Category Archives: bits

OSM on a mobile

richard sent me this pic a while ago:

It’s from someones mobile at the xmas 2006 OSM meetup. It’s an osmarendered image put in to some magic app on a nokia mobile… If anyone remembers more info please add it to the comments. Anyway, a sign of things to come?

Turk meets GIS

Theres an absolutely fascinating use of Amazons Mechanical Turk (?) right now. There’s a HIT (a small task you get paid almost nothing to complete) that involves GIS:

Geospatial Vision are paying people to do image recognition on sequential video stills from a car that they are apparently then recombining in to videos. These are on their (flash only, sigh) site.

You are paid 5 cents to tag 50 images with yellow lines, manholes, drains, bollards and pedestrian crossings. They are also, from looking at the videos, using these locations to then magically classify the sign type (one way, no entry, speed limit etc). Most images have only one feature if at all, there were about 2,000 HITs last night and at 25 frames a second that puts it at about an hour of footage for $100. That is insane.

If you wanted to get data out of it, the video stills themselves could be captured from your screen like the above screen shot and put back in to a movie. People and number plates can be seen in the images… and street signs so you could figure out where they are. You could add bad data – bollards in the sky or whatever. Amazon have various methods to combat these attacks. But it’s all academic as they’re putting at least some of the work on their site anyway.

It strikes me that this is just scratching the surface of the potential of this class of problem, Mechanical Turk is still only known to a small subset of tech people really. People with big data sets would want entire teams of lawyers to look at this and have Snow Crash-esque schemes to keep people from ‘stealing’ their precious data. Could you imagine the OS ever touching this with a barge pole?

The barrier to entry is a little high in that you have to create a flash app or similar if you want to do more interesting HITs but simpler ones are done automagically with forms by amazon. The other barrier is that like many other companies they think the entire world ends at the edge of CONUS so you can’t really make use of it unless you have a US bank account.

There’s another HIT which just asks for an idea from you – what small program would you like to see that doesn’t exist? I imagine the person who did that one just sitting back and browsing ideas for things to work on. How meta can you get?

So we now live in a world where you can effectively treat data storage (Amazon S3), processing (Amazon ECC) and mass non-linear human intelligence (Mechanical Turk) as infinitely cheap and available. You can get programming, design, legal advice and more from rentacoder, elance and more.

Given this, I can’t think of much that you don’t have covered in Phase 1 of your average business plan. Or to look at it another way, the google kids have been living in this world for maybe 4-5 years.

So readers, if you had a big dataset what would it be and how would you get it processed using the above? Best idea gets $10 worth of HITs.

My Birthday Map

So my birthday is usually a total waste of time because it’s very close to Christmas Day. It means two-in-one presents that are a bit rubbish and everyone’s gone to somehwere better for the holiday, but this yeah I got an awsome present:

It’s a map of central London, approximately similar to this openstreetmap. I used to stare at it whenever I went past the antiques shop in central London (it was on my way home) it hung in. I even tried to buy it once but then thought I was a bit mad and didn’t as I could buy a low-end laptop for the price. It’s about a meter and a bit across by about half a meter down. It’s framed in gold leaf and is original, though I’m unsure exactly what that means in this context.

There are a few things I like about this. Firstly, it’s where I used to live on the western rim of Regents Park. The building is in the map (dated 1834), along with favourite haunts and most of my paper round(s). It also has where I (nominally) went to university and several other places I lived, pubs I’ve died in. So I know the area fairly well and it’s nice comparing it to what it looks like today.

I like the wave of development. If you look at Regents park and then east and west of it along a parallel, you can see a wave of development heading northward turning farmland in to London. A lot of rich people were made as these fields were built upon and their great-great-great (* some big number) grandsons still own vast chunks of it.

It’s slightly later than the periods of history that I like to read about but still very related map-wise. It reminds me of openstreetmap. OSM is incomplete and expanding to conquer everything that is un-mapped – you can see a freeze-frame of our map by just browsing it today. Similarly, the map shows a freeze-frame of those same streets being laid down in the first place as they swallowed up villages to build London.

I have no idea if or how it could be scanned in but I’m open to ideas. A lot of the map is vastly different (Paddington, Marylebone, Euston and Kings Cross stations arn’t there for example!) so I havn’t used it (much) for deriving street names. Interesting anyway.

So a big thank you to all who bought it for me 🙂

OSM gets its 20 millionth GPS point

That’s about 231 straight days worth of GPS data if you conservatively have it at 1 point a second. It actually represents a much longer time since a lot of people go out and collect track data for a few hours a day at most, and often at less frequent intervals than 1 hertz. The lucky point (48.30426, 11.919947) was in this GPX upload.