web analytics

— urbantick

Tag "GPS"
This week at the Institut Architektur at FHNW we started new fieldwork for a GPS tracking project in Basel, Switzerland. Earlier the UrbanDiary project already tracked individuals everyday movements in the same urban context. See HERE and HERE for posts. With the new project the perspective is still on movement in the urban context, but the motivation is very different. Whilst the travel in the earlier project was guided by a handful of personally important hotspot locations business connections guide the routing in the KurierT project. The trackers are carried by the professional bicycle messengers of the KurierZentrale Basel. What we are looking at are business connections and how they link across the city.

Image taken from KurierZentrale / Bicycle messenger in action.

The bicycle couriers are probably the jguys with the best local knowledge there are to be found for any city. From their daily experience of navigating the streets and blocks specific non physical aspects are expected to influence the decision making process. This includes traffic, terrain, season or weather maybe. As part of this project we are planning to look into these influencing aspects.

On the other hand another interest is on how the service the couriers provide describes the city. In many ways the activity of delivering mail between different locations creates a network of connections. This describes the city in terms of links. Beyond the locations of the sender and receiver, the interesting part is in how this connection physically manifests in an optimised routing provided by the courier. As part of the project the aim is to develop these relationships into a descriptive atlas of the city linking the aspects of a social network to the physical conditions of the link.


Image by urbanTick for KurierT / Routing around Basel showing the tracks of one courier over two days. Software used Cartogaphica.

The couriers offer a range of services. Whilst most of the jobs are small parcels and letters between different businesses in the city, there are jobs in the wider region of Basel or heavier loads for which the couriers change from bicycle to a car. Beside the business services the couriers have a meal service over lunch and in the evening around dinner time. From a selections of restaurants in the city meals can be ordered and get them delivered.

This combination of business and private services makes the data collected ver rich in that we not only have a picture of the business contacts but also see a shift in activities and cover residential areas. This extended business model covers more areas in the city and the expected black spots in the urban fragment not covered by the couriers’ movements are dramatically reduced. The resulting overview covers a very particular perspective on the city and generalisation is limited, but within the particular setting the results are expected to provide valuable insight in urban connections, urban networks and routing. In terms of planning this has practical application for example in the provision of cycle routes for the general public.


Image by urbanTick for KurierT / Routing around Basel showing the tracks of one courier over two days. The tracks are coloured according to speed. Red is slow and white is fast, above 30. The background shows a point density indicating locations and high traffic areas. Software used Cartogaphica.

The temporal aspect of traveling the city is particularly part of the bicycle messenger daily business. Besides safely getting from A to B the speed of delivery is crucial and directly influences not only the customer satisfaction but the daily salary of the rider. From a research perspective these constraints are interesting as to how accessible the different areas of the city actually are. The data will be analysed towards the time cost of travel from a whole range of origins. Based on speed and and travel time the results can be summarised in a time zone map of the city, indicating accessibility.

Ultimately the results are expected to feed into a description of urban space. This description will be focused towards physical quality and identity of place. In comparison to existing political defined neighbourhoods the results form this study are expected to lead to an alternative description of urban areas based on connection and time.

The project is developed in collaboration with the Institut Vermessung und Geoinformation. For the analysis one of the tools developed at the institute called See You will be used. The online GIS system analyses GPS tracks based on point density and stationary time. The GPS tracks are interpreted as heat map and hotspots are marked by the system based on the analysis of stationary time. These can be filtered based on duration. In the example below for example the no 1 (bottom of the picture) identifies the location of the KurierZentrale offices as the most important location of the map. The riders start from here and return back to after the shift.


Image by urbanTick for KurierT / Routing around Basel showing the tracks of one courier over two days. The online GIS service SeeYou developed by the Institut Vermessung und Geoinformation at FHNW is used for the visualisation. Tracks shown as a heat map. As background the OSM service is used. The numbers highlight important locations as interpreted by the system automatically.

