tools installed. Luckily those are also prerequisites for GeoDjango, so head over to the GeoDjango installation page, skip the Django-specific parts and just follow the Postgres and PostGIS installation instructions.

Next you’ll need to download Osmosis and Osm2pgsql to convert OpenStreetMap data into something Postgres can handle. Head over to OpenStreetMap, zoom into an area you’d like to query with OpenStreetBlock and then choose “export.” Select the OpenStreetMap XML Data option and save the file.

From there you can check out the guide to importing the OpenStreetMap XML Data in the OpenStreetBlock read me.

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File Under: Location, Visual Design

Beautiful Websites: Stamen’s Pretty Maps

We’ve seen some colorful map mashups in the past, like Hypercities and HeatMap, but few are as abstract and beautiful to look at as Stamen Design’s Pretty Maps.

The aptly-named app pulls sets of geodata from various freely available open mapping projects and plots them atop one another. Pretty Maps grabs street-level data from OpenStreetMap (the “Wikipedia of maps”), land formation data from Natural Earth and place-name and place-shape data from Flickr shapefiles — Flickr’s outlines generated by the tags people have attached to photos taken in that place. So all the data is from crowdsourced databases and either public domain or licensed through the Creative Commons. The maps are generated using TileStache and PolyMaps, two open source tools developed in-house at Stamen.

The result is a map that’s not so much usable for navigation as it is pretty to look at. Cities degrade into abstract and unique blobs, with pastel colors overlaying one another. The shapes are alien looking in texture and density, but instantly recognizable if you’re already familiar with the terrain.
Continue Reading “Beautiful Websites: Stamen’s Pretty Maps” »

File Under: Location, Web Apps

Microsoft Adds OpenStreetMap Layer to Bing Maps

You can now turn on a special layer in Bing Maps that displays maps from OpenStreetMap, Microsoft has announced.

OpenStreetMap is an open source mapping project that keeps an editable map of the entire globe. Anyone can make edits to the map — it’s been nicknamed the “Wikipedia of maps.” The open source model has proven especially effective in regions of the developing world where very little solid map data exists, and in areas where highly detailed, editable maps are critical for natural-disaster response efforts, like the recent Haiti earthquake.

Microsoft’s adoption of the open source mapping project follows a similar move by MapQuest, which began adding OSM layers last month.

To run layers in Bing Maps, you’ll need the latest version of Microsoft Silverlight and a supported browser. It doesn’t work properly in Google Chrome (at least on the Mac), but IE8, Firefox and Safari had no problems. If you’re using the Ajax controls to view Bing Maps (instead of Silverlight), then you won’t be able to see the OpenStreetMaps layer, but Microsoft says this is something that may make its way into the non-Silverlight version eventually.

Use the map view switcher at the bottom to change layers.

To add OpenStreetMaps to your Bing, go to the App Gallery. Look for the new OpenStreetMaps app in the gallery. Click on it, and your alternative OpenStreetMaps view should launch within Bing Maps.

You can switch back to any of the other standard views in Bing Maps by clicking on the layer control at the bottom of the map window. You’ll notice Bing Maps is using the Mapnik build of OpenStreetMaps for its map layer. You can switch back and forth between the OSM layer and any of the other standard Bing maps layers using the same control.

Microsoft has been quickly adding some innovative features to Bing, especially on its Maps website. In June, Bing Maps added the ability to browse parts of the world in 3-D, and in February it demonstrated indoor panorama views and location-specific videos that are accessible within Bing’s street-side imagery.

Microsoft also ran its King of Bing maps challenge for developers last month, asking them to create innovative apps for the mapping platform. For the contest, a developer named Ricky Brundritt built an app for Bing Maps that estimates your taxi fare within most major U.S. cities.

However, Bing’s reliance on Microsoft’s proprietary Silverlight technology to power these innovations is seen by some as an alienating factor — and an unnecessary one at that, since other mapping platforms like Google Maps accomplish much of the same functionality using JavaScript and other web standards. This is especially important on mobile devices, where the most popular browsers don’t allow for plug-ins like SIlverlight.

Still, it’s heartening to see Bing adding to the momentum OpenStreetMaps is currently enjoying. Anyone can edit the OSM maps, and now that the project is getting some attention — thanks mostly to its efforts in Haiti — edits are coming in more quickly.

According to the latest stats, the project has over a quarter of a million participants and over 1.8 billion uploaded GPS points. Dedicated users are getting creative and finding ways to add even more detail to the existing maps by doing offbeat things like tagging wheelchair ramps, mailboxes and trees in their neighborhoods.

Taxi Fare Calculator link courtesy Mashable

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File Under: APIs, Location, Web Services

Where 2.0: Geomena Launches API to Feed its Open Location Database


SAN JOSE, California — A new web service called Geomena is trying to build a geolocation database practically from scratch, and it’s taking a page from Wikipedia’s playbook to do it.

Geomena is an open wi-fi geo database — using a method similar to services from Skyhook and Google, any app plugged in to Geomena can use nearby wi-fi access points to determine your location.

The database is tiny right now. It has around 3,400 geo-tagged access points in the system, most of them around the project’s home base in Portland, Oregon. So, to grow the database as quickly as possible, the Geomena team has launched a new API that lets developers build apps that can enter new wi-fi access point locations.

So, if you’re making a location-based game, a location-sharing Firefox plug-in, or a web-app that relies on geodata, you can rig it up to write new wi-fi location points directly to Geomena’s database, helping it grow through good, old-fashioned crowdsourcing.

The emergence of location as an application platform has led to a bevy of new web services, each of them eager to provide developers with geodata to fuel the current flood of mobile and web-based apps. Most of the buzz at the all-things-location Where 2.0 conference, taking place here this week, has centered around SimpleGeo, a new web data store that just launched its “iTunes for geodata” — a pay-as-you-go solution for developers building location-based apps.

Continue Reading “Where 2.0: Geomena Launches API to Feed its Open Location Database” »

File Under: Location, Web Services

Where 2.0: SimpleGeo to Launch ‘iTunes for Geodata’


SAN JOSE, California – If you’re building an app that incorporates location — whether it’s a game, a local search service, or even a Twitter client — you’re going to have to go somewhere to get your data.

As we noted Tuesday, location is now an application platform, and there’s a whole crop of location data stores opening up to serve the emerging market of applications.

SimpleGeo is the latest such company to join the scrum. The web startup is announcing the debut of its geodata service here at Where 2.0 on Wednesday afternoon, but Jenna Wortham of The New York Times leaked the news a little early.

From the NYT Bits blog:

The company has been working to create what he describes as “iTunes for geodata.” The idea is simple: Create a wide sampling of geographic datasets and technologies that developers can access free or, for heavier users, at a range of prices. [...]

The company offers two tools. The first is the SimpleGeo Marketplace, which gives developers access to different location datasets and technologies for a monthly fee. The second is called the SimpleGeo Storage Engine and allows developers to perform location queries on a pay-as-you-go basis.

To gather its data, SimpleGeo began consuming datastreams from Twitter, Gowalla, Foursquare, Brightkite, Flickr and other location-sharing web services.

The pay-as-you-go model will work well for SimpleGeo, which allows the first million API calls for free, according to TechCrunch. Prices then start at $300 for the next level and go up from there. The company claims to have over 4,000 partnered developers using its service.

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