The project runs over the next couple of month and results will be posted along the way. A report is expected towards the end of the year. Continuous updates will be posted here, so stay tuned. A detailed project desription can be found online at the Institut Architektur.

Read More

The biannual conference of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH) is this year the 14th National Conference on Planning History being held in Baltimore MD.

The Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH) is an interdisciplinary organisation dedicated to promoting scholarship on the planning of cities and metropolitan regions over time, and to bridging the gap between the scholarly study of cities and the practice of urban planning.

Berlin Badeschiff
Image taken from the Baltimore Architecture Foundation / The Inner Harbor, before Charles Center & Harborplace.

I will be presenting a paper on The City in Time and Space drawing on the research work undertaken with the urbanDiary project using GPS-tracking, interviews and mental maps. The paper is part of the session 49 with the overall title Seeing Time: Urban Paces and Building Cycles it will be chaired by Philip J. Ethington, Professor of History at University of Southern California and the initiator of the HyperCities project.

Other presenters in the session are Sandra Parvu, Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris on Time Perceptions in Neighborhoods Undergoing Demolition, Francesca Ammon, Yale University on Progress in Progress: The Representation and Experience of Postwar Building Demolition and Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, The New School on Seeing the Human City: A Visual and Value-Rich Urbanism.

Read More

It is one more year since the last summary of personal tracking was posted. This year it is a consistant 405 tracking record as compared to a mixed device record the previous year. This matters in so far as the 405 performs very well and the data processing job is a simpler for the cleaning part. The down side is that it is slower for the processing part since there are very detailed records with loads of points. THe previeous year can be found at Plymouth365 and oneYearLND_2009.

oneYearLND09-10 London
Image by urbanTick / London overview of the 2010 GPS track record. A one year drawing of movement on a daily basis, recording all activities and trips. For a large version click HERE.

The map also shows the previous year in green, since there is a striking similarity and in order to highlight the differences this seemed to make sense. The similarity goes as far as the two records being more or less the same. I expected a similarity, but not to this extend.

There are differences only on a very small scale. There is one major change in routine that dominates the differences between the two years. My son has started school and the trips to the nursery near the work place have been substituted by trip to drop of or pick him up at the school near our home. This changes the spatial practice and with it the pattern. However it is not as obvious since the directions of movement stayed more or less the same.

Image by urbanTick / London Bloomsbury zoom of the 2010 GPS track record. A one year drawing of movement on a daily basis, recording all activities and trips.

To update the zoom in to the leisure area around Regents Park here is an updated version showing the different visits to ZSL. In 2010 there appear definitely a shift in interest focus. Never been to Australia this year.

As pointed out in last years post, the capacity to recall events using the lines as memory triggers works very well. I can basically over the whole year piece together my steps. Being this for example in the bottom left corner some of these trips to the Natural History Museum, Royal Geographical Society or in Hyde Part visits the Diana Memorial.

Image by urbanTick / London Regents Park zoom of the 2010 GPS track record. A one year drawing of movement on a daily basis, recording all activities and trips.

Read More

The data collection in Basel is well under way and the second series of participants are now collecting data for the study. For ten people we already have a complete set of two month of tracking data using the new GPS trackers.

There are a number of very interesting observations that has been made also in comparison with the previous study undertaken in London. The scale differences are striking what is a regular commute is completely different. It might be on average one hour for Londoner, but is probably stretched for Basler if it is thirty minutes. As a consequence work and leisure journeys do tend to much more similar in Basel than in London where certain trips have a stronger specification.
However there are a lot of similarities too. Foremost the extension of the direct and persistent interaction in the urban realm is very much directed and selective. There is in both cases a strong local activity around the ‘known’ territory.

The study was also presented to representatives of the Basel Department of Town Planning who were interested to hear about the research undertaken. A summary of the presentation can be previewed below, it is in German though, but there are enough images to illustrate and communicate.

Essentially it explains the method and uses illustration taken from all three sample studies in London, Plymouth and London. The Basel data is still in development so only some preliminary information could be provided. However the maps ‘drawn’ by the participants using the GPS, beautifully illustrate the focus each individual puts on the city.

Image by urbanTick / Visualisation of GPS tracked movement in Basel, Switzerland. The nine different individuals have been tracked over a longer period and it beautifully shows the individual focus on the city that is developed.

Read More

I will be meeting with a group from Steer Davis Gleaves to discuss the value and possibilities of crowd sourcing daat for transport planning. We’ll be focusing on twitter, but will also look at the GS stuff.

Read More

Mobile Action have introduced the third generation of their GPS logger series iGotU. Alongside the GT-120 and the GT-200/e there is now newly available the GT-600.
It is however in the tradition of the 200e larger than the GT-120 which really is tiny. However it boosts more storage, it is up from 16MB to 64mb and now also has a motion sensor. This was in earlier version of the 200 available but discontinued. It is back now with this new product.

Image by urbanTick / the all new GT-600 including accessories as you will find it in the shop.

More storage is great and with 262’000 points you will not run out of memory any time soon. This is up from about 65’000 points with the GT-120. So it’s a lot more storage space and is suitable for long trips with infrequent access to a computer to download the data.

The other improvement that the new product brings is the battery. Instead of a 230mAh Lithium-ion battery that the GT-120 has, it has a 750mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery. This probably also partly explains the slightly large dimension of the GT-600. A longer lasting battery is of course very much appreciated by every user, since this provides the freedom to stay out just this little bit longer.

Not only the battery life has improved, but also the GT-600 is now able to manage its sleep wake time automatically. It has got a Motion Sensor built in, hence the ‘MD’ sign on the device. With this technology the device is able to distinguish between time of motion and times of rest. If it doe not move, it automatically goes into sleep mode to save energy. It will of course also wake up if movement is detected and automatically starts recording again.

This automatic battery management system is believed to improve the battery live dramatically. This would be about 80hours at a log interval of 15 seconds. So in this sense last for a 10 day trip. And certainly this will be good enough. Compared to for example some of the Garmin products, reviewed a 405 HERE, or a 201 HERE, where a Forerunner 405 last only for about eight hours. Of course this is a tricky comparison since the two products do completely different things and the Garmins for example all have a display which the iGotU series doesn’t have. This is only to say that for the purpose of simply logging location data this iGotU GT-600 tool is perfect.

Lets have a quick look at how the GT-600’s SiRF StarIII 65nm GPS chipset performs. Actually all the three iGotU devices are using the same low power chipset and it can be said that it works pretty well. Give that central London is a tricky location for GPS devices the results are very good. There are here and there some glitches and stay points as we are used to from using for example a Foretrex 201, but that really depends on the terrain and environment.

Image by urbanTick / The GT-600 draws the ORANGE line as compared to the Forerunner 405 drawing the WHITE line. It can be a little bit noisier at times, especially if not switched off indoors as it keeps trying to record something.

In comparison to the Forerunner 405 (WHITE line) which manages inner city locations extremely well the GT-600 (ORANGE line) draws nice lines and at time even better than the 405. It depends really on the location and how it is held or worn. If used on the bike, attached to the handlebar makes for a really good reception, but even in the bad or pocket it perform very well.

In case it becomes necessary, depending on the use, the track can be easily edited using either the mobile action package or other free software available on the internet, for example directly in Google Earth.

Image by urbanTick / The GT-600 draws the ORANGE line as compared to the Forerunner 405 drawing the WHITE line. Here the Orange line is actually more accurate than the 405. It was used on the handle bar of the LikeABike in this case.

The data handling and device setup is managed thought he PC suite provided by Mobile Action. No setting other than on/off can be handled directly by the device. This simplifies the whole process, but of course puts a lot of pressure on the desktop software. It is easier, though to navigate on a large screen and manage the different settings than it is on a small screen directly on the device. However changes on the go are not possible. Also the software only really supports Windows machines unfortunately leaves all the mac users unsupported. There is an open source project on launchpad that will enable mac users to load and delete data from the device. You can download the igotu2gps version 0.3.0 HERE. However, it can not change any of the device settings, so is only really for the simple data management. For a lot of users this will be good enough and they can just leave the settings be the factory defaults.

The GT-600 comes out of the box with general factory settings that will allow the user to start logging straight away. This is really useful and given the simple device user interface, one button and two colour LEDs, one literally can start logging while walking out of the shop. The box also contains the USB cable that connects the device to the computer and is at the same time the cable to charge the GT-600. As with previous models the 600 also comes with a silicone case, now transparent instead of the previous characteristic blue case, and a very basic strap to attache the device to something or even wear it around the wrist. A note on the case. Given the flexibility of the material and the larger size the device does not sit as tight as the smaller brother GT-120. I got it caught in the bad and the bus door and the case slid of the actual unit. Generally though it works perfect and give it a good grip for the handling of the unit.

To conclude on this very exciting new GPS logger as the latest one in the Mobile Action iGotU series, the GT-600 is definitely one of the very few GPS units of choice for travel and location loggers. The large storage and the dramatically improved batterie life combined with the Motion Detection technology will serve you very well on any trip. The one button to save waypoints or the location of a photograph is as simple as it gets to use and will help to organise and arrange your photo collection after the trip. If you start using it you will probably find yourself tracking constantly and not only for trips it is really interesting to review the record of movement one does even day to day. With this you can start your log book today.

Image by urbanTick / The GT-600 with cable.

Read More

The UrbanDiary project lay dormant for a while after its write up in the CASA working paper 151. However it is back on track with a new set of participants currently tracking their every move. The biggest problem to overcome was the equipment, we simply did not have the recourses to keep it going on a larger scale. Throughout there were two GPS devices in use, but now we have again expanded and twelve GPS loggers are currently used simultaneously.

The area of study this time is not London. The idea is to set up a comparison between two locations. Currently the tracking location is the wider region around and of course in the city of Basel, Switzerland. Earlier posts on Basel can be found HERE and HERE.

It is a region of about 1’000’000 people The tourism office even puts it to 3.5m) and in this sense small compared to London, but in the Swiss context this is rather big. Basel-Stadt (the city of Basle) is the third largest city in Switzerland with 165’000 inhabitants.

TEB Besiedlung und Landschaftsgliederung
Image taken from TEB / The Basel region with green space (unbuilt land), urbanised land (grey) and water (blue). In dark grey is shown the urbanised land until 1960 and in light grey the urbanised land until the year 2000.

Basel is located right at the border to Germany and France. The region therefore covers all three countries. This is represented in the TEB, the ‘Trinationalen Eurodistrict Basel’ (the Three National Euro (not sure what Euro stands for) District Basel). This planing group is working across the borders and is put together from representatives of all three countries. For Basel as the main regional centre these connection sare very important as is the city for the region. In this sense the simbiosis of the different elements (culturally, politically and practical) will be an interesting aspect of the study in terms of spatial analysis.

The mix of participants is again, as was the London sample, a mixed group. It is put together of different age groups, interests and occupations. It will probably not be exactly the same mix, but similar. The idea is to also get some twenty participants in total to have a comparable amount of data.

The data is collected and stored locally on the device and it wil take a while untile we can download the new data and start analys and visualise. So for now this project has to run for about a month until the first data samples will be available. However I do have some very few days of sample tracks that will give an idea of the travel patterns that can be expected in this new location.

Image by urbanTick for UrbanDiary / Preliminary GPS tracking data in the region of Basel, Switzerland. The data is based on three participants over a couple of days, data is unprocessed. THe large C shape in the centre corresponds with the shape of the river in the main urban area in the TEB overview above.

Read More

The two GPS units provided by Garmin are now in use for the UrbanDiary project for one ful year and this seems a good point to follow it up with a review of the use and performance of the device. This is a follow up from the first test review published on urbanTick a year ago. Since then 365+ days have elapsed and we are still going.
And really to take it up front, the performance is through out impressive and completely positive. The few minor points we’ll be talking about later on, but for the most of it both units performed perfect every day year through out the seasons. This is a great result.
Since they arrived back in April 2009 they were in use every day for the whole day. This puts them to a usage time of some 200’000 minutes. During this time the have collected some 800,000 track points with time-space information for the UrbanDiary project.
The UrbanDiary project is run by urbanTick and is an investigation to record the spatial extension of everyday persona routines in the city. The two 405 units have been used for a longtime study. Two participants used them for the whole year to track their movement.

Image by urbanTIck for urbanDiary / GPS tracking over one year by two participants. Person a is covering in pink the western end of the map and person b is moving around central and north London.

For the previous review the comparison of the Foretrex 201 was used. This proved to be not really comparable, since the forerunner 405 performed so much better. This time we could use the iPhone or a like to compare. To be honest, this, even though we tried it, is nothing you want to do for a whole year. Tracking with the 405 on your wrist is such a convenient thing to do, after two days you forget that it is there. Apart from a slightly paler tan around your wrist in summer there are no longterm complications.
The satellite reception is through out very good with little errors in the resulting records. In fact only a handfull of points needed manual corrections out of the 800,000 records in the database. Here in London there are a particular locations were a signal is weak or lost. For example on the DLR it is even for the 405 difficult and most of the time impossible to get a decent signal due to the glass used in the carriages that prevent the satellite signal to penetrate.
One of the points of critique is the Bezel, the main input element on the device. It touch sensitive navigation is not without hicks and there is nothing more annoying than having this creepy feeling of a tool not responding the way it is intended to. This is to say that the technology works very well, but the few hangs and glitches are probably more annoying than anything else. Occasionally the Bezel will simply not register anything. Not sure if this is connected to wet, or cold fingers, but usually locking and unlocking the device will help with this. The second point is the missing feedback from this method of input. Having a click or any tactile and audio respons would improve the experience quite a bit.
A second point of critic should be on how the device handles the information. There is no option to delete something or manage the data directly on the device. This can only be done via the desktop software. More importantly the device does not inform about the state of the internal storage. So no clue give if the storage is full and worse the device simply starts overwriting the old information. So one has to be careful and regularly sync. And this regularity depends on the activity. If you are out for a week on a tour and recording everyday most of the day, more frequent syncing is required compared to a normal working week where you could probably go for the whole seven days without syncing.
Over this quite long period obviously the bodys of the watches have taken a few hits and this is now visible as scratches and marks. This is again mainly the Bezel that shows most of the markings. There is a exposed kerb around the display and this is where the hits go. As a result this area is partly black instead of the initial golden colour. There are two three scratches o the rest of the plastic body but they are less prominent even though larger. The material copes well with it. Also the actual wrist band looks pretty good, probably not like new, but there are no sweat marks as one might expect.
The second important point of critique is the battery life. This is not really the devices fault. The longterm performance of the battery, in fact is very good, with no sign of earlier battery drain after a continuos usage for a whole year of using and charging every day. And this is the point, the device needs charging every day. It has out of the box an about 8 hours battery life. It would be nice if this could be longer. For now to use it continuously one has to addable the habit of plug in every night. The charging time however is impressively quick. One hour is good, two hours wil probably fill it. And you’ll have it filled up 100% under three hours. The USB charger has the benefit of working with your computer or laptop, so there is never far to go to charge it. For outdoor usage in this post the use of the 405 with the freeoaderPro solar charger was reviewed. It is a realy good solution for when you are on the road and the weather is nice.

Image by urbanTick / The two devices after constant use for one year, every day, all day.

Regarding the buttons, for one there is the missing power button to mention. I still kind of think this would be something to have. Probably mainly because it needs the charging essentially. It is designed as a watch and no one turns the watch off before they go to bed, but I guess this is one of the points were it doesn’t quite work out to be two things at once. I woud like to turn the thing off, preserving battery and starting it up, with a ful battery, as I need it, the next morning. Currently it turns off if the battery is dead and it turn straight on while charged. It has to be said on is usually sleep mode, e.g. displaying the time. We have also debated weather the option to turn on the satellite reception is a needed option? In the context of the UrbanDiary project there was no use of the device without the GPS, tracking is required constantly. For other uses however, there might be a benefit to being able to preserve battery, if you are training at the gym for example. The way to handle it in our case is not to touch the satellite setting, but to start-stop the timer. Stop the timer will put the device in sleep mode after one minute, turning on the timer wil prompt the device to lock to the available satellites, as simple as that – almost a power button.
The design is very simple and quiet. Not a product to attract too much attention for its shape or colour. It fits for everyday use, however it is sort of a cross mix that is a bit undecided. In the long run one might wish it were a tick more distinct. But this is maybe a personal preference for subtile statements. On the other hand the design cleverly conceals the rel size and clunkyness of the thing. I have voted for the green model back then and still would, the black model seems to hard to me, but I am aware that a lot of people prefer it. Maybe an extended colour palet with dark red and a yellowish-orange would be something. Maybe for an urbanTick special edition?

To sum up, as already stated in the introduction the Garmin forerunner 405 is a really great tool and performs to a standart of its own. The price is high, for a full set between £280-300, but this is in the long run very well invested. If you are tracking and able to charge it frequently this is the tool for you. Lets see how it goes in the second year with different participants.

Read More

This is something one could predict from the start. They hade to bring this joke into the Simpsons TV series and now they have, or better had, a GPS navigation system for their car. And yes driving the kids to school is quit difficult and definitely requires a friendly assistant’s voice to guide one through the horrible traffic on the streets of Springfield. I particularly like the line “decrease elevation ten feet, then turn left!” Funny enough the GPS is capable of switching between imperial and metric system on the fly, not bad!

Found via MapRoom, GPStracklog, waze at gawker.

And by the way, TomTom offers a Homer Simpson voice over for your own inCar navigation system. Just make sure you don’t get distracted by it and swirl off across a building site. Also don’t forget to bring the calculator for the conversion on the fly.
Visit www.tomtom.com/simpsons, the voice skin is available to download now for £7.95 or 9.95 euros. A snipet can be heard here:

Read More

Are you someone who would just bag a nice object found on the street and take it home? I certainly am and I have a large collection of ‘objet truve’ at home. I am not talking about steeling things, but reusing things that someone else has left behind or doesn’t want any longer. This is apparently called curb-mining.
Secondhand objects have somehow a special charm to them, marks of usage often add to the appearance and make them appear beloved and therefore valuable. It’s amazing what can be found. However in this example here, the object were left out intentionally for people to take home with a commercial idea in mind.

Images taken from clip by BluDot

The furniture and design company BluDot created a publicity stunt to mark the first anniversary of their NY Soho store late last year. Together with mono they created ‘the Blue Dot Real Good Exeriment’. For this they placed 24 of their chairs, product, Real Good’, on the streets of NY and tracked them as people decided to take them home. The public could follow the project on line and witness how the chairs traveled through NY. For some of the tacking GPS was used. They have modified basic GPS devices to fit underneath the seat of the chair. With its sleek thin design this was not an easy task. They even fitted it with an special activation switch, turning the GS device on as the chair is moved by the collector. The rest of the chairs was tracked old style by agents on roof tops with binoculars and cameras with triple dimensional lenses just like in any good old thriller. The whole project was a publicity stunt designed around involvement. I think it is a great idea. Of course the finder could keep the $129 chair but was ‘politely’ asked for an interview to use for the documentation of the stunt. The project has now finished but as a documentation here is a clip. Thanks to Radoslaw Panczak for the link.

Read More